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MODERN EGYPT

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Bianca
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« Reply #45 on: January 14, 2009, 10:33:25 am »









Nothing could have supported Qotb's argument better than a decree issued late last summer by the Doctors' Syndicate banning organ transplants between Muslims and Copts. Appeals by civil society organisations failed to reverse the decree as head of the Doctors' Syndicate, Hamdi Hassan, insisted society would not tolerate organ donations across religious boundaries.

It is common to blame the growth of sectarianism on president Anwar El-Sadat's promotion of political Islam as a counterweight to left-wing and Marxist influence in post-Nasser Egypt. The mid- 1970s are often referred to as the starting point of the decline in national unity between Muslims and Copts, the so-called "Unity of the Cross and the Crescent".

It is an analysis that Tarek El-Beshri criticises as overly simplistic in his book Copts and Muslims within Civil Society. He references incidents that date back to the early years of Ottoman rule in Egypt and which betray deliberate or indeliberate discrimination: Copts were not immediately included by Mohamed Ali in the early phases of the formation of the army or in the earliest groups of students sent on academic missions overseas. However, as El-Beshri notes, they were always part of the administration of the state, especially in the financial sphere. And as many pro-unity advocates like to preach, they stood side by side with Muslims in the fight against the British occupation of Egypt, the 1919 Revolution being cited as the ultimate example of this unity.

El-Beshri argues that throughout the modern history of Egypt there were moments when national unity was challenged but it ultimately survived because Copts and Muslims realised they shared a common fate as Egyptians. It is the stand taken last summer, against a backdrop of sectarian strife, by the movie Hassan and Morcos, starring Omar Sharif and Adel Imam.

But the argument is daily contested, not just by sectarian incidents but by the discourse of the religious establishments. According to Magdi Girgis, a historian at the American University in Cairo, the Church, and to a lesser degree Al-Azhar, are pulling in the direction of religious polarisation.

"The Church, rather than the state, is perceived by many Copts as their ultimate representative in civil as much as religious matters. Muslims have recourse to Islamic establishments, though it is used to a lesser degree given the perception that the Egyptian state is itself Islamic. Throughout Egyptian history, the religious representation of citizens has been a precursor of sectarianism."
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« Reply #46 on: January 14, 2009, 10:34:54 am »









Copts and Muslims are not short on criticism, always on an off the record basis, of the role of Pope Shenouda in this state of affairs. They are also critical of the Gulf influences exercised over leading Islamic scholars and their constituencies. Yet the state has failed to live up to the expectations of either Copts or Muslims, creating a vacuum that it was inevitable that religious institutions would seek to fill.

The implications for society are serious. For every mosque there has to be an opposing church and if a church is built there has to be a bigger mosque. For every TV channel that promotes Islamic teachings there must be a Christian TV channel, no matter how big the cost or minimal the returns.

Any Muslim enterprise in Upper Egypt is now perceived by the Coptic community there as an attempt to flank the predominantly Christian villages in Upper Egypt to deny the Copts a stronghold. And every Coptic enterprise, especially if it involves Naguib Sawiris, caricatured by many as the "Coptic" business tycoon par excellence, is automatically viewed with suspicion as part of some conspiracy to establish Egypt as a Coptic zone.

The broadcast of OnTV channel, which advertises itself as a "strictly Egyptian TV channel" but which carries more Coptic features than any other satellite channel except for the clearly Coptic ones like Hayat, has raised many eyebrows.

OnTV is owned and run by Copts. But, says one employee, being an Egyptian channel owned by Copts does not mean that it is trying to target Muslims. "Rather the opposite. We have no intention of targeting anyone. We just want to say that Egypt is about both Muslims and Copts and not just Muslims."

"This is what we are, Muslims and Copts, though we are also individuals," says Ramzi, a Copt in his early 40s. Ramzi got married this year. But it took him a long time to get over his earlier romance with Riham, a Muslim girl.
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« Reply #47 on: January 14, 2009, 10:36:27 am »









The Ramzi and Riham story started in high school. "Eventually we had to face reality. We were from different faiths. We could fall in love but we couldn't get married. But when I fell in love with her and when she fell in love with me we did not think about religion -- not at all."

The common ground shared by Muslims and Christians -- be they Copts, Catholics or Protestants -- is not small. In Upper Egypt, where villages are at times strictly segregated between Copts and Muslims, the boundaries are crossed most often when Muslims and Christians attend the same moulids.

"The Virgin Mary is for all of us. I came to ask her to help me get a baby. I lit a candle and I will light a dozen candles when I get pregnant," said Amal, a veiled Muslim woman, who attended the moulid of the Virgin Mary in Assiut last August.

Regular moulid -goers say that every Muslim and Coptic moulid attracts a mixed audience. And as Muslim and Coptic MPs argue when draft bills related to taxes or healthcare are debated, Muslims and Copts stand together in the face of the government.

It is true that the Muslims and Christians that Naeim Sabri portrays in his novels Shubra and The Diaries of an Old Child, who celebrated Ramadan Iftar and Christmas Eve together, would seem anachronistic today. Far more compatible with today's atmosphere is the image conjured by Sayed Mekkawi in Swansong of a group of street kids running after a Coptic child to erase the cross tattooed on his wrist.

