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A purely analytical perception...


 

Human civilization is said to have developed along the banks of the Nile allowing Egypt to occupy a significantly strategic position as the link between Africa and Asia. Moreover, it borders on both the Mediterranean and the Nile so that the country is also logistically well positioned. However, it is probably for those reasons that civilization began in Egypt so many years ago, approximately 6,000. As time progressed, the people that inhabited this region developed significant skills in architecture, mathematics, and astronomy and became capable of designing and constructing structures that were well ahead of their time.

Early Egyptian religions were a hodge-podge of beliefs that endeavored to be everything to everyone. There were after-lives; animal gods in human form, places bad people went, along with paradises that were only fit for kings when they departed the earth. Egypt came into being from an amalgamation of a disjointed series of city states, each having its own form of worship; however as the country homogenized, the number of deities that the people worshiped multiplied like flies and one literally needed a scorecard to keep track of the varying beliefs. Even the priests who had devoted their lives to proselytizing their religion had begun to become overwhelmed by the enormous number of deities that had accumulated.

To make matters even worse, as Egypt began to consolidate the disparate peoples that they had conquered, the in the past government always allowed their defeated adversaries to keep their gods; on the other hand, they were logically relegated inferior roles. As more consolidations took place the pyramid of gods became strained and started to crumble of its own weight. While is was a great method of keeping the peace, in a religious sense, confusion had become the order of the day and interpretation of how these various gods inter-reacted with each other became at best, extremely difficult. Religion was becoming a blight, and institutions had to be set up to interpret religious interpretations.

The king of Egypt assumed the role of the chief interpreter of the true faith and acted as an intermediary between the people and their religious beliefs. With the passage of time, these deities had multiplied to such a degree that one of the early Pharaohs felt obliged to order the priests to bring some order out of this chaos. The Pharaoh was convinced that the people really didn’t know who was doing what to whom any more, and it was increasingly difficult to pray to Gods when no one knew who they were anymore.

"Egyptian society was a pyramid-shape hierarchy, with a small, wealthy ruling class at the top controlling the government and military, and a broad strata of peasants at the bottom providing the labor. Most people lived in houses of two or three rooms of unbaked bricks that were made from mud of the Nile River bottom. The working class dressed simply, with men wearing kilts or loincloths and women simple shifts. Most garments were linen. The average diet was plain but nutritionally varied, including vegetables, fruit, meat and fowl. According to tomb inscription, Egyptians also consumed massive quantities of bread and beer. "

The only thing that seemed to be common in early religions of Egypt was their extraordinarily brutality, as evidenced by the fact that the more ancient pyramids housed not only royalty, but women, servants and pets that were sacrificed to provide the King with companionship on his trip up the River Styx. As Egypt’s religions beliefs matured, woman and slaves were replaced with their statues, an adjustment for which obviously most of the inhabitants were extremely grateful. Egyptian religions also contained a heavy smattering of creature worship and early figures closely resembled animals. As time went on, the Egyptians began worshiping animals that had become very humanlike in most of their qualities. There were jackal gods, fertility gods, bull-faced gods, and snake gods. Just about every kind of animal that lived in ancient Egypt was represented, with the cat being in all probability, the most prominent.

"The ancient Egyptians were the first people of antiquity to believe in life after death. They were the first to build in stone and to fashion the arch in stone and brick. Even before the unification of the Two Lands (Upper and Lower Egypt), the Egyptians had developed a plow and a system of writing. They were accomplished sailors and shipbuilders. They learned to chart the heavens in order to predict the Nile flood. Their physicians prescribed healing remedies and performed surgical operations. They sculpted in stone and decorated the walls of their tombs with naturalistic murals in vibrant colors. The legacy of ancient Egypt is written in stone across the face of the country from the pyramids of Upper Egypt to the rock tombs in the Valley of the Kings to the Old Kingdom temples of Luxor and Karnak to the Ptolemaic temples of Edfu and Dendera and to the Roman temple to Isis on Philae Island."

Although Egyptian society was to some extent backward when it came to religion, the culture itself was highly advanced in almost all other respects. Architecture, mathematics, and astronomy had become particularly advanced for their time. Thus, the pyramids were a strange combination as symbols of both superstition and science. Moreover, they were built to last forever and after five millenniums, if it were not for looters and pollution, undreamed of in earlier times, they well might have made it. Cairo is both one of the most populated cities in the world and is also one of the most polluted. The pyramid of Cheops is located just a stone’s through away and it has begun to feel the wreath of civilization.

"His name means "bringer of beauty," although he was officially known as the Master of All Justice and Ruler of the Lower and Upper Nile. He was worshipped as a god during his lifetime, some, 4,600 years ago, from the Nile Valley to the Sinai. He designed and built the first true pyramids and founded a dynasty–-Egypt’s fourth—that lasted more than 100 years. But Snefru, known to the Greeks as "the Good King," has long been overshadowed by "the Bad King," Khufu (also know as Cheops), his more famous son and successor. Because Khufu’s Great Pyramid a Giza, on the outskirts of Cairo, is more accessible to tourists, it has become the picture-postcard landmark. Snefru’s monuments, by contrast, sat on an army base in Dahshur, 13 miles away. For much of this century they were concealed behind barbed wire and watch towers, off limits to all but a handful of archaeologists."

Due to Egypt’s strategic geographical position, the country was regularly attacked by envious neighbors and the Egyptians were conquered by the Ptolemies, Greeks, Arabs, Romans, Mamluks, Ottomans and France. Egypt remained under Arab rule until the ninth century, when autonomous hereditary dynasties started to appear. Effectively, during this period, which lasted for about three hundred years, Egypt had become more of a combination of city-states and nomadic tribes than a unified country. One of Egypt’s most serious setbacks occurred during the period between 1347 and 1350, when the plague called the "Black Death’ afflicted the country and wiped out 40% of the population before it eventually subsided from natural causes.

Eventually, The Ottoman Empire under Sultan Selim I absorbed Egypt and ruled it passively for several hundred years. The Ottoman’s were followed by Napoleon who fancied Egypt and conquered it for France in 1798. While this may have sounded like a great victory, it didn’t really take much to accomplish this act because by this time, the country’s population had declined to less than 200,000 people. In 1869, the Suez Canal was opened, and this revitalized both Cairo and the rest of Egypt.

During this period, Egypt’s ruler, Ismail, who had been educated in Paris, attempted to emulate the French and incorporated many of their architectural achievements into his overall development planning. However, it was the British who succeeded the French that were the most recent foreign transgressors. British troops seized Egypt in 1882 in order to protect their shipping interests and the recently completed, Suez Canal. However, of all of the conquerors that had come this way, it was the Arabs, who arrived in 641; led by Amr ibn al As, that left the most indelible mark on the country, which had adopted their religious beliefs, their language and their culture and much of that remains immutable as part of Egypt culture today.

British interest in Egypt stemmed from the Suez Canal as the short route to India. Promises to evacuate the country once order had been restored were broken, and the British army remained in occupation until 1954. Although Tawfik remained on the throne as a figurehead prince, the British consul general was the real ruler of the country. The first and most important consul general was Sir Evelyn Baring (known after 1892 as Lord Cromer).

A nationalist movement led by Mustafa Kamil, a European-educated lawyer, was backed by Tawfik’s successor, Abbas II, during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Kamil agitated for self-government and an end to the British occupation but was ignored by British authorities. ()

However, Britain allowed Egypt a semblance of independence in 1922. The Egyptians, having tasted that, in December of 1945, their Prime Minister Mahmud Nuqrashi in a note to the British mandated that they remove all of their troops from the country without delay. The British rejected this petition, which resulted in massive riots in Cairo and Alexandria. In addition, these riots caused substantial damage to British property, personnel and ego. This seemed to be the time for independence and in neighboring Palestine; David Ben-Gurion declared the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. However, strangely, this Israeli act was considered by the Egyptians to be only another act of British imperialism.

Rising to the threat of an alien nation arising in the middle of their territory, the Arab Countries commenced hostilities against Israel shortly thereafter. Nevertheless, the Arab armies were uncoordinated, their equipment outmoded, their battle planning nearly non-existent and their soldiers were poorly trained and fed. Other than the highly celebrated Arab Legion from Transjordan, the war was a major disaster for the Arabs, and the blame was placed squarely on the lap Egypt’s King Faruk. Nevertheless, at least one soldier performed admirably for Egypt and received severe injuries for his efforts. His name was Gamal Abdul Nasser who had commanded a small army unit in Palestine. He would be heard from again.

In the period directly following World War II, Egypt was ruled by King Faruk. In 1948, under his aegis, Israel, which was quickly becoming a thorn in Egypt’s side, was invaded by a sizeable force. In spite of the fact that Egyptian troops were able to penetrate within 25-miles of Tel Aviv, they were ultimately beaten back and when the smoke had cleared, Israel had seized sizeable chunks of the Sinai. Ultimately, Egypt and their allies sued for a cease-fire. Israel at that time was absorbing refugees at a torrid clip and was economically contented to return to pre-war bounders in exchange for a semblance of normalcy.

The earlier Egyptian agreements with the British were formerly abrogated by Egypt in 1951, and Faruk was proclaimed the King of both Egypt and Sudan. At that time, Egypt believed that the territory where Sudan is located, the largest country in Africa, was also part of the Egyptian manifest destiny. "Liberation battalions" were created, with the Muslim Brotherhood and auxiliary police becoming fully armed. Shortly thereafter, Clement Atlee, the then British Prime Minister seeing the light agreed in 1949 to remove all British troops from the Egyptian cities and bases, and fold them into the region surrounding the Suez Canal Zone.

Food supplies to the Suez Canal Zone were blocked, and Egyptian workers were withdrawn from the British base. A guerrilla war against the British in the Suez Canal Zone was undertaken by students and the Brotherhood. However, in an act of desperation, in December British bulldozers and Centurion tanks demolished fifty Egyptian mud houses to open a road allowing access to water supplies, much needed by the British army. This incident and one that followed on January 25, 1952, provoked intense Egyptian anger. It was on that date that the British attacked an Egyptian police barracks at Ismailiya, when its occupants refused to surrender to British troops. Fifty Egyptians were killed and 100 were wounded." This signaled the beginning of the end of British rule, and the crowds in Cairo became uncontrollable and destroyed whatever British property they could locate. While the British had seen this as a major concession, the Egyptians had become even more enraged but by this time, though, the British colonial empire in Egypt was seeing the handwriting on the wall and in 1954; the British totally withdrew from the region.

In July of 1952, the Free Officers’ Revolution () championed by Gamal Abdul Nasser altered the Egyptian landscape forever. King Faruk was forced to abdicate in favor of his infant son and he sailed into exile aboard the very same yacht on which his grandfather, Ismail had left for exile about seventy years earlier." Interestingly enough, Nasser became the first true Egyptian to rule the country since the 6th century B.C.

Nasser took over and without more ado, began edging the country nearer to the Soviet Union’s orbit. Moreover, it was during Nasser reign that, with Russia technical assistance, a major architectural triumph was completed, the Aswan High Dam. The logic of constructing this 2½-mile long structure was inescapable. The area in which Egypt is geographically located is one of constant feast or famine. For every year of adequate rain, there seems to be two or three years of drought. For this reason, one of the early and more important Egyptian Gods, was the god of water. Because of the ever-required need for water reserves, almost a century before this another dam had been built near the city of Aswan, which is now called the Aswan Low Dam. The reason for this was the fact that this 2 mile long facility could only hold water reserves for one year. As the population of Egypt geometrically exploded, the land that had once been called "The Breadbasket of Civilization", now could no longer agriculturally support its own population. In spite of this fact, the Nile Delta (the area flooded by the Nile River) only represented less than 5 percent of Egypt’s land and was literally the only agriculturally productive region in the area.

One of the downsides of building the Aswan High Dam was the fact that when Egypt had been so agriculturally productive in past years, it had been as a result of the silt that the Nile carried to Egypt from places as far away as Ethiopia. This silt was rich in nutrients and constant flooding caused the silt to be built up on top of the active farmland whenever flooding would cause the Nile to escape its banks. The silt acted as a very rich fertilizer and as a result along with Egypt’s warm weather, three crops were produced a year. This allowed the country, for most of its existence to be a food exporter.

Nasser needing a symbol upon his takeover of the Egyptian Government announced with great fanfare that this enormous project would be taken on. It would be substantially larger than Egypt’s largest pyramid and in addition, it would be the largest dam of its type ever built. As a matter of fact, the dam would eventually become known as "Nasser’s Pyramid." It would take 10 years to build and during its construction would employ no less than 35,000 people from all around the world. When completed it would provide 1/3 more hydroelectric power than America’s Hoover Dam. This electricity would bring power to over 20,000 Egyptian communities that had never known an electric light and what was left over, could be sold to other countries in the region. But progress only came in fits and jerks, mostly because of the bizarre politics of the region.

At this point in time, Nasser didn’t have a clue of either how to build the structure or where the money would come from. However, Germany had just paid Israel a substantial sum of money for World War II reparations and the Egyptians complained loudly that the Israeli’s would probably use the funds to buy weapons to attract Egypt. The Germans were not interested in financing the project but could see the logic of Egypt’s argument.

They came up with an interesting compromise by offering to engineer the facility. Egypt quickly accepted the deal and two years later, that work was completed. Now, Nasser had to deal with the issue of raising the money to build the dam. He went to the World Bank with the German sketches and pleaded for help. The World Bank expressed substantial interest but their ardor was substantially dampened by the politics of the time. Nasser had embraced the Russian’s and although the World Bank was not theoretical supposed to be political, it was unquestionable controlled by the United States and over a period of time, after originally having given the project its green light, the World Bank ultimately rejected it. This came as a terrible blow to Nasser who at this point did not know where to turn for outside help.

Eventually Nasser came up with the idea of nationalizing the Suez Canal and using tolls to help pay for the Aswan High Dam’s construction. This caused an immediate problem with France, Britain and Israel who saw this power grab as potentially a method of closing to the canal to their shipping and this would not be acceptable. The war raged for a time but worries of Russian interference and offers of Egyptian reparations dampened the warring nation’s ardor. Although Nasser’s grab of the canal was a military failure, because it caused the 1956 War, the United States refused to back its allies and demanded a stop to the hostilities. Today, Egypt continues to hold the canal and nobody expects that it will ever be relinquished.

In spite of its control of the canal, the revenues that Egypt collected were never enough to cover anything close to the construction of the dam, which could somewhat be attributed to the fact that Egypt was busily paying reparations to both France and Britain for its nationalization. The Russians, interested in making trouble in the region stepped into the breach and offered to construct the dam if the Egyptians would use their equipment and their engineers and when the project was completed the Egyptians would give the Russians total credit. By this time, Nasser would have dealt with the devil and the deal was readily accepted. Although the Russians had much more experience with dam building than did the Germans, and substantially modified and improved the original German design, the equipment delivered by Russia was primarily used in cold weather and summer temperature in Egypt often hit 125 degrees. In addition, the logistics of delivering heavy equipment to Egypt for Russia was problematical at best. Russian equipment consistently broke down, was ineffectual and of not great enough quantity.

In spite of agreements to the contrary, it also turned out the Russian labor was ineffective and for this reason, Egypt turned to other Arab countries for assistance. The Russians complained bitterly and almost pulled out of the project, but Nasser was determined and hard feelings were ultimately smoothed out. Work for the first time went on without substantial problems. On the other hand, there were still difficult dilemmas that had to be dealt with. With the project now in high gear, it would not be too long before magnificent temples would be covered forever under water when the dam was filled. International archeologists went into a state of anguish and a number of interesting theories were proposed. The first and least expensive was the strange Egyptian proposal that a giant scuba center be created and divers could see these shrines as sort of an underground museum. Upon hearing what it considered a highly unacceptable solution because of the waters high salinity which would have destroyed these underground monuments in short order, Unesco stepped in with another plan. The world backed UNESCO's plan to raise the monuments out of the water to a level above where the they would not be harmed by the dam’s backup. This became a project almost as complex as the building of the dam itself and the workers were only able to keep a small step ahead of the constantly rising waters. Some of the monuments had originally been built into the mountains themselves, and thus, the entire mountain ultimately had to be cut away and moved to accommodate the plan.

In the meantime, Nasser was fearful throughout the construction that the Israeli’s could unleash a bombing attack and blow up the dam. E believed that this would result in the deaths of approximately 65 million Egyptians. Russian engineers were constantly assuaging Nasser, telling him that because the dam was primarily earthen in nature, it would require a series of atomic bombs to do that kind of damage. Nasser remained nervous to the end and died 6 months before the dam was completed.

Nasser’s successor opened the dam to substantial fan fare. Over 1,000 lives had been lost in its construction, but that was a small price to pay when Egypt’s agricultural self-sufficiency would be the reward.

However, this was not to happen in spite of the fact that the project from an engineering standpoint fulfilled all of its projected benefits. The problem was that that the population was increasing at an even faster rate than previously calculated and in the end, the dam only became a stopgap measure relative to Egypt’s agricultural self-sufficiency. The land now required fertilization because the nutritionally rich silt no longer flowed over the fields and much of this fertilizer had to be imported. Because of the tremendous amount of water, now being stagnantly backed up by the dam, evaporation also became a serious problem and this in turn made weather planning much more difficult, eventually negatively effecting weather patterns in the region.

On the other hand, not all of Nasser’s efforts were lasting or logical. Because of the never-ending bickering over Israel’s existence, Syria and Egypt determined that it would make some sense to create a union between their two countries. An agreement was reached and the joint country was created in 1958 as The United Arab Republic. That union endured for three years with no visible benefit afforded to either of the parties. The basic problem from the beginning was that the two parts of the country were not directly connected by land; Israel sat in the catbird seat, right in the middle and communication between the two took place mainly by phone. Moreover, the leaders of the two countries were both highly egocentric and it soon became readily apparent that they would be unable to share power with each other. This arrangement collapsed without any fanfare or second thoughts in 1961.

As time passed, Nasser continued to reinforce and train his army with great fanfare and bravado. This saddest thing about this was the fact that both Nasser and his people were really beginning to believe their own publicity; that Egypt’s military was now a force to be reckoned with. The drum rolls, the movie clips and the parades of tanks and soldiers marching in cadence down Cairo’s streets, greatly improved Egypt’s prestige in the region and certainly lifted Egyptian’s spirits. However, in 1962 Egypt for some unknown reason choose to intervene in a civil war that had broken out in the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen). Nasser moved a substantial number of troops into the country after a coup was staged by Yemeni army officers, revolting against the royalist regime with which Nasser had a peace pact.

This military action proved to be a disaster for Egypt for several reasons, first of all, the highly mountainous terrain of Yemen was not comparable to the area where Nasser’s troops had received their training. For that reason, they were ill equipped to fight the kind of hit and run action that was waged in the most rugged parts of Yemen. Secondarily, as Nasser’s so-called police action became bogged down, Egypt felt obliged to either send in more troops or withdraw from the region entirely. Retreat, was not a tolerable option for Nasser who had by this time embarrassed himself in every war he had fought and Yemen soon became Egypt’s Vietnam. In order to prove to the other Arab states that he was achieving a victory, Nasser made the tactical blunder of sending in his best troops.

This proved to be especially disastrous in June of 1967, when Israel attacked Egypt. Nasser was goaded into going to war with Israel for the third time because of Israel’s tensions with Syria over the Golan Heights. Sadly for Egypt, Nasser had made the dreadful mistake of signing a joint defense agreement with Syria. The Israeli Army was about to turn the Syrian Army into "shredded wheat" when Syria came to Egypt for help. Among other things, the Israeli’s were talking about occupying Damascus and people in that region believed they were serious. However, there was the small matter of the United Nations Troops that had been deployed between Egypt and Israel, which Nasser still had the sensible option of hiding behind. Nevertheless, the non-confrontational Arab states were crying for Israeli blood and Nasser in a very weak moment obliged. This was a strictly macho move that Nasser knew could ultimately mean the destruction of Egypt.

On the morning of June 5, 1967, Israel attacked Egypt, Jordan and Syria and within three hours, there was literally nothing left of the prized Egyptian Air Force and by June 8th, the Israel forces were at the Suez Canal. Nasser did not communicate the fact that he had already been obliterated, so Syria and Jordan fought on believing that if there was trouble, Nasser would come to their aid. In addition, because of a number of stupid blunders by Egypt’s generals, their force had been caught in the narrow, Mitla Pass and had become target practice for Israel’s Air Force. When the tally was totaled, Egypt had also lost no less than 700 of 930 brand new Russian tanks. Nasser’s foolhardiness had cost him dearly, and now Israel occupied all of Palestine, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, as well as Sinai and a good piece of the Golan Heights. The Egyptian Army was in shambles, their armor was a twisted pile of junk and without Russian aid, Egypt would have been easy pickings for anybody else in the region as well. Nasser died soon thereafter, but he had made some substantial contributions to the country and left it united in almost every sense.

Nasser’s Vice President, Anwar Sadat replaced him. Sadat was also a former military officer. Moreover, he was a nationalist in the same manner that Nasser had been before him. But unlike Nasser, he encouraged capitalism and allowed the people substantially more freedom than they had previously enjoyed. When elections were held, Sadat who formerly had also served as secretary of the Islamic Congress and speaker of the National Assembly received 90 percent of the Egyptian vote. In spite of the fact that Sadat was making all of the right moves, he was forced to arrest more than 100 senior government officials for plotting against his government. The army didn’t seem to agree that allowing the people a taste of democracy was a good thing.

Later in 1971, Sadat attempted a peace initiative with Israel. He offered to exchange a peace declaration for the return of the Sinai. Neither the United States nor Israel was particularly interested in helping a client of the Eastern Block’s (Egypt) and paid little attention to his offer. Egypt now was forced to restore its military, which in turn put an extreme burden on its economy. Moreover, this caused an extreme economic downturn followed by student riots against the government. In reality, they were against Israel but they took the anger out on their own government. These riots put substantial pressure on Sadat to achieve some kind of triumph over Egypt’s historic enemy, and he started planning for that event.

In October of 1973, Egypt launched a surprise attack on Israel, and at first, it appeared that Sadat had achieved what no other Arab leader had been able to accomplish: victory over Israel. Although this is the way history will record the event, that is not quite the whole story. Sadat’s missiles and planes were actually ineffective against Israel defense lines and a frustrated Egypt turned to Russia for support. Russians took over the guided missile systems and flew the planes to some effect, early in the war.

