Two of the most important countries in the Middle East, Egypt and Iran, have begun using tourism as a tool for normalizing relations.
Flights have finally started up again after a break of 34 years and Iranian tourists have started to visit Egypt again. Many believe that these types of reciprocal visits will pave the way forward for the peoples of both countries to begin to understand one another and thus for the development of diplomatic relations.
At the same though, despite Tehran’s strong desires to see relations developed further with Egypt, the fact remains that there exists a serious anti-Iranian stance in Egyptian public opinion. Behind this public opinion is the idea that once relations improve between the two countries, Iran will use it as an opportunity to spread Shiism. Is there any real basis for this fear? There absolutely is. Though the exact numbers are not known, it is said that there are more than 10 million members of various Sufi orders throughout Egypt. It is also said that the majority of these people are not literate. And this fact creates mistrust in Iran, which sees spreading Shiism as an important part of its strategy to widen its spheres of influence.
For many centuries now, Iran has backed Shiism-related activities that promote its beliefs -- sometimes openly, sometimes secretly -- throughout a wide Islamic region, including of course Turkey. And Egypt, which was at one time the center of the Shiite Fatimid caliphate, has always been an important target for Iran (...) It is now feared that Iranian tourists could play the main role in helping the spread of Shiism throughout Egypt. Which is why it is being said that Egyptian officials are really only going to allow Iranian tourists to head to more designated touristic areas like Sharm el-Sheikh, Luxor and Aswan. At the same time, though, for an Egypt trying to bring in more tourism, and trying also to improve its diplomatic relations with Iran, it does not appear very possible to limit Iranian visitors to these touristic regions