<![CDATA[rss-Misc]]> All Rights Reserved for The Cairo post <![CDATA[Misc]]>]]> 100 29 <![CDATA[Mauritius expects 4.8 pct rise in tourism earnings in 2018]]>
Statistics Mauritius said it forecast tourism earnings to climb to 61.6 billion rupees ($1.83 billion) from an estimated 58.8 billion for 2017.

Tourism revenue were calculated at 55.9 billion rupees in 2016.

Tourism is a valuable source of foreign exchange for the Indian Ocean island, known for its luxury spas and beaches.

The statistics office said it expected tourist arrivals to rise to 1,425,000 next year from an estimated 1,360,000 for 2017.

Mauritius attracted 934,679 visitors from January to September, up6.1 percent rise from the same period a year earlier.]]>
11/24/2017 4:57:58 PM
<![CDATA[DHL CEO On E-Commerce, Future Plans In Egypt ]]>Nour Suliman first joined DHL in the 1970s, and now runs a small empire as the region's CEO where DHL Express moves some 10 million shipments every year and runs an impressive average of 160 flights daily. We sit down with Suliman, the company's CEO in the Middle East and North Africa, to get his thoughts on how the explosion of e-commerce is fuelling business, the company's planned investments and why it's a good idea to invest in Egypt now.

by Ahmed Goher

How has DHL helped the Egyptian market grow in the past two years?

We make sure we do everything that we can to help facilitate those results; and so we took on Vision 2030 and partnered with the?Ministry of Planning and Administrative Reform to send out a message to the world that the future is here. We put the messages: Invest, Trade, and Visit Egypt on every package that we shipped from Egypt to the world;?and over 2,000,000 envelopes and boxes reached different corners of the globe with that message. We have just recently announced that this campaign is extended to another year to help increase its reach and improve its impact.


How has the Internet helped fuel DHL's growth in Egypt?

Although MENA makes up a small fraction of the estimated US$1.5 trillion global e-commerce market, at just over 1%, recent reports stipulate that the GCC e-commerce market is set to quadruple to reach US$20 billion by 2020, prompted by a surging consumer base, high disposable incomes and changing buying habits, among other factors.

There are large numbers of local produced products that are eager to become international, and many of them are quite capable of competing in the global market place with a high end product that will be well received. We are working on new partnerships that will enable us to provide those local SMEs with the opportunity to become global. Do you think it is a good idea to invest in Egypt?

Absolutely, it’s an excellent time to invest in Egypt. We ourselves invested EUR 40M on a state of the art facility at Cairo Cargo City in Cairo International Airport, we also added a weekly network flight to Cairo, and are currently discussing the possibility of increasing that to twice a week. We have seen an increase in customer confidence which has boosted expenditure, and resulted in significant growth in shipments both inbound and outbound; this provides no reason not to feel optimistic about Egypt’s way forward. What are DHL’s planned big investments in Egypt?

Since 2014 we have opened a USD 55M new state of the art facility and Country Office in Cairo International Airport, expanded our air network by adding a weekly flight into Cairo, and more recently we opened a new US$1.04 Million, 1,300 sqm facility in Alexandria that acts as a new office, a service point and warehousing space capable to handle over 2,500 shipments per hour. We have also increased our Service Points across the country to reach 31, are in discussion to increase our weekly flights to twice a week, and have a plan to open a few facility in Port Said soon.


What’s in the pipeline in 2017 when it comes to green solutions?

In 2016 we started working on energy saving initiatives and successfully managed to save 75% of our energy at all our Service Points across Egypt, and we will continue to further develop this initiative in order to help save more energy this year. We are also looking at trying to digitalize many of our transactions therefore saving more on paper waste.

Additionally, we have been working closely with a few NGOs in Egypt to help provide support for underprivileged families and children, these partnerships will definitely continue during 2017.

How is technology playing a part in your operations?

We have introduced new scanners across the Middle East, root planning, and Nano-gram tools, which means we are able to plan and forecast better due to the information that is now available as a result of these tools. Read the full feature package on DHL and other industry leaders looking ahead at 2017, out now in the January issue of Egypt Today.

1/5/2017 5:13:53 PM
<![CDATA[At Magdi Yacoub's New Research Center, Scientists Set To Understand Egyptians' Genome]]> The Magdi Yacoub Heart Foundation recently opened a new research center in Aswan dedicated to studying heart disease and treating patients free of charge in a region that has long suffered from neglect. More importantly, the center aims to further understand the genome of the community so that doctors can offer personalised - and more effective - treatments to Egyptians.

by Ahmed Goher

“The whole world is upset about the fact that Africa and our region is lagging behind in this key area. We simply don’t know enough about our communities to be able to properly help them,” Magdi Yacoub, the foundation's founder, said. Through the latest genome sequencing technology, this information gap can be closed and new precision personalized treatments can be used, Yacoub said. Precision medicine is disease treatment and prevention that takes into account the patients' genes, environment, and lifestyle.

The new center can help in understanding the genome of the Egyptian people so that this new effective type of medicine can be deployed, Yacoub says. “Through this center and our young scientists who are busy researching the genome of our community, we will bring a great benefit to the world. This will not only help our people, but will also contribute to science because we find that a lot of the mutations and abnormalities in the genome occur here among our population. This will definitely add to the whole body of knowledge in this area.”

Knowing more about a person’s genetic composition can greatly enhance the effectiveness of drugs and treatment programs, Yacoub says.

[caption id="attachment_543632" align="alignnone" width="620"]The new research lab aims to crack the genome of the region’s communities to allow for personalized therapy. The new research lab aims to crack the genome of the region’s communities to allow for personalized therapy.[/caption]

The research center also boasts the software and hardware that churns out 3D models of certain parts of the heart that relay the organ’s function and structure. This allows doctors to properly plan and audit operations, Yacoub says, adding that the center also plans to explore stem cell biology and its application to patients in Egypt.

Such a center opening in Aswan is particularly important as the area has historically suffered from neglect and 67 percent of its population is poor, said Minister of Solidarity Ghada Wali at the opening. She praised the foundation for investing in young Egyptian doctors and for employing over 425 staff, conducting over 2,800 operations last year and diagnosing 13,000 cases.

In a country where heart disease claims over 210,000 people every year, according to the World Health Organization, the foundation has played a venerable role in treating some of the complex cases. All treatments are free of charge, and the selection of patients for treatment is based on the complexity of their cases.

The clearest sign of the foundation’s progress in Aswan is how it helps young people become some of the best doctors in the world, said Magdi Ishak, the head of the foundation’s board of executives. He gave the example of Yasmine and Heba Aguib, two sisters who studied in Munich and Berlin. Heba worked as a researcher at BMW, while Yasmine was Research Fellow and a scientific consultant to the head of the Technical University of Munich. Both decided to come back to Egypt to work with Yacoub on the research center.

“These youths leave such amazing places and positions and come work here for much lower benefits and salaries," Ishak said. "This shows the strength of their belief in the message of Dr. Magdi Yacoub and the research center."

The center's main focus is precision medicine and personalized therapy, Aguib says. "We want to know what exactly leads to symptoms and to provide tailored treatments that better guarantee less side-effects and higher rates of success,” she says, noting that the center aspires to be competitive on a global level and boasts a cutting-edge Research Centre with the latest in technological innovation. “You will have information on-site. We’ll be able to give this information to clinicians very quickly and our patients will strongly benefit from this effort," Aguib says. "At the same time we are continuously exchanging knowledge and expertise with the global research community and this is a very important reason behind signing the MOU with the Al Alfi Foundation.”

[caption id="attachment_543633" align="alignnone" width="620"]Yasmine Aguib Yasmine Aguib[/caption]

Sending students to travel and get acquainted with new ideas and technologies is very important, Aguib says, as every couple of months you have new and more efficient technologies and developments being discovered. The MOU with the Al Alfi Foundation “is definitely very important because it gives mobility to our young researchers. We are a research center and clinic and it is important that we have tight connections to universities and scientific bodies.”

The sponsorships provided by the Al Alfi Foundation for youths selected by the heart center do not have any conditionality. “Just by studying there they have already benefited patients. Experience shows students abroad are a pride for Egypt and for us, and they do usually return. We give them a very good environment here,” Yacoub said.

Read the full feature package on science in Egypt and the future in the November issue of Egypt Today.

12/11/2016 6:46:40 PM
<![CDATA[Why Egypt Needs To Reverse The Brain Drain, And Invest More In Scientific Research ]]>Nobel Laureate Ahmed Zewail, who passed away earlier this year, realized that now more than ever Egypt’s scientists and educators play a central role in the country’s quest to overcome endemic diseases, meet energy demands and tackle industrial challenges. Research is costly and requires a considerable chunk of the national budget, but investing in future generations - who can transform Egypt from a nation?dependent on natural resources to a nation with an arsenal of thinkers - is the only way forward, scientists say.

by Ahmed Mansour and Noha Mohammed

“Egypt needs to shift its concentration to scientific research because as the whole world has shown us, it will help shape this country’s future and make it a better place for our children and grandchildren,” says Mahmoud Ghazaal, a scientist and administrator at the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology in Cairo. “Eventually, all of our sources of income will be depleted and the only thing that will be valuable is knowledge and accomplishment in the fields of science and technology.”

Ghazaal says the government needs to work hard to introduce drastic changes to the education system first before it can focus on scientific research, which he laments lags far behind other nations. He points to Saudi Arabia as a good role model that Egypt could possibly follow. In 2001, Saudi Arabia recognized that it could not rely entirely on petroleum exports as its main source of income, so they created a fund and started sending high school graduates abroad to get their bachelor’s degrees via the King Abdullah Scholarship program.

“The Saudi government was worried about how we would be able to survive when the oil runs out, so we have put aside a budget that will solely be used to send our elite students that show great potential to colleges abroad to get a better education than what we offer in Saudi,” says Khlaid El-Enezie, assistant director and one of the founders of the King Abdullah Scholarship program. “As soon as we realized the educational facilities in Saudi Arabia were not as good as abroad, we knew that it would take a long time for us to restructure the system. We decided that we shouldn’t waste any time and take action,” El-Enezie says.

Over 200,000 students were accepted into the scholarship program, which has a sizeable budget of 22.5 billion Saudi Riyals — but that’s far more than Egypt can afford given the current economic conditions.

A Stagnating System

“The country does in fact have a ‘Science and Technology Development’ program fund to send students to advanced countries to keep up with the quickly evolving fields of science and technology, but the funds can only cover at most 50 students a year,” says Murad Muntaser, Vice dean of the Faculty of Engineering at the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport. “The funds are not the main issue at hand; the biggest problem facing Egypt is that the government is in denial when it comes to the fact that they do have a serious problem regarding their educational system, especially their higher education system.”

Muntaser defines the hurdle in one word: stagnation. “The government believes that they still offer the same quality of education that they used to offer when education in Egypt was at its prime. And they do — they are offering the same education, same topics, same subjects as they did in the 1970s. The Ministry of Education has never updated their curriculum in a noticeable way, they do not bother to update the information given to our youth, and also they have never encouraged the teachers to evolve their teaching techniques so that they would be appealing to the students of the current generation. The same thing applies to the Ministry of Higher Education and the state of scientific research: they refuse to be innovative, and they refuse to hand out help by facilitating the processes of admissions or publishing researches without asking who is whose son. Like every governmental organization in Egypt, those two ministries need to be cleansed and re-shuffled.”


Graduates often only realize they’ve been sold short when they are exposed to different systems. “Our educational facilities don’t come close to facilities abroad. I graduated from the faculty of Pharmacy, Ain Shams University, and when I decided to work abroad, I realized that I knew nothing so I started studying all over again,” says Kareem Abduallah, a botanist and teaching assistant at the University of London. “Foreign countries respect researchers and they assist them in all the ways possible for them to accomplish what they need, unlike in Egypt, where you’ll always need to grease palms to get what you want and it’s always a never-ending process.”

Ehab Abdel-Rahman, vice provost and physics professor at the American University in Cairo, doesn’t believe the problem is with the facilities. “I’m not an AUCian, I graduated from Helwan University and I worked there for a long time. When I was at Helwan University, I personally did not have any problems with the facilities — our labs were very good. The problem is that the ecosystem itself is non-existent. The top administrators do not understand that scientific research is not just a paper to be published, but that it must trickle down into the nation’s economy in the form of a product that needs to be marketed and sold to bring in revenue for the country. The idea that the graduate is just a student who obtains a degree and that I’m happy to be rid of him should not be the mindset of a university. On the contrary, the graduate is a potential future donor, so I have to enhance his knowledge and make sure I maintain my contacts with him because this graduate in the future, when he grows bigger and makes bigger contributions, will come back to me and will be eager to ensure that the new generations also learn. If it hadn’t been for AUC, I myself would today be working in the US or Europe.”

At the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, media correspondent Hazem El-Shanti too says the issue is more complex than lack of facilities. “The problem at hand is not that we lack facilities; we do have enough to support the needs of all those who seek higher education or those who believe they need it to evolve their careers or take part in the world of scientific research. We do have world-rated universities here in Egypt that offer education better than all of our neighbouring countries. However, the main issue is the lack of funds, as the people probably know that most of the governmental facilities here are aided financially by the government, with the student only contributing 13 percent of the total cost. So in order to increase the quality of assistances given to the students, we need to devise a new plan whereby students pay more fees and in return get international-quality education that would help them achieve their goals. The same applies to research — it’s really expensive to offer all the research materials and facilities. It’s all about money, which we desperately need.”

While research is extremely costly, Abdel Rahman says there is already a system in place that can give universities that much-needed shot in the arm: waqf, or endowments. Giving AUC as an example, Abdel Rahman outlines that “AUC is private in the sense that it does not report to the Higher Council of Universities, but it is not privately funded. AUC is a not-for-profit organization. This is very important, that universities are not for profit — and Egypt already has this mechanism in place with civil universities, like the French University and like Nile University. We need to expand this base. As a researcher, I myself have no problems with private universities making a profit, as long as they are committed to scientific research and presenting high-quality education. At the end of the day, with any university, whether national, civil or private or not-for-profit, someone has to pay for the research and education being conducted on these facilities. It’s either me or you through taxes to the national universities, or the student pays for a percentage in the private institutions and private donations for the civil facilities.”

The AUC provost calls for communities to begin adopting what he labels the “great” culture of endowment. “We started this culture as Arabs and Muslims with waqf, why do we only put our waqf in mosques and water coolers, why not in universities? Ivy League universities in the US like Harvard and Princeton, they all have large endowments. Their motto is ‘worry about the admission not the tuition,’ that is worry about being accepted and fulfilling all my criteria, but once you’re in, don’t worry about the tuition. We want this concept — which we already are doing; we all donate money for good causes. This is the best cause that can be sustained for generations to come.”

Securing donations is no easy feat, but there are many who are passionate about the cause. Speaking at a media roundtable ahead of his inauguration, new AUC President Francis Ricciardone admitted that despite what he labels as Egypt’s “economic dislocations,” funding sources are diverse. “Part of our resilience is that we don’t depend on any one source of funding, but we are a not-for-profit. We are financially healthy, but we are not wealthy. We have to keep going back to new sources of funding and other visionaries — Egyptian-Americans are some of our board members, among other people across this region. We have many people in the Gulf who see Egypt as pivotally important for the entire region, and they are supporters of ours. These are people who care about education, care about Egypt and care about the Arab world and generously donate. Companies also see education as the future, a way of developing future talent and a way to do research.”

[caption id="attachment_540509" align="alignnone" width="620"]New AUC President Francis Ricciardone New AUC President Francis Ricciardone[/caption]

Aside from funding, centralization is another major setback that Abdel Rahman identifies in the national university system. “Our universities need to stop being centralized — the people talking about electing deans through a voting system. This is not right. Deans and presidents of universities are not voted in. Presidents of universities are not supposed to be elected. They are appointed only if they meet the university’s criteria and are qualified to realize the strategic aims of the university during the five or 10 years of their tenure. It’s not a beauty pageant. To maintain a healthy ecosystem, the university needs to have an advisory board, made up in large part by businessmen as well as stakeholders concerned with universities and with education. And I place emphasis on businessmen. The advisory board, or the board of trustees, are the people who make the major strategic decisions for the university. They’re the ones who can link the university to the surrounding community. Without making this link, I cannot create a proper ecosystem for research.”

A healthy ecosystem, Abdel Rahman argues, is critical if we want to reverse the brain drain and bring back calibers forced out by the current system. “If I can’t create the ecosystem, I won’t be able to bring back the people to work here. That’s the first step. But before I can bring them back, I need to ensure that the income of faculty at Egyptian universities is suitable. Now I understand that everyone is calling for better wages, but it is education that will shapes the minds of the future. We need to make sure faculty are paid well enough to perform well. At the same time, conflict of commitment and conflict of interest must be corrected. This won’t go down well with Egyptian universities, but I can’t be a professor who spends all day at my office, clinic or hospital and then come to university too tired to even speak at my lecture. Lecturing is a full-time job. Along with the rights that I’m seeking for faculty, I also look for the responsibilities that come with these rights.”

Reversing the Brain Drain

Yet creating a productive environment can only lure back so many scientific minds. “We have to grow our scientific base in Egypt. This needs to happen by establishing new universities. We still need a great number of new universities and I recommend that these be small universities with a small number of students and faculty — it’s easier for these small universities to move than our older universities. This will allow us to quickly change our research strategies, implement new ideas and infuse these and increase our number of researchers,” says Abdel Rahman.

The past decade has seen a number of new universities and higher education facilities open up in Egypt, and that, Ricciardone says, is good news for Egypt. “When there’s competition, everyone benefits. Egypt benefits so it’s a good thing. I’m delighted that there’s a Japanese-Egyptian Institute for Science and Technology, the German University, and the British University, all doing something very good and offering an important service,” he says.

The incoming president is not only happy about the new competition, but he welcomes cooperation with rising institutions. “Modern education is not just about staying in your own classroom. Science is all about teamwork. Now, teamwork is enabled massively on a global scale thanks to modern technology and social media,” Ricciardone says, adding that AUC intends to open up new channels with other institutions. “We have personal deep relations with other great Egyptian institutions and I will certainly make it my priority to pay my respects to the great universities of Egypt, such as Cairo University and Al Azhar, Sohag and Minya down to Tanta and Damanhour universities."

Within its own research centers, AUC invites industry experts to work on projects with its students. “AUC is working with Egyptian and global teammates on joint projects that combine industry and academia. We’re doing research and science, and we’re applying it to human problems,” says Ricciardone, pointing to AUC’s Research Institute for Sustainable Environment (RISE), which brings together Germans, Arabs, Egyptians from all over the country. “We’re working with Egyptian companies. Solar Rise is the name of one of several other companies working on how to apply solar energy technology to provide water and irrigation. It’s all about sustainability and what problems we want to solve.”

Read the full feature package on science and the future in Egypt in the November issue of Egypt Today.

12/5/2016 4:17:02 PM
<![CDATA[Participants Call Mohareb Boot Camp 'Life-Changing']]>Mentarcise, a certified group of life coaches, promise to detox your life of the habits bringing you down and make you a better person. At their Mohareb boot camp in Ras Sudr last month, participants have called the experience life-changing.

by Ahmed Mansour

Do you fear change, or overthink? Do you live in the past? Afraid to step outside your comfort zone? Or maybe you have problems with focusing, or wasting time? Mentarcise is here to help.