Yet it is equally true that when demonstrators took to the streets in several Egyptian governorates over the past few days Muslims and Copts stood side by side.

Youssef Ghali, the minister of finance, imposes taxes that "harm" both Muslims and Copts. Habib El-Adli, the minister of interior, applies security measures that impinge on Muslims and Copts alike.

"I am Egyptian: Christian or Muslim, I am Egyptian," is the title of a regular musical performance given by Ehab Abdu at Al-Sawy Cultural Wheel. By mixing Sufi Muslim singing and Christian hymns Abdu says he is promoting the thing all Egyptians need to promote -- national unity of all Egyptians.

 


© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly
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« Reply #48 on: January 14, 2009, 10:40:40 am »









                                                      In the name of religion






By Lubna Abdel-Aziz

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

One balmy autumn afternoon, in a thriving Asian metropolis, something wicked their way came. Evil struck this modern sophisticated, prosperous city of Mumbai, and killed over 200 innocent people. Shrill cries of "Islamic terrorists" were heard around the world. This time they were right, or perhaps, half-right. The perpetrators were Pakistani members of a self-styled Islamist terrorist outfit "Lashkar-e-Tayyeba." Although now outlawed in Pakistan, the organization continues to function, in groups, inspired by El-Qaeda. They are not however, those Muslim Arab terrorists the world dreads since 9/11.

 
Do not blame religion
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Such terror-driven Islamist groups thrive in Pakistan because of the deep-seated hatred between Hindus and Muslims. Once they shared one nation, but the ideologues of Hindutva claimed that the Hindus and Muslims were two entirely different nations, and Muslims could remain in India only if they turned Hindu, or be stripped of all civil rights. The two irreconcilable religions were partitioned and a separate state for Indian Muslims was founded, and named Pakistan. The partition did little to end the hatred between them. Anti-Hindu sentiment is considered the defining feature of Pakistan nationalism, resulting in the rise of radical Islamist groups such as Lashkar, as well as many others who were often used by their government to battle Indian forces in Kashmir. The Lashkar set up several training camps in Afghanistan giving the Taliban both military and moral support. Now they are a noose around the neck of the Pakistani government which finds it hard to control the extreme lawlessness of such groups. This hate-driven side of Islam, saddens Muslims around the world, who must seek to reclaim their religion and calm the fear of non-Muslims. It is imperative that they begin to erase the growing myth that Islam is a religion of terror and terrorists. Terrorists exist in the four corners of the globe - Hindu terrorists in India, Irish terrorists in Ireland, African terrorists in Rwanda, Sudanese terrorists in Darfur, Jewish terrorists in Israel, Arab terrorists in Palestine, etc. No religion should be blamed for the crimes that people commit. People are evil, not religions.

All religions are peace loving. They teach compassion, friendship, and goodwill towards one's fellowman. Yet, some of the worst atrocities imaginable were perpetrated in its name. Throughout history religion has been used as a driving force to kill, pillage and persecute. Even in our modern history wars continue to be waged by individuals, groups, or countries in the name of God. How many religious wars have been waged over the city of Jerusalem, sacred to all the three great religions?

Christianity, like Islam is a religion of love, peace, and forgiveness, yet for two centuries (11th -- 13th century), Christians fought Muslims over the Holy Land. For more than 400 years, during Christianity's infancy, Christians made special pilgrimages to Jerusalem to visit the Holy Sepulchre, the hill of Crucifixion, and the tomb of Christ's burial. They were granted safe passage by the Saracens who held the city. In 1065 the Seljik Turks gained control of the city, massacred 3,000 Christians, abused and persecuted the rest, destroying their churches, and using them as stables. A storm of indignation rose throughout Europe, stirring all Christians to rescue their Holy Land from the grasp of the infidels. Pope Urban II described the humiliation and profanation of the Holy places where Jesus had lived. With one voice, the faithful cried Dieu le volt, Dieu le volt (It is the will of God). Thousands affixed the cross on their garments and set off for the Holy Land to kill and be killed. The Crusade wars lasted over 200 years.

It is always baffling that when people suffer persecution and destruction at the hands of others, they themselves turn around and inflict it on others. In its first three centuries, Christians endured persecution at the hands of Emperor Nero, and other Roman authorities, who rounded up and killed them. Some were torn apart by dogs, others burnt alive. A few centuries later, it was the Christian church that initiated the "Medieval Inquisition," all over Europe, a black page in the history of the religion of Jesus Christ. The teachings of the Christian church were regarded as the foundation of law and order. Heresy was an offence against the state as well as the Church. By attempting to stamp out heresy, the church tortured and burnt to death those who did not share its beliefs. In the 1500s Roman Catholic leaders turned the Inquisition against Protestants, and Christians were engaged in killing fellow Christians.

