Minister of Tourism Hesham Zaazou said that he is aiming to attract 200,000 Iranian tourists per year to guarantee $250m annually in revenues.
“Egypt should take a piece of this pie,” he said, according to Gulf News, during a press conference in Dubai on Saturday ahead of the Arabian Tourism Market (ATM) event.
He added, however, that Iranians will be visiting the country under tight security regulations, and that they will be barred from visiting Shia sights.
“We are talking about Egyptian temples and Sharm Al Sheikh,” he said. “Shia sites are not on the programme. We are not talking about Iranian religious tourism to Egypt.”
On 1 April more than 50 Iranians visited Egypt, the first official group to visit the country for tourism in decades.
The group arrived in Upper Egypt amid tightened security.
The visit came as part of a bilateral tourism agreement signed in February after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s historic visit to Egypt.
After a few days, however, Zaazou decided to put Iranian tourist trips to Egypt on hold until mid-June.
The Iranian tourists’ visit sparked a wave of anger from Salafis, dozens of whom gathered by the Iranian ambassador’s house demanding the cutting of all ties with Iran and expulsion of the tourists.
The Shia sect of Islam gives special reverence to the descendents of the Prophet Muhammad, the ‘members of the household of the Prophet’, a number of whom are buried in Egypt.
The most prominent is the Prophet’s grandson Imam Al-Husayn, whose head is thought to be held at the Cairo mosque of the same name.
Other sites include the Sayeda Zeinab and Sayeda Nafisa Mosques, both also in Cairo.
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