“I didn’t even imagine that Egypt would be so spectacular, with such a breath-taking allure.”
These were the words of Yesenia Navarro, Miss Mexico 2016, during her visit to Cairo this month at the invitation of Egypt's Ministry of Tourism. The beauty queen was invited to sample the touristic delights of Egypt as part of project to boost the tourism sector, which has seen better days.
Throughout Navarro's visit, the smile never left her face, suggesting a certain optimism on all topics. The smile persisted even when she talked about terrorism, assuring her interviewer that terrorism in the region would come to an end.
During an interview with Al-Masry Al-Youm, Navarro said how beautiful Egypt is. Now that she had been here, she said she would make Egypt a regular vacation destination.
Navarro, who is a professional actress, earned the Miss Mexico title earlier this year. Based on her facial features, she could easily pass for an Egyptian, with the same champagne skin that is common in Egypt. She said that that some Egyptian women possess great beauty, although they maybe they need to watch their weight a little bit, she added.
Al-Masry Al-Youm: Have you visited Egypt before?
Yesenia Navarro: This is my first visit to Egypt. I hadn’t seen your country before, and I did not imagine that it was this spectacular and vibrant. I have travelled all over the world and yet I had never come here. I got a feeling I should come visit after hearing the Mexican president talking about Egypt in a positive way after returning from his recent visit to Cairo. This made me curious, to say the least.
AMAY: Did you have any preconceived notions regarding Egypt? How did you imagine it to be?
YN: Actually, in my mind, Egypt was always nothing but old, stone structures and pharaonic things, especially the pyramids, for which Cairo is so famous. But truth be told, I painted a picture of an old country, and I guess now I understand that I was looking at in the same way that some people look at Mexico — dancing and folklore and such reductive things.
I was very surprised when I came here, and I was completely wrong in my expectation. I found a country that is modern, with some stunning architecture, and there are trees decorating certain areas. I found that even the streets carried a certain class and that the people were pretty civilized in their behavior.
I started to learn more about Egypt’s history, one that is considered among the most important in the world, and how it possesses some of the largest and most important historical structures in the world.
AMAY: Where did you get the idea that Egypt was only made of stones and old structures? Did you see nothing about it on the internet or on television?
YN: I don’t speak Arabic, which put a certain distance between myself and the idea of Egypt. I only knew about the Pharaohs and Ancient Egypt and whatnot through what little information I was exposed to. But recently, I have started to spend time with several Egyptian girls, and they told me a lot about Egypt, which is when my thoughts began to change a little.
I got more curious and then I came here. This visit was crucial in making me see the reality of Egypt.
Also, recently, my Mexican friends told me not to come to Egypt, because of some of the unfortunate events that took place in the recent past. But when I saw our president speak so highly of it, I started to think that it was safe to visit. He described a beautiful country, a kind people, whose traditions are very similar to our own.
There are problems everywhere and problems don’t nullify the beauty of any country. I then decided it was safe — and here I am.
AMAY: What were some of the problems your friends warned you about concerning Egypt?
YN: They warned me that things were a bit chaotic here, that there were threats of terrorism. I listened to them, because I hadn’t come here, so I didn’t know. That was coupled with the fact that the region as a whole had been going through some troubles. But what the Mexican president said made me feel safer, and so my impression changed, and I learned that impressions shouldn’t be formed just by what people tell you. You should see for yourself and make your own opinions.
AMAY: How do we fight terrorism?
YN: Terrorism is an international phenomenon and it exists at least in part in almost every country in the world. What needs to happen is for people to join together, and more awareness should be raised regarding the aims of terrorism, so people know what they’re fighting against. Terrorism aims to make countries fail and systems fall, into oblivion. Unity is very important and an informed, united people can be a very powerful thing.
AMAY: What do you know about the revolutions that took place in Egypt and the Arab world as a whole?
YN: Yes, I know there were revolutions because people wanted change, and revolutions are every nation’s right. People have been revolting for thousands of years. More than that, I know very little about Egypt’s revolutions, and anyway, I am not really that interested in politics.
AMAY: What are some of things you liked most about Egypt?
YN: Everything is beautiful here. People are warm and caring. The Nile is stunning, especially at night, when it reflects the whole city’s lights — truly spectacular. Cairo has some beautiful lights, which lead me to think that there is some beautiful architecture here also.
What was amazing, though, were the Pharaonic structures — such creativity — and it makes you wonder how they built them to stand for so long and to still be holding on, not to mention the sculptures that showcase a great architectural prowess. I am happy I came and saw such beauty for myself.
What is truly beautiful, though, are the people here. They are so kind and caring and they met me with a genuine, welcoming spirit. I am accompanied by a PR team. They have been so helpful in making sure that everything I need is provided. The officials we met treated me with the utmost respect.
To a visitor, such things make a special place in their heart for the place they are in — and it will ensure they return.
AMAY: Your visit to Egypt is meant to boost tourism. What can you do to help remedy this problem?
YN: I will tell everyone I know back in Mexico how beautiful Egypt is. I now have a responsibility to relay this information everywhere I go. I will not lie. I will only relay what I have seen here and how it made me feel. There are definitely people out there who have wrong ideas and notions about Egypt, just like me before i came here. Boosting tourism in Egypt requires people who the public trusts to tell the world the reality of Egypt, and it is the least I can do for a country that hosted me so graciously.