The group of certified life coaches aims to create a mindset that is conducive to achieving life goals and improving quality of life by creating the right atmosphere where clients can overcome their fears and obstacles through tailored mental exercises, games, and heart-to-heart conversations.


Last month, we were invited to attend an inspirational Mohareb boot camp in Ras Sudr, at which Mentarcise promised us we would learn how to flush out the seven toxic habits of our modern world: fear of change, living in the past, overthinking, getting out of the comfort zone, pleasing everyone, loss of focus, and wasting time.

“This is not a relaxation camp,” the organizers warned. “Mohareb is designed to push you to a whole new level of possibilities — and it can’t be done in three days without getting uncomfortable. Expect that you will have less time to sleep, eat and relax than your normal.”

We arrived in Ras Sudr wary not only of the grueling itinerary (walking barefoot over a bed of hot embers or stones as well as simulation activities designed to help people let go of fears and boost the quality of their life), but also of the promise that any of it will actually work.


And we weren’t alone. “At first I wasn’t really comfortable with what was going on,” says participant Islam Keshta, a 28-year-old entrepreneur who manages a marketing agency. “I have my doubts about how the life coaches will be able to help me overcome my toxic habits, which have been getting worse ever since I was a child, in just three days.” At the end of the camp Keshta was a changed man, the experience having helped him see life with a fresh set of eyes. “I was surprised and I really recommend it to all the people who wish to be happier and more pleased with themselves.”

Mohareb’s tailored exercises are specifically designed to tackle toxic habits in a way that requires clients to imagine their life’s problems and manage to grow the courage and the wisdom to overcome them. For example, two of the most effective exercises at the boot camp were walking on glass and walking on fire. “I was really afraid when I was told that I would have to walk on glass or on fire, I feared getting cut or getting burned, but the thing that made me do it, and simply turn around and do it again, is that I really imagined that I had my hopes and dreams waiting for me on the other side, and I just had to suffer and take in the pain, to get what I always wanted to get. I felt invincible,” says Mohamed Osama Madkour, a 26-year-old engineer.


Mentarcise prides itself as the only training provider in Egypt certified by TRACCERT Canada, a global training accreditation and certification organization, and they are confident of Mohareb’s success. “When it comes to measuring the success and accomplishments of the boot camp, I’d like to leave it for the attendees to judge,” says Mohamed Moamen, Mentarcise co-founder and lead life coach of Mohareb Camp.” He says 96 percent of participants walked away feeling that Mohareb made a huge difference and that it was a turning point in their lives. Some 71 percent said this was the best experience they ever lived. "We work real hard and the feedback is amazing … This camp exceeded my expectations. We enjoyed those three nights very much and I would go as far as saying that they were the most powerful and inspirational three days of my life.”

The program brought together some 50 participants, each with their own emotional stories that inspired the life coaches themselves. “A heart surgeon, Amr Ismail, who attended only because he wanted to accompany his sister and had no personal interest in being there, said by the end of the boot camp that he was amazed by what happened in Mohareb and that he’s going to change the subject of his PhD, which he’s currently working on, to achieve his dream,” said Moamen. “Another impressive story was about a woman who had a lot of trouble getting over her ex-husband who really hurt her, to the extent that she couldn’t see any future for herself. She was stuck in the past — even though everything she’s been through happened many years ago, she couldn’t move forward with her life. By the end of the boot camp she said she felt like she was reborn.”

Lobna Shaaban, a 28-year-old who had lost her fiancée a few months before their wedding, shared her own stirring story at the camp. “My counseling psychologist has been working with me for the past five months, ever since Seif, my fiancée passed away. He’s always been helpful when it came to moving on and accepting loss. He always encouraged me to find something that is meaningful and that would help nourish my soul, and Mohareb was just that,” says Shaaban. “For the first time ever since the incident, I got completely distracted with focusing on myself and during the boot camp I got to set goals for myself that would help me not dwell on the past and just simply move forward with my life. The walking on fire exercise was the perfect metaphor of Seif’s death. It sure is painful, but like all painful events in our lives, they will pass. I got to the other side stronger and more proud of myself. The boot camp is a life-changer.”

Mentarcise also provide training courses for aspiring life coaches. Also available are wellness sessions including yoga, corporate events and coaching programs. For more on Mentarcise visit them at mentarcise.com ? Tel: 01010000815 ? 4B El Nozha St., Heliopolis ? info@mentarcise.com.

11/27/2016 6:46:12 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt’s Newest University Hopes To Redefine Scientific Research]]>Opening its doors just last month, the Egyptian Chinese University is the newest higher education facility in Cairo. Hoping to redefine science and scientific research in Egypt, ECU adopts a Chinese approach to graduate a different type of student working not only toward an academic degree, but a career.

by Noha Mohammed

The Faculty of Engineering is open for this academic year, while the College of Pharmacy, Physiotherapy and Economy and International Trade will be launched next year, and some more specializations in the years after. The full plan of the university is now being constructed over an area of 16 feddans between Nasr City and New Cairo, including a hospital and a pharmacy factory. Karima Abd El Kareem, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, takes us inside the state-of-the-art university.

How does the Chinese University plan to address the need for science and scientific research in Egypt?

The productive family model is an innovation in China through which they have been able to involve society in raising economic productivity. The industrial field in China is not limited to industrial complexes, which means that social economic development becomes a comprehensive national activity with a direct economic benefit for the entire nation. Our plan in Egypt is to initiate the same with a productive university-led model, whereby the innovation and entrepreneurial and industrial centers at the university will support students in their projects to be able to implement them in their own villages and hometowns by creating networks of home-based production units. ECU’s graduates will be amongst the first class of highly educated Egyptians that study not only for a degree but who graduate as active researchers, innovators and project leaders in their communities.

The Chinese University in Egypt has a different approach from other universities, choosing to open up small campuses across numerous locations and governorates. What’s the reasoning behind this?

ECU has its first Engineering campus now in Gesr El Suez, Heliopolis, where the facility holds a number of advanced laboratories and workshop areas, as well as the research and innovation center. The main comprehensive campus will be in Nasr City and will include four faculties, a hospital and a pharmacy factory. The projects, research units and entrepreneurial models to be produced by the students will be emulated across Egypt for the purpose of establishing the societal economic model we talked about, which is based on the productive family unit, where you can outsource big chunks of your production lines to home-based networks, that become part of your model for production.

Are there plans for postgraduate research degrees and programs?

Yes, definitely it’s on the plan. Most importantly, however, is the fact that ECU graduates will not be looking for jobs. They are a different type of student, who is not only working for an academic degree but gaining a career entry point through this type of education. Many universities in the region have good facilities too, the investment in facilities is not the only key to creating a different type of education, but the investment in human capital through the model of education.

An obstacle facing science graduates is the limited job market. What needs to be done to fix this?

The job market is not made by design but is dictated by social needs and the country’s natural resources. One of the main advances needed in Egypt is utilizing technological innovations in renewable energy, which is one of the main specializations in the College of Engineering, and will help produce graduates who can develop this sector, for example. New jobs are needed, but you need two things: qualitative graduates who have the know-how and innovative minds to work for those new fields, in addition to exposure to the new models of implementing new technologies in society. These are the two main attributes that ECU students will gain through this model of education and thus we are helping reshape the job market to be better suited to the development needs of Egypt.

How does the Chinese University promote entrepreneurial thinking?

Amongst the centers at ECU is the Entrepreneurial Center that aims to support such initiatives and provide a network of incubators to help students in their startups, as well as ongoing project management support.

Will graduates of the Chinese University get a better chance of working for Chinese enterprises here in Egypt, in Africa or even in China?

That’s a highly viable opportunity of course, because connections with industry and Chinese businesses is one of the main advantages that the students at ECU will be exposed to, through visits to China, tours in research centers, factories, industrial complexes, as well as through the internship programs offered by the university.

11/27/2016 5:43:51 PM
<![CDATA[Challenges Facing Scientific Research In Egypt ]]>The British University in Egypt (BUE) has come a long way since opening its doors a decade ago, priding itself on scientific research in fields like renewable energy and sustainability. Professor Yehia Bahei El-Din, vice president for Research and Post Graduate Studies, talks about the challenges facing research in Egypt and how it can be advanced and nurtured.

by Noha Mohammed

What are the challenges facing science and scientific research in Egypt?

Sustainability of research is a major challenge in Egypt. It takes resources and a supportive, incentivising, and rewarding environment to both attract and retain researchers. Policies must facilitate the job of researchers, not hinder their ambitions.

With national budget cutbacks and new austerity measures on the horizon, how important is it that private entities like BUE step in and provide alternative solutions for science and research?

BUE undertakes sustainability of research very seriously in the belief that this is the only way forward for Egypt. The university research plan offers mechanisms for the availability of resources, environment and policies to researchers. Many collaborative research projects are underway with other universities and with the industry to support new ideas and produce wonderful results. Hindrance, however, sometimes comes from outside in the form of regulations, which unfortunately are applied only to private universities.

BUE is one of the few private universities that has dedicated research centers. It was also one of the first campuses to offer specialized programs in renewable energy and advanced materials. What is BUE’s strategy to address the need for science and scientific research in Egypt?

We keep in mind Egypt’s strategic goals that are spelled out in national strategic plans. We support research that serves national ambitions and at the same time keeps our researchers competitive internationally. We believe that transfer of knowledge is the key to sustainable development, and as such BUE is launching a major Science and Innovation Park to support technology transfer and spin off companies. BUE research centers and their network of researchers and industries play a key role in this project.

Egypt and Africa are seeing huge development plans in renewable energy. How can BUE expertise be capitalized upon in these megaprojects?

BUE is already leading many projects in renewable energy with funding from Egypt, the European Union and the British Council. We are teaming up with the the industry and authorities to deliver prototypes of wind turbines to Egypt and support manufacturing of renewable energy components in Egypt. BUE testing facilities in wind and solar energy are open to Egyptian and international collaborators from academia and the industry. What new science and research faculties, facilities or programs are in the works at BUE?

In science and engineering there is a Faculty for Energy and Environmental Engineering and a Programme for Computer Engineering. New research centers have also emerged at BUE in top fields such as nanotechnology, predictive maintenance, and advance manufacturing. These fields are in demand in Egypt for development on both the technological front and the social front. They will provide the knowledge and the human capacity required.

Several years ago, BUE began offering postgraduate research degrees and programs. How do you assess their success in contributing to local research and development?

The postgraduate programs were designed to offer, whenever possible, multidisciplinary education. They have been well received and attracted university graduates to pursue their master’s degrees in advanced fields such as renewable energy, advanced materials, and web science. BUE’s connections with the industry have in particular contributed to the success of these programs and to the research performed by the postgraduate students.

Another obstacle facing science graduates is the limited job market. What needs to be done to fix this?

With Egypt’s strategic focus on the development of technologies, the demand for science graduates is, and will continue to be, on the rise. The key is to prepare students for the market and enhance their employability. This can be realized by offering curricula that provide a good science foundation to students. This should be followed by teaching state-of-the-art technologies, and then providing training for the market, both in terms of soft skills they need and acquaintance with the work environment, including knowledge and practice on industry-rated equipment and laboratories.

BUE has hosted regular startup events. How else does BUE promote entrepreneurial thinking?

BUE promotes entrepreneurial thinking by offering training and opportunities. The curricula, the technology transfer program, and the Science and Innovation Park sum up the activities at BUE to attract, prepare and support students for successful startups.

11/20/2016 6:19:04 PM
<![CDATA[At AUC, Research Centers Tackle Poverty, Disease And Egypt's Everyday Problems ]]>From helping the fishermen in Toshka keep their catch fresh, to developing a cheap kit that diagnoses Hepatitis C, the American University in Cairo's two research centers are working hands-on to find scientific solutions to Egypt's everyday problems. Ehab Abdel Rahman, vice provost and professor of Physics, explains how it's done.

by Noha Mohammed

AUC has two dedicated research centers focusing on scientific solutions to everyday problems. What is AUC’s strategy to address the need for science and scientific research in Egypt?

I’d like to borrow a statement from our new president, who in his inauguration speech said we are a healthy university but we’re not wealthy. Many people have the impression that AUC has a magnificent infrastructure because it is wealthy. It’s not because we’re wealthy? We’re healthy because we have a decent infrastructure that we spent many years building. More importantly, we spent and we put lots of emphasis on maintaining that infrastructure.

It doesn’t make any sense to buy a piece of equipment for $5 million and in three or four years something gets damaged then you throw away the whole thing because you do not have the money to maintain it. So when you buy a piece of equipment you have to plan for the maintenance from day one. And that’s what we do, we always put money on the side for the maintenance. We know that any piece of equipment is a liability. We’re a small university and that means we can move with less momentum. It also allows us lots of flexibility in shaping our research strategy, targeting topics that are of interest to the Egyptian community, which means we can actually respond quickly to the demands of the community.

How does AUC identify these needs?

I can give you many examples of how we do this. We depend on governmental studies, we look for example at Egypt’s 2030 sustainability study. We looked at the scientific plan of the Ministry of Scientific Research and identified the topics that we could contribute to — on top of that we live in Egypt. We sense what Egypt needs — that there is a problem in the water, environmental problems facing not only Cairo, food problems that we’re going to be facing very soon, and an energy problem that every country will face. Even the Gulf area will face it in the future. What happens when they run out of oil? If they don’t plan for it from now then they will face a problem at a very late stage and it will be very hard for them to find a solution.

As researchers, we have our own means of assessing the need of the country but if we don’t have the infrastructure or the capacity to do it, we do not approach it. In the end, we’re a small university, we cannot solve every problem out there. But if we do have the capacity and the infrastructure and there is an urgent need to work on it, without any hesitation we attempt to contribute toward it.

What issues has AUC been researching? How do you ensure your contributions and solutions reach the community?

I’ll give you an example: Hepatitis C — it’s a very chronic problem in Egypt: 20 percent of the population is infected by Hepatitis C. But more important than treating people is to diagnose them first. But the diagnostics available right now are very expensive. They take time to show results, so an AUC team led by Dr. Hassan Azazy have been working on the problem for many years and they came up with a new diagnostic kit that is very cheap and actually can give you the result within a couple of hours. Imagine if this diagnostic kit is in every home, in every village in Egypt, then we can easily have a map of where there is Hepatitis C and then we can work on a holistic approach in treating those people.

The other problem that we have been working on is poverty alleviation. We look at it from different angles: the psychological, economic and scientific as well. We have a group of faculty who have been presenting models to the government to use to alleviate poverty, and they’ve been working closely with the Ministry of Cooperation.

Among the problems presented at AUC about a year and a half ago concerned the fishermen in Toskha. The weather in Toshka is hot year-round and after they bring in their catch, the fish rots on the boats because of the heat. One of our professors at AUC, Dr. Amr Serag Eldin, proposed a system to manufacture an ice-making device that they can take aboard the boat and which uses water directly from the sea. On their way back from a fishing trip, they can cover the fish with ice and preserve it until they can sell it.

A problem like this had two facets. The first facet is technological, in which we provided a sustainable solution to a specific group of people but which can be used for lots of other people. The second thing is that we offered a solution to alleviate poverty and helped them with a way to guarantee an income and thus live better. We presented our research to to the Academy of Scientific Research who sent it on to the Ministry of Military Production for mass production.

Other than diseases and poverty, what are Egypt’s most pressing problems that scientific research can find solutions for?

With any development in any country, energy should come first. Because if you do not have energy and infrastructure, no one will come to invest in this country. They are a priority and will always be a priority for every country. Continued development and bringing investors to the country requires that you invest more in the energy sector. You have to secure a cheap source of energy with a low negative impact on the environment. It’s a very difficult equation but it has to be solved in any way.

11/14/2016 12:14:07 PM
<![CDATA[NBE, Banque Misr raise limits on card usage abroad]]>By Mohamed Ayyad Vice chairperson of the National Bank of Egypt (NBE) Yehia Aboul Fotouh said that the bank will raise the limit ...read more

Via:: Daily News Egypt

11/5/2016 8:16:57 PM
<![CDATA[Eklego's Reclaimed Line Returns With Recycled Wood Collection]]>Eklego’s popular Reclaimed Line is back with an expanded recycled wood collection featuring new living, dining and bedroom pieces for residential and commercial interiors.

photography courtesy Eklego


Celebrating the natural beauty of wood while preserving the environment, the Reclaimed Line from Eklego features beautiful and creative designs that repurpose wood. In a soft and relaxed living room or lining the wall of a local pizzeria, the weathered, rustic feel of this material makes it a stunning element in a wide range of interior decorating styles.


Made from locally sourced recycled wood, the collection is inspired by a passion and commitment to environmentally conscious design and includes living, dining and bedroom pieces. This season the Eklego team wanted to evolve the modern-rustic style adding a TV unit, buffet, beds, dining table and bench, coffee table with drawers, coffee table with stainless steel legs, side table, console, dresser, night table and mirror to the collection. Striking a unique balance between stylish and sustainable, each piece has its own story and has been constructed with high-quality materials for durability.


The Reclaimed Line features in installations in several interior design projects — the randomness and natural imperfections of mismatched planks in a reclaimed wood wall add visual interest to a space especially when placed in a stairwell, behind a bed, bathroom sink or TV.

The Reclaimed Line is now available at Eklego’s Zamalek and Heliopolis showrooms. Visit their website, and follow on Facebook and Instagram.

11/1/2016 9:53:19 PM
<![CDATA[52 Years After Displacement, Scars Of Loss Remain For Nubians]]>After the displacement of thousands of Nubians from their homeland 52 years ago, the scars of loss and cultural tragedy continue to spur demands for a right of return.

by Farah El-Akkad

Palm trees and vast farms by the Nile River, ‘the land of Gold,’ ‘Egypt’s gateway extending till northern Sudan,’ ‘an African Empire’ — that’s the way older generations of Egypt’s Nubians remember their long-lost homeland.

Before the 1960s, Nubian villages were flooded every summer, spurring a government decision to begin construction of Aswan’s High Dam in an effort to create more water and electricity capacity for Egypt’s burgeoning population. But while the revised 1959 Nile Waters Treaty was a necessity to Egypt’s hydro-infrastructure ambitions, it necessitated the displacement of tens of thousands of Egyptian and Sudanese Nubians.

The decision to resettle the Nubian population between 1963 and 1964 was a major traumatic event: one that has been ingrained in the historical and cultural memory of the Nubians of Egypt and North Sudan. According to the acclaimed 1999 documentary Egyptians and the Nile, scores of families left their farms and ancestral homes with thousands of lost memories; many others refused to leave their flooded houses and chose instead to die there.


This month marks 52 years since the displacement of Nubians from their land. The displacement, known as “the bitter occurrence,” saw more than 50,000 Nubians expelled from their land after promises of a right of return following the completion of the High Dam were broken. Over 45 villages were razed, their inhabitants displaced and promptly relocated, mainly in Kom Ombo far from their original lands. Decades have passed and Nubians have not forgotten their old land and still demand their right of return. Today, Nubians continue to reside mostly in Kom Ombo, about 60 km north of Aswan, spread out across five main villages: Nasr Al-Noba, Al-Fadigga, Arab, Thoman Waffia and Al-Konouz. Though these villages depend mainly on agriculture, they hold none of the magic and glory of the Nubians’ original lands.

