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India and Egypt

Article Summary   by:ElkabberAwi     Original Author: ethar elkataney
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In recent years, the number of Indian tourists visiting Egypt has surged. According to the Egyptian Tourism Authority, 47,000 Indians visited the country in 2005; that number almost doubled within two years, with 90,000 Indians visiting in 2008 — a number that has already been reached in 2009 thus far.

Along with their visiting counterparts, the resident Indian community in Egypt has increased substantially, and much of this can be attributed to economic relations between the two nations. The trade relationship that began during the Pharaonic era is now booming, worth almost $3.5 billion (LE 19.42 billion) in 2007, quadrupled from $700 million (LE 3.88 billion) in 2003. Encouraged by these figures, a number of Indian companies have set up shop in Egypt. In addition to Oberoi, which manages two luxury properties and two Nile cruise ships in the country, the Mumbai-based Marico locally manufactures leading hair care brands Haircode and Fiancée. Indian companies are also involved locally in healthcare and the automotive industry, among other industries.

Egypt’s exports to India are worth $2.1 billion — 95 percent of that is oil and gas — which is almost double the value of imports, making the subcontinent Egypt’s third largest trading partner behind the US and Italy as of 2006. (For more on trade between India and Egypt, see “Indian Summer” in the February 2009 issue of Business Today Egypt). As a result of increased trade, more Indians are choosing to settle here, with the Indian Embassy estimating that roughly 3,000 Indians currently live in Egypt, compared to fewer than 300 a decade ago.

According to the latest issue of the International Religious Freedom Report, 80.5 percent of all Indians are Hindus, a henotheistic religion that originated in India and is currently the world’s third largest religion, followed by 14.4 percent of the world’s population (for more on Hinduism, see box). In Egypt, it is estimated that over 90 percent of the Indian population is Hindu. Yet trade isn’t the only area where the two have found common ground; despite this being a mostly monotheistic country, Hindus report feeling very much at home here. In a country where religious tensions are often high, the commonalities between these cultures seem to bridge the divide between their fundamentally different religions.

A Sense of Community

Helping to unify the approximately 3,000 Indians living in Egypt is the Indian Community Association Egypt (ICAE), a volunteer organization that, according to their website (desiegypt.com), seeks to “bring together Indians living in Egypt, and help them connect, share and enhance their life. [ICAE] takes us back to our roots, and celebrates our social and cultural events while away from home.”

According to Dr. Harish Pillai, current president of the ICAE and chief executive officer of As-Salam International Hospital, 70 percent of the Indian community in Egypt is based in Cairo, 20 percent in Alexandria, and the rest is scattered in Ismailia and the surrounding areas. The Indian community, he explains, is “a floating population,” with some 90 percent working in rotation jobs, only staying in Egypt for two to three years at the most.

Most of the Indian residents in Egypt, he says, have senior level jobs, with the majority being “very educated professionals working for multinationals in the oil and gas, banking and IT sector.” Unlike the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where an Indian community of over 1 million people works in all sectors of the economy in a variety of jobs, postings of Indians in Egypt are at senior positions, which means typically they are at least in their thirties and accompanied by their families. The overwhelming majority, says Pillai, are men.

Indian women who come to Egypt usually do so because their husbands’ companies have sent them here. Anjana Das, a 37-year-old Indian, moved to Cairo in 1999 with her husband; she is trained as a dentist.

“I’m not allowed to practice here because jobs are for Egyptians,” she says, “but I don’t mind because that’s what we do in India. Indian women in Egypt who want to work do what they can — I’m a freelance writer now.”

Pillai says, “India is more of a subcontinent of many languages and religions and habits,” therefore, Indians are used to living among different cultures and lifestyles.


Published: May 18, 2010   
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