Moreover, due to the fact that Egypt had done superb military planning, Sadat was able to cross the Suez Canal in less than four hours. Ultimately, Israel, with the help of fresh supplies from the United States was able to entirely encircle the Arab Third Army in the largest tank battle since World War II. When the smoke had cleared, the coordinated Israeli forces had totally annihilated Egypt’s military once again. In the one major air battle fought during this war, Israeli planes and pilots also scored stunning victories over their Russian counterparts. This did not particularly sit well with the Egyptians, who had been looking to them for their military equipment and training. Egypt surrendered and their partner, Syria was left holding the military bag. Two days later, Syria collapsed as well. Egypt was left totally defeated, but for the first time, the Arabs had won a major battle. However, in spite of this supposed victory, the Arabs for the first time, played "the oil card."

In secret meetings with the United States Government, the US agreed to make a number of concessions to Israel relative to rearmaments if Israel would give back parts of the Sinai and return an oil-producing region which had been taken back to Egypt and allow the Suez Canal to reopen. Israel, which at this point was having its own economic problems, agreed. In spite of losing the war, Sadat had gained valuable brownie points with his people because of his initial successes and because of that, in November of 1977, he had the standing to be able to make a trip to Jerusalem and extend the olive branch to Israeli leaders. The consequence of that visit instigated American President Jimmy Carter to offer his services for serious mediation, and ultimately in November of 1978, the Camp David Accord was signed under the American President’s aegis. The remaining members of the so-called Arab League, were not pleased with this outcome, and Egypt’s relations with other Arab countries for a time became severely strained. This series of events brought out the fanatics, and there were many in Egypt itself who were unhappy with this result; in October of 1981, Sadat, a tremendously courageous man, was cut down in cold blood by the Muslim extremist group, Al Jihad (Holy War).

Sadat was the man that had changed Egypt's Constitution to include the statement that Islamic law is the most important inspiration for the country's laws. Moreover, it was Sadat that released thousands of Muslim Brothers from long-term jail sentences. However, there were those that seized the opportunity to prevent Sadat from bringing what could have been an era of both peace and prosperity to the region.

The extremist group was founded by Hassan al-Banna, a schoolteacher in 1928. He professed to have a dream of resurrecting the golden age of the Muslim empire. If anyone ever had a question as to the group's goals one only had to listen closely to its credo espoused by its creator. "it is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its law on all nations and to extend its power to the entire planet." Particularly in Egypt the Fundamentalists have learned the secret of bidding their time. The inner-core of the group speaks of victory even if it takes 50 to 60 years.  

Sadat was succeeded by Husni Murbarak, originally considered a hack, who was only expected to last until someone better could be found. However, it was soon found that he had some extraordinary talents. He didn’t share Nasser’s temper and thought out his moves carefully before coming to a decision. He also lacked Sadat’s emotionalism. Thus, although tough, Murbarak was extremely logical, examining every issue from countless points of view before arriving at a decision. Because of his more calculating nature, during Murbarak’s reign, nothing dramatic has occurred, but on the other hand, there haven’t been any major disasters either.

Murbarak has been even-handed when it has come to religious rights in Egypt, reigning in the fringe groups and directing his attentions toward the centrists. However, Murbarak has made some concessions, and these could eventually come home to bite him if he is not extremely careful extremely careful in balancing the religious exigencies of the region. Egypt’s clerics knowing they had substantial strength in a country which is 90 percent, Muslim, sought more religion in their law and Murbarak has allowed sharia a small but expanding role in the constitutional process. This originally small bite may make it easier for the clerics to demand more as time goes on turning Egypt into another Iran or worse yet, an Afghanistan. It is important that the people remain prosperous and well feed in order to keep them from turning too much toward religion and Murbarak is substantial aware of this possibility.

Moreover, due to the increased liberalization of the Egyptian society by the Government, more students were able to complete college. However, there is not enough industry in Egypt to support the increased number of graduates and it has caused a high unemployment rate among this elite group, in excess of 30%. Egypt’s population is expanding at an alarming rate, with little or no birth control education and with a population of 60 million that is becoming increasingly concentrated in the major cities. Simultaneously, environmental and infrastructure problems have significantly multiplied. Nevertheless, health care is free and there is a reasonably good social security system that has been in place since 1952. While population growth remains high, Egypt is a large country. The more difficult problem is that fact 99 percent of all people in Egypt live, literally on the banks of the Nile River. In this area, population density is 1,500 per square kilometer, one of the world’s highest, while in the rest of Egypt, conversely it is one of the worlds lowest. Also troubling is the fact that, of the total population of the country, 20 percent live in the Greater Cairo area.

By this time, urban sprawl was really getting to Cairo and there are a string of most interesting statistics of the time:

"The city’s population was growing about 300,000 per year in the 1980s, has strained urban services to the breaking point. Public transportation was woefully inadequate in the late 1980s, with about one of every four buses out of commission at any given time. Public water supplies, sewer facilities, and trash collection were all overburdened. Housing was perhaps the most pressing problem because persistent shortages of skilled labor and construction materials hampered efforts to build residential units quickly enough to meet demand. The demand for moderately priced housing was especially high. Some people resorted to clandestine and semi-legal housing arrangements; as many as 200,000 wooden, cardboard, and metal huts were constructed on the roofs of apartment buildings. An estimated 500,000 people were living in the mausoleums in the city’s cemeteries."

From an agricultural point of view, in spite of the abundant resources provided by the Nile and the Aswan Dam, only about three percent of Egypt’s land is useable for agricultural production and the country’s historic crop over the years has been cotton. Because of their abject poverty, most farmers found themselves forced into multiple cropping, something that was easily accomplished when the Nile River overflowed on a regular basis leaving substantial deposits of nutritious silt in its wake. On the other hand, the dam had eliminated that resource and double cropping was something that was literally more than the fragile land could handle. Additionally, concentration on cotton as the premier crop and senseless over irrigation lessened the fertility of what soil was left. Moreover, the same areas that were best of crop production were also the choicest when it came to living conditions. Thus, people were moving into the fertile areas looking for places to live and used valuable agricultural land for living space. This created the situation where internally generated agricultural products were not sufficient to provide nutritional independence for the rapidly increasing population. Therefore, Egypt is now and will be for the foreseeable future, completely dependent on imports to feed their population.

Almost every alternative has been attempted to almost no avail. There is unquestionably water that can be gotten from aquifers in the desert, but little progress in that direction has been made to date. In the meantime, a number of countries in the region have threatened to cut Egypt’s supply of water from the Nile, which in turn would cause the country substantial hardship. Egypt’s neighbors such as Sudan and Libya are not necessarily what you could always call logical folks, and war could easily break out should any country attempt to tamper with Egypt’s fresh water supply.

Sudan, once considered part of Egypt has become a particularly thorny problem due to several reasons. A relentless civil war in the country has displaced an enormous number of people who are undernourished and homeless, many of who have looked to Egypt as a place of refuge. In addition, Sudan is subsidized by the Iraqi Government and many of their political views are not shared by Egypt Government. Sudan has been making serious waves about taking increased water supplies from the Nile and Iraq has been indicating that they would supply the Sudanese with weapons should the need arise. Egypt has taken both threats seriously, and because of the region’s ever evolving problems, a strong military is necessary to insure that even more serious problems don’t arise.

Naturally, this tends to sap the economy and drain what minimal resources Egypt has available. Nevertheless, Egypt has been a standup player on the world scene lately and receives more than their fair share from all of the relief agencies, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. In addition, Egypt receives the second most aid from the United States next to Israel. As the region’s economics continue to evolve, Egypt could even surpass Israel in that category, since Israel’s economy has been booming of late, there borders are reasonably secure, and having established peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt, only Syria and the Palestinians are left to deal with.

One of Egypt’s major sources of revenue is the fact that so many of their people work in the oil producing Arabian States such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Kuwait. As an example, 1 million Egyptian workers were in Iraq when the Gulf War broke out. A substantial amount of money is sent home by these expatriates, providing hard currency for relatives in Egypt. During "Desert Storm," the people scurried home and the flow of income dried up for a time. While this situation is become more normalized, a substantial shortfall developed during that period that has not been made up.

As time passed, Egyptian President Murbarak’s government became entrenched, bureaucratic, lazy and scandal ridden. Moreover, in a recent election, the National Democratic Party, (NDP) was clearly headed in a solidly southern direction, while the officially outlawed Muslim Brotherhood was unquestionable gaining strength. "The 2000 elections – the first ever to be supervised by Egypt’s independent judiciary – have been free to date of the large-scale ballot tampering which characterized earlier polls. That procedural reform, coupled with economic woes, corruption scandals and a revival of Egyptian street politics, predestined the NDP to losing seats."

There were a number of contributing factors, and first and foremost was the disastrous condition of the Egyptian economy, causing the Central Bank to devalue the Egyptian pound. This in turn, squeezed consumer purchasing power and heightened inflation. However, while these problems are serious, there are a number of palliating factors, the primary one of which is the fact that almost all food products are subsidized. In the meantime, bureaucratic glitches were causing unrest among the population. Events such as a high Egyptian official selling permits in the black market for the pilgrimage to Mecca were particularly annoying to the people. In addition, a substantial number of political figures were jailed when it was discovered that they had borrowed substantially from a large Egyptian bank without collateral using their government positions to enforce the loan.

"The case reached into high political circles – along with the members of parliament, a former Minister of Tourism was also indicted, all of them members of them members of President Hosni Murbarak’s ruling party. It also touched the boardrooms of five banks. The accused included the daughter of the chairman of the Nile Bank, Alya Aioti, and her husband, Mahmoud Abdel-Fattah Assam, one of the legislators involved. Although some of the suspects were allowed by a previous prosecutor to leave the country during the trial and have been sentenced in absentia, the country’s current prosecutor is pursuing extradition to bring them back to Egypt."

If I were a country, I would not be happy if my friends and neighbors were places like Sudan, Libya, Syria, Iraq and Iran. With friends like, there is some question whether one really needs enemies. Egypt is between a large rock and a mammoth hard-place. Within the Arab world, they are effectively the voice of Arabism. They are its most populous country and yet, Egypt is effectively economically bankrupt. They have a perceived enemy on their flanks, Israel, that at the very least has an atomic bomb and has a fuse that can be dangerously short when the country’s survival is at stake. Hovering in the background are Palestinians, who desperately want a homeland and are trying to go about getting it the only way one does things like that. They fight for it. It is just a pity that both the Israelis and the Palestinians are fighting over such a small amount of territory, when there is so much land in the region that could be put to good use.

Everyone in the area is surveying the landscape, and whoever shows extreme weakness will be gobbled up by the Muslim fanatics who seem to ride the airflows searching out carrion. Universally, all of the Arabs are forced to show sympathy for one another, in spite of the fact that countries like Iraq have shown no mercy whatsoever when they invade their religious brethren like Kuwait, and if they hadn’t been stopped by the United States, Saudi Arabia as well. They raped, pillaged robbed and burned, and yet, there are those in the governments of both of the countries that were attacked who have good words to say about these people. Naturally, their genuineness could be called into question, but why take the time to bother. It is just one big game.

Moreover, we have other countries in the region such as Syria, who took over Lebanon and enslaved it. They allowed various fanatic guerillas to use the land as a jumping off place for their raids into Israel just so that they would not have to pay the price for their own cowardliness. Before that, they had tried to conquer their friend and neighbor, Jordan, only to be pulverized by Jordan’s army, one of the best in the region. In addition, we have such Welcome Wagon participants in this neighborhood such as Libya, who goes about its business of creating chemical weapons for use against whoever may offend them at any given time. Libya has allowed guerilla-training grounds to be set up on their territory and after their training is completed they then send the objects of their training to pathetic places in Africa to make those countries even more pathetic, if that is possible. Moreover, they are incessantly playing with things like uranium and plutonium and cesium trying to create a big splash in someone else’s backyard. In addition, what about those friendly people from Iran that have just closed down their short attempt at giving their own people religious freedom, that keep their women in bondage and have sadistically removed any vestige of modern society from their country? 

For the most part, this group represents a bunch of fanatics that prey on each other or anyone else in the region that shows any weakness. In the middle of the hodgepodge is Israel, who as a standing rule, must be criticized by all of the Arab states, no matter what they do. The Israelis could announce to the world at large that they have just come out squarely for motherhood and every one of the Arab states would be forced into condemning either mothers or children, or both. Among themselves, they can harbor whatever hatreds the years may have fashioned, but to the outside world, there must be only one devil.

Egypt and Israel have created a tenuous peace, which has been patched together because of a mutual needs: Egypt’s anxiety to recover the land it lost when it became provoked into an unnecessary war that they knew that they couldn’t win and the money that the United States pays both Egypt and Israel to remain very silent friends. Israel has no trouble accepting a bashing each time someone in the region stubs his toe, but the Egyptians have a different problem. They must appear to be faithful to the Arab cause, mouth the right words at the proper time, but are not allowed to go to far if they want to keep getting their desperately needed American subsidy. The Israelis have a bit of the same problem, but not quite as tough: they must appear to be good guys, while still maintaining the safety of their citizens.

Egypt is not in a position to be envied: 90% of its population is Muslim, the people are massively underemployed, its standard of living has been going downhill and every so often you really could understand if the troops can get restless. The Egyptians have seen first hand what has happened when fundamentalism took over in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. If they shift too far toward the conservative side of the ledger, their own people will turn them into chopped liver. If they become to friendly with the Western Powers and Israel, the same people will tear them to ribbons. They are walking a very narrow path, and there are many ways to slip off the edge. In the meantime, various civil rights groups have been trying to undertake operations in Egypt.

"Eddin Ibrahim a prominent sociologist and the founder of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, was accused, along with 27 others connected to the center, of spreading false reports about Egypt abroad. Prosecutors said he had harmed the country’s image through exaggerated report on various issues ranging from electoral fraud to tension between Muslims and Christians. Other charges against Mr. Ibrahim include accepting foreign donations without government permission, using donated money for personal gain and bribing newscasters to report favorably on the center’s work. "

Ibrahim did not let well enough alone and ranted about the pervasiveness of election fraud in Egypt. For their part the Egyptian Government charged Ibrahim with defaming Egypt, an extremely serious charge in that country. In addition he was charged with attempting to ferment problems between the Muslims and Christians, accepting foreign donations without government permission, using donated money for personal gain and bribing reports to favorably report on the foundation’s work. However, the Egyptians may have just picked on the wrong guy. Apparently they hadn’t done their homework and did not realize that Mr. Ibrahim holds dual citizenship in Egypt and the United States. The U.S. State Department went ballistic over what appeared to be a blatant frame up and an attempt to contain Egyptian civil liberties and in addition a host of civil rights groups from all over the world joined in. We wonder how much longer they are going to be able to walk the tightrope without creating a misstep. It may even break first.

A Touch of Trouble 

While we have indicated that the Fundamentalists present a massive problem for the Egyptian Government to deal with there are other even more pressing problems presented by various competing religions in Egypt. No one in the country seems to take a broad view that everyone is always going to be allowed to make their own decision relative what religion they will be allowed to practice. Many think that the Fundamentalists have pushed the envelope to far and are only a stones throw from once again becoming banned. But the distance between getting banned and receiving additional freedom of action is very narrow and the Egyptian Government seems to give everyone just enough rope to hang themselves. The belief of the Fundamentalists is that if you are not a true believer in the Muslim Religion, you are an infidel that isn’t worth the food to keep you alive.  

The Coptic's

Against this backdrop we have another one of the principal religions in Egypt, the Coptic’s which is a form of Christianity almost solely indigenous to Egypt which makes up an important 10% of the population. The Copts make a lot of waves because of their very vocal position about the fact that they are discriminated against in Egypt and that of all of the civil service jobs in the country, literally none are held by Copts. Moreover, the Fundamentalists don’t think they deserve much more than they are getting which is just about nothing. This militant attitude has created major strains in the government as both the Fundamentalists and the Coptic’s who both make up minorities of the voting population are equally necessary for political parties to be elected here.  

The Coptic religion has monasteries located all over the country, some of which are also considered to be religious shrines having both historical significance as well as religious importance. The Monks learn their religion in the monasteries and when they are finished with their studies they are supposed to be above the world’s temptation’s and as such are somewhat akin to the priests in the Catholic Church. These monks are highly revered for what they have given up and are looked at by fellow Copts as dedicated men of god. The Coptic Church in many ways looks down upon the Muslim Religion as one who has lost their way over the years and they remain especially at war with the Fundamentalists in this regard. This causes significant lethal bantering between the religions, but Egypt has attempted to maintain the integrity of the minority Copts in spite of their somewhat indolent nature. The leader of the Copts is currently Pope Shenouda III, whose word is law within the church however, there is no blunder that has been made by the Coptic Faith in Egypt that is long overlooked and whenever anything untoward occurs, it is the Pope that is forced to take the hit.  

Every religion in the world has their leaders that have gone bad and when it happens they are usually at a loss to know what to do next in a public relations sense. In Egypt, especially because of atmosphere, this problem can quickly become immensely magnified. While politicians have their “spinners” who are professionals that deal with damage control, religious publicity can come in so many different packages that its results become highly unpredictable. The Coptic’s had their negative moment and the end of the story on it has yet to be written. It seems that one of the previously senior monks, Adel Saadallah Cabriel, man that had already been excommunicated for serious problems that remain a secret, was a little short of funds and at the same time, a tad oversexed. While many have said that he had lost a considerable sum betting on camel races, this has not been proven and we must not let conjecture influence our story.   

While having either, money or sex is not exactly sanctioned for monks affiliated with the Coptic Church this is not exactly the issue here. It seems that Adel had been in charge of a fabled monastery believed to have been built in the 4th century and which stands on a spot that supposedly had been visited by Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. Thus, Adel was running an institution that was particularly high on the list of Christian Shrines in Egypt. Well, it turns out that Adel was not only horny and in need of money, but he was also a ladies man with a talent for electronics. Adel believing in the equality of man was an equal opportunity sex maniac; the newly ex-monk would lure women of any faith into the Monetary with offers of a tour of its relics followed by a romp in the large bedroom. Apparently because of the fact that this event provided somewhat of a triple header to these women, sex with a great looking monk in a historically shrine, he had no lack of partners and was extremely proactive in these pursuits. As we have said, he showed no prejudice in his attentions and bedded down with an entire United Nations of Egyptian women.  

However, what he failed to inform his partners was the fact that they were being photographed for posterity and by a camera that he could operate from his bed by pressing a small button secreted in its frame. As it turns out, the sex that the monk and his partners, most of whom were married, many of them to devote Muslims, was of the extremely kinky variety and Adel got a huge kick out of playing back and watching his activities over and over again. Eventually it dawned on him that he could make a good living by sending copies of the videotapes to his paramours and began blackmailing them for big money by threatening to also send a copy to their husbands, friends, family or church, whatever seemed to be the best move at the moment. For a substantial period of time everything went as planned and Adel even dropped a coin or two in the Monastery’s collection box for what he considered to be sexual rent for the facilities. In his way, he expected that God would approve.  

Eventually one of the tapes fell into the wrong hands and the game was over, Adel was picked up by the police and the Coptic Pope did some serious praying in the hopes that the matter was now closed. Hardly, one of Egypt’s most prominent newspapers got a hold of the sex-story and published it in intimate detail including the sex scenes in the monastery. People didn’t wait long to start becoming enraged over the front page story that police were obligated to pull copies off of local newsstands to calm the crowd. To say that this caused some consternation among the Egyptian people would be the underestimation of the decade. A cry went up for blood but everyone had different blood that they wanted, the Egyptian Government as their first official action wanted to make an example out of Mamdouh Mahran who owned Al-Nabaa that published the articles purportedly showing Adel having sex in the Monastery. This they believed would calm down the Muslim’s who were making themselves sick thinking about their women having sex with a hated Coptic.  

Because the pictures spoke for themselves, there could be little done to quench the fire but from the Coptic Pope’s point of view he could only  indicate in self defense of the religion that the Monk’s sex was accomplished not in the monastery but elsewhere. “Sins were certainly committed but not in the monastery. This certainly seemed to fly in the face of the front page pictures in the newspaper but when you have little to work with you do what you have too.  It would have been a tad better if the Pope could have identified where the sexual activities had taken place if indeed they had not occurred in the Monastery. No one could identify where elsewhere was though, but the Copts were certainly not going to argue with the Pope and they took out their anger on the Monk along with the non-Coptic Egyptians who they felt had made the entire matter up. One of the unhappy Coptic’s, Hisham Hann, said: “We have been patient for too long and patience has limits. What is happening is a conspiracy against the church and the Christians of Egypt.”  

But all of the people were not at all reserved in their rioting, the mob at the Coptic Cairo cathedral believing that the story was a plant, demonstrated their feeling for about a week until they were forcibly calmed down by Egyptian police. During the period, the police had to be brought in any number of times as the believers threw rocks at anyone in sight and as an additional method of taking out their anger on something, blocked streets. If you have ever been to Cairo you are well aware that blocking the streets of that city during rush hour can create the greatest traffic jam in world history. But there was more, another mob went totally out of control at the monastery in Assiut where Adel had done his dirty work,  blamed everyone in Egypt for planting the story. During this chaotic, the police arrested Adel and brought him to Cairo for questioning.  

The Egyptian people thinking that the Monk’s actions were an insult to the Muslim’s got so angry that it was feared for a while that they were going to take their passions out on the minority Copts. Someone had to be fried for the Monk’s actions and in typically bureaucratic style and in spite of the fact that Egypt supposedly has freedom of the press, Mamdouh Mahran, the newspaper editor  was brought to trial and charged with sedition along with “undermining public security and social peace and incitement against a Christian sect in Egypt and attempts to harm its reputation,” by head prosecutor Hasham Bedawi. Carefully keep in mind that nowhere was he accused of planting a phony story. There seemed to be no question in anyone’s mind other than the Copts that the editor had accurately written the story.  

In addition, just to make the cheese a little more binding the offending publication Al-Nabaa and its sister publication Akher Khabar were closed. Egypt has what is called “The Supreme Press Council” and all of the newspaper bigwigs are members of this prestigious organization. Naturally Mahran was a member of this exclusive society, but they too had to get in their licks and froze his membership with the statement condemning him, “all who try to tamper with the values of our society and national unity.” Whatever may be said of Egypt’s over-reaction, this seemed to quell the Fundamentalists at least for the moment and civil war did not break out. However, everyone in Egypt is holding their breadth and hoping the Palestinian – Israeli battles continue unabated until this matter has gone away so that the people can be distracted with other interests.  