“I remember very vividly what happened on that day. Our farm was completely flooded months before leaving and the crop was damaged. I also recall my grandfather who was almost my age today talking to one of the army officers and leaving our home with tears in his eyes. Even though they said it was for the best and they would bring us back, my family felt it was not true,” says 75-year-old Abdel Hamid Saafan, a Nubian who once lived in Abu Handal, one of the last villages that were razed in 1964. Saafan says his family moved into a new house, but most other people had no place to live because more than 60 percent of the construction of the new houses was not yet finished. To the Nubians’ dismay, the new houses were totally different from their old village’s culture and style, nor was any attention paid to the hot weather conditions or the Nile’s considerable distance from the settlements.

This month the Egyptian Nubian Foundation held an event at their headquarters in Abdeen Square in memory of the bitter incident. Chairman of the Foundation Mossad Herky says the commemoration is “part of a series of continuous events held annually to keep alive the memory and remind the government that we did not forget its promise to us — the right that was promised 52 years ago during Nasser’s era and also by other consecutive governments until today.”

Nubians feel marginalized and isolated from society to this day, Herky says. But they are not disheartened, and every year the community spotlights the sad incident and renews its demands that the government preserve Nubian culture and return Nubians to their land. “I am 32, but I recall my grandfather’s stories about old Nubia throughout my childhood and the same stories are not being told to my son. The displacement will remain a black spot in the history of Egypt not because of the act itself, but because the government’s promise was not true,” says Ibrahim Gamal, a resident of Nasr El Noba.

After the January 25 Revolution Nubians hoped for better living conditions north of the High Dam, but their hopes were dashed and then renewed after June 30, Gamal says. “It seems we always come last,” laments Gamal. “Why is wanting to go home to develop and invest in our homeland too much to ask?" he exclaims, adding that Nubians have sacrificed a lot for Egypt and the least they deserve is for their demands to be met.

There is hope yet with the Egyptian government showing some positive steps over the past 5 years. Following the January 25 Revolution, former Prime Minister Essam Sharaf gave the go-ahead for the creation of the High Institute for Reconstruction South of the High Dam. In 2012, the government started a program to encourage young Nubians by selling one square meter lots for LE 10 in Nasr Al Noba. In October 2014, the Egyptian Minister for Transitional Justice, Ibrahim Henedi, issued a decision to form a special committee to discuss Nubians’ demands to return to their areas of origin (now located north of Aswan’s High Dam). Moreover, the government has built schools, hospitals and a number of youth centers in addition to fitting sewage pipeline in different Nubian villages in the past 10 years.

Yet many Nubians feel this is not enough, arguing that most governmental initiatives go no further than the paperwork stage and are nothing but fodder for talk shows. “Nubians’ demand of their right of return does not mean they are not aware of Egypt’s ongoing political and economic challenges and will do their utmost effort to help make Egypt a better country and work hard to improve our living conditions,” says Herky.


Nubian culture is one of the richest in the world, says Bassem El Ashkar, professor of modern history at Cairo University, and Nubians are an inseparable part of Egypt’s culture with some tourists coming to Egypt specifically to visit Nubia. “I think the richness of the Nubian people and their culture is not valued at even half of its real worth, and more details and real stories about Nubia need to be included in our history school books,” Ashkar says, adding that popular singer Mohamed Mounir, Field Marshal and Statesman Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, football player Shikabala and writer Idris Ali as some of the most prominent figures hailing from Nubia.

And of course there is the old Nubian language, which was used as a secret code during the 1973 War with Israel. One of the most famous words on the list of Secret Codes was ‘Ushrya,’ which means ‘Attack’ in Nubian. A remnant of a lost civilization, the Nubian language has sadly all but died out in modern-day Egypt. And barring a few songs by Mohamed Mounir, children of Nubian descent have little use for their native tongue, making it nearly impossible for the language to be passed down to a new generation.

Through his foundation, Herky is encouraging efforts at the grassroots level to preserve the oral and written traditions of the ancient people, in spite of the capital’s distance from the Nubians’ traditional homeland. Despite the rallying, the number of people able to speak Nubian in Egypt has drastically declined in the last two decades.

The Nubian language could be forgotten entirely within Egypt in the next century, according to UNESCO. “My father came here to Cairo from Nubia, and now I am 56 and all my friends are from Egypt. Because of things like this, it is easy to forget the language,” says Herki. “The problem is not for me. It is for my children. My children speak French, English and Arabic, but Nubian? No. Because of that, we are afraid for our new generation - afraid that they will not know our language.”

Part of the reason the language is vanishing lies with Nubians themselves, Herky says, adding it's the community’s responsibility to save their own culture and language, which now play a very small role in the larger national agenda.

“The people here in Cairo don’t know what Nubian is. This is Egypt's mistake,” he says. “Now we see that this is the country's mistake, but we must do something. We must tell them who Nubians are and about our history.”

The Nubian language has been more resilient in and around Aswan because almost all the residents in some of these communities claim Nubian heritage, Herky says. It is also spoken in the home there. Several of the communities were established after the government forced entire villages to move during the flooding necessary for the construction of the Aswan High Dam, while other residents of the now underwater villages were relocated to Cairo. But even those communities are under threat due to attempts to modernize school curricula, which place a greater emphasis on becoming fluent in Arabic and English than on Nubian.

“It’s a shame that French and English are requirements in the nation’s schools and Nubian is not, even though Nubia has played such a central role in Egyptian history," says Herky. “It is in our blood. It is our roots. This is the backbone of the country.”

10/25/2016 5:16:59 PM
<![CDATA[What Will The IMF Loan Mean For Egypt?]]>For better or worse, a $12 billion IMF loan is on Egypt’s doorstep alongside a hefty dose of austerity. The question is: can we ride out the storm?

by Bahaa Ghaffar

On the trading floor of a fast-paced brokerage firm in a high-rise building overlooking Cairo, the IMF loan is on everyone’s lips. The excitement is palpable. Brokers and traders are optimistic once more with the hope of an increase in investments from abroad. Amid all the excitement, Salah the office boy is quietly clearing coffee mugs. Asked if he's heard about the IMF loan, Salah says, “I haven’t really been following the news. I don’t know about this IMF organization, but I’ve heard we are getting $12 billion from abroad. Didn’t we just get $9 billion last year? Where did that go? Where are the improvements? Health and education, food and drink, electricity and gas - everything is getting more expensive," he says. "The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.”

Egypt’s economy has been teetering on the brink since 2011. While the January 25 uprising ousted former president Hosni Mubarak, it also left the economy reeling. Five years, and a second uprising later, Egypt is still in the midst of an economic slump faced with rising inflation, increasing public debt and an unemployment rate of about 13% and an even higher youth unemployment rate of about 23%. There is also a significant foreign currency crisis, with Egypt’s foreign reserves at $15.5 billion, less than half of what they were before the uprising. Political instability has worsened the situation, making tourists and foreign investors shy away. Tourism is at an all-time low with no signs of recovery. This has left Egypt starving of foreign currency, with most of its sources severely diminished.

After weeks of negotiations, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) confirmed last month a $12 billion loan to Egypt over 3 years pending the IMF's approval. An IMF mission led by Chris Jarvis, the mission chief for Egypt, had visited Cairo on July 30 to discuss terms of the loan as well as support for the government’s economic reform program, in response to a request from the Egyptian authorities. Jarvis said that while, “Egypt is a strong country with great potential,” it also has “some problems that need to be fixed urgently,” effectively putting an end to months worth of speculation, as well as many conflicting official reports.

What does the loan mean?

Those with high incomes have excess money that will allow them to absorb the coming shock, especially with much of their wealth in the form of real estate and US dollars, Founder of Multiples Group Omar El-Shenety writes in Al-Shorouk. On the other hand, El-Shenety says, those with limited income will grow in numbers and fare much worse.

“Official statistics indicate that 1.5 million families went under the poverty line in 2015 alone. Moreover, as the size of this segment increases, and as prices insanely rise (greatly surpassing wage increases), this class is gradually moving to absolute poverty,” he warned, adding that this segment has no savings and no legal ways to increase their income. “Some will go to charity organizations for help, while others will turn to illegal acts. As for youth, they will seek to immigrate abroad, most probably through illegal channels.”

[caption id="attachment_522684" align="alignnone" width="620"]Omar El-Shenety Omar El-Shenety[/caption]

The middle class has always been the bastion of Egypt’s social and economic security, as it prefers stability to change even when faced with challenges, El-Shenety adds. He warns the middle class will see its purchasing power rapidly erode, leading to impoverishment. "A good part of it will annually fall below the poverty line to join the limited income classification, as happened last year."

"The middle class relies on a static income that is hard to raise. As their purchasing power erodes, they will face huge problems and will be unable to head to charity organizations for help as they will be overburdened with aiding the even poorer," El-Shenety says. "This change might prompt the children to reject this and maybe even revolt over worsening conditions ... Perhaps it is wise that these youth now work to greatly reduce their spending and focus on necessities to make it through this critical period, which may last for years before the fruits of economic reform start to materialize.”

How did we get here?

“This has not happened only over the last 2 years. It’s been a longer-term development,” former deputy prime minister for economic development Ziad Bahaa El-Din says. If we look at the last 5 years, the growth in public debt has been very steep primarily as a result of growth in government salaries, social spending, the subsidy component and the cost of the annual servicing of the debt.

“Those three items alone make up around 80 percent of the government’s spending, which is way beyond anything that allows enough money for investment and developing infrastructure. This has been happening for a while, but over the last 2 years there has been money coming into Egypt and there has been an opportunity to turn this around,” Bahaa El-Din says.

Still, Bahaa El-Din thinks a lot of the money is going to mega projects and huge infrastructure projects, which are currently not the best idea. “These may be very useful in the long term, but it’s not clear they should be a priority now. This has put additional strain on the dollar requirements and on public spending in general,” he says.

This, the state of tourism and the fact foreign investment has failed to pick up have put the country in a difficult position, Bahaa El-Din says.

The economy has also been hit by several negative external shocks. A decline in remittances from earnings abroad, declining foreign investment and slower growth have led the economy to suffer. This has resulted in dangerous levels of public debt, increasing from LE 1.6 trillion to LE 2.6 trillion in the last 2 fiscal years alone, with external debt increasing from $46 billion to $53 billion. Overall, as a percentage of GDP, public debt has increased from 95 percent to 100 percent. The budget deficit has exceeded 11 percent of GDP, and inflation is at 14 percent. The Egyptian pound has also weakened by about 45 percent against the US dollar in the parallel market.

Up until recently, Egypt had turned to the Gulf for aid to the tune of about $30 billion over the past couple years. Getting more funding now will be difficult as GCC countries face their own economic challenges due to low oil prices. With the government’s hands tied, a nation wary of IMF funding in the past has nowhere else to turn. Any worries that IMF provisions go against the principles of national sovereignty seem to have been set aside.

According to Jarvis, the IMF loan will indeed be supported by comprehensive reforms, soon to be voted on by parliament. And while some of these reforms might be overdue, the significance of the social repercussions is not lost on the current administration. In his first public remarks since the loan was confirmed, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi seemed aware of the pressures of the upcoming reforms and the challenges faced by those before him.

"The first effort at reform came in 1977. And when it was not accepted by the citizens, all the governments hesitated to make reform efforts, afraid of the reactions. It is not only you who will judge me. God will also judge, and so will history," Sisi said during a speech in Alexandria. "I will not hesitate for one second to make all the difficult decisions that many hesitated and were afraid to make over many years."

Although the full terms and the extent of the reforms of the IMF loan are yet to be released, most of its outline has taken shape. The program calls for the reduction of energy subsidies, namely raising electricity prices for households by an average of 42 percent, and eliminating industrial subsidies. It also calls for freezing government wages and imposing a value-added tax and further devaluating the Egyptian pound while encouraging internal and external loans.

Who’s afraid of the IMF?

The IMF could advise Egypt on its path to economic recovery. Instead of fretting over the loan's provisions, some welcome the guidance, transparency and sense of urgency the IMF would bring to long-postponed reforms.

“It is an exaggeration to assume these reforms are IMF driven. The truth is most of the reports don’t reveal the full extent and details of the program. All we have seen is the outline that came out in the official statement," Bahaa El-Din says. "But on the whole, these are measures that have been pursued by the government for the last 3 years and therefore they’re not IMF driven. The gradual reduction of energy subsidies and the new taxation, particularly VAT, are government policies."

The relative freeze or attempt to reduce the growth of government salaries was also a government policy before discussions with the IMF, Bahaa El-Din says. “Those elements are government policies and they should be looked at as such. The IMF will bring much better monitoring and much more transparency in where the budget is going, how the money is being spent and so on. It will also probably bring some decisions about the foreign currency issue, where clearly the management has been hesitating for a long time. But on subsidies, wages and taxation, I think this was already part of the government’s own program."

“The fact this is over 3 years and not a one-shot facility over 1 year is positive news," says Radwa El-Swaify, head of research at Pharos Holding. "It means the government will be committed to follow all the reforms and macroeconomic policies agreed upon with the IMF, there will be follow-up from the IMF and they’re going to continue to inject regular funds every year or every six months, depending on the transfer they agree on. This means there will be regular support for Egypt in tandem with the proper implementation of the macroeconomic reform program.”

The only way out?

In the face of such austerity, many ask if accepting the loan is the right decision.

“I think we’re past the point of supporting the loan or not supporting it," Bahaa El-Din says. "We are unfortunately in a situation where we have very few options. Egypt is in need of external help. It’s quite necessary at this stage because Egypt needs to try to close a big financing gap. It needs the money, it needs the advice and it needs the support of other institutions, not just the IMF. It also needs donor countries outside the IMF because the financing needs are actually bigger than those $12 billion.”

El-Swaify agrees. “The IMF loan is critical because our financing gap over the next 3 years is around $30 billion and unfortunately the dollar earners for Egypt are not doing well. Tourism and Suez Canal revenues are down. Investor appetite and investor confidence in Egypt is very low and not going to pick up soon. Plus, portfolio inflows are down to almost nonexistent, whether in fixed income markets or equity markets. Honestly, we have no chance now to get or earn US dollar financing from abroad except by tapping the IMF.”

According to El-Swaify, this sends a signal to investors that “we are going to have a macroeconomic program that the government is going to be committed to follow over the next 3 years. It’s not about being positive or negative. It’s about the fact we’ve reached a very critical stage and unfortunately we need this kind of help to get back on track.”

But maybe it should have never come to this point. Ahmed Galal, managing director of the Economic Research Forum and former finance minister, is critical of the path that led Egypt to this position, but insists on the loan’s significance.

“The government had an opportunity to present a more ambitious reform program to parliament, which it did not. The presented program was modest in its targets regarding fiscal consolidation, public debt reduction and currency stability. A combination of this modest program and reluctance on the part of the GCC to provide Egypt with further unconditional financial support meant that going to the IMF was inevitable,” Galal says. “I would have preferred a homegrown reform program that is not only ambitious but also socially balanced in terms of who pays for the reform. I was not in favor of an IMF program when I was in government because the IMF program is contradictory by design, and the Egyptian economy was already in a slump. An IMF program would have slowed down economic growth further and pushed unemployment up. We also had the resources at the time to implement an expansionary fiscal policy without creating an inflationary pressure because of the prevalence of excess capacity. Now the circumstances are different.”

[caption id="attachment_522682" align="alignnone" width="620"]Ahmed Galal Ahmed Galal[/caption]

But not everyone thinks it’s too late for an alternative. “We have better alternatives that the government has ignored, and we have rushed to sign an agreement with the IMF,” Gouda Abdel-Khalek, professor of economics at Cairo University and former minister of solidarity and social justice, writes in Al-Ahaly. “Economically, this program may bring some positives, such as attracting foreign investment into the stock market. But I think there will be more disadvantages.”

Abdel-Khalek is worried the loan will generate a tidal wave of high costs, further impoverishing the lower and middle classes, as well as being detrimental to social justice. “Egyptians will be stripped of their property for the benefit of the public,” he says. He suggests revising government spending (most notably official visits and celebrations), and postponing or canceling many major projects. Instead of the purported value-added tax, he proposes a progressive income tax system and reworking the tax on profits from stock transactions. Abdel-Khalek thinks Egypt should enact limits on imports per its World Trade Organization membership rights, and should strive to reopen all factories that have shut down.

Economist Galal Amin agrees. “Egypt’s current situation with the IMF is not only a source of sorrow and pain, but also quite surprising not only in terms of Egypt’s position, but also the IMF’s position toward Egypt,” he writes in Al-Ahram, comparing the situation to a smoker who can’t stop coughing and goes to the doctor’s only to find him happily chain-smoking. The cure, the doctor (in this case the IMF) suggests, “is not for the patient to stop smoking and drinking, but to take out one of his kidneys!”

“Sure the kidneys are diseased from all the drinking, but they are not completely hopeless," Amin writes. "Plus, I have a very bad feeling that this doctor is suspiciously involved with organ traffickers.”

Will the loan be enough?

The short answer is no. “It is our responsibility to make sure that the details of the agreement are consistent with efficiency, sustainability and equity," Galal says. For example, agreeing to raise the prices of some services may be justified to cover costs, but what if these costs are due to mismanagement? ... In short: the devil is in the details.”

He notes that IMF-supported programs typically focus on macroeconomic stability; economic growth, job creation and social justice are not the primary concern.“It is our responsibility to come up with two other reform agendas: one for economic growth and another for social justice.”

According to Galal, economic growth would require serious improvements in the business environment and better utilization of capacity. He believes social justice would require adopting initiatives to improve the quality and access to education and health services, pension reforms and possibly unemployment insurance.

With fiscal and economic reforms on the scale of those suggested by the IMF, there is always the fear of short-term ramifications. The IMF agreement suggests policies that obligate the government to reduce subsidies and limit social spending. A devaluation of the currency might raise inflation even higher. In the short-term, this is likely to raise prices, straining the middle and poor classes further as they continue to struggle with poor public services and high costs of living.

All of this begs the question of whether these reforms are bad for the poor.

“Fiscal reform and economic reform in themselves are not necessarily worse for the poor,” Bahaa El-Din says. “The poor do not benefit from a weak economy, a collapsing currency and a sense of economic insecurity, which everybody has been living with for the past couple of years. It’s important to dispel the notion that economic reform of the IMF type is necessarily detrimental to the poor. What makes it detrimental is when it's combined with a lack of transparency and specific choices that favor the rich over the poor.”

Bahaa El-Din believes better government policies in spending are not bad for the poor. "If you continue to spend on highways that will take the rich to their summer resorts and not on smaller roads that will take you to Upper Egypt, then that is a social choice and has nothing to do with the IMF," he says. "This is your own governmental choice. Of course there will be an increase in prices and there will be a reduction in social spending. It will be tough for everybody. But it is up to the government to make the right choices that should alleviate this, because it need not necessarily be all borne by the poor.”

Where do we go from here?

The discussions on the IMF have exposed Egypt’s economic malaise: stalling on key fiscal and monetary reforms, slow implementation of new policies, the lack of transparency and the absence of a focused economic plan. It is clear that reforms are needed and overdue.

