The King Who Shook the Hands of All Egyptians
27 May 2016
By Tariq Alhomayed
The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz's visit to
Egypt resulted in 17 economic agreements being signed. These included
agreements on the demarcation of borders and building a historical bridge
linking Egypt and Saudi Arabia. However, the most important thing to come out
of King Salman's visit is that he is the first Saudi king to shake hands with
King Salman's visit to Egypt did not intend to satisfy a specific institution,
party or ideology, it was a historic handshake with all of Egypt. In this
historic visit, the Saudi monarch became the first king to visit Al-Azhar
mosque according to a statement from Al-Azhar itself. It declared that the
foundation for a Saudi-financed city for students coming from foreign
countries to study at Al Azhar University had been laid.
It does not stop here. King Salman also met the Pope of the Coptic Orthodox
Church of Alexandria Tawadros II for the first time and is the first Saudi
king to have done so according to a statement issued by the spokesman for the
Coptic Orthodox Church. That tells us that the Custodian of the Two Holy
Mosques' visit to Egypt was not related to the economy or an alliance but is
rather a complete state visit that will enhance strategic cooperation, mutual
backing and support between Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
The visit does not intend to simply demarcate borders and was not made out of
regard for institutions and figures. Nor did it intend to take advantage of
timely opportunities. Rather it is the product of a deep political vision
initiated by the Saudi king, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, to shake
hands with every Egyptian in order to strengthen the Saudi relationship with
all Egyptians – Muslim and Copts alike. This is because Egypt is a symbol of
Arabism and is not a symbol of a party or ideology. It does not derive its
value from a specific institution, but from Egyptian backing and support. This
negates the conspiracy theories directed at the two countries that accused
Saudi Arabia of being inclined to Hosni Mubarak or supporting the Muslim
Brotherhood and the Salafis.
The purpose of King Salman's visit to Egypt is to shake hands with every
Egyptian and he officially announced that Egypt is a strong ally and backer of
Saudi Arabia just as his country strongly backs and supports Egypt. King
Salman sent a message to all, regionally and internationally, that the
relationship between Saudi Arabia and Egypt is strategic and aims to encourage
real Arabism. He also sent the message that Saudi Arabia and Egypt have
previously worked to consolidate this mutual support, maintain it and protect
The Saudi government and people have considered Egypt to be an ally and strong
backer since the reign of King Abdulaziz and in turn, we are an ally to and a
strong backer of Egypt. This notion has not changed and it is for this reason
that we can say that King Salman shook hands with all Egyptians regardless of
their religion, inclinations or ideas. This is the most effective and
efficient step to maintain the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Egypt, to
protect the region and Arabism and most importantly defend the reputation of
our religion Islam that calls for tolerance.
Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr.
Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current
affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous
positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the
first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a
bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah.
He is based in London.