| ||India is organising a mega festival, considered the biggest foreign fair, in Egypt amidst a political unrest and violent extremist attacks to send a message that the country is safe for tourists, Indian Ambassador to Egypt Navdeep Suri has said.
Suri said the Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Tourism were impressed with our commitment to the 18-day 'India by the Nile' festival and came on board without any hesitations.
"The proposition we gave last year was Egypt is going through a rough patch (and) tourism is badly hurt. Many countries have issued advisories against visiting the country," Suri said.
"We said we are committed to do the festival and we won't go back even if you have the occasional bomb blasts or elections," he said at the Indian Embassy here last night.
"We are helping you send the message that Egypt and Cairo is safe by and large. It is important that we use culture to promote tourism. They loved the argument, they came on board," he said.
The Indian ambassador said the focus was to get in more tourists in Egypt from India and the idea to rope in Bollywood megastar and Egypt's most-loved actor Amitabh Bachchan as the chief guest for the festival this year stemmed from that.
"This year the approach to tourism was that they wanted to get more visitors from India. In 2010 the number was 114000. The idea was to grow that number and that's why we decided how about getting an iconic figure like Mr Bachchan, at the iconic place such as the pyramids."
"The idea worked...He has been phenomenally gracious. It is generous of him to make time for the festival," Suri added.
Bachchan, 72, will speak about his films, particularly 'Amar Akbar Anthony' at the Opera House tomorrow and will also be present at a gala event at the Pyramids the same day.
Bachchan is also set to receive an honorary doctorate from the Academy of Arts, Egypt.
The festival will also feature performances by a Manipuri dance group, yoga sessions and an Indian street food festival.
"Three years ago we wanted to do an Indian cultural programme partly to get away from the notion that India is all about Bollywood," Suri said.
The third edition of the festival begins today and will continue till April 17.
Suri, however, will attend the event till April 7, and then return to India for a break, before he begins his stint as the Indian High Commissioner to Australia.|