“We’ve been postponing,” El-Swaify says. “A lot of reforms agreed upon with the IMF are ones the government has been talking about for ages. We’ve all known the government will apply the value-added tax - it’s been on the table forever. They haven’t taken any serious steps to implement it. Civil service has been on the table forever. In terms of tax restructuring, there has been talk of increasing the tax base or the sources of tax. Encouraging more of the informal sector to be formalized in order to raise more taxes - we've been talking forever about all of these things, but there have been no serious steps taken by the government to actually implement these reforms.”

It remains to be seen if the IMF can speed up reforms. "With the implementation of the government reform program, together with the help of Egypt’s friends, the Egyptian economy will return to its full potential," Jarvis said during the IMF's closing remarks on the loan. "This will help achieve inclusive job-rich growth and raise living standards for the Egyptian people.”

Real economic improvement will lay in the government's ability to adhere to an honest, considerate and serious reform program, regardless of the IMF loan, Bahaa El-Din says.

"What worries me is we seem to be debating only in terms of whether we should or shouldn't sign the agreement with the IMF. The truth is we are going to end up signing it anyways because our choices are limited. But that should not be the end of the debate," Bahaa El-Din says. "Once it's signed, it’s extremely important that society as a whole keeps on putting pressure on the government to reveal the information and to declare what is going on, to help us monitor the progress of this program - and to help us evaluate if some aspects could be better handled.

I think it would be a very grave mistake to think it’s all a yes or no situation, and that once the deed is done and the agreement is signed we can just forget all about discussing it."

9/26/2016 8:12:02 PM
<![CDATA[Once A Bustling Hub, Port Said Holds Beautiful Memories For Older Generation]]>Before the slated expansion plans change the face of today’s Port Said, we take readers on a tour of the once-bustling shopping destination - a city that holds delightful memories for its generations of residents. Today much of its European flavor has faded, but visitors can still witness some of its dying glory.

written and photographed by Farida Ismail

Port Said is a place where people burn cotton dolls at Easter, blow up truck-sized balloons to publicize their marriages and open up small street shops that take up half the streets where no car would dare to park.

But Port Said has not always been like this. It was once one of Egypt’s most charming cities, a beautiful port, an international commercial hub and a place where different cultures lived and learned from each other. Today, the most beautiful thing keeping it together is a few people’s remaining extreme love for it and the resolute attachment of its elderly.

[caption id="attachment_522631" align="alignnone" width="620"]An old postcard showing Commerce Street. An old postcard showing Commerce Street.[/caption]

My family has lived in Port Said for four generations. My two grandmas live on the memory of what Port Said used to be for them. I listen to their stories and it’s as if they’re talking about another place - some place European but still with a predominant Egyptian culture. Despite the changes the coastal city has seen, their love for it has never lessened. They never want to forget what it once was and every inch of Port Said to them has a story behind it. And the more you drive around Port Said, the more you realize how small it is. If it weren’t for the excessive amount of cars that seemingly vastly outweighs the population of 603,787, it would take minutes to go anywhere, anytime.

[caption id="attachment_522627" align="alignnone" width="620"]An old postcard of the French Cathedral. An old postcard of the French Cathedral.[/caption]

The Suez Canal started wars and built homes and made its impact on history. To me it’s simply home. I open my window and it’s right there. I didn’t really appreciate the view from my room until I grew up and understood what it really is I’m seeing. The canal is huge. I used to look out as a child and try to imagine where it ended and began but never could. Its perfectly steel blue water holds two permanent rusty green boats that are docked just behind a small villa with orange tiles that used to belong to the Suez Canal Authority.

[caption id="attachment_522633" align="alignnone" width="620"]The Suez Canal. The Suez Canal.[/caption]

The canal’s water surrounds a tail of land featuring small houses that spreads to the city itself. From my balcony, the far left of the canal continues behind the Suez Canal Authority building, one of Port Said’s most significant landmarks, representing the canal itself. It’s a white building with three green domes, one on either side and one big one in the middle that is always visible as you drive around the area. The canal extends after that building along with its Corniche. The Corniche is a long pavement looking over the canal where lovers sit watching the view while eating leb and termis (lupine seeds). The Canal’s dock is where most of the ships can be seen, sailing into town and stopping there. Some of the ships that dock are big enough to be confused for a building from the streets looking onto it. Moving along, the canal reaches a corner where the famous De Lesseps statue lies, or rather what's left of it. Ferdinand De Lesseps was a French diplomat who developed the Suez Canal and had a concrete-based statue built in his honor on the Corniche. The statue was destroyed in a revolt during the Suez crisis in 1956. Now all that remains is a stone block missing a body and a climbing exercise for Port Saidis to enjoy during the holidays.

[caption id="attachment_522634" align="alignnone" width="620"]An old postcard showing the De Lesseps statue. An old postcard showing the De Lesseps statue.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_522626" align="alignnone" width="620"]The De Lesseps statue today. The De Lesseps statue today.[/caption]

Port Said was once a place where European culture overweighed the city and its people. Driving along Gomhereya Street, a major thoroughfare in the main part of town, my maternal grandma tells me it used to be the classiest area in the city and people needed to be dressed in black tie just to pass through. Today, it is always busy and crowded with buyers selling shrimp, dripping water all over the sidewalk.

My grandparents went to French schools, speak fluent French and spent their early 20s working in Italian companies. The European influence is apparent in more than just the older generations, but also in the architecture and especially Port Said’s finest buildings: its churches. My grandma’s apartment has a huge balcony with an optimal location that overlooks these beautiful pieces of art. The closest one to her view is the St. Therese Maronite church with its domed sphere, striped with red bricks, and next to it a high tower with a big cross on top.

[caption id="attachment_522632" align="alignnone" width="620"]St. Therese Marionate Church. St. Therese Marionate Church.[/caption]

Behind it was a beautiful garden, with overgrown mango trees that climbed up to our balcony. Now most of these have been removed and the garden is home to the neighborhood’s cats. Across the street is another church, the Latin cathedral, rumored to be a replica of a church in Italy designed by Leonardo da Vinci. It catches my eye each time I pass by, and the older I get the more I realise how much it doesn’t fit with the rest of Port Said because of how foreign and medieval it looks. This cathedral also features a tower, albeit a much bulkier one than the Maronite Church’s, with a grand cross looming atop it. Protruding from the tower is the main building itself, decorated by many recurring long narrow windows all throughout the sides and the intricate detail in every different section of the pale brown building is exceptionally unique. Many residents, among them my family, fear the destruction of this church and other architecturally distinctive buildings in Port Said. Unfortunately, much of the town’s gorgeous architecture has been torn down in favor of more modern, excessively tall buildings that block most of the city’s views.

[caption id="attachment_522628" align="alignnone" width="620"]The Latin Cathedral. The Latin Cathedral.[/caption]

My grandma recalls how they used to see the beach from their home and now all we see out the windows are plain white apartment buildings, one after the other. Even my mom lived the days where they could see the beach from most homes. Sadly, today it is hard to catch a glimpse of the beach if you’re not really close to the shore area. My mother’s family had a small place by the coast a few miles after the main city where we used to visit every summer and go to the beach. I don’t remember the last time we went or why we stopped going, but it might have something to do with the water being less blue and more brown.

The beach was a place where actors from the Golden Age of Egyptian cinema filmed romantic scenes and citizens relaxed in bikinis on the weekends. My most recent visit was my first in almost 10 years. I went with a group of friends in April, and our families were skeptical, worried about harassment by people there, though we were fully clothed and four out of five of us were veiled. A decline in social manners may not be a problem, but cleanliness is. Even though the sand was smooth, warm and light, the water was brown and what once smelled like fresh air now smelled like rotten fish and garbage. Every time I tried to look at the horizon and appreciate the beauty of the waves lapping endlessly, I’d catch a glimpse of a man in his underwear walking around the shallow water splashing his loved one to death. We asked a guy working there to bring us some chairs and an umbrella and made the mistake of asking how much we needed to pay him. LE 40 for four chairs and an umbrella that almost fell on me three times because of the wind. The weather, though, was beautiful that day - windy and not too humid as Port Said usually is. Perfect spring weather.

The picture my grandparents paint of Port Said makes it very hard to accept what it is now. It’s not just about the European influence or the open-mindedness that disappeared over the years and generations. It’s the decline in authenticity. Most of the residents living there now are not originally Port Saidis, converging from neighboring governorates like Domyat. My mom says she used to recognize almost everyone as she walked around Port Said. Today, my grandfather says, “I don’t see people I know anymore.”

9/19/2016 8:01:37 PM
<![CDATA[Port Said Set For Revival, But The Road Will Be Difficult]]>With the launch of expansion and development projects, Port Said is on course for commercial revival, but the road to recovery will be long and arduous.

by Ahmed Goher

Speaking at the anniversary celebrations of the new Suez Canal last month, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi talked about the importance of reviving the Port Said commercial hub and announced the birth of what he called a “new Port Said.” Just two weeks later, on August 20, he called for a new, giant stadium to be established in the city of Port Said. The stadium is set to cover 135 feddans and is part of a broader sports city being constructed by the Engineering Authority of the Armed Forces including open courts, parks, and entertainment venues.

The stadium is only one prong in the comprehensive development plan envisioned for the coastal city, which is in northeast Egypt spanning around 30 kilometers along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, north of the Suez Canal and with an approximate population of 700,000 people. For one, Port Said, which was established in 1859 during the construction of the Suez Canal, lies at the heart of Egypt’s ambitious plan to transform the areas surrounding the canal into a world-class logistical, industrial and trade hub.

Port Said Governor Adel Al-Ghadban couldn’t be happier at the prospect of these new projects, which he is confident can generate over a million jobs. Such projects include a new port in East Port Said and expansions in the west port, the establishment of a number of factories in the city’s south and west following the recent discovery of oil fields along the province’s coast, the creation of a massive residential area, the digging of three tunnels linking east and west Port Said and the creation of large fishing and agricultural farms.

In 2015, the recession afflicting the city reached its peak. Back then, Member of Parliament Ahmed Farghali said the city’s 42,000 registered traders are “struggling to secure electricity and rentals for their businesses, with some resorting to downsizing their labor force.” Meanwhile, leftist leader Al-Badri Farghali expressed his dismay at the “the scene of the province with its streets empty of merchants.”

Matters became so dire that by December 2015 Egypt’s Presidency sent a letter warning the Cabinet of grave consequences if the recession in Port Said is not adequately handled and giving “urgent directives” to contain the “state of rage” spreading across the city’s traders.

Since then, the president and some of the country’s top military officials have paid particular attention to the city in their speeches, outlining progress that has been made and constantly announcing new projects to transform the city.

Mohamed Al-Masri, head of Port Said’s chamber of commerce, told Al-Wafd that the recession means such projects are not a luxury but are highly needed, adding that the president’s directives in that regard are constructive and appreciated.

Beltone Financial economist Shady Fakhoury stresses the importance of the city to Egypt’s development strategy, saying “there is no doubt that Port Said plays a central role in Egypt’s development plans,” and adding that “the area is set to witness huge industrial advancements, has benefitted from the discovery of gas along its coasts and is primely positioned to take part in the Suez Canal Economic Zone development project.”

That said, he believes caution should be taken when assessing the outcomes of the government reforms and projects. “Sure, the planned housing projects to alleviate poverty and eliminate slums are much needed, and so is providing adequate facilities for youth and the creation of job opportunities. Even more importantly, the monetary and fiscal reforms being pursued by the government are integral to the country’s whole wellbeing. But many of the fruits of these initiatives will take time to materialize.”

Fakhoury warns that ambitious promises of an economic takeoff happening anytime soon, whether in Port Said or anywhere else, could backfire if they are not met.

“Egypt is now on the verge of getting an IMF loan, and as we all know there are numerous conditions attached to the loan that will probably result in inflation. The coming few years will be tough for the average Egyptian citizen and this needs to be made very clear. Transparency is much needed and people need to know that these projects will not bear all the fruits soon. When you properly manage expectations, Egyptians will surprise you with their patience; on the other hand, if you make grand promises of prosperity occurring in the short term and then this doesn’t happen, then you have set yourself up on a concerning course.”

“The problem is whether public opinion is prepared to accept the measures which could be tough or harsh,” Sisi recently said at a conference last month. “Egyptians love their country and are able to face hardship, but they are too busy with their daily lives and so must be given the correct information about the measures.”

9/5/2016 5:18:50 PM
<![CDATA[Inside A Gorgeous Gouna Summer Home ]]>Combining comfort, functionality and attention to detail, the concept behind the interior design of this summer home, the Gouna Villa by Eklego Design, is contemporary and livable. The chosen furnishings and decorative accents capture the breezy spirit of the season — the designers wanted the home owners and their guests to sense summer in every way. Color played a major role in doing so and they made the most of it in every corner. Here’s a look inside this gorgeous getaway.

There’s a true sense of harmony between the vibrant interior and calm living space outside at the Gouna Villa. It’s a great place for sitting back, relaxing and enjoying the sunshine. Bold color combinations and comfort are the two things that give this space its warm, inviting feel. Bell Chairs are by Meuble El Chark and fabric is by Clarke & Clarke.

eklego design

Great home style is all about the details. Clean lines, natural textures, eye-catching accents and generous splashes of blue tie this beachy space together, connecting it to the seaside ambience outside. Curvy Sofa, Overlap Coffee Table, lighting and curtains by Eklego Design.

eklego gouna villa

Cushions are always a great addition to any space. Eklego Design encourages playing with fabrics from season to season to style up a sofa and add extra comfort. Lighting, Saneya Sofa and curtains are by Eklego Design, coffee table is by Caravanserai, and fabrics are by Clarke & Clarke.

eklego design villa

Beautiful and functional: that’s outdoor living at its best. Ladder Sofa, Bench and Chairs by Eklego Design; Island Coffee Table is by Ivanco.

eklego design gouna villa

A comfortable flow from the living spaces to dining area was key in creating an airy, open home. Add to that a glistening chandelier and natural light pouring in, the design is made for many family and friend-filled weekends spent staying in. Scaffold dining table and Tabby dining chairs are by Eklego Design.

eklego summer

About the Design Center

The Design Center is a one-stop-shop where you can furnish and decorate your house with the help of Eklego Design’s design specialists. They’ll help turn your house into a home by creating mood boards, room schemes, and color and fabric selections specifically tailored to your personal style. From design and production to shipping and installation, they handle the process from start to finish, delivering spaces that are beautifully designed and executed. For more information on Eklego Design’s Design Center furnishing and decorating services, call +201067898592 or email eklego@eklegodesign.com. Eklego Design showrooms are located at 8 Sheikh El Marsafy Street (above Beanos) in Zamalek, and 2 Ahmed Tayseer Street, Ard El Golf in Heliopolis.

8/28/2016 4:14:57 PM
<![CDATA[Rudie's Ultimate Safari Guide]]>Rudie Prinsloo, owner of Felleng Tours, has been doing safari tours through South Africa and beyond since 2001. The company is currently the top choice for safari tours by users on Trip Advisor. We went on a South Africa safari with Rudie and asked the safari expert to give us the essential tips on turning your dreams of an African safari into a reality.

written and photographed by Rudie Prinsloo

Each individual traveling to Africa has unique requirements, wishes and dreams. For many it is a journey of a lifetime, others might be searching for a glimpse of a rare endemic bird. We take great care in discovering what you want from your safari before making our recommendations.

The sample itineraries we list on our website fellengtours.com are just an illustration of the range of possibilities that we offer, highlighting the prime wilderness areas and a few of the special camps and lodges we offer to our guests. We also arrange trips to South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique. We cater for independent travellers and privately guided trips.

[caption id="attachment_522441" align="alignnone" width="620"]The Namibia desert. The Namibia desert.[/caption]

There are some common misconceptions people may have when coming on safari, including ideas that Africa is dangerous, that safaris are not safe and that the weather is extremely hot. The media portrays a real negative image of Africa; it would seem as if the entire continent is at war and filled with violence. There are hot spots where there are more conflict and violence, but violence towards tourists is exceptionally rare and guided safaris are considered to be quite safe. All safaris are done within game reserves. These reserves cater for the unique habitat of these animals as well as help the rehabilitation of endangered species. Africa doesn’t consist of wild unchecked animals roaming everywhere.

felleng tours safari

When it comes to weather, Africa is one of the warmest continents in the world. But you have various regions, from desert terrains to coastal and tropical areas. Africa has four seasons — the weather depends on where and when you visit.

Safaris in Southern Africa

Southern Africa consists of the following areas when it comes to safaris: South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Zambia. Zimbabwe is the least considered of these locations due to the political instability, and Zambia is considered to be less developed in infrastructure.

The wildlife found throughout Africa is mostly the same. But each area offers some unique flora and fauna because of the differences in the landscapes. Southern Africa includes the Okavango Delta and St. Lucia wetlands, the Skeleton Coast as well as the Namibia desert, miles of coastline, extensive areas of wilderness habitats such as the Kruger National Park, the semi-arid Kalahari Desert and also the lower Zambezi River basin that includes Victoria Falls.

[caption id="attachment_522442" align="alignnone" width="620"]Rudie Prinsloo, owner of Felleng Tours, and wife Agnes at Victoria Falls. Rudie Prinsloo, owner of Felleng Tours, and wife Agnes at Victoria Falls.[/caption]

The weather is very dependent on the country: rains generally fall between November and March, with the rest of the year mostly dry with limited rainfall. The rainy season offers more unique game viewing opportunities as the herbivores have their babies during this period.

Within Southern Africa, you will find a higher concentration of animals. Botswana contains around 80% of Southern Africa’s elephants, while the Umfolozi Game reserve contains the highest number of black and white rhinos.

Southern Africa’s game reserves are also well known for their luxurious private tented safari camps. The private camps offer lower dense tourist numbers, and game drives in open-air modified Land Cruisers or Land Rovers. The private camps offer general camps sizes of 10-16 guests; this gives you the opportunity of driving all day without encountering an overflow of other tourists.

[caption id="attachment_522439" align="alignnone" width="620"]Serengeti zebras. Serengeti zebras.[/caption]

The National Parks have much higher numbers of tourists, and also offer self-drive safaris and accommodation at rest camps inside the park. Kruger National Park, South Africa

The park is the largest game reserve in Africa totalling 19,485 square kilometers. It boasts a stunning 517 different species of birds. All of the big five can also be found at the park, which includes the African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard and white/black rhinoceros. The Kruger houses 114 different species of reptiles, including the black mamba as well as about 3,000 crocodiles.

The best time to visit is during the winter months, when vegetation is more sparse with higher chances of viewing the wildlife. Due to less rainfall during winter, the animals are drawn to the watering holes early in the morning and evenings, making it easier to stop them.

felleng tours safari 2

Chobe Game Reserve, Botswana

This park contains the highest concentration of elephants in Africa, estimated to be around 50,000. It can be divided into four different areas. First is the Chobe riverfront, which features floodplains and woodlands known for high numbers of elephants. The Chobe offers major watering spots for large herds of elephant, giraffe, buffalo and sable. During the flood season, large numbers of birds are seen around this area.

The second area is the Savuti Marsh, which includes savannahs and grasslands that offer dynamic wildlife. The dry seasons give tourists a chance to spot warthogs, kudus, impalas, zebras, wildebeests, elephants, lions, hyenas and cheetahs. During the rainy season, more than 450 different species of birds can be seen.