During the Middle Ages, such methods were standard and accepted. Al Jihad, a Muslim movement, which like the Crusades was accepted then. Muslim armies tried to spread the faith rapidly. Splintering sects branded other Muslims as infidels, and declared Jihad against them. Today, we never hear of the Spanish Inquisition, but the mention of Al Jihad is rampant. Irish Catholics fought Irish Protestants for decades, resulting in the partition of Ireland.

From prehistoric times till the present day, Religion has been used as an excuse to kill. Going after the kill is one base instinct man finds hard to control. It is softened by a gilded coating of religious convictions, but it can never be blessed by God.

Pitiful are the crimes Man continually inflicts upon his brother. Genocide is not caused by natural disasters, it is a deliberate plan by one man to eliminate members of his own race. During the last 100 years, Jews were persecuted and killed at the hands of Christians, Muslims were eliminated in Bosnia and Kosovo, Buddhist monks were killed at the hands of the Chinese, Muslims kill Hindus and Hindus kill Muslims, the war between Israel and Palestine became a war between Jew and Muslim. Will man never learn?

Kill, kill, kill, must be a primeval need still buried deep down in the darkest depths of man's heart, one that he needs to overcome to be truly human. How dare he blame Religion!

Men will wrangle for religion, write for it, fight for it, die for it -- anything but live it!


-- Charles Caleb Colton
(1780 -- 1832)

 


© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly.
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« Reply #49 on: January 17, 2009, 09:23:46 am »








                                                       THE COMING STORM

 
 

 
January 2009
Zawya.com

Over the last quarter century or so, tourism in Egypt has expanded from a small industry focused mainly on antiquities to a significant contributor to the national economy offering a variety of attractions for travelers, from the sun and beaches by the Red Sea to awe-inspiring monuments and desert safaris. The sector has faced setbacks before, such as militant attacks on tourist targets, but it has recovered and kept on growing. Now, as tourism infrastructure continues to expand, the industry is being confronted by another significant challenge: the global economic downturn.

While the worldwide economic slowdown will affect numerous segments of the domestic economy, arguably one of the most impacted sectors will be the tourism industry. In essence, Egypt is exporting services when travelers visit, and demand for these services is tied up in the economic fortunes of those abroad.

The top markets for tourists visiting Egypt are facing tougher economic times at best, and recession at worst. The largest source of tourists, Russia, is beginning to experience economic troubles, while Germany, the UK and Italy, the next three largest markets, respectively, have all gone into recession.

This is a potentially serious problem for Egypt, since tourism constitutes a significant part of the local economy. In recent years, the sector has been one of the leading earners of foreign exchange for Egypt. The industry generated $9.5 billion in revenue in 2007, Minister of Tourism Mohamed Zoheir Garana told Business Monthly in a December interview, noting that it directly and indirectly employs 12.6 percent of the workforce. A slowdown in tourism would be just one more bad piece of news for an economy that will invariably suffer other blows as a result of the global downturn.

While local tourism will certainly face a rockier road ahead, the variety of services that Egypt has to offer travelers bodes well for the industry, at least relatively. "Anybody with money to spend on a holiday has got a lot of options, so I suppose everywhere is competition," says Kevin Brett, general manager of the luxury 617-room Conrad Cairo Hotel. "But nobody actually has the blend of the history, the sheer number of sites, the sheer size of the country and good beaches [that Egypt does]."
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« Reply #50 on: January 17, 2009, 09:26:53 am »









From Sphinx to sun



But not all of these attractions were always available to travelers. Tourism in Egypt has moved from an industry centered on antiquities to a much more diverse sector today, featuring beach destinations alongside its unique cultural heritage, as well as more accommodation and a largely expanded infrastructure.

The range of antiquities available to tourists is massive, even if a few big-ticket attractions the Pyramids of Giza and the Valley of the Kings, for example - garner much of the attention. Egypt's extensive history spans ancient to modern times, and with it comes a multitude of antiquities, from Pharaonic temples and tombs to beautiful churches and mosques, and everything in between.

"From the cultural point of view, it's irreplaceable," says Simon Cooper, president and CEO of The Ritz Carlton Hotel Company LLC, which operates one hotel in Sharm Al Sheikh and recently signed a contract to take over the management of the Nile Hilton. "There's no alternative."

Then, of course, there's the ever-present sun, a natural advantage for Egypt. "When you go down to Sharm Al Sheikh or Hurghada, you have absolutely guaranteed great weather," says Cooper, who points out that in the winter months of December, January and February, this is quite an asset. "If it's January, I'm not going to go to Nice. I'm not going to risk the southern coast of Turkey."

The focus on beach vacations in Egypt has grown exponentially in recent years. "The total number of rooms in Egypt was only 18,000 [in 1982], and we were only depending on one product, which was the culture part," explains Garana. In the same year, development of the leisure tourism sector in the Red Sea coastal area and the Sinai peninsula took off, explains the minister, leading to one of the largest shifts in the industry's recent history. "These two areas had only 200 rooms in each area. Now actually they are dominating over 66 percent of the total capacity."

