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Monday, August 13, 2001, updated at 10:36(GMT+8)

Tourism Renews Ties Between Ancient Civilizations

In the middle of the thirteenth century, Italian Marco Polo made his way to China despite all the difficulties. At that time, there were few international tourists.

Nowadays it is easy to find Chinese tourists wondering around the Colosseum in ancient Rome or Italians climbing the Great Wall.

In Beijing, Athens, Rome, Cairo, and Jerusalem, the thriving tourism industry has shortened the distances of the world, and thus built new bridges for the Chinese civilization to exchange and blend with others.

According to authoritative statistics, China received over 42 million overseas travelers, gaining a income of nearly 8.5 billion US dollars in the first half of this year.

"Like the Yellow River, the Nile was also a cradle fostering the prehistoric civilization of human beings," said Hamed Sakr, an official at the Egyptian Embassy in China.

"Not long ago, China and Egypt signed a tourism cooperation protocol to encourage mutual understanding and friendship by means of tourism," he said," We are confident about the result."

"Neither the first Emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221 B.C.-207 B.C. ) nor the Egyptian emperors, would know that the Terra-cotta Warriors and the Pyramid have become magnets between two ancient civilizations," said Chen Tai, a researcher just back from Cairo.

The Sino-Egyptian cooperation in trade and agriculture has also been greatly enhanced along with the boom in tourism. The volume of bilateral trade between the two countries reached 907 million US dollars last year. Chinese investment in Egypt totaled 30 million US dollars, 40 percent up compared with the previous year.

Being a neighbor to Egypt, Israel, the home of the Bible, has become a vital cultural exchange center for three continents.

"The personnel exchanges between China and Israel have been growing remarkably in recent years. Over twenty thousand Chinese people have been there to work, study, travel and do business," said Amir Sagie, an official with the Embassy of Israel in China.

Not only the cultivation of several thousand years of history but also the cooperation in modern science and technology have connected China with Israel.

He said some achievements have been scored in hi-tech products and agricultural areas. The successful water saving irrigation methods used in agriculture will be helpful to China.

Israel Airlines and the Ministry of Tourism have united to further tap the Chinese market, offering more opportunities for Chinese people to visit the nation where three different religions originated.

Over 3,000 Chinese people flew from Beijing to Tel Aviv with Israel Airlines in the first half of the year.

Being the cradle of western drama, history, philosophy and architecture, Greece has had a close relationship with China since long ago. However, students of Socrates' and Confucius' were never able to converse with each other like people today.

Experts anticipate that after European countries are granted Approved Destination Status (ADS) from the Chinese government, the number of Chinese visitors to the Aegean Sea will increase at a tremendous speed, pushing the mutual exchanges in the new age.

Modern tourism is breaking down the barriers between ancient civilizations, and promoting globalization of diverse cultures, which like the Olympic spirit, unite people of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

Athens is the birthplace of the Olympics and also the host for the next Summer Games. The holy fire of the 2008 Olympic Games will then be lit in Beijing, representing a relay of origins in western and eastern cultures, said Eugenios Kalpyris, the first secretary of the Greek Embassy in China.

Both Greece and China will welcome a golden tourism age, he added.

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In the middle of the thirteenth century, Italian Marco Polo made his way to China despite all the difficulties. At that time, there were few international tourists.

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