The third area is the Linyanti Marsh, adjacent to two rivers, known for large numbers of lions, leopards, wild dogs, roan antelopes, sable, hippopotamus and herds of elephants. The birdlife in this area is also exceptional because of the abundance of water.

Lastly is the area between Linyanti and Savuti Marsh area: it is dry and hot, and great for viewing eland.

[caption id="attachment_522436" align="alignnone" width="620"]Elephants in Namibia. Elephants in Namibia.[/caption]

Pilanesberg Game Reserve, South Africa

Filling 572 square kilometers, the Pilanesberg includes lions, leopards, cheetahs, elephants, rhino, sable, buffalo, kudus, zebras, impalas and other cats such as caracals. It also boasts 360 species of birds. Pilanesberg is close to Johannesburg and also to the Sun City entertainment complex, a luxury resort and casino.

Hwhange National Park, Zimbabwe

This is the largest game reserve in Zimbabwe, and the site of the infamous poaching incident of Cecil the Lion in July 2015. Gemsbok, brown and spotted hyena, lion, leopard, cheetah and elephant are some of the main animals that are found inside the reserve.

Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa

The Madikwe is the fifth-largest game park in Southern Africa, totalling 750 square kilometres. It has a population of more than 10,000 mammals, including elephant, buffalo, black and white rhino, antelope, lion, cheetah, leopard, spotted hyena and wild dogs.

The Do’s and Don’ts

Don’t expect to see all the animals on your first safari. Don’t get out of the vehicle unless a guide says it is safe, and don’t litter or expect full luxuries while on game drives.

Don’t expect cell phone coverage. Take the time off to relax with your fellow travellers in nature — it truly has a lot to offer.

Don’t expect children to sit still and stay quite on long game drives.

Don’t forget to take malaria tablets if you’re heading into an area known for malaria.

Don’t walk around at night. Predators are more active then, as this is their time for hunting.

Don’t run!!! Predators like lions have an instinct to chase.

Don’t leave your lights on — they only waste energy and attract a lot of bugs.

Do stick to the essentials while packing, and only take what is needed as there are strict weight limits on flights into game reserves.

Elephants Namibia felleng tours

Do wear comfortable, easy-breathing clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty.

Respect your fellow travellers and passengers. Respect nature as well as the animals.

Enjoy the bush and all the tranquillity it has to offer.

Do feel free to offer a tip to guides, drivers and other staff who help you on your journey.

Do have a camera ready for amazing sights along the way.

Do keep passports and other important documents on you at all times, and carry copies of these documents in a safe place on your travels.

Do carry a first-aid kit and enough water per person, as temperatures get extremely hot and hydration is key.

Do keep tents and accommodation closed at all times, as you never know what you might find inside if left open — bats, snakes, lizards and spiders.

Do use sunscreen and insect repellent.

8/21/2016 6:38:30 PM
<![CDATA[Your Ultimate Guide To The Best Of Sahel]]>Summer is kicking into high gear, with the North Coast’s hottest venues ready for this year’s beachgoers. While prices are soaring, Sahel is as crowded as ever and beach chairs along this 1,200 km stretch of the Mediterranean Sea between Alexandria and Marsa Matrouh are already fully booked. We bring you Sahel’s hottest spots, whether you are looking to relax by the sea, party across the coast or enjoy an outing with the family.

by Ahmed Goher and Lamia El-Etribey

Eve Ladies Beach Eve boasts itself as an exclusive international brand dedicated to “you hard working females that deserve a little pampering every now and again.” The private women-only beach & Spa is located in Marina 5 on a 5 sqm plot by the sea. With an array of indoor facilities and activities, the resort promises a fun and relaxing escape from Egypt’s hectic city life.

Sachi By the Sea If top-notch food is your thing be sure to visit Sachi By the Sea in Hacienda. The food is undoubtedly expensive, as are the cocktails, but visitors swear its scenic setting overlooking a lagoon is well worth it and makes for exceptional evenings. The bar/restaurant is open every day from 7 pm to 1 am.

Diplomatic Village 5 While it is not really a new addition, this Sahel staple is still going strong. Those looking for an excellent, quite beach spot for some tanning and swimming would do well to come here. Keep in mind, however, that activities are sparse.

The Beach Bar by The Lemon Tree& Co. Ever since it launched a couple of years ago, this venue has solidified its spot as the go-to-place in Sahel with its beachside views, shows, and impeccable dining. Drop in anytime before 7 pm, otherwise make sure you reserve well-ahead of your visit (preferably a few days earlier).

The Park If you’ve got kids, make sure to visit the newly opened The Park at Marassi. With 2.5 sqm of gardens, vacationing families can spend the day walking and cycling as kids have fun at a number of attractions, including the Animania petting Zoo, Adrenalin Paintball, a Bubbles play area, a squash and martial arts academy, an open theatre featuring movies and plays, and mini Football and Volleyball courts.

6IX Degrees Located in Hacienda Bay, this is undoubtedly THE hottest party destination in Sahel. Their reservation number is useless – you absolutely need connections to get one of its highly sought-after tickets. Be warned, however, this place get crowded – and if that’s not your thing your better off finding a less intense party spot.

[caption id="attachment_522317" align="alignnone" width="620"]6IX Degrees 6IX Degrees[/caption]

Trux Sahel just got its own version of street food with Trux, a food-truck park offering a variety of gourmet delectables to hungry beach goers. From gourmet hot dogs and burgers to Cold Stone Creamery’s signature ice cream and scrumptious lebanese bites from Bab Tooma make sure to pass by Trux to grab a quick meal. You can even get a quick hair cut at Mohamed Al Sagheer’s truck. Trux is located right outside Amwaj, directly on the high way Km 136, Alex. Matrouh Desert Rd., Sidi Abdel Rahman. On weekdays it is open from 5pm to 4am and on weekends from 5pm to 6am.

Martin’s Beach Club Situated in Marassi’s North Beach, Martin’s Beach Club is one of the trendiest places this summer, attracting select guests from all over the country who come to chill from 11 am to sunset. The venue offers a beautiful shore, delicious food cooked up by La Bodega and supposedly really good cocktails. Shisha is also available. Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG), the award-winning loyalty programme from Starwood Hotels, also boasts its exclusive “SPG Sahel Beach Lounge” at Martin’s Beach. From July 6- August 14, SPG members along with one accompanying guest will enjoy complimentary access daily between noon and sunset to this chill out space with DJ entertainment, a dedicated SPG bar and also get rewarded with summer essentials. SPG members are required to make reservations at least one day prior and present their membership cards or provide a valid SPG number at the Lounge entrance to enjoy exclusive access and benefits.

[caption id="attachment_522320" align="alignnone" width="620"]Martin's Beach Club Martin's Beach Club[/caption]

Uber Sahel Available 24/hours everyday, Uber has you covered in the North Coast – whether you want to secure yourself an excellent location on the beach early in the morning, or after a long night of partying. You’ll be able to order your uberTukTuk in Telal at the North Coast and the ride from your chalet to the beach roughly costs LE 10.

IKEA If you’re heading to your chalet in the North Coast and want iconic swedish furniture and accessories to make your vacation as comfy as possible, fret not – Ikea has you covered. Simply vist Ikea’s Villa in Amwaj Sidi Abdel Rahman, choose the items you need, pay at the bank, bring back the receipt and Ikea will have the items delivered and installed for you at your place.

Elves This innovative app has arrived to the North Coast to present you with an army of hardworking elves to cover your every need. We’re not talking about majestic Lord of the Rings elves here, but more like Santa’s little helpers. Whether you want advice on the best restaurants, party spots, or beach spots, the app has a dedicated helper just for you. Its like having your very own personal assistant. Their elves will even rent your Sahel home for you, promising handle “contracts, cleaners, keys, and most importantly screening.”

Andiamo Pizza Bar Sun beds will have you tanning here during the morning. At night, get ready to spend a delightful evening as you sip on cocktails and enjoy the view overlooking a lagoon as classy music plays in the background. They also offer really good pizzas.

Sea Salt Beach Bistro & Bar While complex and decadent French cuisine is not really the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the beach, Sea Salt Beach Bistro & Bar’s wood-oven pizzas topped with truffles and lobster will probably change that. The restaurant/bar is located in Telal.

The Tap North Whether you go early in the morning or late ate night, The Tap North in Marassi has some guaranteed fun in store for you. In addition to drinks and wild pool fun, beach Volleyball, Ping Pong and Foosball will ensure you aren’t bored for a single second. If all that wasn’t enough, we’d go just for the to-die-for chicken wings.

Lake Yard Touted as the largest food court in the North Coast, Lake Yard in Hacienda has set up a huge amount of booths for you to satisfy your craving for all sorts of cuisines: from Egyptian, Italian and Lebanese to Mexican and Asian.

Ciel The Smokery being on board to serve up their amazing creations isn’t the only reason you should visit Ciel this summer. Water activities, two Jacuzzis nestled inside VIP lounges, and a beautiful pool also work to lure you there. Moreover, watch out for their occasional beachside party where big DJs come and spin classy beats.

Tabla Fret not if you’ve exhausted all your efforts and still could not get your hands on a ticket to 6IX degrees. Situated between Amwaj and Blu Mar, Tabla offers just as much fun with a lot more accessibility.

White Coast Located in Bianchi, Sidi Abdel Rahman, White Coast has finally hit Sahel this summer for some amazing bites, cocktails and the latest beats. The picturesque setup, inspired by the Greek Santorini, and their palatable cuisine attracts a diverse crowd. Aside from the indoor area, they have a terrace area and pool where you can sit back and lounge.

Coca-Cola It might be a bit strange for Coke to earn a spot on our Sahel guide this year, yet here it is – and for good reason: Coca-Cola Ice bottle. This year Coca-Cola has hit all the top beaches in Sahel with bottles made completely out of ice for a new and unique experience of the world’s most famous soda.

[caption id="attachment_522318" align="alignnone" width="620"]Coca Cola Coca Cola[/caption]]]>
8/7/2016 4:34:21 PM
<![CDATA[Baheya Foundation Offers Free Services, Fights To Raise Breast Cancer Awareness]]>Baheya women's hospital is the first of its kind in Egypt, not only working to raise awareness of the disease but also offering free treatment and services.

by Farah El Akkad

Baheya Foundation, a women’s hospital launched earlier last year, is considered one of the biggest, if not the only, hospital in Egypt helping women detect and treat breast cancer. Most importantly, the services are free.

The hospital takes its name from Baheya Othman, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in her older years. Othman courageously battled the disease for many years and during the course of her fight came to realize just how difficult it is getting proper treatment in Egypt — particularly for women who cannot afford the exorbitant expenses.

When Othman passed away, her family chose to turn her house into a hospital, in order to help women suffering from cancer. In particular it is meant as a lifeline for women of limited means and who cannot pay for treatment.

Today Baheya Women’s Hospital, on the site of Othman’s house located in El Haram district, offers all our services for free to all segments of the society, no matter what their social status, religion or ethnicity, says says Dina El-Oreiby, Baheya Foundation marketing director. Hospital services include everything from walk-in early detection screening to advanced therapy and treatment for cancer patients. It is also the first hospital to offer a comprehensive program to help patients deal emotionally with their illness and can arrange to make home visit for those who cannot attend in clinic. “Since we started in February 2015, Baheya has successfully done early detection tests on 14,000 ladies; 1,200 of those have received chemotherapy and the hospital has performed 1,275 surgeries,” says El-Oreiby.

Emotional resilience plays a huge role in battling cancer, especially as intensive cancer treatment like radio and chemotherapy do take a devastating physical and emotional toll on patients. Staunch believers that “Optimism is half of the treatment,” as they say on their homepage, Baheya Hospital launched an initiative with L’Oreal Paris to encourage women to donate some of their hair to be made into wigs that can help cancer patients feel less conscious after treatment.

baheya women's hospital

The face of the campaign, called “Just a Haircut,” which called on women to give just 20 cm of their hair and send it in to the hospital, was actress and social activist, actress Mona Zaki. “Personally, I always like to help in anything related to health and society, not just cancer related,” says Zaki. “If time permits, I would never say no to anything like that,” explaining that she jumped at the chance to take part in the campaign.

“After hearing the story of the honorable lady who passed away and left her house to become the hospital we see today, I was equally touched and excited to work on the campaign,” says Zaki, who cuts off part of her own hair as “a small contribution” to women who suffer from cancer. “L’Oreal Paris have this concept abroad, they encourage people whenever they want to cut their hair, to donate it to cancer patients who need to wear wigs. It is more like a product thing that raises awareness and makes one more cooperative on a human level.”

Zaki, whose popular films and serials often center around women’s issues, is happy an institution like Baheya Hospital is working on the early detection of breast cancer and is raising awareness of how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. “I advise all women and particularly women after a certain age to go for regular checkups. Routine checkups are very important. Eating healthy, taking care of what one eats. Reading a lot about food and health because I think it does help if you have awareness about health or any issue one might face.”

Baheya understands that in Egypt, women always put their home and family before their own health, and is trying to change this attitude by pushing the concept that women need to be healthy in order to take care of their families. Her advice to all women is: “Don’t wait to the last moment, do early checkups starting at the age of 30. Eat healthy balanced meals and walk or do sports for 20 minutes at least four times a week.”

Zaki has set a good example, and her video, which can be seen on the Baheya Foundation Facebook page, has been viewed close to 2 million times — a great promotion of the hospital’s cause.

“Since the campaign, I feel there is an obvious development,” Zaki says proudly. “They have more patients now, more people know about them. They have a big waiting list that I hope they have the chance to grow and be able to accept more people and reach all women in need. I am very happy that I help even in a small way. I try to be there for Baheya whenever they need me. I really hope I can continue to support the foundation in any way possible.”

Raising both awareness and donations has not been an easy feat says El-Oreiby, but the progress has been very promising. “Baheya’s success is built on the shoulders of every person, corporations and public institutions. We would not be able to continue its success without the consolidation of all the community … through donations, sponsorships and word of mouth.”

At present, Baheya Foundation is working on the launch of a new radiotherapy department equipped with two True Beam radiotherapy machines, says El-Oreiby, adding that the equipment features cutting edge technology that is not available elsewhere in Egypt.

The task at hand, El-Oreiby says, is to cover costs of the Baheya premises, mainly the surgeries, through donations and the support of the community. "We also need to cover the ever-increasing running costs of medications that cost Baheya LE 3 million a month," she says. "Looking ahead, we also plan to increase the number of the early detection units at Baheya.”

This article originally appeared in the June issue of Egypt Today.

8/7/2016 3:43:23 PM
<![CDATA[Ahl Masr Set To Open Egypt's First Burn Injuries Hospital ]]>Some 100,000 people get burned yearly in Egypt, and only a few manage to afford the care needed to survive, according to the Ahl Masr Foundation. The numbers are harrowing, the mortality rate of burn victims in Egypt is as high as 37%, compared to the average of 5% in other countries in the region. Moreover, the majority who do survive find it hard to carry on with their daily activities due to their physical disfigurement and physiological trauma.

Ahl Masr Foundation is tackling the issue with its plan to build a non-profit hospital fully dedicated to burn cases.

by Ahmed Mansour

Ahl Masr was founded by Heba El-Sewedy, a prominent philanthropist hailing from the El-Sewedy family, Egypt’s cable industry magnates. Known as the “Mother of the Revolution” and “Egypt’s Mother Teresa,” El-Sewedy donated enormous amounts of money to the injured in the January 25 Revolution and continues to support charitable causes. Her new planned hospital, to be inaugurated in mid-2016, is set to become the first and the biggest burn hospital in the region.

The total area planned for the hospital is 24,000 sqm in New Cairo. The hospital not only provides comprehensive medical services to the burn victims, but also psychiatric treatment, outreach programs and social rehabilitation.

While Ahl Masr, which became fully operational in early 2013, launched mainly to aid individuals suffering from heart problems, eye injuries, and burns, it soon realized that burn victims were particularly neglected and found that no other NGO in Egypt was taking their matter seriously. Accordingly, the foundation decided to shift a sizable portion of its focus to burn victims.

“We noticed that there are many cases of burn victims in Egypt that are not cared for properly. It all started when we received cases of burn victims, yet didn’t know what hospital to send them to for proper and necessary care. Nearly all the hospitals in Egypt are not well equipped to handle cases of acute burns, which lead to the death of almost 80% of burn victims. We decided to establish a hospital specifically dedicated to burn victims,” says El-Sewedy.

[caption id="attachment_521432" align="alignnone" width="620"]A burn victim who received treatment at the hospital poses for a photo with his family. A burn victim who received treatment at the hospital poses for a photo with his family.[/caption]

So far, Ahl Masr boasts around 1,600 success stories in Egypt, some of whom have fully recovered and others still undergoing regular assessments and checkups.

One story is that of Habiba Reda, who according to the foundation’s website is “a vibrant and passionate five-year-old from Minia governorate.” Reda was injured in 2014 while she was trying to save her mother who had caught on fire. Reda’s face and head were severely burned, leaving her with permanent disfiguration and social rejection by her peers. With the help of Ahl Masr, Habiba “fully recovered and is set to have plastic surgery that will dramatically help her physiologically.”

Another story is the case of Amina Adel from Helwan Governorate. She was burned testing a gas cylinder using a match. The fire spread all over her body, leaving her suffering from massive burn injuries around her mouth, chest, arms and legs. Luckily, Adel has also recovered and the foundation’s website claims her face continues to smile despite everything that she’s been through.

Raghda Adel, from Minia Governorate, and her family lived in a modest and unsafe house. She was preparing a family meal when her gas cylinder exploded and her entire body caught fire. Raghda suffers from extensive burns and needs at least four reconstructive surgeries.

“Among the reasons behind why no one is approaching the issue of burn victims in Egypt is that treatment is very expensive,” says El-Sewedy.

According to the foundation, the cost per day to treat a burn victim ranges from LE 2,500 to LE 3,500 and this sum includes only 23% of the total cost needed for the patient to be fully cured.

“We don’t only provide plastic surgeries to the victims, but we also manage to provide them with the medication to help ease their pain and improve their recovery rates. Such medication is extremely expensive — a single dose can go up to LE 750 pounds — and not all people can afford it.”

The new hospital is set to include around 60 beds and 20 intensive care units that are fully equipped to handle mild and acute burn cases, a sophisticated treatment center for burn victims with comprehensive support services and assistance, and a team of highly qualified doctors and nurses who will receive constant training on the latest developments in the field of burn medicine.

[caption id="attachment_521438" align="alignnone" width="620"]Designs for Ahl Masr's new burns hospital. Designs for Ahl Masr's new burns hospital.[/caption]

The hospital will also employ unorthodox medical methods such as music treatment, which has been shown to have a notable effect on burn victims’ psychological well-being, and other alternative medicine.

Ahl Masr also strongly believes that prevention is better than cure, and that’s why they launched the ‘Safe Village’ initiative to improve the infrastructure of buildings in Upper Egyptian villages by ensuring homes have access to water and by rebuilding rooftops with clay instead of hay to reduce vulnerability to fires. Also, the program entails providing fire extinguishers for every home, raising awareness on the causes of fires and providing first aid training sessions.