This variety of attractions ensures that visitors have an ample number of options to choose from while designing their trips, and of course, needs and desires vary. "I think more tourists are interested in comprehensive round trips in Egypt; these include beach, cultural, religious, as well as desert tourism," says Daniyah Darwish, a vice president of equity research at EFG-Hermes. "But of course it depends upon the interests of tourists and their nationalities," she adds, arguing that tourists from eastern Europe are more likely to seek a beach vacation, whereas those from Asia often seek more comprehensive packages.

The government has made efforts to promote the beach aspect of Egyptian tourism, Darwish says, although she notes that this process could have been more effectively executed. "The government has launched a promotional campaign and is trying to promote Egypt as a sun and beach type of destination, but I'm not quite sure that this campaign was very effective," she argues. "Of course, tourism has boomed... but I think if the Ministry of Tourism puts the right advertising image, the right finances and resources into these campaigns, we can attract more tourists and the right target markets as well."

Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the Ministry of Culture's Supreme Council for Antiquities (SCA), believes that concentrating on Egypt's sun is not such a bright idea, and isn't shy about expressing it. In his view, Egypt's culture is the draw, and what he perceives as the Ministry of Tourism's focus on the beach aspect of Egyptian tourism is flawed. "[The ministry] should just try to have a strategy [focusing on] how Egypt is safe, and not talk [about how] Egypt has the sun," he argues. "This is stupid, because the sun is everywhere... Egypt has other things to offer that tourists should know [about]."

The emphasis on beach tourism, however, seems to be working. The Ministry of Tourism stopped releasing monthly arrival figures at the end of 2007, but the numbers before then show a large influx from eastern Europe in recent years from 733,000 in FY 2002-03 to 2.187 million in FY 2006-07 in a development paralleling the continued rise of tourism in Egypt's coastal areas. "I think beach tourism is gaining on cultural [tourism], as evident by the room supply available in beach destinations such as Hurghada and Sharm Al Sheikh versus cultural destinations such as Luxor and Cairo," Darwish states.

Whatever the reasons, the tourists just keep on coming. In 2007, 11.1 million tourists visited Egypt, according to Garana, who said in his December interview that he expected arrivals to reach 13 million tourists in 2008. And revenues have been growing alongside arrivals, climbing from the tourism ministry's figure of $9.5 billion for 2007 to an expected $11.2 billion for 2008.
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« Reply #51 on: January 17, 2009, 09:28:41 am »









Revamping and expansion



Although the sector has already undergone significant growth, it is continuing to enlarge and refine itself. In terms of its cultural heritage, Egypt is exerting great effort to increase what it has to offer visitors, with the accompanying work comprising a lengthy list of attractions being either constructed or upgraded across Egypt, from Roman ruins in Alexandria to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. "When you strengthen [culture], you strengthen the income from tourism," Minister of Culture Farouk Hosny told BUSINESS MONTHLY.

Through the SCA, the Ministry of Culture is striving to construct new museums and renovate existing ones; 19 new museums are being built at the moment. Currently under construction, among other things, are the Grand Egyptian Museum, which is located in Giza and is expected to be completed in 2012, and the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, which is slated to be finished in two years and is located in Cairo.

At the same time, the SCA is working to upgrade archaeological sites that are frequented by visitors. "Almost more than 60 percent of the archaeological sites that are visited by tourists have been improved," Hawass says, pointing to work to fence in and protect the site of the Pyramids, as well as improvements to the Citadel and Al-Moez Al-Din Allah Street in Islamic Cairo, in addition to a multitude of other locations.

Hosny explains that there is a spectrum of museums available in Egypt. "These museums give a variety and are all over Egypt, which of course excites tourists," the culture minister says.

As the government is striving to increase the infrastructure surrounding cultural sites, it is also increasing its capacity to handle more arrivals. While there were 182,000 rooms available at the end of 2007, a total of 211,000 were expected to be ready at the end of 2008. Furthermore, Garana points out, there are another 158,000 rooms under construction expected to be operational over the coming three to four years.

"[Infrastructure expansion is] happening all over Egypt, although the government is focusing on increasing the investment and FDI in the Red Sea [area], as well as the North Coast," says Darwish, who notes that expansion is also happening in Cairo. According to the tourism minister, 70 percent of the rooms currently under construction are in coastal areas.

[The revamping of antiquities infrastructure] will attract more people to come to the cultural sites, because it's a unique product," says Garana. "But when you're [talking] about the leisure [aspect of tourism], definitely you're competing with the rest of the world, and this is where you have to really work very hard." He notes that this entails improving the value of services and products in the leisure-related parts of the tourism industry, as well as increasing the efficacy of the marketing of the sector.

The tourism minister says that only a little over 20 percent of the tourist arrivals in Egypt come for the antiquities, and hints that an increase in this percentage would not be overwhelmingly significant in light of antiquities' overall importance in attracting visitors. "When we're talking about the cultural part, [about] how much it represents from the global number that we have, it's 20 percent. That means we're talking about 2.6 million [visitors]," Garana states. "Even if I have a growth of 10 percent, it's 260,000. When I say a total growth of 10 percent of 13 million, that's 1.3 million."

