President Tan on state visit to Egypt

President Tony Tan Keng Yam is set to arrive in the Egyptian capital of Cairo today for a state visit, his first as Singapore's head of state.

During the five-day visit, he will call on President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and meet Prime Minister Sherif Ismail, as well as attend a special graduation ceremony for Singaporean graduates of the renowned Al Azhar University, said the Foreign Affairs Ministry in a statement yesterday.

Dr Tan's visit reciprocates Mr Sisi's state visit to Singapore in August last year and commemorates 50 years of ties between the two countries.

Egypt was the first Arab country to recognise Singapore's independence in 1965, and Singapore set up an embassy in Cairo a year later.

Dr Tan will receive a ceremonial welcome at Ittihadeya Palace by Mr Sisi, who will host a state banquet.

Both leaders will witness the signing of a memorandum of understanding on technical cooperation between their two countries.

Dr Tan will also meet the country's two top religious leaders: Dr Ahmed Al Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, and Coptic Pope Tawadros II.

Coptic Christians make up some 10 per cent of 91 million Egyptians.

Dr Tan will also be the guest of honour at the graduation ceremony of 47 Singaporeans from Al Azhar.

In all, 292 Singaporeans are studying in Egypt. About 80 per cent or 240 of them study at the university. Many of these alumni will be religious teachers when they return.

The Singapore Business Federation is also leading a delegation alongside the visit. Bilateral trade last year totalled $679.1 million.

Dr Tan is accompanied by Minister for Communications and Information and Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim; Minister of State for Trade and Industry, and National Development Koh Poh Koon; Parliamentary Secretary for Trade and Industry plus Education Low Yen Ling; and MP Chia Shi-Lu. While Dr Tan is away, Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob will be acting president.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 30, 2016, with the headline 'President Tan on state visit to Egypt'. Print Edition | Subscribe