“I have been following the progress that Ahl Masr has been making over the past two years, and I do believe that they will be able to provide services, in a short period of time, that other NGOs have been trying to achieve over decades,” says Ahmed Bahaa, a philanthropist and board member of Al-Shorouk Hospital, adding, “Their decisions have always been educated and calculated. This is what makes them, in my opinion, the top NGO in Egypt.”

Ahl Masr’s success particularly shines through its ability to collect the funds necessary to finance its programs. “For the first time in Egyptian history we managed to get competing companies, such as Orange and Etisalat and Juhayna and Domty, to sponsor us to achieve what we want. Also, the government was of tremendous help: they provided us with the land to build our hospital on, they are facilitating our entry to governorates so that we can teach the people living there about the methods of prevention of burns, and they are also allowing us to access all the government buildings so that we can educate employees about first aid and prevention methods,” says El-Sewedy.

Ahl Masr has also launched an initiative titled Humanity Burn Free to spread awareness regarding burns and the methods of preventing them. “This initiative provides all the support needed for victims to understand that they are not alone and they do have our utmost support,” explains El-Sewedy, adding that she has been trying to influence the WHO and the UNICEF to create a Humanity Burn Free day to commemorate all burn victims and raise awareness. In May, Ahl Masr also hosted a concert for the Lebanese singer Majida El-Roumi at the Giza Pyramids, with all proceeds going to the burns hospital.

“The government always cares about the well-being of the people, and we take it as our responsibility to facilitate the processes and provide the utmost support to philanthropists like Heba El-Sweedy, who take it upon themselves to improve the quality of life of Egyptians," says Hassan Ali, spokesperson of the Ministry of Health. "The hospital is promising, and we hope that it becomes as successful as 57357.”

8/2/2016 5:15:50 PM
<![CDATA[Domestic Sexual Abuse Victim Tells His Story]]>Sexually molested by his brother - as his father molested his sisters - Ahmed shares his shocking story of harrowing domestic sexual abuse, and his journey towards healing.

*Victims' names have been changed to protect their privacy.

by Ahmed Mansour

I wouldn’t consider myself a member of a normal, functioning family,” says Ahmed, who chooses to keep his last name confidential. Ahmed, who is 25 years old and married, says: “I come from a family with parents who don’t know how to love or show compassion in any way. Being born and raised in Saudi Arabia, all my parents cared about was making enough money to make their stay in that country worthwhile, or at least that was my mom’s job. We are a big family; I’m the youngest of five siblings: Youmna, my eldest sister, Sandy, Shady, and Lamis.*

I was around six years old when I started to realize what was taking place. It was also around that time when I walked in on my father having sex with our maid. Try imagining a six-year-old boy seeing his father sleeping with the maid. Subconsciously, I knew that I shouldn’t tell anyone and just pretend that everything is all right. But little did I know the toll it would take on me. Little by little I started to realize that there was something wrong with my father.

Youmna, my eldest sister, was the closest one to my heart. I used to think that she was an angel sent from heaven just for me. She told me that I got really attached to her when I was a baby, especially when she used to comfort me by carrying me when I cried. She couldn’t take the crying, she said, when no one would do anything to try and calm me down. She is a sweetheart, but she is the one who was abused the most by my father, and I was always her savior. Whenever my dad went to her room to try and do whatever he does, she used to call out for me in that certain tone, and no matter where I was, and no matter what I was doing, I used to drop everything immediately and go to rescue her. Every time my dad felt that I was coming, he used to let her go. This scenario went on and on for ten years. Eventually, it caught up with my other two sisters.

I felt like I was the guardian of my sisters. I felt like if I wasn’t present, for even an hour, he’d probably go as far as to rape them, and sometimes I thought he might even murder them. I felt responsible for my sisters, but yet there was nothing that I could do to protect them since this was so much bigger than me. I was only a little kid.

I never knew how far he got with my sisters. But I do know is they probably never gave him a chance to do what he wanted to do. I know they never felt safe in their own home, the person we all thought should be our protector was really nothing but a monster.

Being a member of a dysfunctional family means that we never felt safe enough to go tell our mother what was going on. We were all afraid that it might backfire and that our mother would blame us for what our dad was doing. We never had the courage to go and tell her. Also, our parents were not the kind of people to dedicate time to their children. They never took us out like all my friends’ parents did. For me, those family outings were something I’ve never experienced. When I was about ten, I would have done anything to go out and see the streets and just enjoy my time. My brother, however, did do all that.

I used to share a room with my brother, Shady. It was a small room, so my parents decided that instead of having two separate beds, we were to share a queen-size bed. He was always known as rebellious. He used to steal my dad’s car in the middle of the night and go cruising. He used to take me with him, but only if I did things with him before we left. But even if I refused, he’d force me to do it anyways. He is eight years older than I am. I used to cry as he molested me. I hated everything about it, to the extent that I hated going to bed and I cried myself to it every day. When I woke up, I would pretend that everything was normal, that nothing had happened the night before and that nothing would happen at the end of the day.

I couldn’t tell anyone about my brother for two reasons. The first reason is that my father was a mess anyways and I always had this feeling that they were both in it together. And the second reason is that he was my brother, and I always felt that if I told on him, he’d get into more trouble than he could bear.

The abuse only stopped when my brother and Lamis travelled to Egypt for university, and both Youmna and Sandy got married. So it was only me and my father and mother. Of course, my father kept on bringing women home, but by then he didn’t bother to hide it as well as he used to. He already knew that I knew and that I did nothing about it. But I did do a lot about it, I prayed to God that he would rid me of this monster that only brought burden, hatred, and fear into my life.

domestic sexual abuse

I’m scarred for life that’s for sure, but now I am married. I have my own home, and I cannot look at all that has happened to me except in one way; that now I know how to take care of my own family when I have one. I know what kind of parent I will be. I believe everything happens for a reason, but I’m yet to fathom why all of this happened to me.”

At the end of his shocking account, Ahmed gave Egypt Today permission to talk to his psychiatrist Azziz Ezz, who has a PhD in domestic sexual violence, about how such traumatic experiences can become catalysts for positive change.

“There are many cases here in Egypt like Ahmed’s," says Ezz. “I come across new cases almost weekly. It’s an issue that needs to be addressed publicly so that we can put an end to this but the problem is that most people do not want to go public with their stories because of the implications it would have on their personal lives, especially in a culture like Egypt’s.” Ezz adds that while events in Ahmed’s life have affected him negatively, they also gave him a lot of power and strengthened his will to improve his own personal life.

“Every negative experience in one’s life has a positive side to it," he says. "And that should be the victims main focus.”

Domestic sexual harassment has long been an issue not only in Egypt but the entire Middle East. Amnesty International cites an increase in domestic sexual harassment cases reported to the authorities in the MENA region from 30,000 to 220,000 cases, and experts estimate that only 63% of the actual incidents that occur are reported.

Further studies show that children between the ages of five and 14 are often the victims of domestic sexual harassment because they do not fully understand the fact that these actions are impermissible and usually do not have the courage to share the issues with an adult.

A 2015 study by the Egyptian Demographic and Health Survey noted that 73% of children in Egyptian households have faced some kind of domestic violence. Among those, 36% have witnessed domestic sexual abuse. The fathers in the households were reported twice as often as brothers to be the abusers, the study found.

The issue of domestic sexual abuse is part of a larger and broader sexual harassment problem plaguing Egypt. According to Amnesty International, more than 99 percent of women and girls in Egypt interviewed for a survey published by UN Women in 2013 reported that they had experienced some form of sexual harassment.

While there have been some convictions since a new law making sexual harassment a crime punishable by a minimum of one year in prison was introduced in 2015, the majority of women who have been harassed are still waiting for justice.

“After many years of research and studies in hospitals and rehab centers, I found that the phenomenon of sexual harassment is more of a physiological disease that has infested not only the youth of our country but men of all ages, rather than an attitude," says Mohamed Nazeef, a psychiatrist and professor at Cairo University. "I consider it to be a contagious disease that might pass on to the victims: A person who was domestically sexually abused at a young age might become a sexual abuser when they come of age.”

7/17/2016 5:47:09 PM
<![CDATA[Inside Old Cairo's Leather Tanneries ]]>As the capital’s leather tannery workers await news of an imminent relocation outside the city, the workmen who have dedicated their lives to the once-booming trade are concerned a hold on exports will choke their industry to death.

written and photographed by Abdelrhman Mohamed

For centuries the nation’s leather tanneries have been nestled in Sur Magra El-Oyoun in the heart of Old Cairo. Egypt has a long history of tannery, an industry that brings in billions of dollars every year. But a government decision to transfer the workshops outside of Cairo will, many feel, signal the end of a successful industry.

[caption id="attachment_504622" align="alignnone" width="620"]A worker stacks hides before they are cleaned of hairs. A worker stacks hides before they are cleaned of hairs.[/caption]

The government’s plan to relocate tanneries to Rubeiky in Badr City, 40km outside the capital, is not a new one. Meeting with vehement protests from the workers themselves, who feel they will be exiled away from their homes, the plan has been shelved several times in past years. But with Old Cairo suffering from neglect by authorities, tannery employees themselves can no longer work under the ever-worsening conditions and today many are calling on the government to put the proposed plan into action.

[caption id="attachment_504623" align="alignnone" width="620"]These barrels use chemicals to clean the hides that are being tanned. These barrels use chemicals to clean the hides that are being tanned.[/caption]

But it wasn’t just the resistance holding back the government from going ahead with the relocation: a lack of funding makes it difficult to kickstart the process. Last March, Minister of Trade and Industry Tarek Qabil announced that the relocation is set to finally go ahead as planned and that the government will begin signing over workshops in July.

A day following the announcement, El-Watan published an investigative piece assessing how ready the residential area surrounding the factory sites was to receive its incoming tenants, finding that it was not yet as habitable as authorities would have leather tannery workers believe. There is still work to be done in the residential areas, primarily the paving of the four-kilometer long road connecting Rubeiky with the main thoroughfare, lighting and putting a police force in place to ensure security.

[caption id="attachment_504624" align="alignnone" width="620"]The hides are hosed down with water and then stacked to get rid of the excess water. The hides are hosed down with water and then stacked to get rid of the excess water.[/caption]

Reactions to the relocation announcement have been mixed. “Many of the owners want to go. Right now we’re suffering from ever-worsening conditions here: deteriorating facilities like piling garbage and lack of hygiene, and frequent gas and electricity cuts. So many of us have asthma, and moving to a less polluted area like Badr will be beneficial to us all.”

[caption id="attachment_504626" align="alignnone" width="620"]A worker takes a break under the dyed hides. A worker takes a break under the dyed hides.[/caption]

On location in Badr, El-Watan spoke to Tamer El-Nems, an engineer and member of the Badr City Youth Council. “The site is one of the most ideal for a tannery industry due to the strategic location within the Badr industrial complex,” El-Nems says. “This is in addition to its proximity to the Ring Road and the Cairo-Suez Road, which are ideal for transporting goods to ports in the Red Sea for export.”

[caption id="attachment_504627" align="alignnone" width="620"]A worker feeds the tanned hides into a machine for extra color. A worker feeds the tanned hides into a machine for extra color.[/caption]

But not everyone is as welcoming, arguing that the relocation will only mean them losing their loyal customers in Old Cairo, many of whom they know personally. “It won’t be easy after so many years in Magra El-Oyoun to move out. But if the decision is going to be applied to all, I will go – as long as the place that I am being moved to is better than or at least as good as the place I’m in now. There has to be compensation,” workshop owner Ahmed Mahran told El-Watan. “But we’ve been hearing about the plan for years. Now we’re in March and they say we’re being moved in July and no one has even informed us of the decision. There are around 100,000 of us working the tanneries, and no one’s been told,” Mahran complains.

Abdel Rahman El-Gabbas, a member of the Leather Tanning Chamber, disclosed to El-Watan that once the Rubeiky facilities are completed in July, the first phase of relocation will be announced by the Ministry of Trade and Industry and that relocation would begin straight away. “Those who want to move will be able to present their applications in July and those who don’t will be offered compensation of LE 2310 per meter. Workshop owners who decide to move will be given a workshop with a hangar.”

[caption id="attachment_504628" align="alignnone" width="620"]A worker hangs leather hides in the sun to dry out. A worker hangs leather hides in the sun to dry out.[/caption]

Workshop owners have asked for nearby housing for their workers in addition to infrastructure facilities, such as sewage systems, electricity and water.

In the meantime, workshop owners say they have even bigger worries than being moved. “We are concerned about the future of the tannery industry in Egypt, given the hold on exports from Egypt,” says Mahran. “We’ve been forced to bring down our prices and flood the domestic market, hitting each other below the belt. Since 2011, about 90 percent of us have been forced to shut down our shops. A lift on exports is our only chance of survival.”

6/13/2016 1:50:43 AM
<![CDATA[11 Most Ambitious Real Estate Projects In Egypt ]]>A look at the newest and most ambitious real estate projects in Egypt.

1. Korba Heights, Heliopolis

One of the most attractive neighborhoods in Cairo, is Korba, located in the Heliopolis district. The district is renowned for its architecture, and nowadays its impressive selection of cafes and restaurants, with a pedestrian neighborhood of shops with surrounded by villas.

Today, Heliopolis residents looking to escape the city’s hellish traffic and pollution have primarily eyed New Cairo. Little-less-known but equally impressive stands Korba Heights, HDG’s ambitious project in New Heliopolis that seeks to preserve Korba’s flare.

New Heliopolis, where Korba Heights is located, is situated between North Cairo and Suez, south of the Cairo-Ismailia highway, and is thus primely positioned and directly linked with Madinaty and Al-Shorouq. It is also quite close New Cairo, the new Ring Road and the regional ring road by which all new vital cities and all major highways can be reached.

Korba Heights spans over 42,000 sqm, giving birth to an unprecedented concept of real estate exceptionalism. Korba Heights achieves a unique and comprehensive vision for an integrated compound, with a spectacular location that links it with the city’s center.

The project is the first milestone for HDG, which has focused its efforts and expansive experience, in cooperation with housing and planning experts, to set the architectural and civilizational foundations of the project. The project envisions a self-sufficient city that combines the basic pillars of luxury living with practical and efficient planning that utilizes infrastructure to serve residents. Korba Heights offers disntictive designs for exteriors and offers living spaces of various dimensions to suit different taste. It also offers entry and exit gates to secure residents, vast green surfaces, and pedestrian and public sitting areas to allow residents to enjoy all aspects of the compound. The project entails 8400 sqm of green surfaces, with 40% dedicated to buildings.

The project is powered using solar energy and features an underground parking lot that fits 1100 cars. It also offers compressive maintenance for housing and facilities, including a SPA fitted with the latest equipment, an indoor pool, a playground and nursery for children, a pharmacy and clinic, a ballroom, and compressive commercial areas with restaurants and cafeterias. In addition to that, the project boasts social clubs and a supermarket.

The project has achieved notable success and the first and second phases have been sold, while the third phase is now on offer and is expected to be sold out within two months. The Suez Road will soon be developed into a highway and the project will be linked to the fourth phase of the underground metro.

2. CityGate, New Cairo

[caption id="attachment_502776" align="alignnone" width="620"]CityGate CityGate[/caption]

CityGate by Dorra Group is located in New Cairo, 30km southeast of Cairo, which will be the gate of the new Capital of Egypt. From CityGate you are 30 minutes away from the Cairo Airport, 10 minutes from AUC, connected directly to Road 90, the ring road, the Cairo–Suez highway, Ain Sokhna highway and the new road that leads to the new Capital of Egypt. Experience urban living that is unparalleled in New Cairo at City Gate, with everything you need in one plac, inclduing luxury amenities in the tranquility of nature spread over 8.5 million square meters in an iconic location. The project features, parks and green spaces, a golf course, a sports club, a business park, world-class hotels, shopping and entertainment venues, educational facilities, 24/7 medical services, and villas and apartments. 3. IL Monte Galala, Sokhna

[caption id="attachment_502777" align="alignnone" width="620"]Il Monte Galala-Sokhna Il Monte Galala-Sokhna[/caption]

Tatweer Misr signed a contract with Crystal Lagoons to create the first manmade lagoons in the Sokhna Mountains. The development will bring around three kilometers of sandy beaches and an expanse of crystal clear blue waters to the upcoming residential area of IL Monte Galala-Sokhna. Following an EGP100 million investment, the IL Monte Galala mountain range will benefit from six stunning lagoons, spanning a total area of 40,000 square meters. Resident an Il Monte will now be able to enjoy a mixture of unique and diverse facilities allowing all units unprecedented views of crystal clear lagoons and blue waters. IL Monte Galala residences are designed to offer uninterrupted views of the scenic lagoons and waterways in addition to stunning sea vistas of El Sokhna.

4. The Gate, Heliopolis

[caption id="attachment_502778" align="alignnone" width="620"]The Gate The Gate[/caption]

The Gate by Abraj Misr, which selected SIAC as the project’s main contractor, is set to be the largest residential, administrative, commercial, smart, and environmentally friendly compound in Egypt and the Middle East. The entire complex is enclosed in a sequence of rectangular volumes arranged around a central street named the ‘Boulevard,’ with a steel mesh canopy enveloping the complete scheme, supporting a series of solar panels, heating tubes and vertical wind-catching tunnels that cascade into the lower courtyards. Inspired by the technology of wind catching towers, or Malqaf, originally developed in Ancient Egypt, the Gate comprises nine mega trees to function as passive cooling systems. Residents will be provided with a variety of interactive home-automation options to elevate the Gate living experience. The natural HVAC automation allows residents to customize lighting, music, video, communication and security features according to their personal preferences while the innovative technology orchestrate, on their behalf, efficient energy consumption. The entire roof is transformed into a community get-together with food gardens, orchards, infinity pools, and a sports area.

5. Neopolis, El Mostakbal City

[caption id="attachment_502779" align="alignnone" width="620"]Neopolis Neopolis[/caption]

Wadi Degla Developments is launching Neopolis City, its first mixed-use in El Mostakbal City. Sprawling 545.5 acres of land, Neopolis City offers an array of residential options that cater to every preference with apartments and duplexes, all situated in the middle of lush greenery. Neopolis offers its residents an exquisite living experience, featuring a multitude of high-end facilities and services in addition to Wadi Degla Club and Wadi Degla’s renowned retail complex: The District. Neopolis also boasts a school, 24/7 security, underground parking, a park with spacious green areas fitted out with an abundance of recreational equipment for children, a nursery and a clinic.

6. Villette and Eastown, East Cairo and The Courtyards, West Cairo

[caption id="attachment_502780" align="alignnone" width="620"]Eastown Eastown[/caption]

The heart of SODIC’s vision for Eastown is to provide its residents with contemporary living spaces that are safe, functional, attractive and within easy reach of urban essentials. Eastown Residences is Eastown’s purely gated residential neighborhood. The homes harness the beauty of their surroundings, while reflecting the overall sense of community suited for people with different needs, tastes and lifestyles. At the centre of Eastown’s commercial area is Eastown Hub. It will house designer names, lifestyle shops and gourmet delicatessens. Also in East Cairo, Villette is planned as a walkable community, made up of several neighborhoods that are all organized around a village center. The organization of the pedestrian corridors, vehicular roadways, and extensive sports and bike trails all facilitate safe and easy access between the different neighborhoods and to the village center, providing for an interactive lifestyle around community amenities.