Hawass strongly disagrees with the contention that only slightly over 20 percent of tourists come to Egypt for the antiquities, and emphasizes the point that culture is, in his mind, the most prominent feature of Egypt. "I come to swim in Sharm Al Sheikh, maybe, but in my mind Egypt is the Pyramids, the mummies, the Sphinx and the Valley of the Kings," he says. "Cultural tourism, in my opinion, is the most important thing for any tourist who comes to Egypt."

In what is arguably a reflection of the growing prominence of beach tourism, the government is working to build museums in the coastal resort areas of Hurghada, Sharm Al Sheikh and Marsa Alam.

Counter-intuitively, all of this expansion of tourism infrastructure may hurt the sector. The skills of those working in the industry are in need of constant improvement, a job that becomes more difficult the quicker it expands. "Definitely our biggest concern always lies with the human resources. [We're working] to upgrade the existing workforce," Garana explains.

There has been improvement over time in the quality of services that the Egyptian tourism sector offers to visitors, says Ahmed El-Askalani, country manager for Egypt at American Express Travel Services, an Egyptian-Bahraini joint venture operating as a franchise of American Express. "I've been in this industry for the last 25 years and I believe that it is getting better day by day and year after year," he argues.

But the speed at which the sector is growing is outpacing the ability of the tourism industry to upgrade the skills of those it employs, the tourism minister says. "Definitely the momentum is going much faster than [the speed at which] we can have a workforce that's measured by international standards to be very good," Garana says. "If I am going to rate it, we are... around 80 percent capable of handling the growth."
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« Reply #52 on: January 17, 2009, 09:30:04 am »










Turbulent times



Maintaining the quality of service is not the only difficulty facing tourism in Egypt. With the global economic downturn, the reality is that the sector is in for a rough ride. However, it isn't alone. "I believe there is going to be a slowdown globally," Garana says.

Although the economic downturn is sure to impact the growth of tourism worldwide, different aspects of the industry will likely be touched in different ways, says Cooper. "I think that hotels that have relied on corporate business and corporate groups will be the most impacted," he argues. "Hotels that rely upon leisure will be the least impacted because when you research consumers, the last thing they'll give up is their vacation." Although consumers may pass on three-day weekends, he says, it is much more difficult for families, especially those from Europe, to forsake an annual vacation.

"Definitely people will not stop traveling," Darwish states. However, she says that patterns of travel will be affected, arguing that people will take shorter trips to closer locations, as well as "look for trips offering more value for money and try to reduce the non-room revenue, basically anything not included in the package they paid [for]."

"Traveling is a way of living, and I don't think people will stop," concurs the tourism minister. "They will cut down definitely on the number of trips, and they'll be very choosy in their destinations. Quality is going to be a major factor, [as well as] price and proximity." While Garana says that Egypt has an advantage in these three respects, he acknowledges that the industry will still suffer.

The anticipated local impact of these global changes seems stark when compared to the expansion the industry has experienced in recent years. "I don't expect growth [in 2009]," Garana says, and when asked if the sector will shrink, he replies affirmatively. What exactly will happen, though, is another story. As to any speculation about this year, the tourism minister says, "It's going to be an uneducated guess... Nobody knows."

But it appears that the slowdown has already begun. Some observers note that the Christmas season should not have been heavily affected because many tourists book in advance and thus would face penalties for cancellation. However, it appears that there were hotel operators that felt the pinch, explains Dr. Ahmed Abdel Alim, a dentist and owner of the 72-bed Dahab Hostel, which is located in downtown Cairo. Pointing to his conversations with people at other hostels in both Dahab and downtown Cairo, he says: "Everyone is talking about [the fact] that this season is not a good season at all, and [this is] probably because of the financial crisis."

The global situation has affected business, says Ramadan Hassan, manager of the Hotel Vienna, a 20-bed hostel in downtown Cairo. "Of course there is a difference between business before and now."

Garana argues that while tourism will be hit globally, Egypt is well positioned to deal with the fallout. "I believe that Egypt is going to be the least affected by it," he says, noting that domestic tourism has a number of advantages in this more challenging global environment. "Egypt is a year-round destination," the tourism minister notes, also pointing to "the diversity and the variety of products [available to tourists]." He adds that for the cost, Egypt has "good value."

Egypt does have a number of characteristics that make it strong as a potential destination for travelers, Cooper argues. In addition to its unique cultural status, Egypt is "very competitive" as a leisure tourism destination, he says, citing its location, weather and the ease of air travel to reach it. "If you don't have airlift, you're not going to have guests in hotels," Cooper adds. The government has been concentrating on increasing the infrastructure for this type of travel, says Garana, who points out that 80 percent of those visiting Egypt come by air. Just last month, a new LE 3.1 billion terminal at Cairo International Airport opened.

The value that Egypt presents tourists, another oft-cited advantage for what the domestic tourism sector has to offer, is now also under some pressure. While Egypt is still a reasonably-priced destination, the appreciation of the Egyptian pound against the euro and British pound is a potential problem for the sector, as this makes Egypt relatively more expensive. Two of the top four markets sending tourists to Egypt, Germany and Italy, use the euro, while the UK is the third largest exporter of tourists to the country.

