I have left Mongolia 11 years ago. During these years I lived for two years in the USA and now in Portugal almost for nine years. When you live in a foreign country you lose contact with old friends. The internet is a great place to find your old friends. Facebook, My Space or Hi5 are places that you can find them but there are other sites that one can get reach friends.
I occasionally read Mongolian sites to find out news from my country of origin. In my suprise I found a friend with whom I worked for Mongolian Radio and Television. His name is Bayarhuu Dashdorj, he is the Mongolian 11th Ambassador to Egypt.
He is the biggest fan of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bee Gees. Since end of the 1960s he has been the greatest fan of the Beatles. He has vast collection of foreign money. He wrote numerous books on Mongolian foreign policy and international policies and last year he published his autobiography.
I greatly admire friendly, trustworthy and
straightforward nature of Egyptians
Today we invited H.E. Prof. Dashdorj Bayarkhuu, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to the Arab Republic of Egypt to give an interview for our magazine.
- When did you get posted to Egypt? What did you bring back home this time?
- I am home on my annual vacation with my family. As for my posting, I was appointed to Egypt in late March 2008.
- Have you encountered any difficulties living in a Muslim country?
-Certainly, everything over there is totally different from Mongolia, in terms of weather, lifestyle, tradition and culture. It requires a great deal of ability to adapt to a different environment. It is quite difficult for Mongolians to get used to living there in the beginning. In my case, our family had lived in many places with a similar climate, so it was not so hard for us to adjust.
- When did Mongolia and Egypt establish diplomatic relations with each other?
- Mongolia entered into official ties with Egypt in 1963 and we celebrated the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations in 2008. However, long before that, in 1950s Mongolia and Egypt had been extending humanitarian assistance to each other and collaborating within the international fora.
Prior to the establishment of diplomatic relations, Secretary of the Foreign Relations Committee of the National Assembly of Egypt visited Mongolia in November 1957, which was followed by a visit of Egyptian Deputy Minister of Commerce later that year. During that visit the two sides signed an inter-governmental agreement on trade and settlement.
The history also knows a period when both of our countries provided assistance to each other in 1957. The Egyptian Embassy in Beijing handed 70 000 Chinese Yuan to the Mongolian side when we faced an earthquake disaster in 1957. Also the Mongolian Trade Unions Federation sent a monetary aid to Egypt to assist in their efforts to recover from war damages.
In 1967 H.E. Mr. Anwar Sadat, then Speaker of the National Assembly who later went on to become the President of Egypt paid an official visit to Mongolia. This was the first-ever high level official visit, not only from Egypt but also from the entire Arab world. In the course of 45 years since that very visit, it could be said that the politics dominated our bilateral relationship. Only since 1990s the bilateral relations have been enriched with a more economic content with increase of trade and economic cooperation as well as educational and humanitarian exchanges.
- Could you briefly name some of historic highlights related to our bilateral cooperation?
- High-level official and state visits play a very important role in Mongolia-Egypt bilateral relationship. From the Mongolian side, the highest-level visit was the 2004 visit by President of Mongolia to Egypt. During that visit many important documents were signed which now serve as the legal basis of successful bilateral cooperation and relations between the two countries.
One of the most important and tangible achievements in our bilateral relations is a program of training courses by the Egyptian Fund for Technical Cooperation that has been implemented for 12 years in a row since 1997. This is a fund established by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry in order to extend its technical assistance to foreign countries. Approximately 1,300 government officials and specialists from Mongolia undertook various short-term training programs in Egypt covering each and every sector of life. It is a pleasure for me to note that a number of specialists who have received training in Egypt has been steadily increasing. For example, if in 2008 a number of training fellowship recipients was only 87, in the following year it reached 261. We hope that this program will be further continued and expanded. I would like to specifically mention here that the Mongolian Government attaches great significance to these training courses seeing them as an important intellectual investment from Egypt. Taking this opportunity, on behalf of the Mongolian Government, I would like to convey our deepest gratitude to the Assistant Foreign Minister and Secretary General of the Egyptian Fund H.E. Ambassador Samah Sotouhy as well as all his colleagues at the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.
- Last summer Mongolia took part in the 15th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Sharm el Sheikh. What were the main results of this event?
- The Non-Aligned Movement was founded in 1960s. Egypt is one of a few founders of this movement. Famous historical figures such as Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Sukarno of Indonesia and Joseph Broz Tito of Yugoslavia are rightly considered as the fathers of the NAM. As you are aware the world at that period was divided into two blocs headed respectively by the Soviet Union and the United States. Thus, many of developing countries of the Third World who had not taken sides of neither of the two blocs formed this Movement. Since then the NAM has held in total 15 summits. Mongolia joined this Movement in early 1990s after the end of the Cold War and disintegration of the Soviet bloc.