Westown Residences is Westown’s gated residential neighborhood, offering a variety of living spaces tailored to your needs, overlooking green spaces and themed parks. Located in the heart of Westown, The Courtyards is SODIC’s newest residential neighborhood. The Courtyards’ homes, designed by SODIC’s very own in-house design team, are one of a kind, offering a variety living spaces to suit your needs. The buildings are arranged around courtyards, offering green views and private parks for residents.

7. Mivida, New Cairo

[caption id="attachment_502781" align="alignnone" width="620"]Mivida Mivida[/caption]

Just minutes away from the American University Campus in New Cairo, Emaar’s Mivida embodies the vibrancy of urban living with the peace and comfort of nature and suburban living. The EGP 6 billion Mivida residential community boasts a lush environment that is unparalleled. Pristine nature trails allow residents to navigate their way through pleasant pine forests and serene lavender gardens. Yet for all its natural wonder, Mivida is still a fully integrated community allowing residents access to every convenience imaginable. This includes playgrounds, community centers, a business park, thriving hotels and boulevard style shopping in a bustling town center.

8. 90 Avenue, New Cairo

[caption id="attachment_502782" align="alignnone" width="620"]90 Avenue 90 Avenue[/caption]

Tabarak’s 90 Avenue promises much more than the living space – in addition to your exquisite fully decorated private home you will also enjoy the benefits of numerous lounges. The project also includes a gym, an indoor swimming pool and your own storage area, as well as meeting rooms for business and even study rooms for students. The Ladies Lounge ensures total privacy and the Home Theater lounge is where you can meet friends and enjoy watching your favorite movies while relaxing on La-Z-Boys. With surrounding greenery that will brighten your day with its beauty and the relaxing extended water walkway you will surely feel in heaven. You don’t need to worry about finishing or decorating your house – 90 Avenue takes care of all the details for you. Furthermore, your preinstalled smart home network is ready to be equipped with everything to give you total control over the air conditioning system and blinds. 9. La Fontaine Province, New Cairo Phase II

[caption id="attachment_502783" align="alignnone" width="620"]La Fontaine Province La Fontaine Province[/caption]

ARCO presents the new concept of The Province where everything surprises. La Fontaine Province is inspired by the tunes of nature’s most relaxing melody: the sound of water. With a fountain that extends throughout the entire province you are guaranteed a complete new feel of home experience. La Fontaine Province comprises only of 27 Buildings and 85 Town Villas, with a variety of residential spaces to meet different client needs. Every unit is designed to maintain its privacy along with an aerial view of the beautiful landscape and water features.

10. Azha, Ain Sokhna

[caption id="attachment_502784" align="alignnone" width="620"]Azha Azha[/caption]

Madaar’s Azha — named after one of the brightest stars in the sky — is a waterfront resort designed to be a luxury destination with international standards. The development spreads on an area of nearly 1.6 million square meters, with a waterfront stretching approximately 700 meters on the clear waters of the Suez Gulf branching from the Red Sea. Sublimely located on the left side of Ain Sokhna, Azha is a new resort community for those who prefer a distinctively refined yet casual lifestyle. The tranquil waters are swimmable year-round, making it a coveted destination for outdoor adventure and activity. Featuring spacious and inspiring Residential Villas, a thoughtfully-designed modern resort, signature restaurants, serene spa and community centers, and a host of exceptional amenities, Azha brings a new vitality to the authentic lifestyle of a city resort living.

11. Blue Blue resort, Ain Al Sokhna and La Vida, New Cairo

[caption id="attachment_502785" align="alignnone" width="620"]Blue Blue resort Blue Blue resort[/caption]

Blue Blue resort in Ain Al Sokhna and La Vida residential compound in front of Madinaty are the two latest projects by Metawee Group. La Vida compound is a fully self-funded family residential community that includes 500 housing units, all designed in modern Italian style, located 10 minutes only from fifth settlement, and provides its residents with all amenities, safety, privacy, and entertainment.

Blue Blue resort in Ain Al Sokhna, Zaafarana road, extending over an area of 121.000 m2 that includes 700 housing units, all enjoying a beautiful sea view. The resort’s location in the area of windmills for renewable energy, 30 kilos away from the mountain, provides the resident with pure air all the time. Additionally, the resort provides a lot of services including more than 15 swimming pools distributed all around, a magical beach stretched over 280 m, a mini aqua park, and a lazy river used for moving across the resort via small rafts for extra fun and enjoyment. As well as a state-of-the-art sports gym, and a health club that includes spa, sauna, and jacuzzi for residents to relax and unwind.

6/5/2016 9:24:00 PM
<![CDATA[Al Jazeera says it has been banned from Iraq over its reporting]]>By Deutsche Welle Iraqi officials have reportedly revoked the broadcaster’s license, marking the third time Al Jazeera has been banned in Iraq. The ...read more

Via:: Daily News Egypt

4/28/2016 7:19:00 AM
<![CDATA[Nour El-Tayeb: an Egyptian talent gone global]]>By Maydaa El-Nadar Having kicked off a skyrocketing career in squash at the tender age of 10, Nour El-Tayeb has joined the ranks ...read more

Via:: Daily News Egypt

4/28/2016 12:18:05 AM
<![CDATA[3 Great Startups On How They Made It Happen]]>From an errand service, to a website cataloging menus to a professional network, we get three first-hand success stories as told by the startups who have overcome obstacles and made it happen.

by Farah El Akkad


After working for a number of companies as a team consultant, Amir Allam, founder of elmenus.com, was bored with working in a traditional 9 to 5 job and decided to start up his own business. “After being fed up of taking risks and eating at restaurants that turn out below expectations and since I always liked to know the menu of any restaurant before actually going to it, I thought of elmenus.com. At the time there weren’t any online or offline platforms that allowed people to look up menus, addresses or telephone numbers of restaurants and photos of the place,” Allam recalls. Elmenus.com allows people to look up food according to their preferences; type of food, location and prices. Allam started his project by picking up restaurant menus from the streets and establishing a website, depending on his own financial resources. “With the help of web developers, in less than three months the website had more than 20,000 viewers.”

Unlike many startups who approach others for funding, Allam took a different road, depending only on generating money from ads. “We did not get any revenues for many months but we started making money from ads during the first year, which is considered very successful,” Allam says proudly.

Today, elmenus.com has more than half a million viewers per month. Allam explains that up till now the team depends only on revenues coming from ads. “Of course, we had some offers from investors but mainly from family and friends,” says Allam who says elmenus.com’s key to success “is that we respect users and tell them the truth. Because in the end we are these users. We are trying to make something for ourselves too.”

Elmenus are currently looking to expand into other countries and are expected to launch a new version of their website that focuses more on social media features. Allam believes the most important aspect of success is doing something you love and gathering a team who are equally excited about it. “Even if you do not have the needed support, it does not matter as long as you love it because it is not easy at all. You must have the passion and you must be patient and willing to sacrifice and not just someone who wants to run away from your job because you’re bored,” Allam advises.

Elves, Your Personal Little Helper

[caption id="attachment_485359" align="alignnone" width="620"]“We are trying to make it easier for people to get things done,” says co-founder Abeer El Sisi “We are trying to make it easier for people to get things done,” says co-founder Abeer El Sisi.[/caption]

In Egypt there are a lot of things you cannot order online and people are always busy; Elves is “a little helper in your pocket,” as the team calls it. “We are trying to make it easier for people to get things done. Instead of wasting time in traffic and long queues, Elves is like a personal assistant,” says co-founder Abeer El Sisi. “Be it someone wanting a specific kind of tree for his new villa and cannot find the right one, or someone needing to deliver a gift to someone at a particular time in another country — Elves can do anything,” El Sisi explains.

El Sisi and her husband Karim El Sahy have long been interested in entrepreneurship and started a number of projects in the U.S. They met with other team members Abdel-Rahman El Zohairy, Khaled Gomaa and Kareem Diaa in different startup events in Dublin and Cairo. “We frequently met to brainstorm for ideas and at this one time we were sitting watching a movie and I was like, ‘I wish we had popcorn. If only I could just text someone who can bring me popcorn right now,’ and that is where it came from,” El Sisi recalls.

“The whole idea started from our needs, for instance sometimes we want to order food but we were too lazy to do; El Sahy wanted to get a present for Abeer’s dad who lives in Dubai and did not know what to pick or how to deliver it,” adds Gomaa. “When you think about it on a larger scale, we always need someone to help. So why not do it? A convenience platform and we were actually the first users of it.”


[caption id="attachment_485358" align="alignnone" width="620"]“Companies and investors do not invest in an idea. They invest more in the team who is working on it,” says Jobzella co-founder Nader Batrawy. “Companies and investors do not invest in an idea. They invest more in the team who is working on it,” says Jobzella co-founder Nader Batrawy.[/caption]

The idea of establishing a successful startup is not about having a good idea. It is about bringing it into action,” says Nader Batrawy, co-founder and CEO of Jobzella. “Companies and investors do not invest in an idea. They invest more in the team who is working on it.”

Jobzella is the first professional network and job aggregator in the Middle East that gathers professionals, qualified talents and candidates, offering online courses from all around the world in one place. When Batrawy first thought of Jobzella, the most important aspect he had in mind was forming a good team because as he explains “this is what matters if you want to put a business model into action, an idea that will be successful in the future. I used to work in a company in a related field so I introduced the idea of Jobzella to my manager and technology manager. They both found the idea very appealing and agreed to join as co-founders,” recalls Batrawy. As an expert in the field of business development, legal and admin work, Batrawy focused on the Egyptian market while another co-founder, who was an expert in the Gulf market, focused on that. Based in Egypt, Jobzella’s team did not seek an incubator or seed funding but depended mainly on self-funding to sustain the business for eight months before its official launch. “We wanted to produce a high-quality website. We agreed that we will not talk to any investors before officially launching the website because we wanted to show that we had a successful business model,” Batrawy says.

The Jobzella team started presenting their project to a number of companies in which they had previously worked, which highlights the importance of networking in helping any startup succeed. “We agreed to concentrate our entire marketing budget on getting traffic for these companies on our website and they started putting their pages and were active,” Batrawy says, adding that he does not believe reaching out to an incubator to support your project is a good thing. “It is not a large sum of money and at the end it usually does not cover expenses and you end up waiting for an investor. I thought that if I want the idea bad enough, I have to sacrifice for it and give it my all so I sold some of my assets such as my house and car and depended fully on myself and the rest of the team did the same until we were able to launch and present investors with a respectable, successful business model.”

After a pilot launch in August 2013, Jobzella were granted their first round of investment, which was a small amount of money. “After another six months we talked to more investors but it was very hard, most people did not like the idea of online recruitment because it is not a mass market product. We were only targeting specific people; our’s was a business that is very slow and takes a really long time to be profitable,” Batrawy explains.

Jobzella’s team decided to open a new market for their project and to avoid the technology market. “We switched our target to companies related to other markets, one of which is Al Khaleej Training and Education, the largest education and learning network in the Middle East. We met with them and convinced them that instead of only focusing on training employers, why not offer them talent acquisition and recruitment as well. They liked the idea and the team and they invested with us,” Batrawy says.

At the end of the day he explains that it all depends on the idea and the type of project. Not all startups need a large sum of money. “Some very successful projects started in one office using only one computer.”

3/30/2016 3:23:30 PM
<![CDATA[RiseUp Team Rolls Out New Startup Products ]]>After three successful RiseUp summits, the team behind the annual startup convention are rolling out an exciting suite of new entrepreneurial products.

by Nehal El Meligy

On a warm Cairo afternoon I make my way through the downtown GrEEK campus to meet with Gehad Hussein, co-founder of RiseUp, to discuss what’s on the horizon for the promising startup. On the ground floor there are four people playing table-tennis, and the only young woman amongst them is laughing, perhaps because she is winning. On my right a metal skeleton of a dinosaur biting a damaged keyboard greets visitors — a reminder that everyone here at the tech hub of Cairo has come to innovate, create and push boundaries. Despite the ‘geek’ in the GrEEK campus, the people lounging around on the stairs or sitting in the sun don’t seem too stressed.

For three years in a row RiseUp has successfully organized annual summits where entrepreneurs-to-be are provided with opportunities by attending inspirational and informative talks from professionals and those who have trodden down the often blurry path of entrepreneurship. In 2013, RiseUp Egypt was the first entrepreneurship summit in the country and the number of attendees has steadily increased every year, reaching 4,000 at 2015 “Quantum Leap” edition.

“The first summit was a platform for stakeholders and entrepreneurs to connect in order to build an ecosystem that is more robust and mature,” begins Hussein, catching up with me after a refreshing ping-pong game, her bright green eyes sparkling with pride as she speaks. “The second year was about strengthening the ties that were made, and the final summit was our Quantum Leap where we reached a point where the stakeholders were connected and the entrepreneurs got most of the resources that they needed.”

“So now it’s about how we can capture what’s happening after the quantum leap, this is where we’re at.”

The RiseUp team has not yet decided on a theme or a date for the next summit; they are currently filtering down different ways to connect entrepreneurs to the relevant resources and coming up with different methods to do so more efficiently, and not solely through the summit. In the meantime, there is a lot more brewing in the RiseUp teapot. One product that is still under construction is RiseUp Export. Its objective is to take entrepreneurs from Egypt to the events that are taking place worldwide such as Pioneers in Vienna, Pirate Summit in Germany, South by Southwest in Texas. By visiting such events, entrepreneurs can learn from the ecosystems, potential partners and investors and eventually build something more solid in Egypt.

Partnering up with student organizations and requesting volunteers during the summits is one way RiseUp promotes its activities. It has also reached out to the public with a booth in Cairo Innovates at Cairo University to show people that their ideas can become profitable and this is where they can get the resources.

While RiseUp does not offer entrepreneurial resources per se, the team takes its middleman role very seriously. For the past two weeks, the team has been discussing starting an online platform accessible to everyone in order to connect entrepreneurs with each other and with investors, and help them find the resources they need.

One product that has in fact been launched is RiseUp Meet Ups. Every Thursday morning founders of local startups gather to have breakfast together. The attendees also hear a speaker for 20 minutes and then are given the chance to ask questions or pitch ideas. Afterwards, they have the time to network and use RiseUp office hours for any inquiries. This event has so far taken place 15 times, and the number of attendees range from 50 to 70.

While RiseUp is creatively filling a need in the entrepreneurial market, Hussein puts their success down to the team’s adherence to its six values values: working with integrity, excellence, neutrality, inclusiveness, collaboration and transparency. “RiseUp is Switzerland!” Hussein jokes.

“The team doesn’t side with any entrepreneurs, partners or investors. Objectivity is what’s key for doing the job right,” adds Hussein. “We definitely focus on what the entrepreneur needs, but it’s not our role to take sides.” Just as RiseUp brings together entrepreneurs and investors every summit, they welcome anyone to work with them as long as they provide value. They don’t discriminate based on race, gender, or sex.

RiseUp’s target is not to change how business is done in the Middle East but they are hoping they are setting a good example by the way they do business. “Sharing is not a big part of the business culture in the Middle East, but that’s not the case for RiseUp. We don’t do anything alone,” Hussein says without a hint of embarrassment. “We wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for our partners. …There are always partners on board who help us achieve our goals. This year we’ve had over a 100 partners globally and locally.”

Seedstars from Switzerland, for instance, partnered with RiseUp to handle the pitch competition in the national finals. Another example is Wamda, with whom RiseUp partnered because they are very good with interviews and getting to the gist of the matter. “Everyone has their piece of the puzzle that they put in to make RiseUp.”

Despite Egypt’s current economic and safety fluctuations, investors are becoming more interested in Egypt and noticing local potential. Hussein’s proof is the two main series A investors Rise Up got last year; one with UK and Sweden, and one with UAE. “People are realizing what’s happening in the MENA region as a whole, and that there’s another side to it than conflict and terrorism.”

The climate has encouraged more people to turn their dreams into reality, especially with perceptions about entrepreneurship gradually changing. People are beginning to understand that entrepreneurs do actually have a purpose and are not merely busying themselves until they get a real job. Hussein recalls how her co-founder’s mother relentlessly tried to dissuade him from his ambiguous pursuits and wanted him to get a ‘secure’ 9-5 job. “She never understood what he was doing until she saw him on TV in an interview about RiseUp. It was only then that she realized her son was onto something real,” says Hussein.

As RiseUp is a young Egyptian startup, it is often thought to have a message to send to society or an agenda to change opinions about entrepreneurship, but Hussein assures she and the rest of the team are not out to convert everyone to entrepreneurship. She believes that not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur — and not everyone wants to be one. “Also for the sake of being realistic, if everybody finally has their own company, there will be no one to work there!”

3/28/2016 2:05:33 PM
<![CDATA['Cairo Mommies' Offers Support For Natural Parenting ]]>Online community support group Cairo Mommies for Natural Parenting offers moms a platform to share and discuss their experiences raising kids with a natural approach.

by Noha Mohammed

When Abigail Dax Toner moved to Egypt a few years ago and decided to start her own family, she was set on a “natural” approach to birthing and childrearing. “In my first days of being a mom, like many, I had difficulties knowing what was ‘right and wrong’ and friends of mine referred me to a Facebook group based in the US. The group has a more natural/breastfeeding support stance, which suits my value system, and it was an invaluable part of my first few months of being a new mother, especially in a foreign country,” says Dax Toner, who went on to found Cairo Mommies for Natural Parenting to help other moms facing similar challenges. Today the group has over 7,000 members who share and discuss valuable first-hand information and experiences about being a natural mom. We talk to Dax Toner about her experience managing the group and the valuable work she’s doing to encourage moms to adopt a natural approach when it comes to childrearing, education and healthcare.

What was it like deciding to start a family here in Egypt?

I am a person who reads and researches. So before I had my son, up until now, I read, double-check and confirm. I did often feel alone early on as people saw my approach as different. I think though that I did not get a lot of pressure to change because I’m not from here — they could shrug it off as I was a foreigner and may do strange things.

Prior to being pregnant, I went to a doctor a friend recommended and who I’ve since recommended to countless mothers including my own sister-inlaw. I knew he’d be in line with my views and opinions, and he was great – informed the nurses at the hospital about what I did and didn’t want. He even ended up giving me a discount when I had my emergency c-section, as he knew how badly I’d wanted to birth naturally!

My husband is supportive of how I approach raising our son as he knows I spend time seeing what approaches I feel are best. I’m also very lucky to have an amazing mother-in-law who helped me when I finally realized and admitted I couldn’t handle everything on my own (which is a very American but very destructive mindset – not needing help). She was with us for a long time at home and was my main source of care when I started work.

How did you get Cairo Mommies for Natural Parenting off the ground?

Cairo Mommies happened organically. I recall hearing odd and sometimes incorrect recommendations given to women by gynecologists and pediatricians. In fact, my own first pediatrician misdiagnosed my son’s milk protein allergy. He initially laughed at my suggestion for my son’s endless discomfort, but I ultimately ended up being correct. I thought, maybe mothers here would find a group like this useful. So one night, I created the FB group, added my friends here who were mothers, and the rest is history.