"We found a lot of other countries devaluating their currencies 20 to 30 percent," says the tourism minister. "On the other hand, the Egyptian pound is so strong that we're losing a competitive edge vis-a-vis the other countries," he adds, citing Turkey as an example.

Given the gravity of the situation facing the industry as a result of the current global economic situation, a response of some form is certainly in order. The Ministry of Tourism has made moves to deal with the worldwide crisis, says Garana. "We were one of the very first nations in the world to react to the global meltdown," the tourism minister says, pointing out that the ministry has been consulting with stakeholders in the tourism sector in response to the situation.

As for getting the word out about Egypt, "we're introducing a very intensive and aggressive marketing campaign with tour operators," Garana adds. "You have to know that 62 percent of our business comes out of 10 countries," he explains. "We are focusing very much on this, plus of course we're focusing more on the eastern European countries, because I believe that they were the least affected by the economic meltdown."

Garana says that the government is cooperating with tour operators. "They are the best people to relay the message of what they can offer to their clients," he says.

While efforts are being made to keep attracting tourists, confronted with the specter of declining numbers, players in the tourism industry face the temptation of slashing prices in order to lure more customers.

Even before the crisis in the world's financial system that erupted in October, weakness in the global economy combined with increases in room supply was expected to lead to a "softening" in both occupancies and room rates by mid-2009, Darwish explains, with a fall in room rates anticipated by 2010 or 2011. October's conflagration pushed expectations for the timing of this softening forward, she argues. "I think we will really see a decline in room rates and occupancies in 2009," she notes, pointing out that room rates already began to fall in the last two months of 2008.

The danger of cutting prices is that it takes a while to bring them back up, explains Garana. "It has [been] proven that [lowering] prices really affects the industry tremendously, and the country at large, because from what we have seen in the past, [for] the cycle to go back to its normal figures takes between five and seven years," he argues. "That's why we were very much aware of that, and this is one of the main things we reacted to quickly."

But as things slow down, a warning from the ministry is unlikely to be enough to dissuade more players from cutting their prices. The tourism minister points out that a significant portion of the sector, particularly leisure tourism, relies on charter travel, which has three actors: tour operators, suppliers and airlines. In charter travel, the impetus to slash prices is high, Garana explains. "You have to take very quick decisions, because an empty seat will never be replaced when it flies empty; same thing with a bed; same thing with the cost of a tour operator."
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« Reply #53 on: January 17, 2009, 09:31:32 am »









Origins of a crisis



The roots of the current financial crisis lie in the US mortgage market, explains Beltone Financial's head of research, Angus Blair, who says mortgages were given to people who weren't qualified to receive them - a situation that depended on rising housing prices to sustain itself." You then had all of this mortgage debt, in effect, which was sold on and repackaged by global investment banks to a variety of parties," he explains.

Low interest rates set by the US Federal Reserve earlier this decade were key in setting the stage for the current turmoil, argues Wael Ziada, head of Egypt research at EFG-Hermes, who says that these rates contributed to the development of a bubble in the real estate market. "[This] situation, where you have cheap money and an asset-pricing bubble forming, coupled with investment banks getting really creative and getting really ahead of themselves in creating very exotic products some of [which were] kept off the balance sheets was, briefly, a recipe for disaster."

For this situation to sustain itself, Ziada argues that three factors had to remain constant low interest rates, a "buoyant" economy and control over inflation. "If any of these three things goes wrong, then basically the whole thing comes down," Ziada argues. And amid rising interest and inflation rates, it did just that.

As the US economy began to slow down, this put pressure on the ability of the American people to pay off their debts, says Blair. "You had larger and larger numbers of people who were becoming delinquent in their mortgage payments, so that then had a repercussion [on] a whole variety of other instruments across a whole number of institutions."

With many financial institutions reporting losses from investments in the mortgage market and fear of bank failure reducing willingness for interbank lending, liquidity in the global financial system started to dry up. In a defining moment highlighting the frightening potential of the credit crunch, in August 2007 BNP Paribas suspended the ability of investors to withdraw from three of its funds involved in the US housing loan market.

The credit crunch continued to shake both US and European financial institutions. Arguably the largest shocks from the credit crisis came in September 2008, when Lehman Brothers, one of the biggest names in investment banking, went bankrupt within a short period that also included the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as American Insurance Group (AIG) all while European institutions continued to suffer.

Capital markets worldwide have plunged since September, and governments and central banks around the world have been trying to pick up the pieces ever since.



