Pristina, Kosovo – The Egyptian community in Kosovo began on Wednesday activities as part of the celebration of Balkan Egyptian week.
A delegation from Egypt, which included Egyptian archaeologist and former minister of antiquities Zahi Hawass, Nour Tamimi, responsible for the Balkan-Egyptian file at the Egyptian Supreme Council of Culture, and Daily News Egypt, invited to present the activities of the week. Veton Berisha, member of Kosovo’s parliament and head of the Egyptian liberal party in Kosovo, Isa Osmani, adviser to the Kosovan prime minister, and leaders of the Egyptian community received the delegation.
During the first day, the delegation attended an opening of a football match organised by the community. They also visited the cultural centre in Fushë Kosovë and watched a traditional celebration, including dances and songs.
On Thursday, the delegation met with Kosovan President Hashim Thaçi, who welcomed the delegation and was thankful for Egypt’s recognition of Kosovo as an independent state. He added that Egypt is a country with great importance for the world, expressing hope for greater cooperation and communication between Egypt and Kosovo.
After the meeting with the president, the group moved to Macedonia where they were received by Asaf Ademi, the Macedonian minister of culture, who welcomed the delegation, stressing the importance of developing the cultural relations between his country and Egypt. Hawass invited the minister to visit Luxor to observe one of his field work missions.
In 2010, in memory of the first assembly of an association of Balkan Egyptians that was held in Ohrid, Macedonia, on 24 June 1990, the Second Congress of the Union of Balkan Egyptians decided to celebrate 24 June as the International Day of Balkan Egyptians.
According to Berisha, the activities of the week are being held under the auspices and support of the Kosovan government, which also funds all activities. He told Daily News Egypt that holding the activities of the week in the three countries only and not in all Balkan countries is because Balkan Egyptians are more organised in those countries, while they have no strong communication with the rest of the community in other Balkan countries such as Montenegro, Serbia, and Bulgaria. He explained further that the Egyptian community in the Balkans is looking for more connection, communication, and cooperation with their country of origin, Egypt.
After his meeting with the Egyptian delegation and Egyptian community in Kosovo, the Kosovan Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj told Daily News Egypt that his country respects cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity, and considers it a special asset for Kosovo. He added that the Egyptian community in Kosovo “survived their identity in very difficult times, and they managed good relations with the [Albanian] majority of population here. Today the Egyptian community in Kosovo is constitutional and guaranteed a seat in parliament and role in the government.”
Commenting on their attempts to connect with Egypt, Haradinaj said, “I think it is justice, and a right thing to do, they missed this opportunity for centuries, now finally that is possible [for them].” He also thanked Egypt for recognising the independence of Kosovo and justified not having an embassy in Egypt due to the limited capacity and budget of his country.
Haradinaj stressed that the government of Kosovo will continue supporting the Egyptian community in Kosovo, including its cultural, educational, and identity needs, but will first of all make the utmost effort to work on its economic development.
On Friday, the speaker of Kosovo’s parliament, Kadri Veseli, received the Egyptian delegation, saying that Kosovo is a country where all citizens feel free and equal, regardless of any ethnic or religious differences.
“The Egyptian community made a valuable contribution in building the inter-ethnic coexistence, which is an honour for our country in the world today,” he said, adding, “it is a fact that the Kosovan Egyptians are facing the same challenges and problems of all the citizens of Kosovo.”
Hawass gave a speech before a number of Kosovan Egyptian women in parliament. During his speech, Hawass spoke about the role of women in policy making and leadership in ancient Egypt, and how they were respected. He added that he believes that Kosovo is a model of treatment and representation of minority communities.
About 3,000 years ago, Egyptians travelled to the Balkan Peninsula during the prosperity and glory of the Egyptian empire. During the iron revolution, at the time of the 19th Dynasty of Egypt, the Pharaohs Seth I (1294-1279BC) and Ramesses II (1279-1213BC) sent Egyptian slaves to bring iron from contemporary civilisations such as Anatolia, the Balkans, North of Apennine, Cyprus, and Peloponnese.
Descendants of some of those Egyptian migrants are still there, distributed across the states of the Balkan Peninsula. Since the 1970s, Balkan Egyptians started to demand a separate Egyptian category to be included in official census statistics in their nations.