Thu, 01 June 2023
Egyptian Ambassador to Bahrain, HE Yasser Mohammed Ahmed Shaban, speaks to Farah Baig about being back in the Kingdom, his extensive career and Bahrain’s longstanding ties to Egypt.
Your Excellency, could you kindly give our readers a brief on your political career?
Well, I have quite an extensive political career with almost 33 years of service having joined the Egyptian Foreign Ministry in June, 1990. I started my posts outside Egypt, working as the Attaché and Third Secretary in Burundi from 1993 to 1996. Thereafter, I had a posting in Brazil as a Vice Consul General in Rio de Janeiro between 1998 and 2002.
Following these postings, I was the Councillor and Deputy Head of Mission of our embassy here in Bahrain between 2003 and 2007. After that, I was posted to the United Kingdom working as a Plenipotentiary, part of the Egyptian Embassy in London, and the Head of the Political section between 2008 and 2011.
Regarding my ambassadorial roles, I was appointed as the Ambassador to Mexico between 2013 and 2017. I was appointed the Ambassador to Bahrain from November 2019 until the end of this year – my second posting in the Kingdom. These posts were completing my career abroad, on the other hand I’d worked in various sectors starting with the North America sector, Asian sector and Consular sector. I was then in the Human Resources and the Inspection division at our ministry. Following this, I was the Deputy Secretary General of the Egyptian Agency for Development. And the final position, which I assumed in Cairo just before coming to Bahrain, was the Deputy Assistant Foreign Minister for Financial Affairs.
How did you feel coming back to Bahrain?
My family and I were very happy because it was a fruitful post previously. Our second son was even born in Bahrain. So, we were happy and we still are, because we admire Bahrain’s leadership, its people, the generosity, the friendly atmosphere and the warm and welcoming nature of all its people. It’s easy, I think, for any diplomat, especially for an Egyptian diplomat, to work in a welcoming country like Bahrain.
What can you tell us about diplomatic relations between Bahrain and Egypt?
The relations between both countries was formally established in the early 1970s. We celebrated the Golden Jubilee milestone a few months ago but the relations go much further than that. At the beginning of the 20th century, Bahrain was one of the first Arab countries that started to establish academic and education sectors in a systematic and institutional manner. We are proud that we contributed efforts in order to establish the first two schools for boys and girls.
There are also cultural connections and links between the leadership here and a lot of families in Egypt, even before the revolution in 1952 and after. Political relations are extremely good between both leaderships, and they have their own direct channels of communication. As an embassy, here as well as the Bahraini Embassy in Cairo, we constantly strive to build on and improve these relations for the betterment of both countries’ economies.
What are the key sectors that Egyptian nationals are involved in here in Bahrain?
Egyptians work in various fields in the Kingdom of Bahrain. We have teachers, university professors, lawyers, legal advisors, physicians, pharmacists and bankers too. We also have a new group of investors.
In fact, there have been significant growth measures in terms of trade during the past three years. By the end of 2019, the balance sheet was around USD500 million, and now it is USD821 million. We aim to reach USD1 billion by the end of 2024. Bahrain exports aluminum, petro-chemicals and iron pellets to Egypt and we export ceramics, marble, medicines, dairy, fruits and vegetables among other products, to the Kingdom.
Having recently visited Egypt, I can see why it is such a popular tourist destination. How popular is Egypt among local and expatriate travellers residing in Bahrain?
I think Egypt is one of the first destinations for Bahraini brothers and sisters. Whether through education, marriage or other ties, our citizens are connected, and so we have almost 25,000 travelers visiting each year. We are looking forward to doubling it, and welcoming more and more visitors. We are also working with the Ministry of Tourism and look forward to having more tourists from Egypt to Bahrain whether Bahrain is their destination or while en route to Dubai.
I welcome all of our sisters and brothers, locals and expatriates to visit Egypt. We have highly diverse tourist destinations including beaches, countryside, the Sahara and cultural destinations with monuments.
What can you tell us about the role of cultural exchange between the two countries?
This is one of the mega sectors of cooperation between both countries because we have been a part of the cultural process, movement and achievements of Bahrain for decades. We actively participate in cultural events in Bahrain and have a legal framework organised by our countries to facilitate these activities.