AMAY: Are there any places in Egypt you want to visit but haven’t yet?
YN: I visited most of the touristic places, went around and saw the sites in a number of governorates. I even saw Magdy Yacoub’s Cardiology Hospital and the Children’s Hospitals, and I was very pleased with that.
AMAY: We know you are a philanthropist. What kind of work have you done in this regard?
YN: I have always loved charities, ever since I was little. I recently founded a charity based in Mexico, with branches in about 16 countries, aiming to protect women from violence and taking care of orphans. I managed to convince 16 national beauty pageant winners from different countries to manage a branch in their home country. We urge our angels all over the world to adopt children who have been orphaned, to take care of them until they are grown up and can depend on themselves.
We are often contacted by wealthy individuals who want to adopt children. I still invite wealthy people from all over to work with us for a better humanity, the humanity that we become a part of from birth. I feel like any work in this field should be a duty that everyone performs.
AMAY: Do you often travel to perform your charitable duties or can they performed from your home through calls and suchlike?
YN: I travel a great deal. I am in between Mexico, Cuba, Colombia and other Latin American countries all year round. I travel to Africa and Europe a great deal as well, because my work needs constant presence and is underscored by devotion and hard work — two things I have made it my mission to do.
AMAY: What did you study?
YN: I graduated in Media Studies, but I didn’t work in that field, except for a little while, where I was consumed by journalism. But ultimately it didn’t last, so I started to lean more towards acting, a profession that I love. I have been in several productions in Mexico and outside. I am currently embarking on some new projects featuring stars from several countries.
AMAY: What do you know about Egyptian cinema and art?
YN: To be honest, I only know of the international actor, Omar Sharif. I blame my lack of knowledge on the fact that most Egyptian cinema is in a language I don’t speak.
AMAY: You earned the Miss Mexico title in 2016. How did you manage that?
YN: The title was something I dreamed about since I was very young. I entered the pageant several times and I was first runner up several times. The last runner up title I received was for the Miss Universe title in 2014. Last year, I was runner up for the Miss Mexico title and I also became a UN Goodwill Ambassador for my charity work. This year, I earned the Miss Mexico title.
AMAY: What are the criteria for becoming a beauty pageant winner?
YN: There are criteria related to face and body and others related to culture and education. On one hand, face and body can differ slightly, but there is a minimum height requirement of 1.68m and the weight has to match the height. The girl has to have beautiful features, she must be pleasing to look at, regardless of skin color, and she has to be alluring.
She has to be optimistic at all times and has to exude an aura of positivity. These are things that are felt when you look at a woman’s face. The body has to be proportional, and this is the most important point, I think.
We are judged by a panel of experts with a great deal of experience in this field. There are several meetings conducted with each contestant before the queen and her runners-up are selected, and these meetings assess our personalities, our studies and how successful we are in our professional lives.
The queen must be very cultured, enlightened and highly educated. Education is more important than home or professional success. The queen must be confident without coming off as arrogant. Arrogance is unattractive.
AMAY: What is your opinion regarding the beauty of Egyptian women? Do you think some of them could hold a title similar to yours one day?
YN: I see such beautiful girls in the Arab world as a whole, and I came across some really stunning beauties in Egypt specifically. My only comment on Egyptian girls is that they need to watch their weight a little bit, something that would definitely stop them from becoming beauty pageant winners. There always needs to be time set aside for exercise.
AMAY: What does the Miss Mexico title entail? What is the prize?
YN: The prizes vary from competition to competition. For example, when I was runner up for Miss Universe, I received a diamond necklace and a tiara that was adorned with jewels. In Mexico, it was different, where the queen gets a crown and other gifts.
The title itself is the prize though. You are publicized internationally, you are given the chance to travel and visit any place you want. The queen is given the chance to work in a variety of fields. What she chooses to do has to reflect the humanitarian spirit associated with the title.
I used the title to further the charity work I am doing, because if you don’t give back after life has been so kind to you, that would be wrong. I am elated when I help others.
AMAY: What is your opinion on love, from your experiences?
YN: Love is the greatest thing in the world. It makes people feel alive and gives people hope and optimism. Love, in my opinion, does not come from one look or "first sight" as they call it. It develops through being comfortable with the person you’re with and everything they do.
It needs work, and you need to be a decisive person. You have to decide to be with your lover, and you have to be devoted. Love changes after marriage. It takes a different forms, but it is still there.
Love changes bad behaviors into good, all for the other person. It makes people look for beautiful things if its understood and undertaken correctly, and that is through devotion.
I went through some pretty rough times earlier in my marriage. He was very jealous and I wanted to make my dreams a reality. But we got through it, and now we have 13 years of devoted marriage under our belt.
I am a romantic person, but I am also very practical and realistic. I believe that romance is beautiful, but it has to be realistic. You can want a better life, but you also have to work for that life. And if you can’t, then look for happiness anywhere you can find it.
AMAY: After touring Egypt, what do you think the future of tourism is?
YN: I was perplexed to discover that tourism was down in Egypt. How could a country that houses so much culture not be more popular with tourists? I have been all over and there is something truly unique in Egypt, something I haven’t seen elsewhere else. Soon your country will return to its former glory and people will flock to see the beauty, just like me.