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826290.  Thu Jun 23, 2011 7:23 pm Reply with quote

Egypt is an ancient country at the cross-roads of the Middle East and Africa.

Capital City - Cairo
Currency - Egyptian Pound

Population: 84.5 million (UN, 2010)
Capital: Cairo
Area: 1 million km2
Language: Arabic

Egypt has estimated 84.5 million people (2010) who live mainly along the Nile River, where the only arable land is found. Egypt includes large areas of the sparsely populated Sahara Desert area. Egypt's population is becoming increasingly urban, in the fast growing cities like Cairo and Alexandria. Tourism is a major source of income and employment.

After 30 years in power in early 2011, a revolution, resulted in the removal of President Hosni Mubarak.

hassan el kebir
826310.  Fri Jun 24, 2011 3:43 am Reply with quote

I came to live here on 25th Sept 2008.

It is a totally bonkers country.

It has a few bits of mildly interesting archaeology and lots of camels.

826312.  Fri Jun 24, 2011 3:48 am Reply with quote

Does it give you the hump hk?

hassan el kebir
826325.  Fri Jun 24, 2011 6:22 am Reply with quote

Only sometimes, Zebra, only sometimes ;-)

I shall try to write something serious(ish) for the thread, though, especially as the lack of tourists over the last couple of seasons combined with the rises in the cost of living are causing serious difficulties here. We are almost completely reliant on the tourists cash. Many, many people haven't earned any money in two years. Life ain't fun for the vast percentage of the Luxor inhabitants at the moment.

826328.  Fri Jun 24, 2011 6:40 am Reply with quote

Even the camels are groaning at that one.

An interesting bit of info I know is that the name for Egypt has some peculiar history for it, not only in it's Western name, but also in it's native name of Masr.

In ancient Egypt the name for Memphis, which was the capital for some time, was Hutkaptah, and this was translated into Greek as Aigyptos, which is where we get our modern name for Egypt, but is also where the root for Coptic comes from as well.

Incidentally, at one time it was believed that some Romani people had coem from Egypt, and were in fact exiled for hiding the infant Jesus, so that some Romanis were called Egyptians, and this eventually became Gypsies. In Spain and France they're sometimes known as Gitano, or Gitan.

As for the native name of Masr, it's interesting to note that the original Egyptian name for the country would have been Kemet, which meant Black land, after the black soil at the flood plains. Egypt's Semitic neighbours, including the Hewbrews, called them Mitzrayim (or similar derivations), which meant "the two straits". As modern Egypt became and Arabic country, they used the semitic Arabic name for their country.

826343.  Fri Jun 24, 2011 7:54 am Reply with quote

Somewhat interestingly, or possibly Quite Interesting-ly, the population of Pharoahic Egypt may have been a LOT larger than once supposed, thanks to the work of US Egyptologist Dr Sarah Parcak.

Her NASA backed work was shown on BBC, not long back, and there is an article here:

Definitely very interesting!


hassan el kebir
826697.  Sat Jun 25, 2011 11:44 am Reply with quote

I’m sitting up at the factory pretty well on my own, as last night there was a major fight in the family’s home village. Though my family weren’t directly involved it is nigh on impossible not to be dragged into things when almost every family in the village is related, however tangentially. Anyway, as most of the staff, and Mohamed, are at the hospital in Luxor, visiting the wounded, then, I think, having to go to see the police, I am not really expecting too much to happen here today. So, taking full advantage of the peace and quiet, I figured I might as well try to explain a bit about life here at the moment though, there is the strong possibility that this could turn into one of my rambles.

I shall blithely expand my experiences here to include all of Egypt; I am doing this as people seem to have family contacts all over the country and I have heard nothing to indicate things are any different in any of the other regions of the country. Luxor is, though, slightly different in that the region’s income is almost entirely made from the tourist trade.

Even before the recession took hold and wiped out the last two seasons, the average Ahmed on the street had to have at least a couple of jobs, as he would only be earning about 600LE (approx £60) a month per job . Now, however, nobody has earned anything for two years and the cost of living is rocketing, many everyday necessities cost more or less the same as they do in England; tomatoes are about £1 a pound, a small chicken will set you back a fiver. It is no joke when I say that I know people that are struggling to put even the cheapest of food on their tables and haven’t eaten meat in months.

Until the world’s current financial problems began three years ago, Egypt was pottering along quite nicely; tourists were coming by the planeload, visiting the sites and spending their hard earned pennies but then the recession came along and quite definitely put an end to it. This is unlike the terrorist shootings at Hatshepsut’s Memorial Temple back in ‘97, that only took a couple of years for the tourists to start coming back but this time, this is a problem that is a great deal more complex and is going to take Egypt a great deal longer to recover from.

One of the main reasons why it is going to take so much longer for the Egyptian economy to recover has more to do with the Egyptians themselves.

Fifteen years ago, there were far fewer hotels, guest houses, restaurants, feluccas, camels, caleche and taxis; then everybody made a comfortable living. Egyptians being Egyptians looked at their friends and family making money and decided it was an easy thing to do and so began the absurd increase in these tourist-reliant businesses. As the years passed people began complaining that they weren’t making the money they used to do and so the appalling hassling of tourists started to pick up. None of the Egyptians could understand it was a finite number of tourists visiting the country every year and that their businesses were fast outnumbering these visitors.