Naturally, in this case the media was not interested in preserving freedom of speech, but condemning those who did it a seemingly unnatural response. The incident which was publicly announced in the middle of June, 2001, is still causing religious problems, while free speech has disappeared from view altogether. The Coptic’s have toned down their barbs at the Muslims who are still looking for blood while every publisher in the country is afraid to print anything sensational or that is likely to offend. This has historically been quite difficult for those in the publishing business. The people are now up and arms against the mealy mouthed newspapers for giving them a string of meaningless tripe instead of news, but editors no longer know what will offend the government and are afraid to print just about anything that is at all controversial. To say the least, the country has been turned upside down by Adel and his roving eye.  

The police were able to turn up sixty-five sex tapes that Adel had transcribed, some containing multiple orgies. Observers indicated that many of the senior officers in the Cairo police department volunteered to put in extra time in the interests of justice to view the tapes looking for crimes. These officials are still diligently searching to see how many additional tapes are out there. Next to basketball player and sexual performer par excellance Wilt Chamberlain, Adel was nothing, but in the real world, he was obviously a prodigious performer leaving a substantial legacy to his posterity.  However, under the circumstances, even his posterity may be short lived in a short tempered Egypt.  

Since that incident it has become extremely difficult to even defend the Coptic Sect in Egypt because of the country's extreme  prejudice against this small Christian minority. An example of how far the government is willing to go to put down any form of tolerance for minorities is the interesting case of Saad Eddin Ibrahim, an  Egyptian-American civil right advocate. It seems that Mr. Ibrahim a 64-year old college professor of sociology at the American University in Cairo expressed views favorable to voter rights, the mistreatment of Egypt's Coptic minority and Murbarak's stupidity of grooming his son for possible succession. However, these turned out to be topics that should have been left unsaid and the Supreme State Security Court on two separate occasions sentenced he and twenty-seven of his compatriots to seven-years in the slammer at Tora Prison , just outside of Cairo. 

Considering the fact that the United States is Egypt's number one meal ticket and it appeared to the outside world that Christianity was being forced to take a fall in this country, President George Bush sent a letter to President Hosni Murbarak indicating that if Egypt was so set in its ways that they had to leave Ibrahim and his cohorts in jail, the United States would be forced to stop all foreign aid to Egypt. This seemed to get the message across and Ibrahim was literally thrown out of the prison along with only his clothes and his walker which he needed because of the broken leg that happened to him mysteriously while in prison. In spite of the fact that it appears that the United States' threat had some bearing on the man's release, many in Cairo said that it was the Court of Cassation that had saved him when they ordered the Supreme Security Court to retry the case.

Some said that this case shows that there is still some hope for civil rights in Egypt but others contend that in order to get any rights at all you  either have to have an army backing you up or the kind of money that the United States is able to put and take off the table at will. These are the things that Egypt's government understands.

 

EGYPTIAN PRISONS 

Women’s prisons in Egypt are not the horrible places that one would expect and there are some strangely intriguing rules under which many of them operate. One of the more interesting is the fact that when most women in this country that are imprisoned are even allowed to keep their infant children with them. The mothers are allowed to do whatever they want including cook meals, take them to play areas or bring them to class, however, the same rules effect the children that effect the adults. For example, when the mother’s free time is over so is the child’s, and there is no day care. Thus the youngsters are cooped up for a substantial number of hours each day making for an extremely confining existence. When any child gets frustrated their natural reaction is to start crying and the prison soon becomes a cacophony of wailing. This situation will usually last until the last child in the chorus finally gives up the ghost. At that point, everyone can finally doze off but usually this occurs about the time that breakfast is ready to be served.  

The prisoner’s legally mandated fourteen meals per week are legally enforced  by the government to consist of the following: one with beans, three of lentil, two of meat, one of cheese and one with vegetables. While this may sound both varied and appetizing the food delivery system is fatally flawed. The food that is supposed to be cooked more often than not is served nearly raw and inedible, the vegetables are presented well past their maturity and for the most part have already become wilted and unappetizing. Many prisoners are convinced that the lentil soup contains few if any lentils and is made up primarily of hot water and whatever has be hanging around in the kitchen and starting to go bad when the pot is turned on.  

While many consider extremely difficult to ruin beans, the Egyptian prison system seems to be able to do that without any impediment. For the most part, the beans are served either overdone or underdone and even this delicate morsel eventually is often left unfinished becoming food for the prisons pigs. However, these cooking disasters do not occur in a vacuum. Egypt has a liberal prison postal system and for the most part, prisoners are allowed as many packages as they want. Thus, most contain food to supplement the un-enforced food diets that are mandated by the prison cooking. Many of the prisoners are even able to go into the business of offering catered food in the prison because of the ample packages that they get from home. In spite of the fact that the prison food is unbearable, it is probably substantially better than what most of these inmates were getting at home. Egypt may be one of the only places on earth where inedible food is a substantial uptick for prison inmates.    

The fact that many women prisoners are able to thrive on prison fare that elsewhere would be considered hopeless gruel is not the only anomaly present in this system. Prison for women in Egypt represents a social disgrace to the husband along with his family and friends. In spite of the fact that his wife may have been arrested along with him while they were committing the same offense, it remains a ground for the man to file for divorce. Worse yet, because of the fact that women in Egypt have few rights, many of them are divorced by their husbands without their own knowledge. 

More grievous yet is the fact that the woman can lose her children to her spouse who has been convicted of the same offense and be charged with being an unfit mother to boot. In this case being a bad mother is synonymous with being in jail. The mere fact that she has been incarcerated even though she may have done something under her spouse’s urging does not affect the way justice is practiced in this matter. In Egypt women’s rights are not considered at all sacrosanct. The rules for men and women are highly dissimilar and for men divorce is readily available for the smallest of infractions, thus for a women to be locked up is literally a death warrant as far as a marriage is concerned. To make a bad thing even worse, for the most part, Egyptian courts will even consider the  granting of the woman much in the way of communal assets and when their sentences are over, they have little to look forward to on the outside world.  

For this reason, Egyptian prisons as bad as they are often become home to many of these women who have lost all of their worldly possessions anyway. Lesbianism flowers and the women have little incentive to want to leave. In spite of the abysmal conditions behind the bars, they still may be better than what a single woman with no training will face in Egypt where there is little or no work to be had at any price. Eastern societies exact a very high price on women who have been behind bars, and in many instances they are shunned and ostracized. Worse yet, if the woman happened to committee a crime of infidelity she will not only be ostracized by her husband’s family but her own as well.  

In fact, she will have brought much shame to her family at this point and could well become a target for violence and death at the hands of her own people. Thus, many women who are sentenced for that crime do not even want to leave. This situation is more prevalent that can be believed and feeds prostitution. Having nowhere else to turn upon release, these women become easy marks for female pimps who find that prisons are excellent spots for recruitment activities. Some women go as far to commit petty crimes for which they will get a light sentence if only to  get behind the prison gates and use them for recruitment purposes. A good sales effort can result in adding as many as 20 women to the stable in a sentence as short as one-month. 

The soon to be incarcerated are well aware that Egyptian justice is strange to say the least. Rather than parole first time or petty offenders, no matter what the crime, all must go to jail in this country. Furthermore, in spite of regulations that require the separation of criminals according to their crimes, this process is rarely followed. Because of this bizarre characteristics, procurers are well aware that they will be thrown in jail and further realize that they will be able to socialize with a wide assortment of convicts during their short stay. While this procedure works well for the business of prostitution, it plays havoc with many of these women’s lives. Common criminals that may even be thrown into jail for not praying enough are placed in the same cells or general area as murderers, drug dealers and thieves. As we pointed out, once in prison, Egyptian women have nowhere else to turn because of the black mark that they have created. The impressionable are converted into lives of crime in short order and when they get out, prostitution is one of the lesser occupations that they gravitate too. However, man’s earliest profession is the only one conducting work seminars behind the prison gates.  

Ostracizism of females who have committed crimes also literally precludes continuing education after release. Women are just as hard on female ex-convicts as are the men. Should they go back to school they will be taunted mercilessly until they give up the ghost and find something else to do. Many consider that life inside the gates offers more than that outside. Thus, Egyptian society knowingly fosters a continuing spiral of ever increase crimes by women who are really left no choice.  They are excommunicated from their homes, ostracized by their friends, offered no chance of bettering themselves by educational means and are generally considered to outcasts. No wonder that many become almost hysterical as their day of release looms closer on the horizon.  

And why should their families care anyway? For the most part, women are not the breadwinners in the families, and in poverty stricken Egypt that is about the only thing that is important. Female children are considered a burden that must be put up with, not a joy to be cherished. Girls are well aware of how they are looked upon by society in general and by their families in particular. Once they have committed a crime, there is almost a quiet sigh of relief, as there is one less mouth to feed for all time. Just as in the oriental countries, it is the boys who are responsible for their parents’ well-being when they become infirm. The girls only take up space and valuable food. Not so strangely, even with the harsh conditions, the bad food, overcrowding, lack of ventilation and the unsanitary surroundings, a majority of Egyptian women flourish behind bars.  

While prison life anywhere in the world cannot be considered pleasant, the Egyptian Government is of a mind that women are more docile than men, and are likely to cause less trouble. The crimes that women are jailed for are usually not life threatening and thus, they are given far more latitude in prison to do as they please. They are allowed a substantial amount of free time behind the bars to socialize, learn or read. For the first time many of them have access to a full blown library, they can get basic instruction in literacy, they can take correspondence classes in a wide variety of disciplines and as an alternative, teachers are brought into the prison on a regular basis to teach classes in a variety of subjects. For Egyptian women this is a unique opportunity and many of those behind bars jump at the chance to better themselves. For many of them, this is the first opportunity that they have ever had not to be forced into back-breaking work from morning to dark just to help the family get by.   

Most of them gain weight and add color. They begin to look more attractive as they are taught by other more sophisticated women prisoners how to look good to a man, how to put on makeup and how to dress. They gain weight because, as bad as the prison food may be, it is more wholesome, better dietetically and more regular. Most women when they enter prison are severely undernourished. Furthermore, they are allowed to take part in the cooking of prison food. They learn to make dishes that they had never heard of or seen and when they leave they are able to create menus that provide flexibility and dietary enrichment.  Possibly more important, many of the psychological problems that they faced on the outside, vanish. Because Egypt is so decidedly male dominated, they know that for the most part, their children will be adequately provided for by the in-laws, that their brothers will be taking care of ailing parents and that trips to store for food, endlessly cooking diners, washing clothes and making ends meet are not longer concerns. For the first time in many years, the women of Egyptian prisons can think about themselves for a change. 

While it is a fact that Egyptian justice is both swift and harsh and that often, women are given heavy sentences for what would be considered minor offenses, the system itself has changed and with all of its problems. There is no adversarial relationship ship between the system and the inmates. However, it is the perception of what jail is in this country that is wrong. It is the low esteem that women are placed in here that is wrong and it is what is waiting for those women that have served their time when they get out that is wrong. Most of those that live behind these bars deserve to be there but once they have paid the price, they are also entitled to start life afresh, that is what cannot be done in this country.  

The Rights of the Dead and Rights of the Living in Egypt 

The subject of organ transplants is one of the most hotly debated subjects in the world. Everyone has a different point of view and only one thing is certain, the culture in which you were raised has almost everything to do with your reactions on the subject. Obviously any group that firmly believes in an afterlife would be against it unless it directly effected a particular member of the group. If you have a family member that needs a transplant these feelings take a back seat to the realities of the situation being faced. China and India where there are many poor and no particular religious problem with what happens to a body after it is gone, have developed industries around the subject and the countries have become donor nations for the rest of the world reaping huge profits harvesting the dead. As a matter of act, if at any time there are not enough volunteer donors available in China, organs are forcible removed from dead and not yet dead prisoners. As long as the ruling classes and the rich have a place to go to get a needed transplant, everything’s cool but when those options are exhausted, some way will be found to have the population voluntarily or otherwise find a way to donate. Egypt is caught between any number of philosophical issues on this subject any one of which would be enough to put the matter to bed.  

Even countries like the United States that pride themselves on their medical liberation are still in the dark ages when it comes to a coherent policy of organ donation. The fact that someone wants to donate and makes a will indicating that this is his or her desire often can be overwritten by an heir that just wants to be insufferable. A delayed transplant is a dead transplant as the organs only last for so many hours after the subject has departed and court delays can make a mockery of the process.  These insufferable people have caused an organ shortage in a country where if there were just a few minor changes in the law, there would be no a problem. However, the United States is not looking at the problem from a religious point of view. Everyone views their body in a different way and it is a function of local custom that has hamstrung all efforts at a logically coherent policy. If we can’t get it right here what would one expect to happen in Egypt where they also have to contend with religious interpretations to figure out what to do.   

In Egypt from a religious point of view, it seems that the rights of a person’s body tend to continue on long after he has arrived in the afterlife. However, when you look at this situation from the point of view of organ transplants, the newly proposed Egyptian laws meant to deal with the problem seem to be contradictory with common religious practice. For the most part, when it comes to organ transplants the enlightened part of the Egyptian medical community seems desirous of operating under what is called the premise of  el-moftarada” or the presumed will of the donor. That is currently the practice of Austria, Belgium and France who all have laws based on the fact that the lack of any evidence to the contrary on the part of the newly deceased is a sign that the dead person was desirous of donating his organs. This has provided all of the organs that these countries have needed and does not seem to have relied up any religious groups. In addition it is unquestionably the logical why to go in this situation.  

While the ultimate road map is crystal clear as evidenced by the substantial success of that program, Egypt that has been without even one legal corneal transplant operation since 1962 the time that a new and restrictive law went into effect. In spite of the laws inconvenience, that is not to say that there haven’t been numerous illegal operations performed there. Dr. El-Sayed a nationally prominent surgeon admitted on television that doctors in Kasr El-Eini and Ein Shams Hospitals took corneas from cadavers on numerous occasions. He punctuated his remarks by saying, “What are you supposed to do when on one hand you have a child who will never have a normal life because he’s blind and on the other the right of the corpse, which has the means, but no longer needs, to see?”   

In spite of the fact that American laws seem to favor the desires of the living over those of the dead, there are enough body part donations to create only a small but ever increasing disparity between those that are in need and those that are willing to donate. However, if the trend continues without modification of American law there will be a disaster here, however, if American law requires a fix, Egyptian laws and those of many of the other Moslem countries require overall brain surgery. The fact that there has not been a legal procedure transplanting corneas in two generations in Egypt is extremely bizarre when you consider the fact that the law here clearly states that they can be removed from people that donate them before they die, after an autopsy, death in public hospital with the body being unclaimed and a person that is put to death by a court of law. However, each one of these options has its own set of social and religious problems, there is not much opportunity or desire for anyone to want to donate healthy eyes if he is still alive because of religious themes which decree the practice.  

The thinking of many Muslim’s is that the body should be revered in death in the same way it was in life. Furthermore, religious teachings state that the body should be as intact as possible when arriving in the afterlife. To make things even more difficult, the rule making body of the Egyptian medical society is dominated by hard line Muslim physicians that believe that human rights should guaranteed to the deceased in the same way they are in life. This is particularly strange in a region controlled by dictators who believe that the only rights anyone should be granted are those designated by their leaders. Thus, in reality, no civil rights exist here at all. However, the Shura (Religious Court) which governs this conduct has been given substantial latitude in the decision making process by the country’s president who found the entire subject just too hot to handle in spite of the obvious need for change. However, they have already made several stabs at the subject and have done nothing at all to help. Re’Hab Dl-akry in an article from Egypt Today entitled “The Dead Can’t See” attempted to come to grips with the situation: 

Religiously, the issue of organ donation is still thorny. The highly regarded religious authority late Mohammed Metwaay El-Sha’arawi released a fatwa (religious advisory opinion) that organ donation from the dead to the living is haram (sacrilegious) since there is no decisive scientific evidence demonstrating that the genes of the donor and the receiver will not mix. He supplemented his argument by saying that since there are religious implications to the effect that the dead can fell pain, and since we cannot prove otherwise, it would be inhuman to remove any organs from a deceased body.   

The battleground regarding transplants has been focused on corneal transplants because of the fact that many of the country’s surgeons have been making the argument that they non-invasive. That position is about the biggest contradiction we have seen around these parts since the Egyptian announcement that they had won the Six Day War. The odds against any change occurring and continuing misery from those in desperate need of organs is close to 100%. This is especially strange when you consider the fact that organ donations are all of the rage in Muslim dominated Iraq. Furthermore, for the rich if the law doesn’t apply it makes no never mind because they can always go shoot over to Iraq or nearly anywhere else on the planet to get a new kidney, liver or anything other body part replacement  for that matter.  

However, the fact that there are numerous options available to the moneyed class in the country doesn’t help their poor brethren in the least. In the area of corneal transplants, there are 10,000 Egyptians awaiting the chance to see again. Pathetically, it has been pointed out that this situation exists in spite of the fact that from a biological point of view, a viable cornea exists for only hours after its host has died. Moreover, the same case could well be made for the 100s of thousands that need other organ transplants to survive. In these cases there is absolutely no hope for the foreseeable future because even the Egyptian Medical community won’t touch that one. They feel that there is no way to claim that that any other organ transplant can be non-evasive.   

There is some feeling among liberated doctors here that if they can make the stretch with corneas and people have a chance to see how much good can be accomplished a breakthrough can be made at some later date. However, even the most optimistic believe that they are looking at decades and not years. This policy has induced many of the more promising medics in this country to look elsewhere to practice medicine and thousands have migrated to countries with a more liberal stance. Thus has also a problem that may even be greater than the original one but until the religious scholars are able to sort out the fact that Allah could not have possibly have wanted people to walk around without sight when they could easily be cured seems not to be an issue worth discussing some unknown reason.  

Even with the new proposed regulations there is nothing but bickering. No one seems to know how to deal with the issue of the religious edict that the dead feel pain. Some in the medical community have suggested that in order to palliate this group, the dead be anesthetized when the corneas are removed; however, because of the fact that there are not enough medicines even for the living in Egypt this idea was shot down. Another major problem that their wise men are dealing with is the fact that any law that is made either effecting donors or recipients must be published in a manner that is available to all so read. This is not as easy as it looks in that you have a country here where the great majority of the people are unable to read or write in spite of strong government efforts to correct it. How can anyone that can’t read make a decision one way or the other regarding a law that he knows nothing about and unless someone is willing to take the time to read it to him never will The law clearly states that it must be published and read by the donor. 

And what about the constitutional rights of the deceased? Those religiously inspired medics say that according to Islam, the dead body has many rights. Among those rights are the abilities to not have its body desecrated. So that brings up two additional and highly charged concepts. Does a dead body have any constitutional rights under Egyptian Law and what is meaning of desecration. However, it seems that the philosophers can argue all they want to about constitutionality and desecration and it isn’t going to matter a bit. Fundamentalism is on the rise and just like Medieval Europe, when religion rattles its saber, progress comes to a standstill. The scale measuring Egypt’s courage to intellectually confront religious fanaticism has been sinking faster than the Titanic and unless the government uses enlightenment instead of religion to lead the way, Egypt’s blind will suffer both life and eternity in darkness.   

Library of Alexandria 

However, all of this talk about Fundamentalists gaining the upper hand does not mean that certain modes of advancement aren’t taking place in Egypt. This statement would certainly be a far cry from the truth. The Egyptian government in their ultimate wisdom decided to recreate one of the true wonders of the ancient world, the Library of Alexandria. Alexander who had conquered the country and named the city for himself wanted this city to be very special and it was he that ordered the erection of the Great Lighthouse of Alexandria to be constructed as a beacon for all ships within 60-miles of the port. A truly prodigious vision which stood until destroyed by an earthquake sometime in the 14th century AD.  

However, Alexander had ants in his pants and was always thinking about other worlds to conquer. After creating the game plan he left the creation of the Lighthouse and the Library to his trusted lieutenants and they did not let him down. Alexander, scratching his itch left these projects uncompleted and went off to conquer most of the rest of the world. However, before he pulled up stakes he ordained that this, the greatest shipping port in the ancient world would mandate every captain arriving at the port would provide the library with whatever books that they had accumulated in their travels. These books would be immediately copied and the original placed in the library and the copy given back to the usually protesting ship’s captain. This was called “legal deposit rights”. You could use the port, its facilities and the beacon but you had to go along with the rules.  This was Alexander’s secret formula for the library’s success and by italicizing it not too much time elapsed before the Library at Alexandria became the most famous in the world; a position it held for over six-hundred years. However, in those days keep in mind that when you were talking about books or manuscripts you were talking about scrolls, stone tablets, books printed on quipu, papyi or pergament. Those were certainly different times and some books seemingly went on forever and required an entire room to store them. Many were far to heavy for a single man to lift.  

The books in the old library of Alexandria were cataloged as they arrived and an inventory of what was in stock was kept by the chief librarian. These were called Pinakes which themselves eventually became endless as the library grew. Moreover, this was not a lending library at all and whatever one wanted to read had to be done on the premises however, if the potential borrower wanted to donate a book of equal or greater value, then the books could be allowed to leave the premises but only after it had been arranged for at the library’s highest levels.  

Egypt desperately needed a press release of substance on February 12, 1990 because it was a particularly slow news day. What better to announce than the recreation of the Library of Alexandria which would be christened the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. The Egyptians called the world’s leaders together in Alexandria and announced for all to hear that this library would provide the preeminent knowledge database for researchers in the entire world. “The Biliotheca Alexandrina – a link with the past and opening on to the future will be unique in being the first library on such a scale to be designed and constructed with the assistance of the international community.” And give they did to the tune of almost $70 million big ones. The fund raisers appointed the boss’s wife (Susan Mubarak) head of the project and appealed to UNESCO, UNDP along with all of the nations of the world for support.  Everybody considered the announcement an anti-climax as plans for the facility had been announced three years earlier.     

However, since many of Egypt’s ancient wonders had been maintained or restored it was not illogical to recreate the library that had burned to the ground 1600 years ago. Interestingly enough the ancient library became the world’s first university as well producing such famous scholars as Euclid, Erastosthenes, Heron and Archimedes to name a few of their alums. That library already had 700,000 listed and classified manuscripts in its possession by the third century BC an absolutely phenomenal accomplishment for the times. Great things were planned for the new edifice and top designers from throughout the world were asked to provide sketchings for the final building. Money was raised for the project with contributions coming from literally every country throughout the world. Whatever was needed to finish the work would then be provided by the Egyptian Government. Eventually, the required $220 million was banked and long delayed construction was soon begun on the  proposed 31,000 foot-square – eleven -story building. Ultimately the site that was chosen for the facility was next door to the University of Alexandria Faculty of Arts campus on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.  

