Thu, 02 May 2019
Egyptian Ambassador, HE Soha El Far, has been in Bahrain for three years now, having previously been stationed in Argentina. And, in her time here, she tells Liz O’Reilly she has fallen in love with our little island and its people.
Particularly conscious of the role women play in the Kingdom, she says: “I have enjoyed this posting very much. It’s my first experience of working in an Arab country and I was very impressed with the openness of the society. I am the first lady Egyptian Ambassador in the Gulf [she was also her country’s first female ambassador to Argentina] and being a woman has not inhibited my abilities in any way.
“I particularly have admiration for the women I have encountered. I have never met a Bahraini woman who stays at home; if they don’t have a specific job, they work in charity or in other ways. Women have been contributing to the society here for a long time.”
As a career diplomat since 1989, Her Excellency adds: “Something else that impressed me very much is the idea of the majlis. Here, people can go and meet the King and members of government, who will listen to their complaints and concerns. I have never seen that anywhere else and it is both refreshing and effective.”
Her role in the Kingdom is to improve an already excellent working and trade relationship between Bahrain and Egypt and to serve the 23,000-strong Egyptian community who are found across fields such as law, medicine, education and banking.
Current trade figures between the two countries stand at USD270 million per year – with aluminium going outwards from Bahrain and vegetables being a major import from Egypt. Her Excellency says: “This is low, but we are working on expanding it. The real challenge is the implementation of agreements that are already in place.
“What’s also needed is for interchange between the business communities of our two countries so that Egyptians come to view Bahrain as a good investment prospect, not just for the Kingdom itself but also for its value as a gateway to the wider region and through its existing free trade agreements. Of course, we want Bahrainis to get to know Egypt in the same way.”
One of the ways the embassy is working towards this is by encouraging trade delegations – there was a significant trade visitor exchange from Egypt to Bahrain in 2017 followed by one from Bahrain to Egypt in 2018. Egyptian business people regularly attend commercial conferences in the Kingdom with a view to expanding the trade relationship.
Her Excellency adds that the two countries can also benefit from each other in terms of business practice. She says: “For example, Tamkeen; how it’s been set up and is working with SMES [small and medium enterprises] is an experience that’s worth studying and applying in some way.”
And tourism, too, is on her radar. She explains that there are several Bahraini travel companies working to broaden their countrymen’s experience of Egypt which she hopes will lead to ever greater understanding and friendship between the two countries.
Her Excellency concludes: “I feel that relations are improving in all sectors of society and Bahraini people have come to know about Egypt. Bahrain has been a great support to Egypt through the revolution – it is very rewarding to feel you are working in a place that supports and understands your country.”