How the Egyptian media reacted to King Salman’s visit to Cairo

Media outlets, whether official or independent, not only ran live updates of the different phases of the visit, but also offered analyses

Sonia Farid

Published: Updated:

King Salman’s five-day visit to Cairo, which ended on Monday, received extensive media coverage that received special attention even before the Saudi king’s visit began.

Media outlets, whether official or independent, not only ran live updates of the different phases of the visit, but also offered analyses of the significance of the visit as well as a historical background on Saudi-Egyptian ties.

State-owned TV channels and radio stations all broadcasted live the arrival of King Salman at Cairo Airport, after which Nile News offered round-the-clock updates of the visit from beginning to end.

It also aired reports about the history of relations between Egypt and Saudi Arabia and which included footage of meetings between different Saudi monarchs and Egyptian heads of state, starting with King Farouk I in the pre-republican era until the Kingdom’s economic and political support for the Egyptian regime especially during the most recent years.

The reports focused on milestones in bilateral relations such as the signing of the Friendship Agreement in 1926, the Construction Agreement in 1939, the Joint Defense Agreement in 1955, and the role Saudi Arabia played in the 1973 oil embargo, known as the “first oil shock,” which contributed greatly to Egypt’s victory in the war it fought against Israel in the same year and later the repatriation of the Sinai Peninsula.

Shunning ‘rumors’

Talk shows on private satellite channels dedicated most of their air time to reporting and analyzing the visit. Anchor Tamer Amin, of al-Hayat Channel, stressed that the visit came at the right time to “put an end to all malicious rumors about tension between the two countries.” Anchor Lamis al-Hadidi, of CBC Channel, seconded Amin’s opinion: “Those who attempt to destabilize the region must have been annoyed by the visit since it proves that talk about disputes between the two countries is absolutely groundless.”

TV host Khairi Ramadan, also of CBC, said that in his show that he is not interested in any economic agreements that Saudi Arabia and Egypt will be signing, but only cares about the king’s visit: “I am telling King Salman that your presence in Egypt is enough for us and that we will never forget your role in safeguarding Egypt’s security.” Mohamed al-Dali, of al-Assema Channel, echoed the same view: “We are thankful for King Salman’s support when Egypt was going through its hardest of times.”

State media

The official newspaper al-Ahram ran an in-focus section entitled “Egypt and Saudi Arabia: A Summit on Cooperation and Confronting Challenges.” The section tackled the details of the visit, starting from the initial preparations through the different places visited by King Salman, with special emphasis on the King’s visit to al-Azhar Mosque, the speech he gave at the House of Representatives, the project of the King Salman bridge that will link the two countries, the transfer of the two Red Sea Islands Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia, and the king’s visit to Cairo University in which he received an honorary PhD.

The state owned newspaper al-Gomhouria ran a special section on the visit under the title “Sisi-Salman: The Reconstruction of the Arab World,” in which it described the visit as indicative of “a huge leap in the strategic relations between Cairo and Riyadh.” The state-owned newspaper al-Akhbar described the visit as “a slap on the face of everyone who spreads rumors about tension between Egypt and Saudi Arabia.”

Independent press

A number of independent newspapers also dedicated a special section to King Salman’s visit to Egypt. Al-Watan entitled its section “Sisi-Salman: The Peak of Arab Wisdom.” The section included the opinion of a number of economists on the impact of the visit on Saudi investments in Egypt.

Egypt’s Youm 7 newspaper issued a special supplement on the visit with the headline “The capitals of Arab power Cairo and Riyadh continue joint cooperation during King Salman’s historic visit.” The newspaper labeled Salman “the king of decisiveness” and added that he “is following in the footsteps of Al Saud whose monarchs have always professed their love for Egypt.”

Other independent newspapers, while also reporting on the details on the visit, focused more on the analytical aspect. In al-Masry al-Youm, political analyst Amr al-Shobaki wrote a two-part article entitled “Egypt and Saudi Arabia” in which he reviewed the history of relations between the two countries and analyzed the significance of the current alliance in the light of recent challenges. In the same newspaper, journalist Gamal al-Gamal wrote an article entitled “Tiran… no!” in which he analyzed the handing over of the Red Sea island of Tiran to Saudi Arabia.

State-owned al-Ahram newspaper reported on Monday that Israel had advance notice of the maritime treaty, as it is entangled in a 1979 peace deal.

But many Egyptians were upset their government thought of Israel but not them.

"Even if Saudi Arabia is entitled to the islands ... to hand them over to Saudi in this way, without consideration for Egyptians, showing no respect for their feelings, presence and even their pride in their nation?" television chat show host Wael El Ebrashy said on Sunday night. "We are all shocked."

Meanwhile, author and analyst Ibrahim Eissa said on his TV show: "The government surprised 90 million Egyptians with a decision that we grew up accustomed to its opposite. That's what made it worrisome."

In al-Shorouk, journalist Abdullah al-Sinnawi wrote an article entitled “Egypt and Saudi Arabia: Ambivalent Relations” in which he discusses the intertwining of political and economic interests between the two countries and the relationship between financial aid and strategic cooperation.

Al-Tahrir newspaper ran a story on the history of Tiran and Sanafir, the Red Sea islands to be transferred to Saudi Arabia, and the controversy stirred since the announcement of the news about Egypt’s decision to hand them over. Journalist Ahmed Ban tackled this issue in the same newspaper in his article “Transparency and Our Major Issues,” in which he called upon the government to make public the reasons for which the transfer took place. In al-Bawaba newspaper, journalist Nasr Abdu wrote an article entitled “The King in the Parliament” in which he discussed the significance of the speech given by King Salman at the Egyptian House of Representatives and the way it reflects Saudi Arabia’s support for the post-Muslim Brotherhood road map.

Meanwhile, both state-run and private TV channels played patriotic songs about Arab unity and a Saudi song entitled “The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques,” in reference to the Saudi King. A number of newspapers also quoted late King Abdel Aziz Al Saud as saying, “Arab cannot do without Egypt and Egypt cannot do without Arabs.” This saying was at times replaced with, “Egypt cannot do without Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabia cannot do without Egypt.”

(With Reuters)