This majestic building was soon towering dramatically over Alexandria’s skyline. The library which was designed by the Snohetta firm that had won the first prize of the 1989 international architectural competition.  The firm based in Norway created a building with walls towering over a massive reflecting pool which almost encompasses the entire building making the edifice appear to be floating in the middle of a pond. The structure having an inclined roof, angularly faces the sea which allows indirect daylight and an unobstructed view. On the arrow shaped building’s walls they inscribed letters from each of the world’s written languages randomly placed above the pool. No one that saw the structure during its construction could do anything about rave relative to its beauty.   However, it soon dawned on the originators of this magnificent structure that they had nothing to place within its framework. These geniuses had literally constructed one of the truly great libraries in the world but had neglected to purchase the books that were to go in it. It wasn’t much later that the people in charge started wondering where the chief librarian was during this period and what he had been thinking about. When asked about it he remarked that the problem had not been brought to his attention. The librarian was summarily replaced for not noticing the problem. 

Moreover, not only did the project leaders forget the books but they also failed to provided places to sit, tables, reading rooms, computers, Internet connections, or a lending facility along with a substantial number of additional problems. As if this wasn’t bad enough, no money had been appropriated to even purchase the books that were to go into the facility.  It has been pointed out that these folks at this point were so strapped that they couldn’t even write a check to Amazon to buy the very basics that were supposed to be here. This however, wasn’t the only complete disaster involved in this project as work on the building was so abysmally behind schedule that it wasn’t going to open soon anyway. They are now talking about having the library opening for the public’s perusal in the spring of 2002, years after its planned initiation. In the meantime, the new librarians were accepting book donations wherever they could get them. However, sadly, these new donations were placed into the library in a haphazard manner and the shelves soon became lined with such up-to-date volumes such as world atlases,  economic reports and books on world records that were over a decade old. Research people said that they could do better research in Alexandria’s garbage dump.  

Even after donations these donations had been catalogued and positioned, shelves that were meant to contain four-million books only have a bizarre assortment of long out-of-date manuscripts whose only value may be to have them turned into paper pulp or running the flame at the soon to be delayed resurrection of the Great Lighthouse at Alexander.  Statisticians have stated that the library has approximately 5% of the total number of books that were originally forecast. The original library at Alexandria was created with the knowingly unattainable thought that if possible it would contain every volume that existed on earth. Naturally that brought in  lot of books with ideas that might have seemed revolutionary at that time. One could wonder what will occur today, that is if the structure is ever finished with Egypt’s its recent strange alliances with Fundamentalism beliefs and their witches-brew concepts. Additionally, Egypt has never been particularly known for its liberal views on civil rights and freedom of the press. It will be an anomaly to say the least but stranger things may have happened. 

 

 Fundamentalism

 

The Muslim Fundamentalist movement that made its home within an unwilling host, Egypt , which for whatever reasons seemed to grow like “Topsy’ in spite of serious efforts by government officials to eliminate it. No matter how hard the people attempted to stamp it out by either executing and/or incarcerating its members, it would unswervingly spring up once again like a hydra, and worse yet it was more vital than ever in another spot. During the Afghanistan War many people with a philosophical bent spent a substantial percentage of their time endeavoring to comprehend why the Arab Fundamentalists found Egypt such a groovy breeding ground for their terror-based efforts, but in our opinion did not come up with what we regard to be a satisfactory answer. The question remains ajar, and we have seen no genuinely accurate analysis of the reason for it, so in the interests of better global understanding of the problem we will take a bit of time out from the essay and humbly present a very accurate assessment for the first time here.  

Undeniably, the simple fact is that while Egypt is far from the democracy it calls itself, its citizens do have precise but severely limited freedoms. Among these freedoms they have the nebulous right to be extremely poor, an entitlement that they practice with reckless dedication. Combined with their inalienable right to poverty however, they also have the right to recognize what is going on in the outside world. This as it happens is a very strange combination of privileges, and has inevitably turned out to be a “sorcerer’s brew” consisting of the nastiest conceivable elements which, when mixed together in the proper doses has tended to spawn a cataclysm of international proportions. Strangely, either of these freedoms standing alone or in combination with others would not nearly have had such disastrous results but things are what they are and this strange alignment of freedoms has awakened the Egyptian population to several critically important realities including the unassailable fact that most other people elsewhere have things substantially better than they do, however they are also aware that in most other Muslim countries. People have things a lot worse.  

In other words, in spite of the fact that the people are as poor as church mice, other Arabs have even less and this is in spite of the fact that Egyptians have few freedoms. The fact remains that other Arabs have none, and in spite of the reality that they have some limited access to the outside world, most Arabs have far less. Arab dictators follow the presumption that knowledge is only for the leaders to wield. If left to their own devices it is felt that the people would soon abuse whatever knowledge they had and us it to out their rulers. Naturally this could not be countenanced. In spite of the fact that the people could well have taken the position that they should be lucky that they are better off than most in the area, but because of something that gets into the air around Cairo and Alexandria and with the onset of globalization, the unreasonable position that the folks in the coffee houses have taken is that they want at least whatever everyone else has. Certainly a rather pushy approach, I would say.  

While this is a rather hard-line attitude, these fabled coffee house fundamentalists have come up with an excellent justification for this hard line assessment. The Fundamentalist viewpoint holds that the explanation for the fact that Muslim Arabs have it so gosh-darn awful is due to the fact that they are unquestionably they are the  victims of a gigantic international plot that some mysterious reality requires their interminable subjugation and poverty. In general, the Arab States which are almost universally totalitarian in nature became concerned that is the coffee house intellectuals brooded too much about their plight, the region’s kings, tyrants and bureaucrats could well find themselves either out of work or much worse. In order the head that concept off at the pass those in power determine that an acceptable scapegoat was the correct course of action.  

The problem was that it needed to be a group that would entirely take the people’s minds off their real problem, which were their despotic leaders themselves. It would certainly help if the scapegoats were of a different religion and had a somewhat different skin color. While leaders in the region hated each other with a passion, it was not considered to be good manners to tell the rest of the world how they felt. Beyond this, it could be downright bad for your health. I mean, image calling Hussein of Iraq or Kadafy of Libya madmen or tyrants. As a country leader, your entire population could be nuked while they slept or worse yet gassed or infected with some dread disease. These people were the consummate experts at hardball and it was best not to irritate them.  

Thus, while there were many acceptable targets within the region, it was not healthy to put any particular country on the list if it was run by a nut-job. It not only had to be someone that was of a different religion but a group that did not have a lot of members and was basically composed of a pacifistic type of culture. After a substantial amount of thought, it was decided that it would be convenient to apply the theory that it was the Jews who had put them in this horrific position. After all, the Jews had all of those secret societies that Hitler had talked about that were trying to take over the world; why cannot we just make the case that they are trying to take of the region? That wouldn’t be much of a stretch now would it?  

While this concept was hard to swallow, the people were fed a solid dose of these types of stories and having nothing else to believe in, were sure that those who weaved this wacky story somehow had some divine insight directly from God, which was generally unavailable to ordinary folk. Early on, only a few Jews had been living in this little sliver of land called Palestine , for the most part staying out of everyone else’s business. During this period, the British, the French, the Italians and the Germans, along with the Muslim Turks had subjugated the people in this region; there was no single country in the area that was governed by Arabs themselves. However, the Jews made a much better target because it appeared that they could do little in the way of fighting back.  

When oil was discovered in the area to the delight of the few that profited from it, once again it was the western countries led by their oil monoliths that took the cream off the top. In order to have the Arabs help them fight the Germans in World War II, the French and English lied to the Arab people about the timing of Arab independence, there was little they could do but to turn the other cheek. Moreover, when oil was discovered in many of the Arab countries it was the westerners and their own leaders who had become puppets of the western government that hurriedly siphoned off most the profits. However, the ultimate slap in the face from the Arab point of view came when the English unwillingly and with a loaded gun pointed at their heads kept a promise that they had made forty-years earlier and turned barren Palestine over to the Jews.  

This was a land that produced nothing of consequence agriculturally and from standpoint of minerals wealth, they had a plethora of sand and salt, valuable if you need a beach but otherwise, not of great value, and it was believed would continue in that vein well into eternity.  In spite of the fact that Palestine was poverty-stricken, they did have a number of shrines that they shared with both the Jew and Christians.  The mere fact that the heathen Jews were now in charge of these prominent places of worship would certainly fan the flames if they brought in the right public relations to shape Arab opinion. Organizing an unruly crowd was an effortless task and suddenly television was carrying stories of this horrific injustice along with showing the chanting of inflamed crowds in living rooms throughout the world.  Naturally, the Europeans were horrified by such injustice and wasted little time, announcing that they indeed respected the Arab position. They too had holy places in they also had concerned about Jewish domination over these shrines. They could not have played to a better audience.  

In their rush to justice, the Arabs did not place a shred of blame on the United Nations, which notarized the deal giving the Jews Palestine, or the British who they believed had sold them out, or the Germans, who had made millions homeless by starting a genocidal war against non-Arians, they picked on the Jews and for whatever it was worth, they seem to have made the correct choice. Once in gear they began laying blame on the Jews for all of the problems faced by Muslims over the years the last several hundred years. The fact that everyone on the planet was aware that this was a massive stretch didn’t really matter; they felt that it was good that these people were getting their aggressions and it was better that it was directed in this direction than any other.    

As time passed the problem was unresolved and numerous attempts to destroy the Israeli heathens ended in failure. Now that the Arabs had not solved the original problem it was time to create another diversion, the entire Christian World would make a more fitting target than just this small State that was no longer really worth their effort at all. The Jihad’s stepped in and the people have gone through a catharsis, and now have found ways to blame the “Crusaders.”  This has made everyone in the Arab world feel much better about their plight.  

After all it was really the Christians that attempted to kill and proselytize the Muslims. This makes it much easier to assuage themselves when they randomly kill Europeans who may not have a Jewish background.  It is most important in religiously based terrorism to have a logic, no matter how distorted, behind it. This is why so many people in Egypt fell for the weird story that the destruction of the World Trade Center Towers and 4,000 people was actually a Jewish plot. If it wasn’t, how then could it be that all of the people that worked in the “Towers” of Jewish extraction did not report to work that day? This inconceivable story made total sense to people with an IQ of 60 or less, which is on the high side for members of the Jihad and its membership, which for the most part is prepared to die in order to sleep with the allotted 72 virgins that will await them on their death... However bizarre that this may be, it is an excellent illustration how these lunatics are able to convince a restless population that its enemy lies somewhere else.  

In addition, many Egyptians are both well educated and either out of work or doing menial tasks for little pay, and have had ample opportunity to analyze their own situation while proselytizing others. Simply put, they have found that Arab-Muslims for the most part are an oppressed lot in land rich in natural resources. They point to the fact that the region is bathing in oil riches, whose treasures rarely seep down to those of the lower classes. Egyptian coffee house philosophers have come to an unusual conclusion, which states that their governments, rather than being ruled by megalomaniacs who would rather die than lose power, as were originally thought, are merely disguised as that but in reality, are western puppets doing the best to enforce the status quo. Moreover, while they can only stay in power by restricting the rights of others and ruling with a firm hand, they do it at the bidding of the now hated “Crusaders”. Because there are more civil rights in Egypt than elsewhere in the Arab community, those who are interested in change gravitate to Egypt like bees to honey preferring the Egyptian combination of limited civil rights and poverty to the alternative of no civil rights and poverty. Moreover, this in turn has made Egypt a bizarre melting pot of prepubescent revolutionaries, evangelists with no pulpits, emerging warmongers and the usual cadre of dysfunctional lunatics.    

As long as this motley population does not openly plot the overthrow of the Egyptian Government, the latter’s policy is logically, “live and let live.”  In the beginning there were numerous fits and starts until the revolutionaries learned how to play the Egyptian Government like a well-honed musical instrument. It became abundantly clear to this strange assortment of rationalizers that as long as they mumbled threats against suitable enemies, they would be allowed a substantial amount of rope. Naturally these mongrels have learned all of the catch phrases, like “ Israel should be swept into the sea,” “Down with the infidels”, “Death to the Crusaders,” which seem to create no internal debate and do not aggravate the omnipresent and highly feared Egyptian Secret Police. However, they also know that ranting and raving about how bad Egypt or Saudi Arabia treat their populations or the demanding of simplistic reforms will earn only a fast ticket to be the main event at a local firing squad.  

Egypt is Saudi Arabia ’s standing army and they are well paid to do the proper homage to their leaders. These funds that the Saudis pay is essentially blackmail a sophisticated form of mid-eastern blackmail, which they believe will keep Egypt along with others from eating their lunch. Moreover, this is catastrophe insurance on a personal level for the Saudi Arabian Rulers. Part of the insurance policy reads that if the Egyptian Government fails to keep its internal press within bounds set by the Saudis, Egypt is summarily cut off from their much-needed allowance. In addition, the Saudis use the weapon of money to pay off any potential threats in the region with the exception of those that have almost as much as they do in terms of oil riches.  

These countries would include Iraq , Iran , Kuwait and Libya . However, this sword cuts both ways and the price of poker in the region has been going up in geometric fashion. The old mid-eastern axiom that only a fool would pick up a two-sided sword on the other side makes Egypt a powder keg ready to explode at any time. Perhaps the fact that the majority of terrorists involved in the destruction of the Pentagon and the World Trade Center were Saudi citizens has tipped the middle-eastern scales rather dramatically. There is still a sorting out process to go through, but oil no longer appears to be anywhere near the economic weapon it once was with all of the production now coming out of the former Soviet Union . In the meantime, Egypt receives something around $2 billion a year from the United States and for a price would probably be willing to kiss the Saudis goodbye. Once the situation in Afghanistan has been finished, you can bet your last buck that the Saudi’s will be relegated to the doghouse. How this particular event will effect the overall situation is still unknown but there will be fallout.    

So what used to happen when you were a kid and you were really mad or hurt about something? If you were angry with your teacher and told her off you would wind up standing in the corner for hours, get a beating from the principal or be sent home with a note describing your intransigence to your dismayed parents. The only thing that can set someone apart from the landscape in this environment is education, and not minding books could bring severe punishments. In the Muslim world, the extreme penalty for scholastic impertinence is being sent to out to toil at day labor for the rest of one’s life. Not exactly Nirvana. Their alternative is becoming a suicide bomber which requires little education, total dedication and unlimited brainlessness. However, when one commits suicide in the name of Islam, at least the families are forever provided for. Probably the best incentive that there is.  

Muslim radicals, therefore, know enough to find acceptable targets for their dissatisfaction that will not destroy what little they have. Israel has already become old-hat and various other rage oriented targets have emerged after some period of gestation.  The United States gave more aid to Egypt than did Saudi Arabia , but still became an acceptable target for angry Cairo mobs. The reason is simple, American aid did not carry a short fuse, and would not blow up the recipient. Egyptian thinking held that the Americans were certainly better targets as far as the government was concerned than were the entrenched Egyptian bureaucrats who cherished their skins.  “Better to let these folks vent their rage on Americans than have a revolution”, they said. In this enlightened scenario, Americans became the generic “Crusaders” which connoted a whole bunch of other things most of which we are unfamiliar with.  

Christians, Caucasians, and Europeans had now also became fair game for the maniacal ravings of people frustrated with themselves and their government. Because even the most talented among them could not rise above their station, someone somewhere would have to pay a price.  The Egyptian authorities were well aware that if this misdirected rage was narrowly focused, against the ultimate culprits in this scenario, totalitarian Mid-Eastern states, members of the “legitimate” government of Egypt would fall as well. Clearly, no one in government in Egypt wanted any of their citizens to be leading this charge and whenever it appeared that a messiah was about to get the ear of the people, he was sent packing to Afghanistan, Indonesia or Iraq.  

As this new type of random terror proliferated, the nations of Europe , most of whom had excelled at appeasement, did what they had historically done best, absolutely nothing. As a matter of fact, in order to gain currency with the various groups that were designing their destruction, the European nations jointed the obscene chorus blaming Israel , which only added fuel to a burning fire. This fire had also been fueled by the do nothing foreign policy of William Clinton who was at best attempting to defuse his simmering cigars rather than put out an international fire.  

If only a peace could be worked out between the Israelis and the Palestinians, these terrorists would go away said the European diplomats who to a man had attended the Neville Chamberlain School of Appeasement. While this logic was prima facie ludicrous, the mouthing of this obscene concept seemed to make the Europeans and their fellow hacks at the United Nations at tad more comfortable with their Clintonesq idiocy.  In their haste to appease the Arab mentality, no one seemed to remember that Israel was real a creation of the United Nations.  There are territorial disputes between Israel and its neighbors because the Arabs attempted to forcibly evict them when the country was created and lost substantial territory in the process.  In reality, the subject is too silly to discuss further because no rational educated person on earth fails to see the game for what it is, a distraction. However, that pastime has become an international fixation; something much akin to an international soccer tournament.  

As time evolved however, various groups evolved in Egypt that aspired to do away with Israel , Europe and most of the rest of the civilized world. This wasn’t just conversation; these were extremely earnest people who firmly believed that they had a higher calling to destroy both Christians and Jews whenever they came across them. These were simple put, equal opportunity thugs. Many of them had been taught throughout their schooling, the value of killing those that did not share their religion and philosophy. There was no lack of dedication among this stalwart troupe of believers. They said that they had been told in the Mosques that if they died for their religion they would have it much better in the next life, most importantly, which included the prerequisite number of nubile virgins. If for no other reason, they needed little convincing to become firmly enamored with the thought that no only did they have nothing to lose by becoming good little martyrs, tragically it seemed to them that they had much to gain.  

Their leaders however, did not come from the ranks of the downtrodden; for the most part they were highly educated people who could speak eloquently on numerous subjects at the drop of a hat. For the most part, they came from moneyed backgrounds and they knew the right psychological buttons to push if you wanted someone to do your bidding. There were many that have said that they could sell the very sands of the Sahara to the poorest of the beggars in Tunisia . Their inclusion in this witch’s brew of humanity is challenging to clarify and we will dispense with it by stating that the diminutive group at the pinnacle of the pyramid is comprised of a weird combination of megalomaniacs, misanthropes and even worse.  These are individuals who send their compatriots straight into the line of fire in the name of Allah, knowing full well that they will find only one thing when they die: worms. However, unbeknownst to these foot soldiers, their masquerading leaders are in reality died-in-the-wool sadists and get their kicks controlling others and merrily sending them to a doom in the name of Allah substantially before their time. This type of exploitation makes the Roman Circuses look like a small town carnival in the heat of the summer.  

Throwing the Christians to the lions only required two elements to be successful theater: Christians and lions. The natural combination of the two, that of having a predator and prey relationship would cause the play out the scene without having to be given acting lessons. The scenario that had been worked out by the Jihad was more akin to three-dimensional chess than it was to a mindless carnival.  While there were similarities on both sides, in that everyone in the drama was playing for survival, the pathetic Christians had it much better, they were programmed to attempt to survive, not blow themselves into to Kingdom Come as an opening act.  

The main differences are the facts that the Christian players could play the game again on occasion but when they died the performance was over and the throngs went home. In the Jihad’s scenario, the actor’s dispensing of themselves in Kamikaze type activities were only an opening act in a much larger production, which often took place in many different countries. The only way to follow the entire production was to stay glued to the living-room television set, which people had a tendency to do anyway.   The stage in this unfolding play is global, the players as usual are expendable, but here we have a story line that can be modified depending upon what country the act is being performed in.  

For example, the same folks that are hell bent on destroying the so-called Crusaders are spreading the gospel to their oriental disciples that it is the Chinese that have repressed them for so many centuries. While the stories that they are forced to create must be changed to some degree to fit the neighborhood; the end result is always the same. The Muslims who are proselytized to believe that they have been put upon by the Chinese must be sent into a scripted battle containing an entirely different truth. In spite of that fact, many of the Muslim Orientals in China volunteered to fight against the Great Satin in Afghanistan and literally scores were either killed or captured for their doomed efforts.  

Moreover, the ever-changing script must be once again modified when it comes to those in Chechnya . In addition, what story does the screenplay weave in order to cause the people of that country to rise up against Russia ? Once again, like a commercial that has to sell in various markets, the script must again be changed to fit the circumstances. However, rewriting the story has become almost rote. By changing the word Crusaders to Russians Imperialists or Chinese Communists, the story can remain the same, the only change is geography. When the hapless Chechen terrorists are provided their scripts by the enemy becomes the Godless Russians who have kept them from achieving anything useful over the years. What we have here is merely the fact that a few people, mostly from Saudi Arabia and Egypt have woven a story that best allows them to control the minds of naïve and uneducated co-religionists. The story has been carefully scripted to allow for whatever changes are necessary to achieve the desire results such as war, pestilence and famine.  

A sterling example the madness can be garnered by looking at the country of Indonesia , which since its inception has been run by an entirely Muslim Government. Moreover, this is a country that has few if any Jews, only a handful of Crusaders, and almost no atheists; but like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia is a land of great natural riches the income from which never quite trickles down to the peasants who make up the majority of the country’s population. The government here has been a hopeless combination of being both corrupt and inept but it has remained Muslim through and through. A story fabricated here that would be believable in this paradise required a different plot. Here, the story had to be dramatically different; the people were won over by incomprehensible scenarios in which western crusaders totally controlled the Muslim leaders. The Muslim leaders of Indonesia would be allowed to pocket whatever was left after the gigantic oil and mining companies had stolen a much as they could get away with. charging them an override and pocketing the difference.

 Sort of a twist on the biblical story of Judas. There weren’t any available foreign scapegoats, so the Indonesians’ own people must have sold them out. This was much harder to swallow in a Muslim country, so the story had to have certain bells and whistles attached to it.  If the crusaders controlled the leaders, people would ask, “Why was it that the nation’s large Chinese population was so rich”? The Jihad leaders replied that the Chinese were also undermining them in a highly unfathomable many, they would secretly shift the money that they made in Indonesia out of the country, sending it back to the hands of the Chinese Government. Clerics whispered to the people that eventually the Crusaders and the Chinese would divide this country between them and sell the Muslim believers into slavery. This indeed made a lot of sense to those that had little and revolutionary cells were created, people were copiously indoctrinated and a revolution was begun in earnest.    

