By YOUSSEF AYOUB
“I wish I could visit Egypt’s pyramids, I have heard a lot about them, but I have not seen them before, and I do not think it is easy to obtain a visa to Egypt now.”
I spoke to Eklily, an Ethiopian businessman whom I met at a hotel in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on the fringes of a press conference of the 24th African Union Summit this year. The man warmly welcomed me and my colleague Mohamed, who works for MENA news agency.
Despite our fears that Ethiopians might have preconceptions about Egyptians, these worries vanished as we chatted.
Our meeting with Eklili was Jan. 31, near the end of the summit in which President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi participated.
Mohamed and I were standing in the hotel lobby when we heard songs coming from a wedding party. We were encouraged to go to the wedding hall, and once we entered, we were greatly welcomed by the attendees whom we joined in an Ethiopian dance to one of the country’s popular songs. Their wedding songs resembled some Egyptian ones in their phrasing with words like “Yahoo,” which means “O people,” and it is spoken to greet the bride and the bridegroom.
When the clock struck midnight, the party was over and the gathering dispersed. Mohamed and I went to have a drink and saw Eklili along with the groom and some friends who invited us to stay with them.
One of his friends told us “water runs in the Nile River and no one will stop it, and we do not want to look except for our countries’ future… Egypt and Ethiopia have a lot in common and they should not remain at odds.”
In general, we talked about the ties between the two countries; Mohamed said he believed the water of the Nile River created similarities between the traits of both Ethiopians and Egyptians.
It was an extended discussion that was full of hope to turn a page of disagreements and to open a new one, where the people will be the main base.
I had the same feeling from the Ethiopians I met during my travel; none of them liked the political tensions that rule the relations between Cairo and Addis Ababa.
I have visited Ethiopia two times; this time, however, I heard many Ethiopians hopeful that President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn are currently holding the seat of power. They perceive the two leaders as able to break tension that controlled the two countries after Ethiopia announced the start of construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
And perhaps what raised Ethiopians’ optimism is when both countries agreed to the importance of reaching a means of cooperation that achieves both countries’ interests.
Desalegn has agreed to Sisi’s proposal to assign a working group from both countries to reach an agreement on the principles that meet Egyptian concerns regarding the Renaissance Dam.
In addition, Desalegn invited Sisi to visit Ethiopia and speak at the Ethiopian Parliament as a means to reach the people; a tradition that shows a degree of strength and durability in the relationship between the two countries that will remain forever.
One more important thing is that, despite both countries having much in common; the figures do not show this. The size of the trade exchange between them does not exceed 215 million EGP ($28,000) according to the latest statistics.
There is only one reality revealed from the figures; we are absent in Ethiopia. Businessmen especially are still quite far from participation in this country, which could both benefit it and Egypt.
Translated by Nourhan Magdi
The views expressed in opinion pieces are the responsibility of the authors and do not reflect the editorial policy of The Cairo Post.