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Dream to make Kessab a tourism destination still alive

Siranush Ghazanchyan
Public Radio of Armenia

Arab businesswoman Yasmina Azhari, who has been twice named by Forbes as one of the most powerful women in the Arab World, will represent the Armenian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the United Arab Emirates. “The Armenian Chamber of Commerce already has 30 representatives all around the world. I’m among the few females to represent them. And I’m honored,” she said in an interview with Public Radio of Armenia.

Yasmina Azhari first visited Armenia five years ago with an economic delegation accompanying Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. Back in 2009 she established cooperation with Businesswoman Committee at the Chamber of Commerce. She organized two exhibitions for them in Latakia, which featured participants from all over Syria. When she moved to Dubai two years ago, she organized a business meeting and forum.

“We had a big delegation from Armenia, and I organized it in cooperation with the Arab Business Women Committee, which is under the umbrella of the Arab League and together with the Emirati Businesswomen Committee. We had a very big event, and I think they had a very good exchange between businesswomen, at least,” Yasmna Azhari said.

The business lady says she intends to boost economic exchange and tourism parallel to economic cooperation. “I will try to promote the cultural exchange, because in order to be convinced to work in Armenia, you have to know a little bit about the culture, about people, about the nature, about tourism. And then we will be able to enhance and encourage economy,” she said.

Mrs. Azhari said she’s waiting for a report from the Chamber of Commerce. “I have to go through it deeply. And then we have to see what are the fields of interest to bring investors to Armenia, or to bring Armenians to make investments abroad. I’m going to promote businesses on both sides – to Armenia and from Armenia.”

“Some people ask me what I see in Yerevan. You have a very beautiful country, it’s very clean. You have very friendly people, it’s a very nice place for touristic visits,” she said, adding, however, that she’s not sure we properly promote it abroad. “You have a lot of green, a lot of water, you have beautiful nature. And people are shining and beautiful from outside and from inside. You should use it.”

Yasmna Azhari travels a lot, but says she noticed three positive things at the Armenian airport she had never seen anywhere before. “First of all, when you stand in raw to get into passport control, you don’t have to wait for two hours. It’s going so quickly. It took three minutes, I never saw it before. When we were going out, they checked the numbers of our suitcases; it’s first time somebody is checking about it. When I went out, a young man came to me and asked if I needed any help. He showed me his ID. He told me they are employed to help foreigners. Once again, I felt so safe.  You should know that you are distinguished,” Mrs. Azhari said, promising to tell everybody very nice stories about our country.

Before the war started in Syria, Yasmna Azhari had established a committee, an NGO for protecting forests in Slinfah and Kessab. Her first project was in Kessab. “I wanted to have an agro-touristic project in Kessab. I had already got the land from the municipality. And I got a fund from the United Nations. It was a really natural agro-touristic project. But then the war started, and we had to stop it,” she said.

Mrs. Azhari said she wanted to make Kessab different in Syria, to make it a tourism destination. “Hopefully, once the war stops, we’ll do it again. I had a great number of Armenians joining the committee, because it’s their city. So I wanted to make this project for them. I still have a dream and hope to fulfill it one day.”

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