 Every country on earth certainly has its own share of peculiar types, but for the most part whenever these human abominations start spewing out their own infantile brand of loony-tones, they are usually summarily locked up in padded cells by unfriendly keepers and are allowed only to write with pencils without points. This harebrained fringe is deposited in places by the authorities where they can’t injury themselves or those around them. However, as we have talked about formerly, this is hardly true of Egypt since it gives the people another satisfactory option to squandering their days “government hating” with the only proviso that they agree to direct their hatred in alternatively acceptable administration approved directions.

Egypt gives their citizens and other camp followers sort of a Chinese hate menu. You can take one from column “A” and as many as you want from column “B” provided that these choices are extra-national targets. One is carefully warned not to leave the menu and exploring new and dangerous territory. Moreover, unearthing adequate alternative scapegoats historically has been both an individual and group project, however, its scope usually does not encompass entire countries; but with globalization, hatred has changed its face and allowances must be made from spreading misery simultaneously in multiple time zones. This Chinese menu of state-directed hate in the eyes of the officials is certainly a better alternative than the murder of Egyptian Presidents like Sadat and Nasser. Give the people a better target and they will tend to let you alone is the theory.  

The Egyptian Government did not realize that their approved Chinese Menu approach to hatred would give rise to organized terrorism and eventually spawn notorious organizations such as al-Gaamaa al-Islamiya, the Al Qaeda and the Islamic Jihad. (The Jihad was responsible for the killing of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981, an attack which Osama bin Laden’s pal, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the pediatric Dr. Jekyll of the Arab World personally structured). The Jihad didn’t want to limit the objects of its anger, and chronicled its story by blowing up those who differed even minutely from their philosophically.  Dr. al-Zawahiri was a busy little planner for many years always dreaming about mass destruction and other wondrous events. However, 1981 became a busy time for the Egyptian baby-doctor. He was assigned the task of accomplishing the logistically challenging assault on the innocent people in Asyut , Egypt and to do it in such a way as to insure the absolute utmost agony and suffering that could possibly be created.  However, after a series of minor successes consisting of wiping out small pockets of unarmed civilians they began to believe their own publicity and made the critical mistake of attacking their own governmental leaders, expecting the entire country to rise up behind them. For this serious miscalculation they were summarily thrown in jail, tortured and infiltrated. This was not a very good way of launching a revolution.

 The doctor, always considered lucky as a child, continued in his winning ways and got a big break at that time due to the fact that no one realized that he, along with Sheikh Omar Abd al-Rahman had really been the brains directly behind the attacks. No one could conceive that the kindly pediatrician and the blind cleric were anything other than fools who were caught at the wrong place and the wrong time. Surely they could not have been a part of killing innocent people and revolting against the government.

 Although the good doctor was summarily jailed for being a co-founder of the Jihad, he was released in 1984, told to be a good boy and allowed to resume his medical practice. The doctor catching a lucky break expanded his practice and down the road, Osama bin Laden became one of his most famous patients, a man that had so many aliments that he almost became a full time job. This biblical experience brought the two men much closer together and they bonded a sort of twisted way. However, between patients, the doctor was always busily engaged in other matters.

 The ever-resourceful pediatrician had found time to set up shop in Peshawar , Pakistan , opening the first Jihad office there to great fanfare. Moreover, from that time on, the ever-resourceful Ayman became a man on the go; carrying numerous passports the proved his citizenship in Holland , France and Switzerland as well as Afghanistan , Pakistan and Egypt . He had indeed become a man of all seasons and of all countries.  However, successful revolutions had begun at home in Egypt and not one to miss the floorshow; he hurried home where he realized first and foremost that his first order of business was to adequately arm the various Egyptian terrorist organizations to resist military efforts to subdue them. Ayman, who now had friends in all of the better places on earth immediately called upon his reliable friends in both Iran and Sudan for assistance in this matter, and to no one’s surprise was naturally greeted with open arms.  “Praised Be Allah” intoned the doctor, “The serious slaughter could now begin”.

 It was felt that the introduction of terrorist military facilities in Egypt might cause certain people in the government to become highly suspicious. A plan had to be contrived that would disguise their effort from the eyes of the government. The first idea conceived by the terrorist ruling council was rejected when cooler minds determined that by telling the folks in Cairo that they would be training for a gigantic quail hunt in Alexandria, there attempts at concealment would not pass the laugh test. Besides, getting caught planning a revolution on Egyptian soil was a sure path to jail from there the torture rack. Most of these terrorists had already been stretched to their limits and any additional time on the racks would probably result in serious problems.

 For this reason it was agreed that bases for their future violence had to be set up abroad. There were any number of countries that had answered their inquires with positive responses, needing the tourist dollars. Afghanistan , Algeria , Iran , Indonesia , Albania and Pakistan all indicated that they could use the business and would through in facilities for good measure. Many of these countries felt that along with supporting a first-class cause, they would simultaneously be promoting tourism and this according to the economists would be a superior way to jump-start their lagging economies.  

As the terrorist training camps began to take shape, it was not too long before the men who were being qualified their became restive as well they should have been. After all, there were no women, movies or fast food shops where they were and the only company that they had were the ever evil-tempered camels. The nearest McDonalds was 1700 miles away, and by the time that they had gotten their food back to training camp, a Big Mac would have gotten to cold to eat. Not everyone was enthusiastic; this was not going to be the fun that they had been told it would be. In addition, out here in the wilderness, there was no one to maim or kill even for practice. Something would have to be done to keep the men interested in their quest for a final solution.  

The Jihad’s brain trust after substantial bickering came up with an dazzling solution, considering what they had to work with; their normal cadre of killers, thugs, kidnappers and religious fanatics. The ruling council was of one mind, that is the fact that idle hands can sometimes cause problems even to their friends. The leaders determined that by planting these emotionally intellectually impaired, second-rate killers, in large cities they would be kept out of their hair until they had to be called in to do their grisly work. These larger cities, they believed were places where there would be adequate women, fast food shops and movies to entertain them, and it was possible that they would be able to stay out of any trouble until the right time presented itself. At the proper moment they would be given a mission to accomplish, those that lived through the event would be returning to the austere base camps after the goal had been met. In practice of course, there would not be a lot of these people returning to base. There casualty rate was running an unparalleled 100%.

 While there was a certain amount of logic in storing these thugs in large cities where they would meld in with the crowd and not be noticed, make their own living and not become a burden on the home office. For those reason it made a lot of sense to their leaders and seemed like a great plan, however, as with every perfect plan there is a flaw, it turns out that many of the men had never seen movies or fast food. Some got married, settled down and got a regular day job. Others stayed loyal to the cause to a point.  However, when the time came to send these folks into battle, it was found that many had changed their phone numbers and their names and could not be located by operatives in Afghanistan who were trying to push the red-button. After all, they had indeed found a better life and were not about to have it compromised by remote control operators functioning far from the scene of the mission. In spite of losing countless people to the better life, many remained mindless and never noticed that their leaders never put themselves in harms way.  

 In order to keep these people from getting too restless and to keep them concentrating on the effort at hand, many were temporarily rented out for use by the Pakistani’s in Kashmir for their way against India , by the Chechens in Russia and by the Taliban in Afghanistan . Being in the Jihad was supposed to be like joining the Marines – you were supposed to get to see the world. However, the godforsaken world that these pathetic souls were seeing had been long ago been abandoned by its normal residents who a left for more inviting territories. This did not particularly raise the spirits of the warriors although they were allowed to pillage and kill infirm those usually elderly people who because of their age were physically unable to leave the area. Moreover, having even the infirmed to murder made these fighters feel like great warriors and wasn’t this what they were after to begin with? 

 Nevertheless, these deviations were few and far between, and Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri' s had to augment his already extensive travel schedule in order to palliate the unhappy troops. He lived high on the hog in places with included such holiday sites as Bosnia, Kosovo and Albania, and his golden oratory about how they going to murder and maim went fare in shoring up the troops moral. In the meantime, the Doctor plotted a failed attack on the then acting Egyptian Minister of the Interior, Zazki Badr. The Egyptian Government was not happy about this action and was especially displeased because it was the brainstorm of a man that had been a highly regarded doctor and the pillar of his community. Moreover, this astonishing action really annoyed the guy that counted in the Egyptian Government, Prime Minister Mubarak, who ordered the doctor’s arrest.  Once again the doctor managed a reprieve and once again he set about one what he believed was his preordained mission, the killing of Crusaders, the destruction of the Egyptian Government and the maiming of innocent women and children. You really have appreciate this man’s single mindedness in the face of adversity.

 In 1998 while he was back in Pakistan he once again met with his good friend and patient, Osama bin Laden. It was at this time that the two agreed to formally tie the knot, merging the Jihad and the al-Qa’ida organizations. The deadly duo desired to come up with a snappy name for the combined operation and asked for suggestions among their henchmen. An affable camel driver who happened to be in the vicinity at the time suggested the now infamous name, “World Islamic Front for Jihad against Jews and Christians.” The Egyptian doctor and the Saudi Arabian multi-millionaire both loved the phrase but determined that it would be best to change the world Christians to Crusaders in order to give the organization’s name more impact with the masses. The camel driver was well rewarded for his successful efforts.   

 As the terror groups became more sophisticated they learned to pick their conscripts and enemies more carefully and eventually both of the above organizations were merged under then gentle guidance of Osama bin Laden with the pediatrician taking the secondary roll as his advisor. This highly educated Saudi was easily as good as an propagandist in the history of the world. It takes substantial oratory skills to convince people to be willing to kill themselves for causes that they don’t understand. Early on, it was most difficult convincing their conscripts that America was the Great Satan in lieu of the fact that all of the Egyptian papers had informed them that if it was not for the largesse of the United States , Egypt would be bankrupt. Furthermore, convincing these fun loving soldier of fortune that they should give up all of the precepts of faith, hope and charity and that they would be on the way to better world as soon as they could kill themselves for the good of their leaders who would guard the high-ground. Something like this usually takes more than a little convincing, but once again, Osama was able to do this with tantalizing aplomb. He taught his followers that they should be alert and paranoid because everyone was after them because they had seen the light and would soon be martyrs with dozens of naked, nubile virgins dancing to their very tune.

 All of these events occurred in 1998 and in spite of the fact that it received international press; the now targeted Americans and Europeans (the Crusaders) slept through the event and continued to work toward a Neville Chamberlain type of appeasement. You know the theory that if you look the other way long enough it will probably go away. However, this is a situation where allowing that it may go away is in effect the same as trading the lives of our children for our own. We would let our children solve the problem of these terrorists, down the road when they had become even more dangerous and in the meantime, an occasional bombing of an embassy, a discothèque, a building or a plane would just have to be something that this generation would learn to live with. In effect we would give them up in exchange for peace now. However, accession only confirms weakness and the invading hordes are never really fulfilled until they see blood in the streets. Then like sharks they really become totally aroused and if not sedated, they become ever more frenzied. Those that believed in dealing with the problem later such as the Clinton Department of State, soon found out that they were dealing with it now.

 However, the Americans and Europeans were not the only ones that would be affected by Osama’s proposed new world order. He seemed to want a large piece of everything and particularly rallied against the fascist regimes in the Arab world. While the Europeans realized that the fat was in the fire, the Arab leaders somehow thought that they would escape the fallout. Their chorus against bin Laden’s minions was stilted and hushed, as though if they objected to being pilloried, things would get even worse. They, too, had attended the Chamberlain School of aversion that held that if you wished it away hard enough, you could start getting some sleep. The Saudis were of no help to the effort to corral their terrorists in spite of being right in the line of fire although they were wishing very hard.  Combined with Russia ’s re-admittance into civilized society and its ever-increasing oil production, the Saudis and their compatriots were in danger of becoming relics and not the good kind either. The Saudis who had never been too swift in figuring out where their bread was really buttered once again didn’t know how to play their cards, and waxed catatonic until appeared that the country would join Afghanistan in going down in flames.

 The Egyptian Jihad attracted an extraordinary combination of misfits from picture postcard spots like Albania (the first European State to become a member of the Islamic Conference), Azerbaijan , Bulgaria , Chechnya , Iran , Iraq , Saudi Arabia , Sudan , Syria , the United Arab Emirates and points east.  In 1999, the Egyptians held a trial for over a hundred Fundamentalists and through their police’s advanced torture techniques they were quickly able to get confessions and floor plans from those who had not been fast enough out of the revolving door. Bin Laden’s second in command, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, was sentenced to death, but he had been one of the lucky once that already left town for more hospitable climes. Those in the know still continued to call him the “Lucky Doctor.”

 Al-Zawahiri1]  eventually became directly or indirectly responsible for founding substantially every Islamic revolutionary group in Egypt . While this was no small task, he was more than up for it. The Doctor had evolved over time and this man had indeed become a man who hated the sitting Egyptian Government all the way from the last movie. He started out just looking for a little excitement but when he was able to crawl out of every hole he had dug for himself he started to play the game in earnest beginning to believe that he was invulnerable. He had cut his teeth by joining the Muslim Brotherhood in spite of his family’s protestations when he was just a kid, and went on to become Osama bin Laden’s right-hand-man. He has always given credit to bin Laden for his conversion from a man totally dedicated to wiping out the leaders of Egypt to a terrorist intent on global destruction, with a major concentration on the United States . Osama had shown him a much high calling, Praise Be Allah.  

There is little doubt that the doctor was the man behind the attacks on the American embassies in both Kenya and Tanzania ( Dar es Salaam and Nairobi ). Some say that he destroyed the embassies and the people inside because he was dismayed that his brother Muhammad had been summarily turned over to the Egyptian authorities by what he called the flakes in the United Arab Emirates . His most outstanding accomplishments occurred only after life in Egypt started to become more like a walk in the park than a terrorist’s delight. The government there had placed a solid clamp on incidental killing and at this point in time, there had not been a terrorist attack within the country since 1993. However, the doctor felt that this created a bad impression on his organization and after solidly berating his fellow Jihad members for their slothful ways, the Doctor bid the organization a fond adieu and went on to more global matters.  

Egypt may have learned how to deal with terrorists and many dedicated killers determined that there were greener pastures available elsewhere. However, it was also a fact that every Egyptian fanatic worth his salt was languishing in jail had substantially diluted the power at the top of the terrorist pyramid and new management was rather wimpy at best. Those terrorists enjoying being entertained in dank prisons strong up their thumbs as guests of the Egyptian Government had learned the value of turning in their trusting comrades. At the very worst, spilling their guts was a fast way to heaven and a decided relief from that everyday pangs of life in a four-by-eight cell 100 feet underground. They had found out a truism of life, it is a substantial problem mounting a serious revolution from solitary confinement while shackled to a two-foot thick solid-rock wall. However, the doctor would not really have had any way of knowing this because when the group was summarily jailed he was away on a holiday with his best buddy Osama.

 As we bid a fond adieu to what little is left of the Doctor’s former partners in crime, those that were known as the Vanguards of Conquest or Gaamaa (Talaa’ al-Fateh) and run by the fearless Ahmad Husayn Agiza (who succeeded Abbud al-Zumar when Egyptian President Hosni Murbarak had him placed in permanent detention) we look back at a rather unseemly view of downtown Cairo. It appears that these men of the Gaamaa are now mostly forced to take their meals through straws because of a lack of being able to chew. Although this was just one of the vagaries of prison life, being beaten regularly by brutish guards would tend to take away the poise of even the most flexible of the terrorists.  We can only reflect on Dr. Ayman’s historic description of his former competitor, “A disillusioned man, so totally concerned about his own megalomania that he had little time for the better things in life such as those things that tickled the doctor’s fancy such as blowing up homes, schools and hospitals.”  

Based on that description we can certainly see Ayman’s point. (The last act that was committed by the group was coincidentally the murder of 58 innocent tourists in Luxor after which their leaders who were in still in jail announced under some pressure that they would no longer be participating in armed attacks) However, most of this is probably sour grapes because Ayman is really whelmed by Osama. However, as opposed to Osama, both Ahmad and Ayman regard their spiritual leader to be Sheikh Umar Abd al-Rahman, who was caught in a seditious act by the United States Government, and will probably spend his remaining days rotting in an American jail.  

The fact that Sheikh Umar Abd al-Rahman he was tried and convicted by the United States Government for blowing up the World Trade Center in 1993 really set Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri into a tizzy. This man was his religious rock and no other cleric had ever taught him how to kill harmless people with such panache and love. The Doctor made two very interesting points at the time, the first concerned the fact that al-Rahman had led an almost monastic life of both religious decency and murder.  

Moreover, there were only two serious crimes that the cleric was ever involved in, at least as far as anyone knew. Along with the Doctor, the cleric had planned the assassination of Sadat, for which he was given only four years in jail. This light sentence was possibly due to the fact that because he was blind, it was hard to take care of him in jail, which tended to annoy the guards. . His second crime was his plotting the destruction of the World Trade Center in 1993. From Ayman’s point of view, these were certainly not crimes that justified his mentor’s incarceration. Sadat was the man who had made peace with Israel and the World Trade Center was located in Crusader territory so both of these acts were certainly innocent enough or at least defensible. Both of these targets were on the approved hit list compiled with great care by the Jihad. The doctor spent a substantial time ruminating about what had occurred and it wasn’t long before he determined to pursue a course of revenge for this purposeful hurts that seemed to be aimed directly at his midsection. After all, wasn’t the cleric a totally innocent human being? His murder of the President of Egypt and the bombing of the Trade Center certainly would not take the measure of the real man.   

What the psychologists and sociologists found out during their interrogation of these hapless creatures located under the streets of Cairo in remote dungeons was the fact that many of them had fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan . While this had occurred a decade earlier, the fact was that when they were cashiered from military duty, they no longer had focus, a home to go back to, a family or a job. While the despised Russians had been vanquished and these fighters were heroes; in their own minds at least, they had only been heroes for a day. Moreover, it is really tough going from hero to bum overnight but as these freedom fighters returned, they also returned to the same squalor and hopelessness that they had left behind. This did little to lend itself to maintaining the Egyptian equilibrium. Most of these men were soon climbing the walls looking for action and the terrorist organizations received them with open arms and provided three squares a day along with roof over their heads. In addition, the returnees would be sent to a school in which they would be taught how to fight like a guerilla. To many it seemed better by far than the alternative.  

However, a unique common goal had to be created. There had to be an overall philosophy to explain away all the killing that was going to be required. It was important that the public relations story that was to be devised to be what is called a grabber. Moreover, once the Russians were run out of Afghanistan everyone fighting over there thought that the pillaging would remain good for some time to come. However, ultimately, new leaders took over the country with the help of Pakistan , they were called the Taliban or the teachers and they were not inclined to even let the Islamic liberators dip into what could be considered their fortunes of war. These were indeed a dreary lot. So many of the religious mercenaries became bitter. What good is it offer up your life in a cause that leads to such a shallow victory such as the godforsaken country of Afghanistan ? The minions of Osama bin Laden had to hold out for something better. These men, the soldiers of Allah, were meant for something bigger they were told and if they followed orders they would be allowed to attack and pillage the biggest single prize in the world, the United States . This would be a prize that Allah would be proud of.   

Now that the mission had been placed in focus, the logistics had to be worked out. However, there was no shortage of backup available for those that were now concentrating on this new and glorious target. Recruits, money and brainpower were joyfully supplied by operatives within and without of the Governments in South Yemen , Syria , Saudi Arabia Lebanon and Albania to name just a few that seemed to bear some grudge or other. However, in calls for financing for their heroic works, money extraordinarily poured in from charities throughout the known world. In addition, western financiers and multi-nationals, not wanting to be left out of their own destruction, were found to be unswerving loyalists in this fight against themselves.  

The target was the United States along with the other miscellaneous Crusaders and shockingly, it was from this group that much of the financing came. Banks and charities throughout the United States turned out to be substantial donators to the catastrophe that was soon to come. Alice in Wonderland had indeed returned to the real world with a vengeance, and everything was we believed in had been turned upside down. There can be no denying that whoever was running the public relations for the Jihad had been substantially underpaid, because the enthusiasm that they had generated for their event had Palestinians marching around as proud as peacocks and cheering their heads off in spite of the fact that they had nothing to do with the event and had never previously proclaimed their hatred for American before. People had been invited to participate in a party celebrating the upcoming end of the world we knew it, and everyone was clambering for front row seats. Instead of the Romans throwing the Christians to the lion, the Christians, like lemmings, were throwing themselves into the ring just as had been programmed by a carefully stitched together backed Arab public relations campaign paid for by the residual benefits of black gold.    

The language of Double-speak also had to be dusted off and revived for the purposes of this mission. Although the Israelis thought they knew all of the tactics in the war against terrorists, the coalition that the Americans put together to bring down the Fundamentalists was a step beyond what had been seen in the past. The American-led coalition “targeted” the terrorist leaders, offered rewards for their capture dead or alive, and penalized those who aided their enemies. However, they could not duplicate Israeli tactics because this was not a war with Muslims or Arabs, but a war with terrorists and their supporters. We thought that the virtuous Muslims and Arabs were our dearest friends. After all, hadn’t we been buying all of the oil that they could produce for years? Hadn’t we made their leaders richer than even Bill Gates? However, in respect, maybe that was the problem.  

Whatever the reason for our being deserted by what we had previously believed were our friends, the United States began a merciless bombing campaign on the terrorists located in Afghanistan which soon sprang leaks in the courage quotient of loyalist Taliban and Arab fighters. The American reserved their special weapon, the Daisy Cutter bombs that were only dropped on special occasions when high-ranking Fundamentalist officials were thought to be on the scene at any given time or just for effect. The Northern Alliance fighters loved to watch when these screaming memes dropped their enemies and even if the bombs did not even come close, their targets they made a great audience for the American orchestrated floorshow.  

The terrorists were folding their tents rather quickly and it was time for the so-called Crusaders to look towards Iraq for connections to the terrorist’s attacks. This announcement by American President Bush did not get a standing ovation from America ’s allies in Afghanistan due to the fact that since Operation Dessert Storm had ended, Iraq had been able to rearm and develop even more sophisticated weapons than they possessed before. In addition, there would be no capable proxy fighting force that could help on the ground. However, during their clean up in Afghanistan , British forces uncovered a completed roadmap to the destruction of the financial district within the City of London . This did not make them happy.  

Moreover, the destruction of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon created an atmosphere that allowed any number of maniacs to emerge from their protective cocoons. Anthrax filled envelopes were sent hither and yon in the hopes that a confused American establishment would place blame in the wrong direction. In addition, there were bombs of a more lethal variety spread throughout Egypt . These were the countless failed attempts by Arab fanatics to assassinate those that they believed to by their enemies. Among those considered the very worst of their antagonists were those representing the western press.  

