Russia resumes flights to Egyptian resorts after 6 years

Visitors from Russia arrive in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Hurgada on August 9, 2021 on the first Russian tourist flight since the October 2015 bombing of a Russian airliner. (AFP)
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Updated 09 August 2021

Russia resumes flights to Egyptian resorts after 6 years

  • EgyptAir flight MS724 took off from Moscow with 300 tourists today
  • The Airbus A300-330 landed in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada

CAIRO: Russia resumed flights to Egyptian Red Sea resorts on Monday, ending a ban that had lasted almost six years following the bombing of a Russian airliner that killed all 224 people onboard.
The local branch of the Daesh group said it downed the plane over Sinai in October 2015, shortly after the aircraft took off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. At the time, Russian officials insisted that security procedures at Egyptian airports were insufficient.
Early on Monday morning, EgyptAir flight MS724 took off from Moscow with 300 tourists. Hours later, the Airbus A300-330 landed in Hurghada, a popular Red Sea destination, Egypt’s national carrier said in a statement.
The Russian plane was welcomed by a ceremonial “water salute” on touchdown and Russian tourists, most of them wearing facemasks, were greeted with flowers and balloons upon disembarking.
The statement said EgyptAir would operate seven flights from the Russian capital to Hurghada and Sham el-Sheikh, on the tip of the Sinai Peninsula. The first EgyptAir flight from Moscow to Sharm el-Sheikh was scheduled for Tuesday, it said.
Egypt’s envoy to Russia, Ihab Nasr, told a local TV station on Sunday that there would be 20 direct flights between Moscow and the two Red Sea resorts every week, and that Egyptian and Russian officials were discussing additional flights.
The Russian state aviation agency, Rosaviatsiya, has cleared eight Russian airlines to operate flights to Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh from 43 cities across Russia. However, the list does not include St. Petersburg, the destination of the doomed Russian airliner downed over Sinai.
For now, Rossiya, a subsidiary of the Russia’s state-owned flagship carrier Aeroflot, appears to be the only Russian airline with scheduled flights to the two Egyptian Red Sea resorts from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport. Its flight FV5361 landed in Hurghada early on Monday afternoon with more than 500 Russian tourists on board. Around two hours later, Rossiya’s flight FV5633 landed in Sharm el-Sheikh, carrying over 500 tourists.
Other Russian airlines cleared to operate flights from Moscow to Hurghada and Sharm El Sheikh — such as Aeroflot’s low-cost subsidiary Pobeda and S7 Airlines, Russia’s largest privately owned carrier — have no flights scheduled for the coming days, according to their websites.
The development comes a month after Russian President Vladimir Putin canceled his order suspending the flights after the 2015 disaster.
Flights between Moscow and Cairo resumed in April 2018 after Egyptian officials beefed up security at Cairo’s international airport, but talks about restoring direct air travel to Red Sea resorts had dragged on. In 2016, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi finally said the downing of the Russian airliner was a “terrorist attack.”
Russia’s ambassador to Egypt, Georgy Borizenko, said the decision to resume flights was not an easy one for Moscow.
“However, we ascertained that in recent years Egypt’s airports and resorts have dramatically increased security measures. Therefore, we expect that Russian tourists, who remember the traditional Egyptian hospitality well and miss the Red Sea very much, will have a safe and comfortable stay,” Borizenko was quoted by the state RIA Novosti news agency as saying.
Britain, another major source of visitors to Egypt which had also suspended flights to Sharm el-Sheikh in the wake of the bombing, lifted its restrictions in October 2019.
The 2015 attack was a serious blow to Egypt’s vital tourism industry, which was also affected by the unrest following its 2011 Arab Spring uprising. Egyptian authorities have since spent millions of dollars upgrading security at the country’s airports, hoping to get Moscow to change its mind.
The resumption of flights will be key for Egypt’s tourism sector, which was dealt another blow by the coronavirus pandemic over the past year. Authorities have kept looser restrictions in Red Sea towns, trying to attract foreign visitors. But they have mandated vaccinations for workers in the tourism sector in Red Sea resorts, though a vaccination campaign has been slow elsewhere in Egypt. All foreign visitors, however, have to show a negative PCR test and wear facemasks.
Prior to the ban, Russians were the top visitors to Egypt, numbering about 3 million tourists in 2014.
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Associated Press writer Daria Litvinova in Moscow contributed to this report.

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Updated 27 November 2021

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Each founder brings their own skills to the firm — Al-Bassam is an investment professional, Ramadan specialized in tech, while Al-Jasser is an engineer.
“We believe this was the formula that made Wafeer what it is right now, the broad and diverse experience that each founder brings to the table and of course our value add investors,” Al-Bassam told Arab News.
In March, Wafeer raised an undisclosed amount in a pre-seed funding round led by Nama Ventures, with participation from RAI group, WomenSpark, and several angel investors.
At the time, Nama Venture’s general partner Mohammed Alzubi said: “We first met the Wafeer team in August of 2020. The first thing that stood out for us was how complementary was the skillsets of the team, with real role clarity from the get go.”
Al-Bassam explains that its software automatically updates expenses that are paid through the app, rather than needing manual entry.
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He added the Saudi Vision 2030 growth initiative highlights the importance of creating more awareness of spending, savings and investment through its Financial Sector Development Program.
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Wafeer has 82,000 active users in its platform, who have notched up almost 1 million transactions.
The startup has partnered up with big companies in the region, such as online marketplace Noon and Saudi fast food app Hungerstation to provide special offers to customers.
Al-Bassam said: “We are proud of our partnerships, we have signed a number of strategic partnerships, most recently with Noon and Hungerstation to provide Wafeer users with exclusive discounts and offers that match their spending behavior.”
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Updated 26 November 2021

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Eddie Maroun said the agreement had suffered a delay due to the procedures of the Securities and Exchange Commission in the US, but the deal will still go ahead.

The process is currently in its final stages, and the implementation will be announced very soon, he told Al-Arabiya on Thursday.

Maroun said the company’s priority is growth not profitability as it seeks to increase its market share from 6 percent.

He expects Anghami to achieve profitability within three years, he added.

Subscriptions represent 80 percent of the company’s revenue with the rest coming from advertising, Maround said.

Founded in 2012 in Lebanon, Anghami is the first legal music streaming platform in the Middle East and North Africa region.


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Updated 26 November 2021

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Figures show that in October, 5,352 transactions worth 13.12 billion UAE dirhams ($3.57 billion) were recorded.

The number of deals was at the highest level since June 2019.

The value of real estate sales transactions in the first 10 months of 2021 are more than the whole of 2020 and the highest since 2015, according to the data.

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Bank Nizwa’s board welcomed the proposal from Sohar International on Nov. 25 to study the idea of merging the two banks, it was reported.

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Foxconn’s supply chain management platform seeks to raise $300 million to $400 million in the so-called pre-IPO round, the sources said.

The company will use the proceeds to expand logistics services, they said.

Jusda is also in the early stages of evaluating a potential listing in Hong Kong in the second half of next year, the sources added.

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Foxconn spokesman Jimmy Huang said Jusda has no plan for an IPO right now, and declined to comment on the fundraising.

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