NAM summit has a significant political importance. The Movement has 188 member countries, while almost 20 countries and over 10 international organizations hold observer’s status. NAM summits take place once in three years with delegates from over 140 countries. Moreover, during the Summit foreign ministers of the NAM member countries discuss global issues at its Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. In this sense, NAM Summit has become an important mechanism allowing its members to discuss many pending issues to be resolved. Moreover, the Summit is highly beneficial to its members as it covers many areas including bilateral relations and multilateral cooperation.
Participation at the NAM’s latest Summit provided Mongolia with an opportunity to address the heads of states and governments from over 140 countries, and introduce them our foreign policy, in particular, aspects of our multilateral diplomacy as well as our approaches to the issues related to international development. In addition, on the sidelines of the Summit Mongolian delegates held a number of important bilateral meetings. Deputy Prime Minister M. Enkhbold participated at the 15th Summit of NAM as the head of the Mongolian delegation, whereas I, in my capacity as Ambassador, attended the meeting of senior officials of foreign affairs.
- How many predecessors have you had in your present position as Ambassador of Mongolia to Egypt? Could you tell us about your achievements?
- I am the 11th Ambassador of Mongolia to Egypt. Over the last year and half since my appointment there, I have been working with the goal to expand a number of training courses organized by the Egyptian Fund and increase enrollment of participants from Mongolia. Previously, there were only 3-4 training courses held per year, while last year we have successfully conducted 14 training programs. Another achievement for which I take credit is the fact that Mongolian state universities have established contacts with Egyptian universities which would undoubtedly contribute to our future cooperation. Three Mongolian universities, namely the National University of Mongolia, Mongolian State University of Education and State Agricultural University have exchanged draft agreements on cooperation with three Egyptian universities. These documents are expected to be concluded shortly. Since my arrival I have worked hard to strengthen the relationship between the NUM and the University of Cairo. My next task is to organize a visit of President of Cairo University to Mongolia this year.
- How about cooperation in other fields?
- Since both Mongolia and Egypt are developing countries and geographically located far from each other, trade and economic cooperation is lagging behind. Landlocked location and small size of the Mongolian market put additional obstacles to development of cooperation in this sector. However, Egypt is really interested in importing fluorspar ore, carpet and cashmere products, and meat products from Mongolia. In 2005 an Egyptian carpet company Oriental Weavers imported 26 tons of wool, while in 2007 it increased its imports into 100 thousand tons. And this is an impressive development.
Earlier I mentioned about my future plan of actions. If cooperation between NUM and Cairo University gets firmer footing, I am planning to work towards an opening an Arabic Studies Center at NUM and a Mongolian Studies Center at Cairo University. The development of cooperation in this field would likely take over the cooperation in all other fields. This would mean that Arabic language will be taught at NUM and Mongolian language will be taught at Cairo University. As Arabic language is one of the UN official languages, it has a high standing in the world. Not only in North Africa and the Middle East, but all over the world more than 250 million people speak this language. Ancient cultural heritage and historical findings are preserved mainly in Arabic language. Unfortunately, the Arabic language and Arab studies were never paid a due attention which they had been ought to be paid. There is less than handful of Arabic scholars in Mongolia. Therefore we should pay more attention in this direction and bring Arabic language-learning into Mongolia in order to get to know the Arab culture and Arab world.
I am also working to connect the Library of Alexandria with the Mongolian National Library. Basic works are done, including establishing official contacts and exchanging drafts agreement on cooperation. As of today the signing of this agreement is a matter of time. City of Alexandria is the second largest city in Egypt and is situated along the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea. The library of this city, which was originally established by Alexander the Great of Macedon, has a history of 4000 years, according to historical chronicles, and is considered as the second largest library in today’s world, after the US Congress Library.
- Could you elaborate more on the vision and prospects of Mongolia-Egypt relations within a broader framework of Mongolia’s foreign policy?
- Mongolian foreign policy is based on continuity. The main directions of foreign policy are reflected in the Foreign Policy Concept of Mongolia and the Government Actions Plan. All of Mongolian embassies work in accordance with those guidelines.
