An Egyptian young man was dressed in red Chinese traditional outfit, imitating a Chinese historical character, ascended the stage and spoke fluent Chinese to narrate a story of an Egyptian interacting with the Chinese culture.

Mostafa Mohamed, one of 20 Egyptian students of the Chinese language, won the first place in a storytelling competition dubbed “Language from the Heart on the Silk Road” held on Saturday by the Chinese Cultural Center in Cairo.

“I am very excited. I worked hard for this moment. I have been preparing for this competition for a year and I have been practicing my five-minute Chinese storytelling on stage for a month,” the top winner, who came from the Chinese department of the Faculty of Arts, Cairo University, said after the competition.

“Chinese language is the future now for it provides many job opportunities. It’s time for me to work hard to help my father who struggled a lot to help me with my education,” Mohamed added with a tone full of confidence and determination.

The contesting students came from Confucius institutes and language colleges of several universities nationwide, including the universities of Cairo, Ain Shams, Helwan, Fayoum, Suez Canal, Beni Suef, Benha, Aswan, Luxor, Minya and others.

Another student, Hossam Bakry from Ain Shams University, was dressed in ancient Egyptian pharaonic clothing when he narrated on stage his love story with a Chinese girl and their exchanged visits to China and Egypt, with their pictures together at famous sites in both countries displayed on the monitor in the background.

Bakry, whose Chinese friend appeared on stage at the last minute of his presentation, amid cheers and applause, won the second place of the competition.

“I have been studying Chinese only for two years. With the help of my professors and my Chinese friends, I managed to reach a good command of the language in a short time,” the young man said.

He said that such competitions encourage students to study harder in learning Chinese. “For instance, without the competition I wouldn’t have learned a five-minute story by heart to tell it in Chinese.”

The jury of the competition consisted of counsellors from the Chinese embassy in Cairo, chiefs of Chinese official media bureaus in Egypt, directors of Confucius institutes as well as Egyptian and Chinese university professors of Chinese language.

One of the judges, Professor Hassan Ragab, dean of the Faculty of Alsun (Languages) and director of Confucius Institute at the Suez Canal University, said that he came from the province of Ismailia to take part in the annual Chinese storytelling competition.

“The Chinese language is the language of the future, and so is the Chinese culture. We encourage our students through these activities to excel spoken and written Chinese,” Ragab said at the end of the contest.

He added that the students demonstrated an amazing level and showed persistence to realise their dream of learning Chinese language very well and learning more about the Chinese culture.

“Some Chinese showed up on stage to take part in the presentations of their Egyptian friends, which is an example of cultural interaction,” said the professor.

The theatre hall was crowded with more than 400 Egyptian and Chinese students and visitors who filled the room until many others had to watch the competition while standing.

Youssef Zakaria and his wife Mona, parents of contestor Sandy, came to the Chinese Cultural Center to support their daughter during her Chinese storytelling performance.

Zakaria said that he wanted his daughter to study English instead of Chinese in the beginning, “but I learned that I was wrong due to the growing development and rising economic power of China.”

One winner got the first place of the competition, three got the second place and five got the third place, while the rest of the 20 competitors got honorary places for encouragement.

Shi Yuewen, cultural counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in Cairo and head of the Chinese Cultural Center, said that the Chinese storytelling competition is getting more popular in Egypt, noting that five new universities joined it this year.

He added in a concluding statement that such cultural activities enhance the friendship between the Egyptian and the Chinese peoples.

“This friendship is reflected in the competition, as some of the students told stories about China’s Belt and Road Initiative for multinational development and others congratulated the Chinese on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China,” Shi said.