Egyptian pop star croons for potential visitors on Europe tour

Al Monitor

Paris’ Olympia Theater has hosted the world’s greatest and most famous artists, including Egyptian singers Umm Kulthum and Abdel Halim Hafez in the 1960s and the 1970s. Another star set to appear in this prestigious venue is Egyptian pop star Hakim, who will give a concert there on Sept. 24. At a Sept. 9 press conference, Hakim said he was thrilled to receive an invitation from the Olympia Theater to perform there as part of his tour in several European cities, under the auspices of the Egyptian Tourism Promotion Authority affiliated with the Ministry of Tourism.

Hakim kicked-started his European tour with a concert in Madrid on Sept. 15, followed by another performance on Sept. 16 in the French city of Lyon.

Many newspapers reported that both concerts sold out completely. However, Ashraf Wahid, a member of the Egyptian Federation of Chambers of Tourism, told Al-Monitor, “These concerts will have little effect on the tourism sector in Egypt as Arab communities in Europe are unlikely to visit Egypt unless for major concerts featuring famous artists such as the Marina summer festivals in the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s.”

He added, “Waving the Egyptian flag and banners that read ‘Visit Egypt’ at such concerts are not enough to encourage Europeans to visit Egypt. The Tourism Promotion Authority should have booths for travel agents offering good deals and packages to Egypt, especially during the concert in France. Many French people who are interested in Arabic music used to come to the concerts of Umm Kulthum and Abdel Halim Hafez.”

Hisham al-Damiri, head of the Tourism Promotion Authority, told Al-Monitor, “The music tour is aimed at promoting Egyptian pop culture and music. We chose Europe for many reasons, most importantly due to the diversity of the European market and demographics. Europe includes Arab, African and Asian communities beside Europeans. The main concerts are held in France, the Netherlands and Spain, the main tourist destinations in Europe. This way, we make sure to promote our Egyptian culture and music.”

Damiri went on, “The tour will not be covered only by Arab media outlets as we [signed agreements] with France 1, France 2, France 3, Le Monde, the German RTL2 and Liberation TV, which will also cover the concerts." He explained, "We are targeting European tourists because they have become less interested in visiting only exotic beaches and tourist attractions, as they have already done that. Many Europeans have become greatly interested in the idea of experiencing the culture, the everyday life and folklore of a country. Hakim is the best example to give a glimpse of what they might find in Egypt.”

Hakim’s public relations office told Al-Monitor, “We thought the tour would attract about 18,000 to 40,000 people, maximum. However, after the major success of the concerts in Madrid and Lyon, which sold out completely, we expect more people to show up in the concerts in Marseille, Paris, Barcelona and Amsterdam. Europeans constituted 40% of the audience, which means the Egyptian pop songs have reached the hearts of Europeans, although they cannot understand the lyrics. But art knows no language. Michael Jackson's songs and dances were a hit in Egypt. Songs like 'Gangnam Style' and 'Despacito' were also global hits. Art is a good tool for communicating with different people and will definitely attract more visitors to Egypt.”

Sami Mahmoud, former head of the Tourism Promotion Authority, told Al-Monitor, “Hakim should not only hold concerts in Europe to attract European tourists but also in major Egyptian tourist destinations such Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh. The concerts in Egypt should also include global artists and bands, invited to perform at Egypt’s best beaches and resorts. This would help boost both domestic and foreign tourism.”