Britain’s Prince Charles and his wife Camilla arrived in Egypt on Thursday to meet President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and the Egyptian first lady, Entissar Amer.
Several markets in Cairo were closed for security reasons as the British royals visited Al Azhar Mosque, with television footage showing the prince meeting Sheikh Ahmed Al Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, and other officials.
Social media buzzed with a positive reaction to Camilla, who wore the hijab. Egyptian Twitter and Facebook users praised the Duchess of Cornwall for showing respect for the country’s culture.
Prince Charles’s meeting with the Grand Imam of Al Azhar was seen as particularly important given their shared interest in interfaith dialogue. Sheikh El Tayeb has forged close relations with the Vatican and has also met the Archbishop of Canterbury, the most senior figure in the Anglican Church.
The Al Azhar mosque in Cairo’s old quarter was built more than a 1,000 years ago and has become one of the foremost seats of Sunni Islamic learning.
The old quarter is also home to the Khan El Khalili bazaar, with sites dating back to the Mameluke and Ottoman eras, and the city’s historic gold market and tea houses.
South-west of Cairo, the Giza plateau was secured before the prince’s visit.
“We were asked on Wednesday night to clear out of the Giza complex and instructed to take our camels and horses out of the area before 2pm on Thursday,” said a tourism worker at the pyramid complex.
He told The National that tourists would be allowed to stay in the complex during the prince’s visit to keep the area busy and highlight the recovery of the country’s tourism sector.
The heir to the British throne is expected to comment on interfaith dialogue at the Giza Pyramids.
After touring the Pyramids, the royal couple are scheduled to make the two-hour journey to Alexandria, where they are set to visit the Bibliotheca Alexandrina — a major library and cultural centre on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea — as well as some of the coastal city’s most prominent landmarks.
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall arrived from Jordan, where they met environmental activists, fellow royals and visited the city of Gadara — a major Roman settlement in the Middle East — as well as the site on the Jordan River where Jesus is believed to have been baptised.
In Cairo, the couple will discuss environmental issues at the Al Ittihadiya Presidential palace with Mr El Sisi, who attended the Cop26 climate summit in the UK earlier this month and is hosting the next conference in the Red Sea resort city of Sharm El Sheikh in 2022.
In office since 2014, the Egyptian leader has paid growing attention to the environment, encouraging the development of renewable energy and seeking to reduce pollution in large cities such as Cairo and Alexandria.
Prince Charles’s visit comes at a time when Egypt and Britain are enjoying close relations, with Mr El Sisi and Prime Minister Boris Johnson in regular contact about regional issues.
His visit to Egypt and Jordan went ahead despite concerns over Queen Elizabeth II’s health. But Prince Charles said in Jordan that his mother was “all right”.
“Once you get to 95, it’s not quite as easy as it used to be. It’s bad enough at 73,” he quipped, in comments to Britain’s Sky News in Gadara.
Updated: November 18th 2021, 1:23 PM