By Louis Wasser

© Business Monthly 2009 


http://www.archaeologynews.org/link.asp?ID=378915&Title=The%20coming%20storm
« Last Edit: January 17, 2009, 09:32:33 am by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #54 on: January 17, 2009, 08:09:07 pm »









                                                               Keep an eye on the Sphinx







Al-Ahram Weekly
Sept. 9, 2008

While the SCA secretary-general was being interviewed for "Guardian's Spotlight" in July 2008, pigeons were seen pecking away at the eyes and ear cavities of the Sphinx and their droppings were splattered on the stone. Jill Kamil discusses this new danger



The secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities had much to tell his interviewer on "Spotlight". Zahi Hawass waxed lyrical about "exciting things" that have been happening in the field of archaeology -- the discovery of a new tomb of a queen at Saqqara that has yet to be formally announced; the entrance to two tombs in the Valley of the Kings on which excavation will begin in October; and "big happenings" in Aswan, Edfu and Kom Ombo. He was enthusiastic about the "improvements" at Dendera and the Step Pyramid at Saqqara, and gave details of the new museums at Rashid, Arish, Minya and Amarna, as well as site management at Beni Hassan and Tuna Al-Gabel.

Zahi Hawass raved about the progress on the Civilisation Museum at Fustat and the Grand Egyptian Museum at Giza. Indeed, he also had much to say about the plan to upgrade the Pyramid Plateau and turn it into "a tourist-friendly and hawker-free zone". He mentioned that the project's security component included installing cameras, alarms and motion detectors, as well as building up a 20-kilometre fence.

I wonder if the new electronic security devices, however, while monitoring the movements of tourists and hawkers, cameleers and horse riders, will be able to pick up the unwelcome winged creatures that are finding a comfortable and shady roost in the eye and ear cavities of the Sphinx, and causing damage to the stone with their droppings. Apparently the pigeons are pecking away at this most grand and famous of monuments, finding in it an appetising calcium meal. Back in 1991, after a Save the Sphinx programme of restoration, Hawass declared that the monument was not in any danger. "Its head and neck can live for another thousand years," he declared at the time. He could not possibly have foreseen this newest threat -- the high level of acidity in the droppings of birds and its destructive effect on the stone. Just how serious is the problem?
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« Reply #55 on: January 17, 2009, 08:10:42 pm »











I am reminded of the press coverage in the United Kingdom back in November 2002, about the health hazard and the "mess" created by some 4,000 pigeons in Trafalgar Square, when campaigners called for the right to continue to feed the birds. The British press made a great hue and cry about that. "Court threat over Trafalgar pigeons", "In defence of pigeons" and "Pigeon protest ruffles feathers", the headlines screamed.

Well, we in Egypt are not that concerned about birds, and we certainly don't cast birdseed around to feed them. Yet pigeons here in Egypt have become thoroughly urbanised. They habitually build nests and raise families in garages, on balconies, and in and around satellite dishes. So once they pass the word around that the Giza Sphinx offers singularly superior accommodation for Rest and Recreation than Greater Cairo's concrete jungle, perhaps they will fly to Giza in ever larger numbers.

The Sphinx was carved from a single block of limestone left over in the quarry used to build the Pyramids, and scholars believe it was sculpted about 4,600 years ago by King Khafre, whose Pyramid rises directly behind it. Half human, half lion, it has the head of the king with his nemes head covering, and its body is 57 metres long and 20 metres high. It certainly exudes an aura of mystery: the Arabs called the Sphinx Abul Hol, Father of Terror; and 18th- and 19th-century visitors claimed that it was the work of an extremely ancient civilisation that had completely disappeared.

If more pigeons are attracted to the area, their droppings will cause more and more damage. The monument has undergone numerous restorations over the millennia, beginning with one conducted in about 1400 BC by the prince who later became Pharaoh Tuthmose IV, who dreamt that the Sphinx asked him to clear the sand around it in return for the crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. It was cleared, and he was crowned Pharaoh, but wind- blown sand soon buried the monument to its neck -- its nose, incidentally, had been missing for at least 400 years by the time Napoleon arrived in Egypt in 1798 with the band of French savants who took measurements of the head.
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« Reply #56 on: January 17, 2009, 08:11:57 pm »









The first attempt to clear away the sand in modern times was made in 1816/17 by a Genoese merchant, Caviglia, who did not get very far. The next attempt was made in 1853 by Auguste Mariette, founder of the Egyptian Antiquities Service. He managed to clear the sand right down to the rock floor of the surrounding ditch, and the task was taken up by his successor, Gaston Maspero. The French engineer Emile Baraize, working for the Antiquities Service, did a more thorough job. He not only dug along the Sphinx's body, but found ancient restoration blocks scattered about which he replaced, adding some small brick-sized blocks of his own.

More recently restoration was carried out in the 1950s and 1970s, when some of the damaged masonry was patched up around the lower parts of the Sphinx's body. In 1979 the Sphinx Project of the American Research Centre in Egypt (ARCE), in collaboration with the German Archaeological Institute in Cairo, produced the first scale elevations and detailed plans of the monument. It was discovered that the stone used in the modern restoration of the monument flaked and powdered more rapidly than the earlier restoration so various steps were taken to consolidate the stone.

In the 1980s, the famous Sphinx was subjected to intensive care. Chemicals were injected into the stone for strengthening, but the project had to be abandoned because the chemicals unexpectedly caused the treated parts to flake off, taking with them some of the original rock surface.

