The Slovenia Times

Time to Say Goodbye



How would you evaluate your time in Slovenia in terms of work?
These have been the most fruitful four years of my life. It was my first assignment as an ambassador and starting was a big challenge - a double challenge actually because I came to establish the Egyptian embassy in Slovenia. It really was a turning point in my career. I arrived without any premises, staff, friends, or any previous colleagues to help me and guide me. I arrived as the first Egyptian to stay permanently in Ljubljana. On my first day in Ljubljana I had my deputy, counsellor, and attaché in a hotel. We gathered in the lobby in one of the hotels because we didn't have an office in which to meet. And I was really under huge pressure; we didn't even have telephone numbers! But we were there to make a plan of what we're going to do. If I look at what we've achieved since then - I can say that was the most fruitful and challenging time. We established the embassy, a residence, and we have a very good Slovene-Egyptian team - there are 11 of us now. We have organised a huge amount of cultural activities, increased the budget we had; and in the political domain we have been enjoying excellent relationships before and even after the revolution in Egypt.

In the past there was a good relationship between Yugoslavia and Egypt. Has that helped in establishing good relations with Slovenia?
It definitely helped. Egypt, Yugoslavia and India established the non-alliance movement. When I arrived in Slovenia and established the embassy and tried to boost the relationship, I didn't start from a zero point thanks to the past. Slovenians remember Naser, Egyptians remember Tito, especially business people. The cooperation in those times between the countries was huge in all domains - economic, political, and military. When I started in Slovenia knowing that it was an industrial place of ex-Yugoslavia, I didn't find obstacles. Everybody knew Egypt and Egyptians knew Slovenian firms.
How has the relationship between Egypt and Slovenia changed since you came here?
The opening of the embassy and the first [Egyptian] investment [in Slovenia] have both drawn attention to and interest in Slovenia. I noticed interest of some mega Arab companies to invest in real estate, telecommunications, or joint ventures. The reputation of Slovenia as a country, a political system, a story of success since independence is very high in the Arab world. The point that Slovenia is small and has a small market and prices are not competitive is not true - the market is the EU market, and Slovenia also has access to the Balkans. Just a word about the price: if you're looking for quality, forget about the price. The workforce quality in Slovenia is really high.
What would you consider as your greatest achievement here?
If I can single one out, it is the economic cooperation. This is the first time that the figures of volume of trade have been increasing year after year. The statistics will tell of over EUR 100m this year, I think. Products trade is varied: fruits and vegetables, cosmetics, pharmaceutical products, paper, wood are all important.

What about possibilities for Slovenian investments in Egypt?
Luka Koper is an excellent hub for Egyptian fresh products to Central Europe, Balkans, and Eastern Europe. The distance from Alexandria to Slovenia is two days so the quality of food is good. Luka Koper wants to take one of the terminals in Alexandria. They want to modernise facilities and build a mega fridge for fresh products. In the future everything will come through this terminal, Slovenians are going to be working there, they will be checking everything, and products can go directly to Luka Koper and to other markets.

What will you miss most?
The Slovenian people. Places cannot be nice if you don't have nice people there. I'll miss my friends and the people in general. They're helpful. On the first days I was driving around, getting lost, I was asking people for directions and they even went with me to show me the right way.
Slovenian people are really unique, a combination between the East and the West and they know how to enjoy life. Eastern people enjoy life more than work while western people work more than they enjoy life. In Slovenia I found the right combination. They are working very hard, but playing very hard as well.
I'll also miss the lack of traffic. I travelled the world and in all the capitals I suffered from traffic. In Slovenia - in five minutes I reach my appointment on time. You don't need a plan here for those things.
Finally, I have to mention The Slovenia Times. It is a story of success. All the foreign community in Slovenia waits for The Slovenia Times because we cannot follow the daily news in the Slovene language. When it comes every month it simply summarises everything. Also I have to appreciate the magazine's efforts to boost the economy.


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