Tourists snorkel at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. in Egypt. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih
INTERNATIONAL - Egypt launched on Thursday an environmental and cultural festival in the country's renowned Wadi Degla natural protectorate in Cairo to promote ecotourism.

The three-day festival, titled Nature and Local Cultures Festival, is organized by the Egyptian Ministry of Environment in cooperation with local communities representing the population of various Egyptian natural reserves.

"The festival aims to promote various arts, cultures, environmental products, handicrafts and heritage of local people living in natural conserves, in addition to promoting ecotourism in Egypt," director of environmental development at the ministry, Samah Saleh, told Xinhua.

Saleh said many events and activities will be held during the festival to introduce the traditional heritage and cultures of the local people who live in natural reserves such as traditional cooking methods, folkloric performances and handicrafts based on environmental materials.

"Through such events, we try to integrate the local community in our plans and programs to protect the environment," she said. The official noted that festival, which is held for the first time, can also boost ecotourism in Egypt, which has 30 breathtaking natural reserves.

"We also want to show that the bioreserves in Egypt have diversities in terms of characteristics and population as well," Saleh added. "Visitors will have an idea about the culture and lifestyles of the residents of these reserves."

Wadi Degla is one of the important valleys that are located in the capital Cairo. The valley extends from east to west with a length of 30 km and it passes through the limestone rocks that had remained in the marine environment during the Eocene Epoch in the eastern desert (60 million years).

The valley, which is rich with fossils, has a group of animals including mammals like deer, turtles, mountain rabbits, red foxes, feather tailed rat, oviparous, bats and others. 18 species of reptiles have been recorded in the valley.

In a small tent where a number of hand-made items of daily use were showcased, Hussien al-Bishary, head of al-Bishary Tribe Local Society, briefed visitors about his hometown in Gabal Elba natural reserve that is located in Halayeb Triangle southeast of Egypt.

"Today we are showing our homemade products that represent and reflect our culture," al-Bishary told Xinhua. "Many people, mainly Cairo residents, are not familiar with these daily use tools and home accessories, so it is a good opportunity for them to have a look and even buy."

He added that the main goal behind his participation in the festival is to spread his tribe's culture as well as introducing the natural reserve where he lives to the people of Cairo; a message he believes he succeeded to deliver.

Noha Abbasi, a middle-aged mother from Cairo, said she has earned some knowledge about a number of cultures through the festival.

"I love to see different cultures and know more about them...this happened today," Abbasi told Xinhua, adding that holding such an event in a natural protectorate was a good idea that enabled people to enjoy the scenery and get some knowledge about Egypt's environment. 

XINHUA