In November last year, H.E. Mr. Moustapha El Kouny, Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the Kingdom of Thailand arrived in Bangkok. Ambassador Moustapha received his credentials from the King Maha Vajiralongkorn Phra Vajiraklaochaoyuhua in April. In addition to Thailand, he is also Ambassador to Cambodia. At the spacious embassy office, Expat Life sat down with Ambassador Moustapha to learn about his perspective on Thailand and discuss the bilateral relations between the two countries.
Egypt has one of the longest histories of any country, tracing its heritage along the Nile Delta over 7,000 years. As a cradle of civilisation, ancient Egypt saw some of the earliest developments of agriculture, central government, organised religion, writing and urbanisation. Thailand and Egypt established diplomatic relations in 1954. Egypt was the first Arab country with which Thailand established diplomatic relations.
Ambassador Moustapha is a veteran diplomat since joining the Foreign Service in1990. Born in Tunis, he graduated with the Bachelor of Commerce from Cairo University in 1987. Following the footsteps of his father who was ambassador, both he and his brother are proud ambassadors representing their country. Ambassador Moustapha recalled, “It was very competitive to join the Foreign Service. The entrance examinations were very tough that involved writing, oral and psychology. During my time, only 56 candidates were selected out of over 2,000 applicants. I was very interested to obtain knowledge of other cultures at a young age.” Prior to moving here, Ambassador Moustapha was Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2018, and Ambassador in Senegal from 2015 to 2018. Previous overseas postings include Australia, France, and Israel.
Views on similarities between Egypt and Thailand
Expat Life asked Ambassador Moustapha on his views of Thailand, “Without doubt, Thailand is very important country in the context of ASEAN, with the 2nd largest G.D.P.” On similarities between Egypt and Thailand, Ambassador Moustapha positively shared, “Firstly, the mentality of Thais are very comparable to Egyptians who are very hospitable. Secondly, Thais relax just as Egyptians who like to do the same. Lastly, Thais are open, polite and discipline, and Egyptians are just as open to tolerance and dignity.”
On his goals during the term in Thailand, “Covid has affected the exchange of trade. My goals are to increase more cooperation between our two countries in terms of economics, investment, trade and cultural aspects. Take tourism for example, prior to Covid, there is over 40,000 Egyptian visitors to Thailand annually.”
Due to the Covid situation, certain work of the embassy has been hindered with the lockdown. “Our embassy is open and staff are able to work every day within our roomy offices. In March this year, I was fortunate to meet with the Thai Prime Minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha. I look forward to the improvement of the Covid restrictions so we can again organise more meetings with the Thai government and meet the local communities.”
On the Covid situation in Egypt, “The infection rates in Egypt has been manageable and our borders are never closed. Nevertheless, the border controls are always strict to prevent influx of refugees from our neighbouring countries. The Egyptian government has aimed to reach 40-50% of vaccination rate by end of the year, this equates to 52 million out of our population of 102 million. We are confident that this is achievable as Egypt is one of the pharmaceutical manufacturing hubs in Africa aside from South Africa. We have produced Sinovac since May and very recently, Moderna. Discussion is under way to launch production of AstraZeneca with the U.K.”
Students exchange programme
Currently, there are around 3,700 Thais studying in Egypt prior to Covid. The Al-Azhar University is a public university in Cairo with the history of over 1,000 years. Associated with Al-Azhar Mosque in Islamic Cairo, it is Egypt’s oldest degree granting university and is renowned as the most prestigious university for Islamic learning. Annually, there are scholarships granted to Thai students in scientific fields and religious studies. According to Ambassador Moustapha, “Number of scholarships has recently increased from 128 to 144 scholarships. The scholarships are granted with the objective to introduce moderate Islam and to encourage students to integrate with their societies.”
New Museum of Egyptian Civilization
Ambassador Moustapha encourages our readers to visit Egypt, “By the end of this year, The Grand Egyptian Museum will be inaugurated. It is considered the largest museum in the world, covering 490,000 square metres and will display a collection of over than 50,000 artifacts, presenting Egyptian civilisation. It is truly an academic centre.” Further elaborated on tourism, “Egypt as a vast country with such long history, visitors will find remarkable experiences from ancient culture like pyramids, spiritual journeys, romantic outings, family fun and adventures.”
Travel around Thailand
Ambassador Moustapha candidly admitted that he is very much a “workaholic”. Spare time during weekends is spent on readings books and keeping up to date with the global news. He enjoys visits to museums and look forward to the reopening’s in Bangkok due to Covid restrictions. For the past months, Ambassador Moustapha has only managed to visit Phuket and Pattaya.
Accompanied by Madame Omneya El Kouny in Thailand with their grown up son based in France and two daughters in Egypt, Ambassador Moustapha is looking forward to have the opportunity to travel more within Thailand and experience the Thai hospitality.