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Wheels up for first Qatar-Egypt flight since 2017

The first Qatar-Egypt flight since the two Arab countries severed relations in 2017 took off from Doha on Monday, making life easier for the thousands of Egyptian residents of the Gulf nation.

Egypt in June 2017 joined Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain in cutting ties with Qatar, accusing it of being too close to Iran and of backing Islamic extremists, charges Doha denies.

The quartet agreed to heal the rift at a Gulf summit on January 5 in Saudi Arabia, after a flurry of diplomatic activity by outgoing US President Donald Trump’s administration.

As many as 300,000 Egyptians call Qatar home, according to statistics, but many were unable to travel home during the crisis.

In May 2020, frustrated Egyptians protested outside the compound housing Egypt’s then-empty embassy.

Following the demonstration, 18 repatriation flights operated via neutral Oman to comply with Cairo’s ban on direct air traffic.

The first commercial flight between Qatar and Egypt in three and a half years, an EgyptAir service to Cairo, took off from windswept Doha airport.

A Qatar Airways plane was due to also make the trip to Cairo later Monday.

Mustafa Ahmed, 38, an Egyptian technical engineer, said: “We are very happy…

“With direct flights, life will be easier, especially for families and children, avoiding the torment of changing airports and planes and waiting for hours for transit flights,” he told AFP.

Egyptians in Qatar work in a number of sectors including education, healthcare and engineering.

Thousands of Qatar’s majority-expatriate workforce, however, have lost their jobs as a result of a downturn caused by the coronavirus epidemic.

A first flight between the UAE and Qatar since the inter-Arab row that severed transportation links was also due Monday to land in Doha from the emirate of Sharjah.