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Rede von Botschafter Frank Hartmann anlässlich des Besuchs des Dekans der medizinischen Fakultät der Christian-Albrechts-Universität Kiel Prof. Dr. Joachim Thiery an der Universität Kairo

23.05.2024 - Pressemitteilung

Dear Prof. Dr. Husam Salah, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine (Cairo Univ.)

Prof. Dr. Abdel Meguid Kassem, Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Medicine

Dear Prof. Dr. Joachim Thiery, Dean of the Medical Faculty of the Christian-Albrechts-Universität Kiel,

esteemed audience,

Herzlich Willkommen & Ahlan wa Sahlan!

It is with great pleasure for me today to visit the esteemed Faculty of Medicine of the Cairo University, which has longstanding relations to Germany. I thank Prof. Salah and Prof. Kassem for the invitation.

I like to welcome Prof. Thiery who made his way from Germany to further intensify the cooperation between Cairo University and Christian-Albrechts-University in Kiel.

Your visit is very much welcomed and worth the effort: Cairo University is not only one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Egypt, it is also one of the largest universities on the African continent with over 220.000 students. For context – the city of Kiel has roughly 250.000 inhabitants!

One of the traditional strong disciplines of the University of Cairo is medicine – which is also a field of cooperation at the heart of the German-Egyptian cooperation in the field of science.

But let me start by giving you a general overlook of the German-Egyptian cooperation in the field of science and education.

With 7 German schools and 2 universities (=GUC/GIU) in Egypt, the realm of science, education and research is at the heart of our bilateral relationship. Through the work of the schools, universities and the Goethe-Institute, we count roughly 500.000 people in EGY speaking German as a foreign language. Germany has an extraordinary strong footprint in education and science in this country.

The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has been present in Cairo for over 60 years and offered numerous exchange programs for students, scholars and researches between our countries. Its network now encompasses thousands of alumni from all over Egypt.

In this context I would like to mention that the family of Prof. Kassem, who is a longstanding and close friend of Germany (graduate DEO, studied in Cairo and LMU Munich) and supporter of the Embassy (Cooperation doctor for the Embassy), has donated a scholarship for medical research from Egypt to Germany through the DAAD.

Beyond the DAAD, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH) also sponsors excellent post-doc researchers from all disciplines, and 4 German universities from Berlin, Marburg and Cologne even have permanent offices here in Cairo.

It is therefore no exaggeration to say that education, science and research is one of the strongest pillars in the bilateral relationship between Germany and Egypt.

This close present-day relationship builds on the rich heritage of the past: Especially in the field of medicine, our collaboration even pre-dates the existence of modern-day Germany or Egypt.

Today, many German tourists are amazed by the beauty of the historic Qalawun complex in Islamic Cairo, built by Sultan Al-Mansur Qalawun in the Mameluk period the 13th century.

However, very few people know that it was already visited centuries ago by German researchers that documented the functioning of the hospital there for first time for a German audience. In 1762, the mathematician Carsten Niebuhr and the doctor Christian Carl Cramer described the Qalawun hospital as follows:

„Qualawun is a hospital for the sick people. […] There everything was provided, that a patient might need for“

The Napoleonic Invasion and the following decades brought many medical professionals from Europe to Egypt – among their ranks also notable German doctors. In 1820, the German doctors Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg and William Hemprich worked in the Franciskus Hospital in Alexandria for several month and established the first laboratory and microscopy in Egypt.

In 1850, another German - Wilhelm Friesinger – became Director of the Kasr El-Aini Medical School (here) and the Egyptian Health Authority. His publications on different diseases, prevalent in Egypt in helped to share important medical knowledge between our two countries and advance treatments.

The most famous one of the German medical professionals in Egypt was without doubt Theodor Billharz, a German physician, who dedicated his life to the improvement of public health. He is most renowned for his discovery of the causative agent of schistosomiasis (= Billharziose, eine verbreitete Wurmkrankheit).

The Theodor-Billharz Research Institute, that still bears his name today, is now affiliated to the Egyptian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. It recently commemorated its 60th anniversary, which I attended. Billharz's contributions serve as a testimony to the spirit of collaboration between Germany and Egypt.

Of course this exchange was not one sided – in the 19th century more Egyptian medical students came to Germany to further pursue their studies. In 1863 the Egyptian Medical Academy was founded in Munich under direct patronage of the Egyptian government.

These are only a few selected highlights from history – many more could be named. However, I do not want to look only into the past, but rather encourage us to face towards the future.

As we all know, we cannot find the solutions to future challenges on our own. The pursuit of scientific excellence knows no borders and is a joint mission for all of humanity. The Covid-19 pandemic has proven this all too well.

However, international exchange needs strong personal relations and it requires institutions that are willing to put in additional work and resources.

I am very glad that Cairo University and Christian-Albrechts-University Kiel are willing to make this commitment and provide the framework for students and researchers from both countries to meet, to exchange and to work together. It is an investment into the future of your both faculties, as well as an investment into the field of medicine as a whole. And I have no doubt that this investment will pay off.

Before closing, let me extend my gratitude to both Cairo University and to the Christian-Albrechts-Universität Kiel for inviting me here today, and for making this investment into our partnership and joint future.

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