A production line of letter bombs was initiated in Alexandria and for a time, reporters who were their primary target were afraid to open their mail. The reason that the terror group had picked on reporters was twofold. The first was the fact that they were writing unkind things about them calling this bunch of thugs, murders and the like. The second reason was simply that their theory was that if reporters became so frightened about opening their mail, it could be that they would be much kinder relative to their press coverages of massacres and point out the killer’s good points.  

Ultimately it was discovered that anthrax would have done a much better job of downsizing the foreign press, but the chemical laboratories under Arab control at this time were only in the process of gearing up and could not quite deal with an effective delivery system. In the meantime, because most of the bombs that had been sent by mail were not effective, assassination groups were put together in Egypt and sent out to do what they could in the realm of stirring up trouble without having to rely on these ineffective letters. Once again, the forces of evil seemed to stumble and there was little worldwide recognition of the fact that this attempt had even taken place.  

The letter bombs had been become a failed public relations attempt to get worldwide attention and passed almost unnoticed when the bombs either exploded prematurely or did not inflict any pain or suffering when they detonated on a timely fashion. When this didn’t cause any excitement the ante was once again raised, and non-directed senseless bombings were determined the way to bring fame and fortune to the cause. The task proved too daunting to the terrorists, in spite of some scattered triumphs such as the destruction of the Egyptian embassy in Pakistan in 1995. The killing of seventeen God-fearing Muslims hardly brought them any affirmative publicity. However, even worse they also had to deal with the customary Egyptian backlash; for their trouble, the Egyptian Government rounded up over 8,000 potential, suspected or inferred terrorists and put them into places that no sane man would want to be. These were not jails in the normal sense of the word; as we have pointed out before, they were torture chambers where prisoners were stretched on a rack before breakfast just to make sure that they were in the right mode for their trying day ahead. Having the prisoner’s lives filled with these torture filled days, the Egyptian leaders believed, would keep those that had terrorism on their minds occupied in physical pursuits that would better both their mind and body, stretching their overall abilities to the maximum.  

Egyptian prison officials were also convinced that they were indeed performing a valid service to the country and indeed many officials were totally convinced that they were.  So that those incarcerated under this program would not become apathetic over similar everyday torments, a sub-bureau of unfavorable devices relative to the health of prisoners was established to find new and better ways of getting directly into these men’s souls.  Under what was called a constant retraining and restructuring program that was rigorously applied, many of those that were imprisoned seemed to desire to change their views. One must certainly applaud the Egyptians on their advanced techniques in re-education, which produced a class of people who have learned a more global approach to world events. It would make some sense to subcontract from Egypt their information retrieval/re-indoctrination process, which seems to work so effectively.   

Since the indigenous terrorists had found out the hard way that they couldn’t bomb anything in useful in Egypt and get away with it, they had to find other areas to do their dirty work in. The poor terrorists had not even been able to find enough local Christians to murder, so they were not sending the proper volume of messages, and might as well do in some of their own while they were waiting. At least it would show the world that they were doing something.  As if to show to the entire world their ineptness, they attempted to bomb the Cairo tourist bazaar known as Khan el-Khalili where there were always some Crusaders lounging around; and never even got up to the plate to take their swings. The entire entourage of 85 thugs was captured by police and upon incarceration was once again tortured mercilessly. Automatically, members of the terrorist group in Egypt had to run for the hills or suffer the consequences as their compatriots gradually started to squeal on them. It appeared at the time that this indeed was the gang that couldn’t shot straight. The Egyptian Government knew what they were dealing with but the “Crusaders” were hardly prepared. While they could not succeed against those that knew their modus operandi, perhaps the terrorists could accomplish something against unsuspecting westerners who did not believe in torture and murder.  

Planning began in earnest to take on the Great Satin and make their mark. After all, embassies had been bombed, boats had been attacked and people had been killed and in spite of the overwhelming power of the Great Satin, it appeared as though he continued to slumber through these events and would not arise after the mission had been accomplished once again. This could become outright war and just in case, the cry went out from the terrorist leaders for more sophisticated weaponry and better intelligence. However, this would require substantial funding from numerous sources. Internal tithing was made mandatory with each participant being obliged to contribute a portion of his wealth and his earnings. The mercenaries were reinventing the wheel and paying their own way on a one-way trip to hell. All members of Arab terrorist groups were asked to supply their own walking around money, they were asked to live cheaply in addition to donating a substantial part of their earnings to the organization itself.  

Although the United States did not fully realize it at the time, their first real brush with this new enemy was in Lebanon many years ago. While at the time it appeared to be an isolated incident, it later became apparent that these people were organized and playing for the game keeps. Terrorism’s pace began to quicken and was followed by multiple incidents in Somalia in 1993 where we totally underestimated the forces aligned against us and barely escaped without a major catastrophe. However, the foreign policy of the Clinton Administration was hardly confrontational and this embarrassing defeat proved to the world that America was a paper tiger. After each battle that the United States lost, Clinton apologists would declare victory over the terrorists. The distracted president had a foreign containment policy that made a sieve look like it could hold water.  

Having been able to get away with their creeping adventurism they became ultimately convinced that the American President was distracted and that no one in Europe had any guts, thus, there would be no retribution. The terrorists followed Somalia with successively more aggressive and daring slaps in the face of the United States in the form of the attacks on two American Embassies in Africa and the Cole disaster. There is no question that during this period President Clinton was preoccupied by his own severe legal and sexual problems; in reality there was little question that he was, after all, more of a lover than a fighter and was anxious to put disturbing world events behind him. After all, hadn’t he had used every effort legal and otherwise to avoid being drafted and when he smoke marijuana, he never inhaled. This certainly told volumes about his confrontational nature.  

With a lovesick America President leading the charge we once again ignored these resounding calls to action and probably lost the respect of the Arab world. The are firm believes in retaliation and became convinced that America had become too rich and too inert.   However, a few rather expensive missiles were launched against Sudan from a cautious distance to prove to the world that Clinton was, if nothing else, alive, but the retort was laughable. At best, it seems that his show of strength totally destroyed a hardworking businessman’s entire business in one fell stroke. Adding insult to injury, in spite of thoroughly investigating the property destroy, the administration would never admit that they had made a major miscalculation. This inactivity and confusion certainly did much to set the stage for terrorist targeting the United States Mainland a tad down the road.  Plans were hastily put into motion and cells were put into place.  

Many feel that George W brought new vigor into the fight against terrorism and that the leaders of Jihad had made a tactical mistake in waking a sleeping giant. However, there plans had long ago been put into  place and they apparently didn’t realize that the two American Presidents were totally different people. But “W” miscalculated as well. His first acts in office were dealing with an imaginary budgetary financial surplus, which distracted him in the same manner that Clinton had been distracted by his perverse sexual urges. The handwriting was already on the wall and had been well advertised yet little efforts were focused in that direction. The danger that these folks represented was called to the world’s attention by General Moussa of Egypt who declared in 1990 that, “The security forces have committed themselves to the complete elimination of the Jihad organization in Egypt, as well as that of other organizations acting to undermine governmental stability.”  Of course at the time, no one believed that the Egyptians would only deflect the terrorists elsewhere because that is what they did a magnificent job doing. The only trouble is that they inadvertently redirected them right into the path of the United States , Egypt ’s largest benefactor.  

Simply put, when people are unhappy with the basic tenets that a government is operating under, it is going to solve the problem by putting the most outspoken of the dissident leaders in prison unless you want to create an entirely new and potentially more dangerous enemy. As history teaches, charismatic new leadership soon springs up in these circumstances to replace the vacuum created by its leaders being incarcerated. In addition, you have only rubbed an irritant on an open wound be creating martyrs, which is the last thing you want to do under these circumstances. An overall solution rests solely with a government’s ability to improve their people’s lot to a degree where they do not have to envy their global neighbors and make up stories about other to diffuse and justify their anger. Sadly, there are only so many managerial and physical assets to go around in poor countries.   Egypt has a good army and is excellent at some severe forms of torture but little else. However, they are superb in redirecting their peoples hatred elsewhere allowing them to get it out of their systems somewhere else.

Were the elegant waters of the Nile to be distributed over a substantially greater land mass in Egypt , anger would be quelled by wealth and hunger could be dissipated by food. An attempt a working out that problem was the building of the massive Aswan High Dam, which, although minimally helpful from an agricultural standpoint, it was a disaster in terms of the drowning of ancient relics and dislocation of the Egyptian people. What Egypt needed was more fresh water to feed a population that was growing faster than it could be cared for. “Draw more water from the Nile and turn the countryside green the people cried.”  While this appears to be the most doable solution on the surface, it would cause starvation in most of Sudan and Ethiopia and begin a war that could not possibly end until one nation or the other was wiped out. Sadly, in Sudan , which was earmarked to be the breadbasket of the Arab world early on, this hope was in a time long past. The country’s soil has been hopelessly abused along with its people and with each passing day there is more hate and division between the warring factions. Should Egypt make even the slightest attempt to drain one more ounce than they were already taking from the Nile , the Israeli – Palestinian conflict would look like a mere game of checkers in comparison with what would occur.    

Speaking of the Nile brings up another subject only discussed in the highest levels of major governments around the around. If someone were to identify the targets that terrorists would want to hit if they desired to create the greatest possible damage and potentially create a scenario which would cause the Muslim world to unite against what they believe to be their oppressors, you would have a relatively short list of targets. Certain pipelines, most atomic energy production facilities, large chemical laboratories along with places like the American Federal Reserve and the New York Stock Exchange would certainly be among them in the United States . While the World Trade Center and the Pentagon created astounding statements and give militant fanatics some cause for satisfaction, in the greater scheme of things, these attacks are somewhat akin to a mosquito biting an elephant in terms of destroying the ability of a country to fight back. As the Japanese learned during World War II, one battle does not determine the entire direction of a war and minor miscalculations have had a tendency to dramatically change geopolitical yardsticks. However, just as in Pearl Harbor , the mosquito only tends to annoy the elephant and is more likely than not to find its body crushed by the elephant’s trunk. So was the case when the United States obliterated the Taliban after they refused to cooperate in America ’s war against terror.  

It is not difficult to poison the water that people drink or spread biological weapons in areas that have heavy concentrations of population. Blowing up embassies and kidnapping important people also make critically important statements but they do little in the area of affecting a nation’s ability to respond against the aggressors from a military point of view. To some degree, the more mosquito bits that are inflicted on the elephant the readier he is on the next occasion to demolish his undersized tormenter.  The elephant learns where and when to take the pest out with one swing of his trunk. Sadly, the mosquitoes don’t learn a lot from seeing their own killed by this large beast swishing a prodigious part of its anatomy. However, the elephant doesn’t really care what they think and probably feels a lot better about the whole matter.  

The further that these places of attack are from the middle east, the more logistically difficult they are to plan and carry out. These mosquitoes don’t have an air force or navy to transport their weapons and must therefore rely on more conventional means of delivery. The process is sophisticated with a number of critical steps. You first have to train a group of half-wits to be willing to blow themselves up in exchange for a nebulous promise that would seem almost idiotic for anyone with an IQ of over 60. Then you have to get the weapons into the hands of the terrorists within the geographically boundaries of the targeted country. The next step is to move these weapons from the port of entry into the target area. In the meantime, all of your soldiers have to be in the particular area that is going to be attacked and this is becoming increasingly difficult because of the fact that a congregation of new people in any neighborhood that are of Arab dissent will probably raise a red-flag in light of recent events. Moreover, by irritating our elephant, the terrorists raised the stakes a little too early in the game putting the target on the alert to the fact that it has some adversaries about that are trying to cause it harm. However, the Arabs are highly desirous of another public relations victory after their wipeout in Afghanistan . They must create a real fireworks display that will inflict some logistical and military pain on their adversaries. However, they should have played all there cards early in the game when they had not yet awakened the beast. In the meantime, it has become next to impossible to move within the United States with the same ease as was possible before the mosquito bite.  

As we have discussed earlier, Egypt is a land of contradictions. The country seems to breed fundamentally oriented terrorists like mosquitoes breed in an equatorial swamp. Parenthetically, the fact that they are allowed to multiply endlessly has little to do with the fact that they are so closely monitored in that country; at least recently there has been no seriously successful plots. Latently however they represent when taken in totality, the power of an atomic bomb to do some serious damage and no one is saying otherwise. These terrorists are of the mind that unless they can make a real statement in Egypt , the territory they consider home base, whatever they accomplish elsewhere is really a sham.  

Their failure to ever destroy substantive property in Egypt where they are the strongest has literally become a message to the rest of the world that in spite of being successful in one sneak attack on an unsuspecting nation, these folks are really incapable of finding their behinds with both hands. Thus, rumor has it that they have gone back to the drawing board in order to make a statement in the country where they live. Thus, the question; what target could they successfully attack in Egypt that would not only result in a public relations victory for the terror networks but simultaneously disable critical distribution and logistic systems globally, they will have accomplished something.  

What target in Egypt would lend itself to this kind of notoriety and humongous pain? Simply put, there is only one, the Suez Canal . An enormous amount of the world’s shipping goes through the canal carrying among other things enormous amounts of food and oil. While there may be other ways to get from here to there, the logistical nightmare that would be created by the canal’s demise coupled with the substantially longer period of time that it would take to get goods to market could cause most serious problems in the energy and food distribution networks throughout the world. We have indeed become extremely dependent on this waterway in ways that currently do not even cross our minds and it is almost inconceivable to imagine the pain and suffering that its loss even for a short time would create. The Suez Canal and Panama Canal are vitally necessary for life on this planet to continue on the way we have grown accustom to. If we here in the United States thought that problems brought on by the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were substantial, they would only be a small scratch on a large surface in comparison with the closing of either of these waterways. 

While the Panama Canal can be well protected by American Military forces and the chances that major damage could be done to that facility are very small. However, the United States cannot monitor what is going on in Egypt in the same fashion because they have exercised extreme sovereignty over every aspect of the canal. For this reason, the job has to be left to the Egyptian police and military to accomplish and we indeed hope that they can do the job. Blowing a boat laden with dynamite in the middle of one the locks would create enough damage to last us for some time.    

The problem is clear, while Egyptian anti-terrorist forces that are quite effective in dealing with masses of armed or lightly armed fanatics, they do not have the capabilities of defending all facets of the canal from any number of points of view. Their pari-military is under trained and poorly paid, their weapons are inferior to those that wealthy terrorists could bring to bear and there are a very substantial number of crazies walking around in the country that could cause endless trouble. Some of the countries that border Egypt are not what you could call good neighbors, particularly Sudan and Libya along with Iraq cannot be ruled out as a potential purveyor of problems. All of them under the right set of circumstances could arm a terrorist group with enough weaponry to tie up the waterway for year.  

The United States views this route as critical from almost every point of view and pays Egypt a lot of money every year so that their military is as prepared as possible, but after September 11, 2001 , this was seen by planners in Washington as being inadequate best. For the United States to be a global cop, they would have to be able to get around in spite of the restrictions that could result from a closure of the canal. Thus, they were faced with a decision of how to create a situation where Egypt could adequately take care of the problem for themselves.  

Another problem facing them was the historic problem of properly balancing the militaries of Egypt and Israel , which has proven a most difficult task. By giving Egypt , too many advanced weapons, it can destroy the delicate balance that exists in the area. Not supplying Egypt with the equipment to defend their own property and in turn our logistical abilities to function could also result in catastrophe. Being caught between a rock and hard place, it was determined by the Bush administration in early November, 2001 that it was in America ’s best interests to supply Egypt with the Harpoon Block II missile, which is by far the best anti-ship weapon in the world.  

These missiles are accurate to several feet and although they are constructed to be used against shipping, they could also be effective against a litany of other targets. They are not particularly challenging to operate and carry a very large explosive charge, which can affect a wide area. In order to be able to deliver the system, the administration also ordered a number of state of the art “fast missile craft” that are capable of extremely high speeds and have significant mobility along with a firing system that can be accurate even when the boats are traveling at high speed or practicing evasive maneuvers. Because of the fact that Libya and Sudan have little or no naval strength and Iraq could not get to Egypt by water even if they started out a year in advance, the only potential uses for these weapons could be against terrorists. At least this is what we are convinced that the United States Government had in mind. Israel saw things in a different light. These boats properly utilized, especially in a commando type action could cause substantial damage to the country. While the terror threat against American interests exists, this is not going to be a major policy decision, Egypt will get the weapons and boats and Israel will have to find a way to defend themselves against another type of attack. However, this might turn out to be a very reasonable trade off for all concerned.  

While Israel has a strong lobby in Congress, the boats are going to manufactured in Mississippi , the home of Senate Minority Leader, Trent Lott who wields some pretty serious influence.  This was the decisive factor in the sealing of the deal. Political exigencies sometimes can become vitally import in the general scheme of things even when national defense is involved. Israel knows that they are not going to win this one and are pragmatic enough to realize that after the events of September 11, 2001 , the rules of the game have changed substantially. This is also a reward to Egypt for its substantial assistance against the terrorists through the sharing of intelligence, help with cutting off the terrorists from their funding sources and allowing over-flights by our aircraft. While it is possible that this action could still be stalled, there is little chance that it will be permanently derailed. After all, what are friends for if you cannot have them help you out now and then?

THE FUNDAMENTALISTS TEND TO LEAVE A LOT OF MESS BEHIND. WHO CLEANS IT ALL UP?

Life in Egypt tends  to be a bit scary at best.  However, this isn’t the worst of the conditions in the city. Cairo is one of the largest cities in the world and as such produces a prodigious amount of waste. The waste is disposed of by people that are called Zabaleen or rubbish collectors. These underpaid laborers are primarily uneducated men and boys that utilize almost a thousand donkey carts to collect the tons of garbage that accumulates daily in mounds on Cairo ’s streets. Amazingly, even with all of these very serious collectors on the make for good garbage, only 60 percent of the waste produced in the city is collected by anyone. What happens to what remains you ask? It just lays there and gets moldy, smelly, and rotten. Sometimes the mounds get so large that they have to be burned to the ground, but this leaves a toxic smell covering the area burned for weeks.  

However, in spite of the fact that those assigned to collect these horribly smelling mounds of various kinds of waste do their best, when their wagons are filled with the putrid stuff they head for home where the remainder of the family pitches in and plucks what is salvageable from the refuse. This usually takes place in their homes where all of the recyclable articles are carefully removed and whatever has any value is sold for whatever it will bring. The biological waste is usually feed to the donkeys or pigs, which can be found in close propinquity to the salvage operation not exactly the way things should operate in a large city. As a matter of fact, it was not for the porkers, which seemingly will devour anything biological, Cairo would long ago have vanished under what has become the most amazing mound of garbage in the world’s history. One can only thank God that these porkers have the unlimited diet they do.  

Instead of collecting the remaining 40% of the garbage, the garbage itself is able to collect other things. These are a combination of rats, mice, mosquitoes, flies and toxic smoke from badly organized attempts to destroy the putrid mounds by burning them. The only thing this accomplishes is to add to the already unconscionable stench that taunts the air and gives a touch of various bronchial diseases to many of the city’s residents. While the Zabaleen do not charge much to remove the waste, if they are not able to recover some residual value in their treasure trove, they will not be able to pay the rent. Thus, it is not only the amount paid that is important to these keepers of the flame; it is also the value of their cargo, which is critically important to them. Most important to these men that haven’t learned how to pass the smell test, it the non-biological quality of the garbage that they collect.  

In determined where to collect good-garbage these experts are well aware that poorer neighborhoods produce primarily organic waste, which offers little of value-added to the collectors. Without generous pickings, the poor are literally forced to pay more than the rich do for removal because they produce garbage that is only fit for the animals. Thus, without the availability of additional funds, their garbage is left to rot on the streets. Organic waste tends to give off much worse odors than waste that is not edible and so the poor are not only saddled with continued poverty but with a very bad smelling neighborhood as well. Faced with a situation that was deteriorating daily, the Cairo Government had to find a solution. One of their attempts centered around, obligating the Zabaleen to collect from the poor neighborhoods at a discount in order to get the better neighborhoods added to their route. This did not work, as there was nobody that wanted to police these unkempt areas and the hosts of poorly smelling people that lived there. The garbage collectors cheated everyone by taking on the poorer areas and then not bothering to make the required garbage collecting stops.   

Eventually, however, the United Nations came up with a solution; build fertilizer plants all over the country and sell the resulting fertilizer back to the farmers. That seemed to make a lot of sense but no one knew what to do next. There were few people available in Egypt that could design and build these plants. There was no money available for their construction and there was no legislation in place to force their construction. The Zabaleen were not at all pleased with this solution that they saw as an attempt to break their union and protested that their incomes would be substantially reduced and while simultaneously picketed government offices. It wasn’t until their stench became unbearable that police were ordered to disperse them from under the windows of the bureaucrats. In the meantime, the garbage continues to grow geometrically and solutions although available for a price are not being perused. It will not be long before the American State Department comes out with a stench warning for American Tourists intending to visit Cairo in the summer.  

Egypt has much bigger fish to fry than Zabaleen whom no one wants to get to close to anyway. In reality, they may not have bigger fish but they may have sweater-smelling fish that are easier to identify without a trip to the local fumigation plant. 

 

SEX AND THE LAW, EGYPTIAN STYLE

 

The bigger and seemingly better smelling fish are what is known in Egypt as the “debauchers.” As best as we can determine, debaucher is a man that practices sexual relations with another man. We call them - people or homosexuals, they call them debauchers. However, you spell it, this is a really serious crime in these parts because debauchery is both a religious and a civil crime. The Egyptian Government is convinced that the rise of the Internet has brought with it an ever more vocal homosexual community that if something is not done, will be soon demanding their own rights which is something that is unimaginable to government officials. This would indeed be unconscionable to both the politicians and the clerics and in order to head the problem off at the pass it was determined to start trying these people in court for their crimes.  

However, whenever the net is cast over the web, it has seemingly encompassed so many debaucherers that they cannot even be tried at the same time. In an effort though to prove something or other, Egyptian sexual police have given to holding mass trials encompassing considerable numbers of defendants simultaneously. Moreover, even if the stuffy Cairo courtrooms could encompass the scores of debaucherers that are pulled in by police nets, they do not even come close to being able to encompass the substantial numbers of defense lawyers required to defend this morass of serious criminals. In addition, family members are usually unable to even get in close proximity to of the court so that they may find out what their relatives have been charged with as most of them had been held incognito since their incarceration.    

