CAIRO, Feb. 12 (Xinhua) -- Trimmed with traditional Chinese ornaments, Egypt's historic Salah al-Din Ayouby Citadel showcased the cultures of two ancient civilizations on Tuesday, as the country celebrated the Chinese Lunar New Year in an effort to attract more Chinese tourists.
The Egyptian tourism and cultural ministries organized the " Peace from Egypt" celebration in cooperation with the Chinese embassy in Cairo to mark the beginning of China's Year of the Horse.
Around 300 Egyptian, Chinese and other foreign diplomats, politicians, businessmen and artists crowded the citadel's open theater that was festooned with Chinese puppets, flags, and lanterns.
Traditional Egyptian drums welcomed audiences who were then presented Egyptian and Chinese performances of popular dances by the Egyptian Opera House and the Cairo Balley Company.
Wulan Muqi, an arts group from China's Inner Mongolia, performed "dragon" and "lion" dances, while using traditional musical instruments to offer a new twist to pop songs.
The celebration is part of a growing campaign by Egyptian government to rebrand itself in light of the political turmoil the country has suffered for almost three years.
For Advisor to the Minister of Tourism for Asian Affairs Naser Abd el-Aal, Egypt can promote tourism in two ways. "One is abroad via our tourist offices in the foreign countries," he said. "The second channel is through holding celebrations for the foreign people's traditional festivals in Egypt."
The spring festival is a major event in China and other eastern Asian countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Celebrating such festivals affirms stability in Egypt and will attract more tourists to visit the country, Abd el-Aal said.
After the overthrow of former president Mohamed Morsi last July, many countries have banned travel to Egypt for tourism, but China lifted its travel ban last December.
Egyptian Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou desired to boost the number of visitors from China this year by celebrating the Spring festivities with 350 Chinese guests in Hurghada, a well-known tourist destination by the Red Sea.
Besides the Salah al-Din Ayouby Citadel celebrations, other festivals are planned on Friday in Maadi Island Park for the general public, and Abd el-Aal hopes its events such as this that can help restore tourism rates to the 2010 levels.
Tourism, one of the main sources of national income, employs about four million Egyptians. In 2010, it brought the country about 13 billion U.S. dollars as over 14.7 million tourists visited Egypt.
However, following the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and the increase in instability, the number of annual tourists decreased to 9.8 million. It further reduced to 11.5 million in 2012 after Morsi was elected as president, and declined again to 9.5 million in 2013 following his ouster.
According to the International Tourism Organization, by 2020 China will inject more than 100 million tourists worldwide, and Egypt aspires to attract at least one million per year.
Chen Dongyun, the Culture Consular for the Chinese embassy in Cairo, reassured Chinese tourists, saying "We carry a message for the Chinese people that Egypt, one of the most important tourist attractions in the world, aims to live in stability, pursue tourism and attract more tourists."
Chinese people are fond of the ancient Egyptian civilization, especially the pyramids and Luxor temples, and many of them dream to visit Egypt, he added.