Until such time as all these businesses are cut in number by at least 50% there is little hope of people earning enough to live on.

I have recently returned from Hurghada; things are as bad there. Everywhere you look there are partially built hotels, restaurants and shops; many of those that had opened are now boarded up as they have failed to deliver the riches the owners expected. The coastline of Egypt is in danger of becoming a reincarnation of the Spanish costas.

Even if, miraculously, this coming season, tourists begin to come back and spend money again it will still not really help. Because ‘the family’ is the centre of everyone’s life, help and employment are always given whenever possible (and, not infrequently, when it really shouldn’t be) thus, and I shall use Mohamed as an example, at the factory there are something like thirty people employed; there are easily twice the number of salesmen he really needs, there is a lad who makes the teas, there is another lad who sweeps the floors, another who wraps any purchases and so on; so many jobs created just to allow someone to earn some money, however small that amount may be. In reality, apart from the artists, this place could run quite happily with a staff of about half a dozen.

Quite where all the extra proper jobs that are needed to remedy this situation will come from, God alone knows.

This is not going to turn into a pro-Islam rant, I promise, but it is impossible to talk about Egypt without mentioning Islam. It is very difficult to explain just what it is like to live in a country where almost the entire population absolutely, unquestioningly, totally believes in God and it is this absolute belief that is the core of what makes these people what they are. Europe/the West/call it what you will doesn’t have this sort of belief any longer; WWI and the flu epidemic pretty well put paid to Europe’s belief in God. It is the fact that these opinions are polar opposites, which is why trying to explain certain aspects of life here is so bloody difficult, that you’ll just have to accept that it all makes perfect sense when you live here: God will look after you.

To add to the melting pot, the physical nature of the country dictates how the people are, too. The strip of land on either side of the Nile is very narrow; where it ends the desert begins, abruptly and without pity. Most of the population live along these two narrow strips, which, until the building of the Aswan Dam, was flooded every year and, behind them, the desert breathing down their necks. The country is blisteringly hot, it is impossible to work during the afternoons. These factors, along with its long, turbulent political history, have helped to keep Egypt very much a time-lost, peasant based country. With so much of its user-friendly land being needed to grow food and for the population to live on there was little left to allow for any sort of expansionism or progress.

It is these extremes of faith, geography and history that are helping to exacerbate Egypt’s problems.

If Egypt becomes too Westernised, and already the insidious creeping in of reality TV programmes has begun, we have ‘Arabs’ Got Talent’, she will lose her magic and her soul and become nothing more than one huge Pharonic themepark.

Quite how she can recover from it without losing her soul................well, that’s in God’s hands

826800.  Sun Jun 26, 2011 4:00 am Reply with quote

Elegant writing, Hassan.

Sad, sad, sad.

826977.  Sun Jun 26, 2011 5:10 pm Reply with quote

Thank you Hassan - that's the best explanation of what it's like to live in Egypt now that I've read.

826992.  Sun Jun 26, 2011 5:42 pm Reply with quote

Thank you very much Hassan for that eloquent description of modern Egyptian life, it was very moving.

hassan el kebir
827284.  Mon Jun 27, 2011 1:27 pm Reply with quote

Thank you all, very kind of you. 'tis always good to know my ramblings are appreciated.

Cigarettes have just gone up 1LE a packet, which. as almost every male here smokes, is going to make life just a little bit more difficult.

This financial crisis must have hit the hash dealers particularly badly, everybody has given up hash, it's too bloody expensive, and started smoking the comparatively cheap local grass. The only person I know who is still smoking hash is one of the local Imams and I guess he doesn't exactly get overcharged too much.

The fight in my family's village seems to be escalating rapidly into full scale warfare. I still haven't got to the bottom of what it's all about as whenever someone tries explaining it to me they get so excited their English flies out of the window but it seems to have something to do with somebody stealing some land from someone else. As the land is apparently, in the desert I can't help feeling the reactions are a bit extreme.

So far, there are seven people in hospital (that I know of); two have knife wounds so bad they've had to be sent to a large hospital about a hundred miles away; one young man has lost three fingers from one hand and there's a couple of bad head wounds.

Mohamed's nephew, Ibrahim, has just visited; he was walking through the village earlier today and was set upon by a group from the other family who have given him a pretty serious beating, thankfully only with sticks. He is covered in bruises but wont go to the doctor, he's too busy trying to work out how to get his own back.

I have a very, very bad feeling about how this is all going to turn out.

827321.  Mon Jun 27, 2011 4:50 pm Reply with quote

I'm beginning to wonder if there's a girl involved somewhere down the line, and the latest outbreak is just a reaction to simmering tensions.

hassan el kebir
827406.  Tue Jun 28, 2011 3:48 am Reply with quote

I don't think so CB. I think this is to do with all of the money problems everybody has. One of the families involved is the biggest in the village; I think this is more to do with good old-fashioned jealousy.

Whatever the reason, it is all very unpleasant and stupid.

827570.  Tue Jun 28, 2011 3:11 pm Reply with quote

Hope for Egypt’s future?

827599.  Tue Jun 28, 2011 6:03 pm Reply with quote

Although this is more worrying as a future possibility:


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