Moreover, to add insult to injury to these so-called criminals the police and the courts have been using obscure laws and courts to try these forlornly shocked defendants. The emergency State Security Court was established to protect the country’s national security and apparently the authorities in Egypt have come to the conclusion that debauchery is indeed not only a sexually irregular activity but seditious as well. They feel that it has the potential of shaking the very foundations of the Egyptian Government. In addition, under the law, because of the fact that national security is involved, the only way that the decisions reached by this court can be appealed is by what would be the equivalent to a presidential pardon. No legal scholars in these parts can even bring to mind when the last pardon for anything was granted by an Egyptian leader, but some legal historians point to Mosses ultimately being allowed to leave Egypt with his clansmen after he and an associate almost destroyed the entire country as the closest they can come. However, legal experts are quick to point out that Moses was receiving substantial outside help, which substantially tilted the scales against the Egyptians and the associate was not a resident of the country.  

So, the names of the arrested homosexuals are splashed across the pages in the press, places of employment are notified relative to the crime and there are strong suggestions that with so many others looking for jobs, it would be best not to hire people that may be more interested becoming involved in sexual athletics with the same sex while they should working. Moreover, in order to add seasoning to an already putrid case, the government sprinkles the charges with a dash of religious blasphemy.

In many cases, the defendants are charged with falsely interpreting the Koran and exposing Islam to deviant concepts. For the most part, the so-called homosexuals are beaten into submission in order to get confessions and the sexual searches that they go through so that authorities can confirm that they were debauching are not only humiliating but also painful when certain items are stuck up their body parts in the name of medical science. The human rights people are saying that by going after the debauchers, government officials are creating a form of circus atmosphere in order to take people’s minds away from the better things in life that they have under the current Egyptian Government such as corruption, poverty, hunger and unemployment. We could really not disagree.  

The faces of the offenders are clearly identified by news photographers and their likenesses appear in all the major newspapers. Talk about being guilty before you are even tried, these folks are branded alive before they are even tried. Moreover, in order to make the legislative-glue more binding, charges are randomly added that are a tad more binding and will insure a public outcry. One of the prime accusations being made by prosecutors that is routinely added to all of the sexual atrocities that those arrested are charged with committing is the practice of bizarre Satanical acts and rituals. We are not sure what these acts are and the Egyptian Government has never told us. Most people for that reason are under the theory that these acts are so immoral and evil that the pubic should not even be allowed to know what it is.  

Additionally, the purposeful prosecutors have charged that the defendants have filmed these events and flashed them on Internet for all to see. The problem with these charges is that no one seems to have seen or heard of any of them including the prosecutors. They cannot identity where on the net they were screened, at what time or even on what date. They cannot even identify which of the defendants participated in the sexual deviations and what they did and to whom they did it. There has been no mother, for example that has come forward and indicated that he children were forced to witness whatever this might have been.  

The cops had an easy road to hoe in making arrests. All they did is sign into homosexually oriented matchmaker sites and advertise for a same sex partner promising some serious same sex lovemaking. When the anxious “date” arrived for some romantic activity, he was routinely hustled off to the police station and booked. In another highly public instance, the police raided a Nile River

 with the apt name of “Queen Boat” and arrested 52 debauchers in one foray.  Not one of the raiding party saw any sexually deviate acts being committed one way or the other by the prisoners but that is of little matter.

Interestingly enough what original was a charge of sexual deviancy was ultimately changed to a meeting with a self-styled preacher. I guess in Egypt that this is a crime as well. The boat excursions no longer run and the chat rooms have been shut down while the entire gay community of Egypt now lives in total fear. It seems brutally apparent that Islamic law was not kind to homosexuals and it was determined that homosexual acts were not only a magnitude greater than adultery but punishable by death as well. Egyptian peace lost no opportunity to tell family members that they were going easy and condemning the prisoners to death.  

However, in spite of there being no witnesses, no identifiable programs that carried the Internet porn broadcasts and no complainants other then by members of  the police department, there seemed little question that all of the defendants would get substantial prison terms for whatever they did. However, at that point it had become somewhat rhetorical. Their faces had been splashed all over television, their biographies were listed on Internet and the newspapers, and their likenesses were hanging on the entrance wall of every jail in Egypt with the depiction that these were indeed terrible people and what they were alleged to have done. From the looks of things, it would appear that some very senior Egyptian Governmental official has a very serious problem with his sexuality and is hiding behind it. But it doesn’t take a lot to incite official scorn in this country, which is being run as a democratic police state, sort of an oxymoron.    

The worst part about Egyptian law is the fact that it can be either created or destroyed at will. Physicists will tell you that you can’t do that with the matter that makes up our environment, but Egyptian Officials do it with smooth panache as it relates to interpreting their law. Law here is like beauty, it is in the eyes of the beholder, however that is only if that beholder is a government official. If the government really wants somebody here bad enough, they can find a way to put him away no matter what the obstacles may be. Take the example of distressing example of Saad el-Din a political activist who made the colossal blunder of innocently claiming that Hosni Mubarak, the president of Egypt was grooming his son for succession.  

For making this incredible mistake, Ibrahim received a sentence of seven-years in jail on charges that he was involved in embezzling and was in receipt  unauthorized funds from foreign donors. While these would be serious crimes had they been committed, the simple truth is that they were only created to muzzle a voice that was not saying anything particularly wrong. It is readily apparent that you really should not go around mouthing off anything about government officials in this country if you don’t want to spend a substantial time behind bars. Golly Gee, I wonder what would happen if someone said that Mubarak  was a debaucher. Even the rack wouldn’t do the job for that kind of offense. 

 

PUBLIC RELATIONS

 

Little things like these were tarnishing the Egyptian image. To improve their impression with the outside world a tad, the Egyptian Government convened a meeting of the Arab League in late November of 2001. The criteria for being invited was only the fact that the guests had to be card carrying Arab intellectuals. Invitations were hastily sent out to 73 people in the region that seemed to meet the rigid criteria. Those that accepted were the so-called intellectuals from 18 Arab countries and they were asked to discuss the fact that Arab and Islamic culture were under attack from the west. They did not indicate what the cultural values that they thought that were being attacked were but many on the inside stated provided that their names would not used, that the west was looking down upon the dictatorial governments that uniformly made up the Arab World. Some also said that many in the west were not overjoyed with the lack of civil liberties in Arab Countries. Others stated that the west was concerned with a scholastic system that seemed to breed hatred for western values and held that martyred death was warranted against heathens, which seem to be made up over everyone that wasn’t Muslim and many that were as well. All in all, there seemed to be a lot of things that were causing consternation and many seemed to think that if wasn’t for Arab oil, they would have been left to their own devices along with the camels and desert flies to do their thing.  

The New York Daily News, under whelmed by the event said, “The Arab intelligentsia tends to run the gamut from the craven (“Intellectuals Heap Praise on Sultan,” read the headline of a recent story in the Gulf News) to the absurd. The News described an Arab intellectual as a person that owned a suit and had a cousin in the local ministry of education.    

However, the News was careful to report the meetings events in detail in spite of the fact that they seemed to consider the whole affair a blasphemous joke. They said, “Take, for example, the Cairo conference’s declaration that it wants to promote the “values of social justice [and] democracy.”  This is a fine-sounding rhetoric, and to back it up, the Arab League announced the formation of a fund. The first $1 million was donated by the United Arab Emirates . The United Arab Emirates is a small federation with a lot of oil and very few freedoms. According to the State Department’s 1999 Human Rights Report, all books, newspapers and journals must be licensed by the government.  

Television and radio are state controlled and foreign publications are censored. There is no right of assembly and no freedom of association – even children’s clubs need a permit. There is no right to organize a labor union, there are no human rights groups and there is no genuine academic freedom. Te constitution designates Islam as the official state religion and the usual restrictions apply: Women are not allowed to leave the country without permission from their husbands. Married women can’t work without their husband’s written consent, nor can they own a business except tailor shops and beauty salons. In the event of divorce, husbands almost always get custody of the children. There are no democratically elected institutions in the United Arab Emirates . The place is owned and operated by seven extended families. They pass all laws, appoint all judges and make all decisions. Power is passed from father to son.  

Simply put, the chief donor to the Arab League’s new dialogue fund is a medieval tribal monarchy with as much regard for the “values of social justice [and] democracy” as Fidel Castro.” When the conference had ended, Egyptian officials announced how pleased they were to have hosted this magnificent and uplifting event. They went on to say that, this dialogue would go far in improving both civil liberties of their people and increase the west’s understanding of their honorable position. I think that we all were painfully aware of their position even before the conference and if this position were indeed honorable, we would tend to opt for something a little different.   

 

Egyptian Cotton Weavers

 

Everyone knows that Egyptian cotton is the finest in the world and it has been that way for centuries. Egyptian cotton is both stronger and can be spun more finely than literally any other variety, thus producing quality items that have a durability not found in competitive fabrics. All of the very best stores carry cloths that are made from this material and as one would expect, they pay a substantial premium price to get it. As the moneyed middle-class increases globally you would certainly have every reason to expect that the market for this, the finest of materials would only grow as its market increased but sadly, this has not been the case.  

Since the Pyramids were built, Egypt has not gotten many things right and recently the have been doing more things wrong then usual. The economists in this country should get extra credit for screwing up something that was not only not broken but was the best in its class. The only other example we can think of where a product of this quality has been taken over the coals in the same manner was the Rolls Royce Company of England, which while also manufacturing the top product in its industry, was able to go bankrupt with aplomb. While there was some excuse for Rolls Royce to go down the tubes when it did because of an economy that could just no longer afford to purchase items in that price range, the same excuse cannot be attributed to the cotton grown and spun in Egypt.  

Fundamentally, the Egyptian bureaucrats attempted to tinker a tad too much with their economy and in doing it contaminated the only staple that their export market could rely on. The cotton industry in Egypt had everything going for it, abundant supply, inexpensive skilled labor, more than adequate production facilities and a benevolent government. However, when they tried to fix something that was not broken, their world came to an end. You see, the economists in that country were of the belief that their own people were not properly clothed and could not afford to purchase what the fabric that they were manufacturing. They mandated that the Egyptian plants should increase production and decrease price in order to clothe the country. What happened next was that fact that the price could still not brought low enough to impact the local market, and by mass producing the product it lost much of its snob appeal and quality. The export market collapsed, warehouses in Egypt became filled to the brim with unsaleable cotton and the stuff literally started rotting in the warehouses where it sits today. 

You see, the government of Egypt was not really prone to privatizing anything and therefore you never had businessmen doing economic planning. The bureaucrats that were for determining how much of what kind of cotton would be produced were living in an illusionary world where one could accomplish all things simultaneously. What these clods have accomplished is sending numerous previously employed workers to the unemployment lines, having numerous productive factories that turned out substantive quality products lying idle and rusting and causing the bottom to drop out of tax collections.  

During Gamal Abdel Nasser’s administration, when the Eastern bloc was romancing Egypt, they agreed to supply them with high quality new machinery capable of turning out substantial more product per man hour and moreover, they would do this in exchange for friendship and other things of nominal value. Nasser jumped at the opportunity, which sent the cotton industry sliding off a cliff. It seems that know had taken to slightest time to figure out that the machinery they were getting was only capable of processing the much more coarse grades of cotton grown in the colder regions that made up the Soviet Bloc. Making matters far worse, no one realized the mistake right away and before anything could be done about it, the old but reliable cotton manufacturing equipment was sent to the scrap yards and turned into slag.

 

“’Instead of taking a great leap forward we took a great leap backward,’ says Amin Abaza the current head of Alcotexa, the cotton exporters association. Between 60 and 80 percent of Egyptian milling and ginning capacity is still designed for coarser grades, he says.”[1] 

Today, Egypt, which once produced the majority of fine cotton sold in the world, is now only selling 1 per cent of world exports. Moreover, it is not only the factory workers that are hitting the unemployment lines because of this fiasco, production of raw cotton in Egypt has dropped by 40% in terms of gross production in just two decades while both world consumption and production has increased markedly during the same period. Today, Egypt can only hope for a devaluation of their currency to move the product manufactured by the now archaic system and they are getting their wish. The fact that the Egyptian pound is taking a nose-dive can be directly attributed to the fact that no one has any confidence in their economic program. However, the dollars they will receive for this high grade product are literally an insult to their ability to market the product.  

There is a simple solution to the problem, but it is probably far too simple for Egyptian officials to deal with.  It would seem to make sense that if you want to clothe a country, if you people can’t afford the finest fabric in the world and you don’t have the production machinery capable of manufacturing the better grade stuff, you simply import what you need in the low cost category and buy new machinery to manufacture the higher grade to replace is has become either archaic or unusable over time. You use the new machinery for your valued export market and the imported cotton for clothing your population, thus solving two problems in one quick movement.  

Furthermore, it would seem that this would be the kind of investment that the numerous international agencies would want to get behind. The World Bank, The International Monetary Fund or even the Ex-Im Bank would probably all have had some interest in sponsoring and paying for part of this project. Having large numbers of unemployed is not good for Egypt and what is not good for Egypt is not good for the rest of the civilized world because of their critical importance. Egypt is the home to 67 million underfed people and many of them have  become extremely restless under Hosni Murbarak who seems to have a brain trust made up of monkeys. The nations of this world understand Egypt’s plight and how that country goes may also be the way the entire Middle East goes. No one can afford to even contemplate that scary thought and something should be done to rectify the situation before the region itself explodes.

 

Taking a Ride on the Luxor Limited

 

When the British ruled Egypt, they provided a substantive infrastructure for that country. Most probably the onset of World War II increased the interest of the British in providing some of the more important facilities. Not only did the British provide substantially all of the infrastructure development to Egypt but they also built it to last and many of those pieces are still in place. Ports, communications facilities, highways and railroads were some of the additions to the economy provided by the British engineering and labor, however when these sometimes benefactors were told to pack up and leave, the untrained Egyptians soon let most of what was created go to pot. The results of the indigenous population’s engineering ineptness are still creating problems for the population.  

Probably the worst of those facilities created by the British and still in operation today are the railroads. They are run by a government agency known as the Egyptian National Railways (ENR), which is responsible for almost 10,000 miles of contiguous primary and secondary track. Egypt is the not only largest railway market in the Middle East and Africa but it is also the oldest. Internationally, only the British Railroad System has been operating continuously for a longer period of time. There is no money available to upgrade the substantial facilities that make up this hodge podge of motley trains, broken down stations, unusable equipment and ancient bureaucrats that have been poorly operating this decadent system since its inception. Many of the people seem to be the folks that started on the job over a hundred years ago, but that probably is not possible.  

However, these inept bureaucrats run a system that contains 416 railway bridges, 1,275 sledges, 3153 passenger coaches only 20% of which were built with air-conditioning but it hardly matters because for the most part it won’t work. Moreover, when equipment goes bad Egypt cannot afford to buy new, it must take the leftovers from other international railroads and rebuild the cars to fit their needs. These components come literally from a United Nations of countries. German brakes are used and considered the most reliable but they already had stopped working on trains in that country, the shells of coach bodies are shipped in from Hungary because they both fit the track and the Egyptian model.  

The fact that they were poorly manufactured in the first place during the Russian occupation of that country has little to do with necessities felt by the Egyptians. They are cheap, sturdy and can be thrown into service rapidly. The insides of the coaches are purchased in Spain where the trains being put out to pasture at junk yards are stripped of their innards and sent to Egypt. All of these components usually at the Egyptian town of Kom Abu Rady where they are modeled together by menial personnel.   Probably over a billion passengers a year ride on these rails and to many it represents their only affordable means of transportation. The railroad just as the cotton industry has not been privatized so it must be annually subsidized to the tune of over $300 million dollars in very scarce Egyptian currency. This is primarily due to the fact that the railroads income is only 62% of the costs of running the railroad in the most austere  of manners. However, if you want to go steerage, the price will be right but that won't include a place to sit. You won’t get to where your going on time very often, but just getting where you are going has become a trick here and the passengers are overjoyed when they arrive at their destinations safely.  

Moreover, while the railroads still ply the same tracks that were built decades ago, the railroad’s system of switches, lights and inter-train communication has been hardly upgraded at all during the ensuing years and the maintenance people are in a constant battle to keep what exists, operating at all. Most Egyptian trains from an internal point of view resemble a stagecoach more than a passenger train. As a standard practice people bring whatever of their possessions they want to move from one spot to another onto the trains with them. Very often these possessions are alive and each has its own particular bathroom habits. You can imagine the condition of the railroad car after an hour our two with these differing species having needs to relieve their innards at varying times. Moreover, these barnyard playmates are not ensconced in the baggage car or some other out of the way spot, they join their owner right in the middle of what soon become impassable and highly putrid right of ways. Soon the train become overcrowded to a degree that even moving from car to car is literally impossible. And the smell along with the overcrowding is not the worst nightmare of these passengers.  

As a rule these trains have no discernable safety equipment such as fire extinguishers or even emergency brakes. And as if to add to the almost circus like atmosphere of Egyptian transportation, because of the fact that there is no dinning car and the time between stops is arduous, merchants ply their wares in the already overcrowded aisles selling assortments of main courses, desserts and soda pop. Often the food is inedible and it is pitched into the nearest bare spot when the diner patron has finished consuming enough to tide him through the trip. Not only is the food usually putrid at best, it comes at extremely high prices along with strong armed marketing tactics only add to the rides misery.  It would seem that certain of the vendors have somehow acquired a franchise to work the trains and there become offended if you do not jump at the opportunity to purchase their wares. More often than not they become violent when a transaction cannot be negotiated aiding to the bazaar like attitude on this moving vehicle.  

Such was the situation at 11:30 PM, Tuesday, February 20, 2002 when an overcrowded train with 1200 passengers aboard left the Cairo station bound for Luxor. The train was headed on its 300 mile trip south filled with people coming home Luxor from a Muslim holiday in Cairo.  About  an hour and a half into the trip, one of the passengers in the train’s fourth car pulled out a cooking stove and began making dinner in the midst of commuters that were crowding the aisles with unbelievably some even ensconced in the luggage racks overhead. The stove was tipped and the burning cooking oil spread throughout the car. Everyone seemed to be carrying something flammable as first one car, then another burst into flames. Before the motorman could even be made aware of what was occurring, seven cars of the train were ablaze. Worse yet, the windows were shuttered tight, the train was moving and it was almost impossible to get off. When the motorman finally realized what was going on they pulled the train onto a siding at the town of Reqa al-Gharbiya, a village a bit over sixty miles south of Cairo.   

The seats were all made of wood so it was almost impossible for railroad personnel it get at the rapidly spreading blaze, there was neither the room nor the equipment for the passengers to fight it themselves. The train continued on for four miles before the engineer even knew that it was on fire during which time it was whipped by very strong winds, which only caused the fire, which was now engulfing a full seven cars of the eleven-car train to spread with astounding speed from car to car. Before the worst catastrophe in the history of the Egyptian National Railway Authority had ended, almost 400 people had unnecessarily lost their lives. This incident is not atypical of what is regularly occurring in Egypt because of collapsing infrastructure and is far from the only problem of this kind facing the administration in Cairo. “Whether the government will confront the quandary of neglect in a land whose economy is nose-diving and 300,000 college graduates cannot even find the most menial of jobs, is not clear. ‘The world’s development train is moving at a breakneck speed,’ said Khaled Gabr in the newspaper Al Akhbar, ‘while the Egyptian train is still moving at the pace of a typical upper Egypt railway carriage.’”[2]  

Apparently, Egypt either has not learned much from this disaster or they can’t do much about it. The later is probably more true. Strangely, after the fire, the country determined rebuild its fleet of locomotives extending their lives by 22 years each on average. They are getting funding from the Arab Fund for 76% of the work and the Egyptian Government will foot the bill for the rest. It would seem that a more logical approach would be to gradually replace all of the cars with newly manufactured railroad equipment. Sadly, the locomotives will be restored at the same facility that created the most recent catastrophe.

 


 

[1] Egypt looks for a better spin on cotton: Hopes are pinned on export association Alcotexa. The Financial Times, James Drummond, January 23, 2002.

[2] Train Fire That Killed 370 Puts Egypt’s Malaise in Spotlight, Alan Cowell, The New York Times, March 7, 2002.


The Egyptian Pyramids

 

While the Aswan High Dam is clearly one of man’s outstanding recent achievements historically in the field of architecture, two older building feats clearly stand out beyond the rest: in our minds, the Great Wall of China and the pyramids in Egypt. However, the two are poles apart in any number of ways. The Great Wall of China was created to keep out invaders while; the Pyramids were essentially burial grounds for their leaders. The "Great Wall" was not a particularly creative achievement even for its time, but the sheer immensity of it sets this project apart. On a similar scale, but with sophistication unimagined during that era, the pyramids required unprecedented engineering skill.

Egypt’s tourism has been extremely fragile due to the habitually unstable situation in the Middle East. There have been numerous occasions in the recent past when an incident has totally dissuaded people from viewing the pyramids for a substantial period of time. Tourism dropped off the map after the Six-Day War, it sank once again when Sadat was exterminated by extremist assassins; once again it collapsed during the Moslem insurrection in 1992 and got even worse in November of 1997, when in Luxor 58 people were killed by Moslem militants.

Egypt is caught between a rock and a hard place with regard to tourism. It is the country’s life’s blood, but it is also helping to destroy their treasures. Last year alone, over $40,000 was spent just to clean up camel-dung on the approach to the pyramid of Cheops. Thankfully, these beasts of burden are now banned from the approaches, and if you want to ride one of nature’s most nasty creatures, you will now be forced to do it somewhere else. One the other hand, hawkers seem ubiquitous, selling all types of junk that tourists believe they must have at the moment but when it arrives home with them, they can’t quite seem to remember why the urge to purchase had suddenly eclipsed their better judgment. Along with camel dung and unseemly hawkers the area around the pyramid of Cheops also contains another bred, "pyramidiots". These graffiti artists known as "pyramidiots" clutter everything with obtuse sayings and initials making this majestic landscape appear as though instead of being one of the wonders of the world, it now appears as honky-tonkville.

Some of the details of the construction of the pyramids are not hard to piece together. Egyptian architects along with location experts would choose the pyramid’s site with several logistical considerations in mind. Nearby water and a quarry in which rocks suitable for the construction could be mined were absolutely critical elements when picking a location. Once the site had been selected, wooden cargo boats were sent up the Nile from Cairo to transport the rocks from the quarry to the pyramid site. From there, the gigantic rocks were off loaded unto massive wooden rollers with multiple strands of rope attached and in this way slaves were able to pull the boulders onto the pyramid site. Ramps were also used to get the slabs up the pyramids; these ramps were somewhat smaller than those that were used to get the slabs offloaded from the cargo boats. Moreover, because of the greater incline, a larger number of slaves were required to pull the rocks higher and higher up the ramps as construction neared completion. (Pulleys had not yet been invented). The ramps were then dismantled and replaced with stones from the top down leaving no evidence of fact that the ramps had ever existed.

