When I traveled abroad ten or fifteen years ago, I hardly met any Chinese who were traveling as a tourist. Wherever I went, people would point to me and say: “Japanese! Japanese!”
Things are very different now. I have met many Chinese tourists in Egypt during my short stay in Cairo and Luxor. Our tour guide Ali told me, in the last two years, the number of Chinese travelers exploded. The Chinese tourists have become the second largest tourist group in Egypt, with approximately 400,000 to 500,000 people each year (Russia is the No. 1 with about 1 million tourists in Egypt last year). And this is just the beginning. As the affluent Chinese middle class grows, more and more people can afford to travel abroad. Now, wherever I go, people would greet me: “Ni Hao!”
Another interesting thing is that Chinese cars are becoming more and more popular in Egypt. According to an Egyptian newspaper, “20 Chinese auto companies have sold their vehicles in the Egyptian market since 2003.” Compared with the Western auto makers, Chinese cars have relatively lower prices, but also good quality. I have seen the tour buses made in China and labeled “Yutong” (??) running all over the tourist attraction spots in Cairo. I was also told that a Chinese-run travel agency “Solar Empire” (????) is gaining popularity in Egypt.
We visited the famous Khan al Kahlili in Cairo – the biggest bazaar (marketplace) in the Middle East. It sells souvenirs, jewelries, textiles, gold, silver, and many other things. Ali told me that all the souvenirs, scarves and shawls are made in China. But the Egyptian dealers changed labels to “Made in Egypt” to attract the tourists.
In addition to all the merchandises made in China, Chinese tourists and Chinese cars are the first signs I have witnessed of China’s rising presence in the world.