As regards Mongolia-Egypt relations, we concentrate on strengthening and expanding the already established cultural and educational collaboration as well as on establishing solid basis for mutually beneficial commercial relationship within the frameworks of our Mongolian foreign policy guidelines. It is expected that commercial transaction between our two countries might reach USD 1 million a year. The Oriental Weavers is planning to open a branch in Ulaanbaatar and I will work to realize this idea. The long term goal is to export products of Oriental Weavers into not only to Siberian and Chinese markets but also to East Asian countries like Korea and Japan. Besides, Egyptian pharmaceutical products are now entering Mongolian market. So Promotion of cooperation in this sector is therefore, on our agenda. Moreover, Mongolian tourist companies started sending Mongolian tourists to Egypt which is also a good sign. Unfortunately, we do not have any official statistical data in this regard. Our Embassy is willing to facilitate creation of a legal base in this sector. To do so, we only need to be approached by concerned parties and tour companies.
My personal priority is the expansion of educational cooperation. Since we are already involved in intensive cooperation with Arab countries, we need to have a highly qualified staff, proficient in Arabic language. The lack of such personnel is becoming a big hindrance in development of our relations. Therefore, I have exerted a lot of efforts in bringing Mongolian students into Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait. Some of these efforts have already brought results. For instance, the United Arab Emirates University granted two undergraduate scholarships to Mongolia last year.
- I was told that the Embassy in Egypt is the only embassy of Mongolia in the Arab world? Does it remain so?
- Yes, it does. It was opened 43 years ago, in 1967. Embassy in Cairo is the only Embassy representing Mongolia in Africa and the Middle East. Earlier, if I remember correctly, our Embassy was opened in Conakry, Guinea, but it was closed down after only a few years. Then, respective decisions were taken to open embassies in Bamako, Mali and Luanda, Angola. But these decisions were never implemented. Later, the two embassies were opened in Africa, one in Cairo and another one Algeria. Now our Embassy is functioning in Cairo and recently we opened a new Embassy in Al Kuwait, in the Gulf region.
- What are the main obstacles facing our bilateral relations and cooperation?
- Well, there are no big obstacles as such. Of course, there are some hardships we face. Due to geographical distance between our two countries, certain problems arise such as transportation, etc. If we overcome this problem, there will be many opportunities for us to enter the Egyptian market. For example, we can export meat products to Egypt as mutton and beef are highly demanded products over there. They import meat from Brazil and Argentina. I was wondering why we can not utilize this opportunity and export meat to Egypt. Furthermore, Egyptians are really interested in buying wool and cashmere from Mongolia. So we can exploit such opportunity and expand our cooperation in those fields.
Egypt is a leading country in the Middle East thanks to development of tourism. Since Egypt generates its main revenues from this sector, we have a lot to learn from them and there are vast untapped opportunities for collaboration. Egypt is also a reliable source of vegetables and fruits for Europe as it are an agriculturally self-sufficient country. We have also started cooperation in the field of agriculture. Mongolian Ministry of Food and Agriculture concluded a contract to take frozen embryo of cows which are ready for shipment. This will be helpful for setting up special breed cattle farms, such as beef cattle and milking cows. However, Mongolians sometimes have a bad habit of disappearing after everything gets ready. Egypt is a well-known not only by their premium quality woolen cloth but also famous for their readymade leather and woven garments and products. So there are good opportunities for Mongolians to learn from them, and possibly open joint factories in those fields. Besides, since Arab countries have a large tobacco market, Mongolian tobacco companies can enter there.
- What is, in your view, the most impressive feature of your host country?
- I greatly admire friendly, trustworthy and straightforward nature of Egyptians. They are very friendly and very kind people. They can easily get along with anybody. Wherever they are, they are always very curious. By asking simple questions like where are you from, what is your nationality, they are able to create friendly atmosphere and make any kind of deals. We always feel kindness of Egyptian people wherever we go. Moreover, we would even forget that we are in a foreign country when we travel to countryside.
- Let us change our subject a bit. I have heard that you have many hobbies?
- I think that hobby is a thing what you do during your free time and get satisfaction. I like swimming. Swimming nurtures people to become decent individuals. Therefore, I ensured that my children learnt swimming since the age of six and seven. I believe that my healthy and good physical shape is a benefit of swimming. Also it makes people open and brave. I can tolerate the heat of over 40C in Egypt thanks to my swimming skills.
- Please tell us about your passion for collection with us?
- My another hobby is collection. The most precious collection is money collection, which I have pursued for so many years. I have both coin and banknote collections. This hobby of mine led me to become a member of the International Bank Note Society (IBNS), which has 1753 members in 94 countries. Currently, I am the only member from Mongolia. But I am not sure if I was the first-ever Mongolian member or there was somebody else before. Now I have banknotes of 184 countries and coins of 103 countries.
When I was in Hawaii with my family for three months in 2006, I started my sea collection. While I was swimming in sea, I used to collect seashells, starfishes and stones, and put them as displays in my office room. So people who visit our Embassy enjoy seeing my small museum of rare findings from sea.
- Thank you for your time and for your interesting interview.