Herodotus talked about fact that the "pyramid was built in tiers, battlement-wise, or according to others, stepwise. When the pyramid was competed in this form, they raised the remaining stones to their places by means of machines formed of short beams of wood. The first machine raised them from the ground to the top of the first step. Above this was another machine, which received the stone upon its arrival, and conveyed it to the second step, whence a third machine advanced it still higher as the process continued. Either they had as many machines as there were steps in the pyramid, or possibly they had but a single machine, which, being easily raised or lowered, was transferred from tier to tier as the stone rose, the upper portion of the pyramid was completed first, then the middle, and finally the portion that was lowest and nearest the ground."

In spite of his grandiose theory, no one ever told us that Herodotus ever saw the construction of a pyramid, and his hypothesis would have required substantially more work than the creation of ramps. It would still seem that some form of pulley would have been required to raise the building blocks, which weighed in at 2.75 tons each, from level to level. On the other hand, supposedly pulleys didn’t exist so the paradox remains.

The logistics of this enterprise, though awesome and complicated, was not beyond the intellectual capacity of the builders that lived during that era. What seems to be unfathomable is the amazing fact that the building blocks when carefully put into place, became totally seamless. The inside of the pyramid was literally a maze of corridors, burial chambers, and museums. However, the entire structure was impervious to atmosphere and no bonding materials capable of that feat either existed or were used in the construction. Moreover, the seamless nature of the building blocks along with advanced embalming techniques had preserved everything in almost its original condition when the tombs were reopened centuries later. The Egyptian workers that worked on pyramid construction were highly skilled and far in advance of competing civilizations by this time had cooper chisels and saws available. They were able to cut smooth edges on the limestone rocks, which became the structure’s building blocks. Craftsmen were also able to cut the stones to incredibly exact proportions and worked from blueprint-like plans etched on papyrus very similar to what we would use today. Even so, that still does not come close to explaining the absolute vacuum that was created within these structures.

The pyramids of Egypt are the only remnants left of any of the original seven wonders of the ancient world. The remains of about eighty pyramids have been unearthed, but those located at Giza, near downtown Cairo are the most famous for obvious reasons. However, in very early Egyptian times, the kings and nobles were buried in unsophisticated brick structures. As the years progressed, structures that one could call pre-pyramids started to emerge. The first pharaoh to build what we would now call a pyramid was Netjerkhet in the 3rd Dynasty. However, It was not until King Djoser’s reign, that the pyramid as we know it came into being.

The pyramid at Giza has been at the forefront of scientific investigation primarily because of the fact that it is located so close to Egypt’s largest city, Cairo. One of the more interesting theories and one that has caused substantial argument in the scientific community has to do with the central passageway in the pyramid. There seems to be a calendar in the passageway that takes into account the six-thousand years for the pyramid’s building in the 3rd millennia B.C. through, the year 3,500 A.D. Interestingly enough, the properties that make up each year are exactly one inch long. This is particularly strange when you consider the fact that the measurement "inch" did not exist at that time. Many attempt to argue the fact away by saying that an inch just happens to be a subdivision of the measurement called a cubit, which did exist then. The Pyramid inch theory had many advocates, a more vocal group of which felt that not only was this an early calendar but it was also a predictor of events to come. This school lost substantial credibility when they indicated that the calendar showed that the world would come to an end on May 5, 2000 when the earth and its moons became aligned on one side of the sun and all of the other planets on the other. The fact that we are writing this story would seem to put that theory to bed.

Djoser had an adjutant named Imhotep that amazingly for his had been schooled in both medicine and architecture. He was able to design a rudimentary building described as a step pyramid for the reason that it was built in stages or steps. Djoser was also able to do some primitive work in body preservation that set the stage for the more sophisticated embalming methods that soon followed. This pyramid rose to a startling height of somewhat more than 200 feet, or about twenty stories, certainly a prodigious feat for the times. King Sneferu in the fourth Dynasty designed the first "modern" pyramid. The tallest of these structures was built by Cheops and stood approximately 50 stories high. This is the pyramid that stands just outside of Cairo immersed in urban blight.

It is at the Great Pyramid of Cheops that we begin to find that there is more to the pyramids than would normally meet the eye. In 1987, a group of scientists who had uncovered a chamber that they couldn’t physically access, lowered a miniature video camera into an aperture that had been created. This camera that had originally been designed to probe the interior of nuclear reactors was lowered into the seam and those peering at video screens showing its decent soon saw an amazing sight on their monitors. Amazingly, inside the pyramid had been placed an entire wooden ship that had been dismantled, 4,600 years ago and left for the Cheops, when he wanted to stretch his long-dead limbs to take for a joy ride, should he become bored. In reality, "Some scholars believe the vessels were intended to carry the spirits of the dead on their eternal journey around the earth with the sun-god Ra…Still others speculate that they were simply funerary boats used to ferry Cheops’ body down the Nile for burial."

No mater what the ship’s purpose, there was no question that the ancient Egyptians believed that in order to them to survive, the Pharaoh had to make a safe journal into the after life to meet with the Sun God. You see, the Pharaoh’s were thought of as "Living Gods" and their deaths only brought them together with all other Egyptian Gods, that is if they were able to make the journey successfully. Thus, the pyramids became known as a kind of resurrection machine each generation worked endlessly to make sure that the device was as near to perfect as they could; you see, they felt that their very lives were on the line if the Pharaoh did not arrive at his destination safely.

The pyramid took 20 years to build and required 100,000 slaves who worked in three-month rotations. There are 2.3 million stone blocks that make up the 449-foot tall structure and they each weigh somewhere between 2.5 and 15 tons. "The Great Pyramid of Cheops, …a model of precision mathematics and construction, had once been covered in a skin of polished limestone and capped in beaten gold. In the crystal clear light of Egypt, it must have been almost impossible to look up it at certain times of day. Reinforcing perhaps the notion that this was the vessel through which the dead pharaoh passed into the sun and the realm of the gods." The plateau on which the pyramid is located also houses two smaller pyramids and the Sphinx. This area has been denominated to be a Unesco, World Heritage Site.

Many archeologists have attempted to make the case that the Sphinx was constructed 8,000 years earlier than the pyramids by a people that have vanished from the face of the earth, a lost civilization. Furthermore, some of this esteemed group even feels that this lost civilization came from Atlantis. There argument seems to go something like this; this is no question that there is substantial water derived erosion on the Sphinx and that in comparing this damage with the pyramids that surround it on the Giza Plain, there is no similar damage to the pyramids. Moreover, the area in which the Sphinx was built receives no appreciable amount of amount and has been left in this parched condition for over 2,500 years. Thus, they query, how do you get water damage on something when it doesn’t exist on surrounding structures supposedly built at the same time? A good question.

They indicate further that you would have to go back another 5,000 years to find an epoch where the Plain received enough water annually to find erosion. The Egyptian Empire did not exist, as we know it in that era and thus the theory of a lost civilization. The argument makes a lot of sense taken in a vacuum, but many of today’s scientists do not believe in that theory and debunk it by showing the results of carbon dating tests which seem to indicate that the Sphinx and the Giza Pyramid co-existed. As to the erosion argument, they indicate that the Sphinx was never in the same league as the pyramids and that it was kind of ancillary project to keep the Pharaohs company when they died but was not a life or death type of critical element. Thus, these people indicate that the Sphinx was a cheap throw-in created out of second-class material that was already weathered by water when it was quarried.

On the other hand, with civilization totally encircling on this area, it is only a matter of time before erosion that is more serious begins to occur. To celebrate the millennium, the Egyptian Government brought in French musician, Jean-Michael Jarre to create a moment to behold for ushering in the millennium. The audience that watched the show numbered in the tens-of-thousands, not including the chorus, which contained a small chorus of 1,000 singers, dancers and musicians. In addition, giant images of Pharaonic Eye of Horus were shown on the side of the Giza pyramids by a series of powerful projectors. As the hour struck twelve, a helicopter was scheduled to lower a copy of the structure’s original golden sheath cape onto the Cheops Pyramid. While the rest of the floorshow went off without a hitch, ultimately cooler heads prevailed and substantial potential damage was avoided by eliminating the golden sheath cape.

Astronomically almost perfect, The Cheops Pyramid was aligned so that its northern portion almost exactly faces due north. As a matter of fact, not only is this piece of information true of the Cheops Pyramid, but it was literally accurate for the other eighty pyramids that have been found as well. Scientists have had a difficult time figuring out how the Egyptians ever discovered where true north was. Some had said that the pyramids were aligned in symmetry with the North Star however these delusional experts soon became the laughing stock of the scientific community when the archeologists were informed by the astronomers that in the sky over Egypt 4,500 years ago, the North Star was not even visible. Kate Spence, an Egyptologist at Cambridge University attempted to determine what caused a modest inaccuracy in direction.

By recreating the sky that would have appeared to the Egyptians of that time, she was able to determine that by lining up the star Kochab in the Little Dipper and the star Mizar in the Dipper in certain years you would get a line pointing directly to true north. Because of earth wobble, she indicated that these same stars did not always point in that direction and, thus the reason for the slightly skewed fronting, but how in the heck could the Egyptians ever have figured that one out?

Mysteries beget mysteries but there is not much question the Cheops Pyramid weighs in at about 6-million tons and it rests directly on latitude 30, an astronomical work of magic that would have been even a stretch to these early and highly dedicated astronomers.

 

 

The Great Lighthouse at Alexandria

The City now known as Alexandria was said to be founded in 332 B.C. by Alexander the Great when he was only 23 years of age. Alexandria, named after the young conqueror, achieved substantial status as the center of the Hellenistic Empire, which then spanned Europe and Asia. Although, Alexander renamed the city, he was not really its founder, as civilizations had existed here for thousands of years. In Alexandria’s, later years, with the ascendance of Rome, the city was still was no less then the second most important city of the world. It was here in Alexandria that the trollop Cleopatra had affairs with both Julius Caesar and Marc Anthony. This miraculous city of the ages became covered by ash, dirt and pollution over the years, and the modern city of Alexandria was constructed directly on top of these ruins by the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. It was Alexander’s generals that began the Ptolemy dynasty and went on to rule Egypt for the next 300-years.

 

"Alexandria was once the leading city of the ancient world, a powerful commercial scientific, and literary center. Its international reputation for sophisticated scholarship centered on the library of Alexandria, which contained the intellectual riches of Mesopotamia, Persia, Greece, Rome and Egypt. Called the Mouseion – Shine of the Muses – it was a meeting place of some of the greatest minds. There, Euclid wrote his work on elementary mathematics, and astronomer Eratosthenes gave the first precise estimate of the Earth’s circumference, more than 15 centuries before Copernicus and Galileo were born." ()

The city could boast of many wonders, and when the Arabs conquered Alexandria in 640 AD, they were able to make the statement that they had taken a city containing "4,000 palaces, 4,000 baths, 12,000 dealers in fresh oil, 12,000 gardeners, 40,000 Jews who pay tribute, 400 theatres of places of amusement." Everywhere one digs foundations in Alexandria, another ancient part of the city reappears causing substantial delays while government bureaucrats and archeologists fight over whether the exposed site it too historically valuable to be destroyed by the construction pylons. Moreover, when times are good, which they now are in Alexandria, developers begin demolishing the older structures at an ever-increasing crescendo hasting the city’s rebuilding. Usually, the historic sites come up second to the needs of this bustling, modern city. However, plans are underway to restore many of the fabled monuments in Alexandria. Furthest along are the restoration plans for the "Library" and between the Egyptian Government, Unesco and private donors, over $172 million has been contributed to a learning center that is almost completed which will ultimately house 8 million books, a science museum and planetarium.

As were indicated previously almost every time an excavation takes place, some monument from the era of Cleopatra was discovered and such was the case with the Alexandrian Library, one of the true wonders of ancient civilization. It was also discovered that beneath the site was probably the ruins of the Ptolemaic palace. Unesco gave the archaeologists only about two months to do a study of the property and then continued the five-story deep digging and foundation building. Sadly, for our progeny, whatever was there is now relegated to history. Such is life in Alexandria today, the entire floor of the city; twenty feet down are ruins dating back to ancient times. It has become a contest between developers and archeologists to see who gets there first.

Moreover, Pierre Cardin has also joined the restoration game and unbelievably he has excellent credentials as a Unesco peace ambassador. Cardin, 79 years old, is also head of a worldwide fashion, cosmetics and food empire that has a history of creating grandiose projects. "He once staged a fashion show in Moscow’s Red Square for 200,000 people, used the gardens of Beijing’s Temple of Heaven as a catwalk and has opened boutiques in Vietnam and Latvia." Cardin is obsessed with The Great Lighthouse at Alexandria and is planning a "concrete column covered with mirrored glass that will rise 435 feet and cast colored light beams 34 miles out to sea from the tip of a jetty overlooking Egypt’s Bay of Alexandria when it is completed.

About 16.500 computer-controlled lights inside will illuminate the obelisk. Powerful laser beams will pierce the darkness of the sea, before swinging back to light up Alexandria’s historic monuments. Constructed of a special concrete designed to withstand earthquakes and tidal waves, its facades will be inscribed with Egyptian hieroglyphics, Greek, Latin and Arabic letters. An archaeology research center and cultural facility with an amphitheater also are planned for the site." During the day, the tower will be a vast reflecting mirror creating an image of the surrounding city, but by night, there will be 40 light shows, consisting of multi-colored symbols comprising all of the colors of the rainbow along with long-distance beams. There is already a completed model of the obelisk and the project is only waiting for final funding to begin construction.

The Lighthouse at Alexandria was the last of the lost six wonders of the ancient world to vanish from the face of the earth (). It was built in the third century BC when Ptolemy II (Ptolemy Philadelphus) determined to finish the dream of his father, Ptolemy I (Ptolemy Soter) and construct the world’s tallest lighthouse. Moreover, it was to be no less than forty stories high () with an enormous lantern, mirror and a statue of Poseidon at its pinnacle. The lighthouse and its beacon could be seen from 30-miles away and it was indeed an awesome sight when visualized for the first time.

When finished, this was an achievement of enormous proportions for the time, and travelers from all over the globe came to pay it their respects and gaze at it in awe. It became such a global monument that many famous artists painted pictures of the "Lighthouse" in spite of the fact that most had never seen it. To put the height of the edifice in some perspective, the largest lighthouse ever built in the United States was the "Cape Haterus Lighthouse" which is only one-half the size of its former counterpart in Alexandria. Furthermore, architects accept the fact that the "Lighthouse" was the first skyscraper in history. However, it was the Ptolemy’s, father and son, who had succeeded to the Egyptian thrown after the early death of Alexander the Great, who had insured its completion.

Plutarch reported Alexandria and the lighthouse’s background in his book, "The Life of Alexander", in which he stated that, "The conqueror (Alexander) being so taken by Egypt decided to found a large and populous Greek city, which should bear his name. While in the process of concluding negotiations with his architects on the location of the lighthouse, he had a vision. In the night, as he lay asleep, he saw a wonderful vision of a man with very hoarylocks and of venerable aspect appeared to stand by his side and recite these verses: "Now there is an island in the much-dashing sea, in front of Egypt; Pharos is what men call it." Alexander, ever on the move, having new worlds to conquer did not hang around long enough to see his vision to fruition and never could have dreamed that his revelation would become the seventh wonder of the world. The "Great Lighthouse" was completed in the year 285 BCE and inaugurated by Ptolemy II.

The lighthouse was built in three stages, each dramatically different in shape. The lowest sector was built in the shape of a square, the second level was octagonal and the uppermost was circular having a ramp for access to its pinnacle. This ultimately led to a spiral staircase, which could be accessed by beasts of burden that in turn would carry the fuel to run the beacon at the ultimate top of the structure. This creates an historical controversy; although the fuel to generate the light's beacon was most probably wood, on the other hand historians are certain that there was no wood within numerous miles of the lighthouse’s site. The only solution to this enigma was probably solved by barging wood from African forests located far up the Nile or through the harbor’s (Magnus Portus) Mediterranean access from Cyprus or an adjoining Island. However, in either circumstance, fueling the beacon was unquestionably a logistical nightmare. During the night, the fires rays were picked up by a gigantic mirror in order to guide the shipping safely through the harbor, but during the day, the wood was allowed to smolder, thus pointing the true direction to Alexandria’s Harbor.

The structure was written about by numerous prominent historians. Arab historian El Massooudi in his book "Pastures of Gold" wrote the following: "One of the most magnificent of what we have seen of Alexandria’s wonders is the lighthouse which God the Mighty and Sublime has led his servants to construct as a wonder to the beholder and a guide to the voyager, without which he would never reach the shores of Alexandria. You can see it from a distance of seventy miles from the city …From within, it is very spacious with many corridors, entrances and rooms to the extent that one can easily lose one’s way inside it…Atop it is a mosque said to be blessed where people pray to obtain benediction…We prayed in the aforementioned blessed mosque (this structure was built in 868-884 by the Sultan Ibn Touloun) and saw the wonders of its construction to which no description can do justice." What is amazing about this account was the fact that it was written in 956 AD, 1200 years after the lighthouse was first constructed. The lighthouse would eventually remain in almost continuous operation for over 1700 years, probably a record that will never be equaled for commercial construction.

Another account, but quite a bit less enthusiastic, was noted by Rihlat Ibn Jubair Fi Misr Wa Bilad el Arab wa el Iraq wa el Sham was Saqaliyya, "The Travels of Ibn Jubair in Egypt, the Arab Countries, Iraq, the Levant and Sicily in the time of the Crusades": "At length we reached Alexandria on April 5, 1326… I went to see the lighthouse on this occasion and found one of its faces in ruins. It is a very high square building and its door is above the level of the earth. Opposite the door, and of the same height, is a building from which there is a plank bridge to the door; if this is removed, there is no means of entrance… It is situated on a high mound and lies three miles from the city (the city had expanded by this time) on a long tongue of land which juts out into the sea from close by the city wall, so that the lighthouse cannot be reached by land except from the city. On my return to Egypt in the year 1349, I visited the lighthouse again, and found that it had fallen into so ruinous a condition that it was not possible to enter it. Al-Malik an-Nasir had started to build a similar lighthouse alongside it but was prevented by death from completing the project."

The statue that stood at the top of the structure was most probably a statue of Zeus but any number of other possibilities have been conceptualized including the prospect of dual statues of Castor and Pollux, Zeus’s twin sons. The fact that so many uncertainties continue to plague historians about each and every facet of the lighthouse is peculiar in lieu of the fact that it stood for longer than any of the other world class ancient structures with the exception of the pyramids. Moreover, while only the exterior of the pyramids were open to public viewing, the lighthouse as witnessed by tens of thousands of sailors, passengers and residents of Alexandria as well as tourists from other neighboring cities. Its mere survival for that many centuries speaks volumes for the architectural prowess of its builders and the planning that must have gone into the creation of this massive structure. Even more startling is the fact, that Arab historians have reported no less than 22 earthquakes that have struck the structure during the period of its existence. One of the explanations for its longevity was the fact that the structure was highly regarded by the Arabs, and the Egyptians especially considered it to be a national treasure. Special care was taken to insure that cracks in the lighthouse were promptly fixed and masonry loses were immediately repaired.

This lighthouse was critical in guiding shipping through the crowded port of Alexandria, especially during inclement weather. It was in use for over eleven centuries and acted as an enormous aid to transport throughout the Mediterranean. Eventually the structure was inundated by a series of regional earthquakes and in the late 14th century, became a mere shell of its former self, ultimately being replaced by a fort built partially out of the lighthouse’s debris. The lighthouse soon became known as the Pharos of Alexandria. Pharos was the name of the oblong island in close proximity to Egyptian mainland, on which the lighthouse was constructed. In addition, the structure became so famous that the term Pharos became the root word for lighthouse in Spanish, French, Italian, as well as other languages.

Eventually, treasures were found in the sea around the lighthouse’s original site as early as the 1960’s, and it soon became a popular scuba diving location. In approximately 20 feet of water or less you could come face to face with sphinxes and enormous statutes. In the 1990s, while the site was being used for filming an underwater movie on Hellenistic Alexandria, the Egyptian director found artifacts that could only have come from the lighthouse itself, and filming was halted. Soon state-of-the-art techniques were used by archaeologists to peer through the murky waters and see what was below. An advanced magnetometer, created for the French Military that was designed to plot variances in an area’s magnetic field, has been licensed to explorer Franck Goddio who has filled his 70-foot catamaran with that and other highly sophisticated electronic devices. Thankfully because of Goddio’s work along with that of others, over 7,000 items have already been classified that were extracted from the sea at that location. Some of the items that have been identified are colossal stone statues of pharaohs, and 28 sphinxes, obelisks, dozens of decorated columns and architect blocks, a male stature, 30-feet tall, a statue of Isis (they say that it was this statue that stood in front of the lighthouse, the crown weighed 2 ½ tons, the head 3 tons and the torso 17 ½ tons.), along with smaller objects of art.

Alexandria was one of almost twenty cities built during the reign of Alexander the Great bearing his name. None of the others exist today, but because of the detailed work that went into the planning the layout of both the city and its harbor, it became known as a city for the ages. Alexandria was a truly planned community and the harbor was an architectural wonder during its time. Both the city and its harbor required an extensive canal system to insure that the mud and silt that normally would be carried down the Nile would not build up and clog the port. The canal connected Alexandria to both the Nile and the Mediterranean in spite of the fact that the city was built over twenty miles from the confluence of the Nile Delta and the Mediterranean Sea.

The lighthouse was ultimately destroyed by a series of earthquakes between 1303 and 1349. Moreover, the earthquakes that struck the region in the fourteenth century were very powerful and the land in the that general vicinity sunk over 20-feet, engulfing many other fabled ruins including the "Royal Quarters" that was located on the lost island of Antirrhodos, where Anthony courted Cleopatra. These sumptuous quarters were so enormous that they fully took up 1/3 of the old city of Alexandria. "At a depth of no more than 10 meters, you will find more than 2,300 years of history. We follow the strata downwards, from modern Alexandria to the Ottoman period, the Mamluks, the Fatimids, Byzantines, Romans and finally the Greeks." In order to promote tourism, the Egyptian Government has left most of the objects in place that were found submerged near where the lighthouse used to stand. They are now heavily promoting scuba diving, glass-bottomed boats and submarine tours of the area in an underwater archeological park.

 

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