A Sphinx Committee was formed, comprising scholars of the EAO, Egyptian universities, and foreign experts, and they all agreed that the "new" and "harmful" cement and gypsum mortar of previous restorations should be removed immediately and replaced with stones that matched the 1979 restoration, using the plan and elevations of the ARCE Sphinx Project.
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« Reply #57 on: January 17, 2009, 08:12:57 pm »









Oh dear! Poor Sphinx.

Work went ahead. Its paws and rear haunches were covered with nearly 2,000 limestone blocks held in place with cement (the suitability of which was later questioned). Meanwhile, its neck caused considerable concern because it seemed to be eroding more rapidly than the rest of the statue.

Culture Minister Farouk Hosni called on UNESCO to form a committee comprising 13 specialists in the fields of archaeology, reconstruction, restoration and geophysics, to discuss procedures needed to protect the Giza Plateau generally and the Sphinx's neck in particular. It was even thought a good idea to ask the British Museum to send the Sphinx's beard of the back to Egypt so that it might ensure more stability to the head. The British Museum was said to be willing, as long as Egypt covered the cost. So the matter ended there.

The committee members, meanwhile, agreed that the Sphinx was suffering from weathering and chemical saturation by carbonic, nitric and sulphuric acids "produced by chemical pollutants associated with neighbouring cement and other industrial facilities," as well as vibration caused by dynamiting in quarries in the vicinity, not to mention the rumbling of heavy tourist buses across the plateau. Additionally, there was seepage from the inadequate sewage system of the neighbouring Nezlet Al-Simman village.

When, in 1988, a sizable piece of bedrock toppled from the right shoulder of the Sphinx it caused much concern. A "Save the Sphinx" campaign was immediately launched with a large initial donation by American Express in Cairo, as well as the Getty Conservation Institute of California in collaboration with the EAO. A six-and- a-half-metre-high mini-observatory was set up on the statue's haunches to monitor the direction and changes in the speed of the wind, the humidity and pollutants in the atmosphere, the temperature and effects of water and salt on limestone.

Could it have monitored winged creatures?

Probably not.
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« Reply #58 on: January 20, 2009, 09:30:08 pm »



A painting from the Mughal period 









                                              Mughal manuscripts thief arrested






AlArabOnLine
Jan. 20, 2009

Egyptian authorities have seized stolen pages torn from an illustrated Mughal-era manuscript from an Australian woman trying to smuggle them out of the country, Egypt's antiquities authority said.

Zahi Hawass, Egypt's chief archaeologist and the general secretary of the Supreme Antiquities Council, said in a statement the pages may be from a book dating from the Indian Mughal period, which began around the early 16th century.

The manuscripts will be returned to the Islamic Arts Museum in Cairo, the statement said.

Egypt is home to some of the world's richest antiquities including pharaonic treasures, Roman ruins and Judeo-Christian and Islamic artefacts.

Egypt has launched several campaigns in recent years to secure the return of antiquities illegally removed from the most populous Arab country.

Since 2002, it has succeeded in bringing home around 5,000 stolen or smuggled artefacts, the ministry of culture said.
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« Reply #59 on: January 22, 2009, 10:26:41 am »









                                                      RESTORING BEAUTY





AlAhram Weekly
Jan. 15-21, 2009

The heart of Cairo is being promised a much-needed restoration campaign, Amira El-Noshokaty talks
to the man who is in charge of making the city look its best

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
'Penalties will be passed on whoever disturbs the restorations of any old building and whoever builds
 
a new one that does not follow the urban harmony district code'

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
You know you are in Downtown Cairo when your eyes fall upon grand boulevards and even grander buildings with late 19th century and 20th century European-style doorways and sculptures, designed in a combination of art deco, art nouveau, baroque and neo-Islamic styles. Of course, over the decades much beauty has been tampered with, by both the hands of time and careless people.

Since the 1980s there has been an ongoing struggle to rescue Downtown's architectural heritage. The struggle has gone round in circles due to the lack of an official body and the necessary laws in place for the restoration and preservation of the area.

That is, until along came the National Organisation for Urban Harmony (NOUH) with its restoration plan for Khedivine Cairo. First established in 2004, NOUH is affiliated to the Ministry of Culture, and aims at enabling beauty to prevail all over Egyptian urban space. The project for the Downtown area kicks off with Ramses Street, and extends from Abbasiya to Abdel-Moneim Riad Square in Tahrir. "This is only the beginning of our project," NOUH chief Samir Gharib told Al-Ahram Weekly. Phase two is set to cover the area from Talaat Harb Square to Mustafa Kamel Square in Downtown. The third target area stretches from Mustafa Kamel Square to Opera Square. On the long term, it is set to cover all of Downtown, and eventually the rest of Egypt. The projects are planned "one step at a time, because of two factors: time and money," Gharib noted.

Restoration work is limited to the façades of historical buildings or those with a special architectural style. "Our first goal is to allow beauty to flourish in our urban space, and apply this value to the elements occupying space such as the façades of buildings, streets, sidewalks, lampposts, greenery, and advertisements -- indeed anything that you see on the street. However, if there is an internal problem that is affecting or threatening the well-being of a given façade, then NOUH restores the building from the inside as well," Gharib told the Weekly.
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