It must be very fulfilling to see insights being shared and mommies truly making use of all the much-needed advice. How do you feel watching this project take off and where do you think this can take you in the future?

It’s really been amazing. My main goal has always been to help the community of moms and babies. It seems to be doing just that. Women often reach out to me directly for assistance. Knowing they trust me and my insights, and knowing that we also have this community of mothers who are also experts in areas who are willing to help for no monetary return, are the indicators of success.

It must be a pretty daunting and time-consuming task to moderate the 7,000+ users in the group. How do you do it? And how do you find time?

That’s a good question. It’s even more daunting when you’re someone like me who cares about factual information being shared and not just anything passing back and forth. I’ve been lucky enough to add three dedicated core admins who help me out — Alia, Nora and Amina. I also have about 10 admins who help me screen members as we are selective as to how we add people to ensure a safe environment without trolling.

I admittedly check the group throughout the day to make sure things are on track. I’m a multitasker and have found a way to make that work between my workload (and honestly, the group keeps me motivated through tough times). But, I also let my admins know when I’ll be unavailable, or when I need a brain break. We have an admin WhatsApp group to keep each other informed.

As a mom living in Egypt yourself, how would you assess the attitude toward natural parenting here?

I don’t see the country as having a natural approach for a few reasons. There is, at any age, a quick jump to medicate. There are also major issues regarding diabetes and heart disease due to eating habits and smoking. Add to that pesticides and pollution and heavy marketing for junk foods, and people are not living healthily or naturally on the whole. Same with parenting and education, I hear a lot of “shoulds” being told to moms by family or educators that are against going with the flow of childhood. Add onto that the push for c-sections as well as people being quick to tell a mother she failed nursing and to use formula, and it’s quite a mix. … I do believe that some of it is due to the developing status of the nation. Medicine and affording procedures are seen as progressive, while natural is seen as old-fashioned. Let me give you an example. I was talking about birthing positions with my gynecologist. The best position is actually squatting, as the women do in the countryside. He agreed with me that it’s best but hospitals aren’t equipped to allow that most natural position. When I told people of that preference, they laughed that I would want to birth someone the same way people do in the fields.

But there are those looking to go as natural as possible?

There is a movement to natural and organic. We see it with the smaller aquaponics farms, organic foods, farm-to-table restaurants. But that’s really only happening in the upper-class levels from a trend perspective. Very few people take the process to heart. A group like Cairo Mommies plays two roles in getting things back to natural or science-based approaches. It gives women who share that value system and philosophy support from which they are empowered to implement their approaches. It gives women who are willing to listen and learn a new perspective that they may appreciate and apply.

Note above I mention “natural and science-based.” We not only focus on what children require naturally, which research is showing is often preferable giving our evolution and needs, but what our current society requires such as better aligned education systems at age appropriate levels as well as safety-related items such as car seats.

What do you think needs to be done to promote natural parenting in Egypt?

I believe we first need to change the mindset of the parent-child relationship. People get married and are pressured by society to have kids … but then they aren’t given the meaningful support to parent but to conform. The push to make kids sleep, the push to be social at late hours and not change your routine, the push to get kids into nursery and then into a school system to which kids must conform and not the other way around.

So, while groups like Cairo Mommies and other organizations can help, it will not matter until the core idea of being a parent changes. We need to see parenting as developing human beings with love and care, not pushing babies to be independent creatures. We need to tell parents that it’s hard and takes a lot of work. Having that mindset makes the ups and downs more manageable and makes people willing to try the more energy draining, but more beneficial, approaches.

Therefore, just like any culture change, I believe it’s the power of your circle. “Acting locally while thinking globally.” If groups like ours change a few minds, and other people witness those changes, a few other people change and so on. Also, I believe that we can make changes to education, safety, and laws if we understand that mothers have a voice and have power. We don’t need to conform to the system if it’s not benefitting us; we can help change it for the better.

Traditionally, new mothers here were schooled by their own moms or mothers in law to help them bring up their kids. With increased levels of education and awareness, women began to rely more on doctors and clinics. Today, in this tech-savvy age, women are watching TV shows, researching online or following social media for health advice. While many appreciate the wealth of information available online, others feel that self prognoses and medication cannot fill in for scientific/expert opinion. What’s your take on this?

This is a sensitive topic in the group. Mostly because we have women who are doctors in the group and they end up bearing the brunt of moms’ frustrations with the level of overall doctor expertise. One too many moms have been given outdated or dangerous advice from doctors. For example, the continuous prescription of antihistamines for basic cold symptoms in young babies. The FDA in the US has been warning parents of the dangers of these meds in children under 5 for years, yet they are still prescribed here. Or prescription of antibiotics ASAP without consideration of an illness being a virus — such over-prescription and self-medication has led to strong, antibiotic-resistant bacteria here. In addition, doctors have pressured women out of nursing, told them to give milupain place of night feeds which has zero nutrition or to have moms do cry-it-out.

All of the facts above lead me to believe that we need to do three things: 1) go to doctors for emergency care and checkups — never rely on a mothers group to diagnose or prescribe, 2) ALWAYS do your own research before visiting a doctor, and 3) feel free to question “why” when something doesn’t feel right.

One cannot count on the fact that because a doctor is considered the “best” (which is sometimes defined by his/her unavailability, waiting lines or fees) that they are actually the most competent. This is advice I give here for child medical care and I’d also give it to any adult here or abroad. Also, just because someone is not a doctor does not mean they cannot collect their own data and make their own informed decisions.

How big of a role do you feel social media plays in natural parenting today?

Social media plays a huge role. Parents are busy and tired. Social media makes it easy to connect to other like-minded people going through the same situation. It’s also a place outside your social circle, where you can really be you and feel vulnerable. This is one of the reasons we started the Anonymommy posts — it adds another layer of anonymity as the group now has so many groups of friends and families present.

Even though there are “rules” to your group, ones that are clearly set out in the pinned post, oftentimes squabbles do unfold as issues are discussed by users. Do you ever take sides when it’s an issue that you yourself feel strongly about? Or do you believe that you should always step back?

One can never prevent disagreements, of course. Overall, group members know where I stand when it comes to certain conversations as the group philosophy is based on my value system. I don’t take sides per se. I ensure that accurate data and information is included in the mix. I also have a zero-tolerance policy if it’s a subject such as car seat use — when a child’s safety is at risk, I’m very firm about it. Otherwise, I’m diplomatic about gray areas.

You’ll often see me step back and wait to see where something goes. Debate is healthy and many things don’t have a right and wrong but a gray area in-between. Critical thinking and supporting one’s approach is important to me, so these squabbles are a natural outcome of facilitating that process.

What are the most common flare-ups usually about? And what action do you or the admins take when things look like they’re getting out of hand?

We have a few different common flare-ups. Some are just based on general language. We have a mix of expats and Egyptians (here and abroad), so how each culture delivers a message is sometimes taken in a wrong way. I’ve had to learn to be less blunt as people thought it was aggressive, as a matter of fact.

Other topic areas are breastfeeding vs. formula (we support nursing but don’t shun formula) as some people feel our push for breastfeeding is anti-formula. Which it’s not — we are for supporting women and giving them facts about breastfeeding to help nurture that. But if a mother needs to formula feed for various reason, who are we to critique that? We are critiquing society’s lack of support and misinformation, not a mother’s choice.

When things get out of hand, I make it clear (and have thus done so in the pinned post) that people need to choose their words carefully and bear responsibility for what they say. I don’t delete as I believe we are adults and take risks when we decide to say something online. If they get really nasty, I shut a post down. This group is open to Egyptians and expats living in Cairo — what do you feel are the biggest cultural issues that might arise out of having possibly divergent viewpoints?

The group is a huge melting pot, which I love. There are not only crosscultural issues between expat and Egyptian but also internal Egyptian culture clashes. In fact, we have women in the group from all over the world and all levels of society.

The biggest may come down to things like circumcision or the role of nannies. One is a hot topic as it’s based in religious practices and then culture based on what’s affordable here vs abroad. Also, sometimes a frustrated expat may voice something negative about Egypt. We try to ensure sensitivity in what we say because of the mixed crowd.

Being a mother has so many aspects, some of which are unique between you and your child and other things that we know to be bad or good. We need to get to a place where a mom sharing an opinion different from yours or giving you advice out of concern, stops being labeled as “judging.” That’s not to say that people don’t judge, they do. But if we put everything into the judging category, we don’t listen, we don’t hear that sometimes there may be a better way to do things.

I established the group as a place to inform and be informed. That takes openness to different opinions and a trust in facts and science. The more women are open to this process and to each other, the more we grow as mothers and the better our children and society will be in the future.

What’s your favorite thing about the group?

My favorite thing about the group is the overall impact such a simple approach has made. We are only sharing information and viewpoints, and giving people a space to feel okay about their decisions regarding parenting.

The funny side is seeing the “theme” for each day or week. We joke as admins that one week is the “flare-up” week, and then the next is the week about supporting each other, or the week about nurseries. It’s been interesting to see the cycle and how these moods and topics ebb and flow. It’s like a living organism sometimes.

The most moving moment was when we had a rebellion of sorts last year, in early 2015. People felt I and another admin were being too aggressive. It came down to our passion and how we were delivering the message. I decided to openly apologize and tell people that I would change my approach based on their feedback. It gained the commitment of many members and solidified in their minds our desire to help and adapt, not push and preach.

Another moving moment has been the support moms are willing to give to those undergoing post-partum depression or other down times. Moms reach out to each other, check in with those moms who seem down. It’s nice to see such a web of support with an issue that is so critical to many new mothers.

What’s the next step?

For the future, I have a few plans, some I’m not sure where to start. But, in the immediate future, I’m using it as a platform from which I coach women. I’m finalizing my international coaching certificate, supported by my 15-year professional career and my desire to help women in Egypt. My goal is for women to feel their own personal power — not just identify as their role as mother or wife or employee, but to feel their independent power as an individual. I would like to devote 100% of my time to this area as well as use Cairo Mommies as a platform for needed social change around education, health and safety. There are enough willing volunteers to assist with those activities, I believe. We have a few courses in first aid over the next few weeks — and that’s a start.

3/17/2016 12:52:53 PM
<![CDATA[Women In Startups On The Rise, Despite Challenges]]>The last twenty years have witnessed a steady, though slow, growth in the participation of females in the community of MSEs entrepreneurs.

by Farah El Akkad

According to a research conducted by Professor Alia El Mahdi and published by Cairo University’s economics department, though the government and a number of Egyptian NGOs have played different roles in supporting this trend, “female entrepreneurs are still at a disadvantage. The lack of specialized training, modest educational background, social hindrances, the difficulty in accessing finance and the relative higher degree of informality are some of the challenges that have to be dealt with in future years, that is if women are to play a more vigorous role in economic life.”

#BentBi100 (a woman equal to a hundred men) is a hashtag introduced by Entreprenelle on Facebook that tells the success stories of young women entrepreneurs who decided to break down barriers and do something different with their lives. One of these women is Reham Sadek, a 38-year-old mother of two who established a medical tourism company in Germany after accompanying her mother for surgery there.

“I was in charge of everything; finding a good doctor, a hotel near the hospital and all the papers and booking. I liked the idea, since I am a naturally active person who hates routine and a 9 to 5 job. I decided this is the right job for me.” Sadek believes it is never too late to follow your dream. She also explains that part of the struggle Egyptian women deal with are different stereotypes such as that married women can only cook and take care of children. Sadek is lucky to have a supportive husband who encouraged her to pursue her dream.

Another #BentBi100 is Nesma El Far, co-founder of wafeyat.com. A 2011 marketing graduate, El Far’s initial experience in entrepreneurship started with Entrepreneur Society, an activity she and her friends Youssef El Sammaa (later husband) and Omar Hamdallah led during college after participating in different entrepreneurship student activities. “We started ‘The Hit’ in partnership with souk.com. It was a live competition which streamed online weekly,” El Far says, explaining that the students applied product ideas and introduced a prototype and the winners sold their products on souq.com. The idea of wafeyat.com came about after a friend’s relative passed away right after graduating. Being there for their friend during this hard time made them see “how exhausting the process of publishing an obituary is, how much time all the preparations needed for the funeral take and also how costly it is,” El Far says.

The Wafeyat team realized that most people their age do not read newspapers and usually inform their friends about any deaths in the family through social media. “So we decided to establish the first online platform in the Middle East to offer obituary announcements and condolence services so people can announce obituaries. We also make it easier for people with the option of publishing in Ahram newspaper and/or on our website,” she explains. In addition, Wafeyat also offers people the service of donations. “People usually pay from 5,000 to 7,000 to publish an obituary in Ahram. Instead we can donate the same amount of money on behalf of the deceased family member through foundations such as Misr El Kheir,” El Far adds.

Far explains the most challenging aspect of being a female in business is that people usually do not take you as seriously. “I was in charge of business development. While conducting a deal, some people do not take women as seriously as men. After some incidents, I would usually start the deal then have one of the male co-founders complete it. Others are not even serious about the deal from the beginning when they learn you are a female; they just want to meet to talk or flirt.”

On the other hand, El Far believes being a female entrepreneur gives one an edge. “I think it is one of the main reasons we got to 500 Startups in California in 2013, it was very obvious people were impressed and interested that a female entrepreneur is coming from what they term “a conservative” society such as Egypt.”

El Far believes other challenges women entrepreneurs face is the never-ending pressure because of the older generation who still see entrepreneurs as people who do not have “an actual job and no guaranteed future.” “My parents were not convinced and advised me to take on a traditional 9 to 5 job and get on with my career. However, the pressure and worry decrease when they see the success we are making and how happy we are,” El Far says, adding that she feels positive about the entrepreneurship scene and thinks that unlike the past couple of years women when women were only into fashion or design, they are now moving aggressively into the tech field.

El Mahdi’s research finds that female-owned enterprises are still relatively smaller in terms of invested capital or number of workers. “They are primarily concentrated in trade activities, and a very limited numbers of their MSEs are operating in services, and to a lesser extent in manufacturing. One of the main explanations of this pattern of concentration is the fact that trade activities are relatively easier to pursue, while service and manufacturing activities require prior training, skills and hands-on experience.”

A classic example is Dana Khater, who founded “Coterique,” a platform where buyers can find fashion from cool designers around the world from countries such as Jordan, Dubai, London, Lebanon, Australia and Turkey. “One can go online and shop by either country or by different designers that are not mass produced,” explains Khater, who is now 22.

[caption id="attachment_469427" align="alignnone" width="620"]Dana Khater of Coterique. Dana Khater of Coterique.[/caption]

When she was 19 and a student at AUC, Khater started a fashion magazine called Vitrina. “I had the idea to sort of collaborate with all the Fashion Boutiques in Cairo and help them sell their products through a platform — Coterique,” Khater says. She applied to Flat6Labs and got her initial round of funding after completing the program. “I would basically go to AUC in the morning, do my classes and go to the office and do Flat6Labs at night.” An economics major, Khater has always had a passion for fashion and did an online degree with the Academy of Arts in San Francisco while studying economics. “I was also interested in the publishing and editorial side of it. Vogue was my dream job so starting Vitrina allowed me to work as editor in chief. It made me see all the different aspects of a magazine and how they come together,” Khater adds. “Coterique” is “Coterie” (a trade show in New York for emerging designers) and “boutique” put together. Khater explains she chose emerging designers because she believes “they need help to grow because they are stuck, need money, working on the collection. I love that we can come in and help them grow.”

Khater explains one of her biggest struggles was convincing her parents and family that she would not go into the traditional corporate world. “My mum is an HR director, which is very corporate. The idea that I was taking on interns instead of going and doing an internship myself during university was very odd. They kept saying, “Oh Khater, we will get you a job,” and I would say “no thank you,” Khater recalls.

In terms of female entrepreneurs, she believes there is no difference between them and male entrepreneurs when it comes to starting up a company. “I do not think I would have gotten any more preferential treatment if I was a male. I think we female entrepreneurs need to do whatever we want, it is as simple as that. There is no actual struggle that comes just by being a female alone,” emphasizes Khater.

Her mother being her biggest supporter and role model, Khater thinks that changing mindsets of how people view entrepreneurship will come with time and that more people nowadays are forgoing traditional 9 to 5 jobs. “I think a couple of years ago, the entrepreneurship scene in Egypt was still in its baby phase, but nowadays you can see a lot of young people who are into it. When I first started Coterique there was not much. It has grown a lot since then. I think a lot more people are working on startups and are into doing something they feel they have their name on and is a lot more personal which is a sign of hope.”

Most importantly, Khater thinks young entrepreneurs must learn from their failures and from other people’s failures as well. “I think the one thing we need to learn is that people fail in order to succeed. Here in Egypt people usually talk about how many times they have succeeded but never talk about how many times they have failed.”

In addition, Khater does not agree that there is a specific field women have gone into when it comes to entrepreneurship. “I think I would have easily got into a different industry other than fashion. I do not think that there are specific industries for females or males only,” she explains, adding the one things she believes young women entrepreneurs need to learn is to start. “Go ahead. Do it now, especially if you are young. You will thank yourself later even if you fail because you do not need to support a family, you do not have a kid or you do not have to buy a house or pay loans. You are a carefree person and you are probably still taking money from your family and that is the best place to be,” Khater advises.

Khater also cautions that there is no immediate goldrush as soon as a startup is launched. “Working on a startup barely makes money for the first couple of months. Entrepreneurs need to be able to sacrifice time and money, which are the most valuable things you can worry about when you are older but when you are younger, you have all the time in the world. Even if there is something to be said about having more experience, but you can learn a lot of it and when you are working with your hands, you can learn a lot faster than through reading a book about it. Start and fail and do it again and again because you cannot get to the finish line unless you show up and start.”

3/8/2016 8:06:16 PM
<![CDATA[How Saudi Arabia-Iran Tensions Could Impact Egypt]]>Tensions flared in January after Saudi Arabia’s execution of Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. The fallout is not confined to governments in Iran and the GCC countries, with tensions echoing in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen. Now that the dust has settled, it appears the reverberations are testing the patience of other regional powers like Egypt and Israel, while further exposing the sectarian rift between Sunnis and Shiites, stoking fears of an all-out sectarian war erupting in the region.

by Ahmed Goher additional reporting by Ahmed Mansour

The impact of the clash on Egypt is not clear cut. After the execution and the storming of the Saudi embassy and consulate in Tehran, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry released a statement condemning the attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions as “unacceptable” and labeling Iranian behavior as intervention in other countries’ internal affairs.

Egypt limited its reaction to a statement expressing support for the Saudis because it follows “a balanced foreign policy and does not want to get involved in conflicts,” says Reham Mokbel, an international relations expert at the Regional Center for Strategic Studies.

“There is no doubt that the national security of Egypt and Saudi Arabia is intertwined. This is evident with President Sisi’s statements of Gulf security being a ‘red line’ and so on," she says. "We know that Iran is playing on sectarian nerves and is trying to cause instability. However, Egypt cannot come into this. Egypt knows that in time things will subside and will not allow itself to get pulled into conflicts it can do without."

When asked if the Saudis could pressure Egypt into, for instance, sending troops to Yemen or risk having the aid it receives cut off, Mokbel says the notion of “blood for oil” is completely rejected by Egypt.

“It simply does not work that way and it is unacceptable to even imply that. We will under no circumstances send troops to Yemen. It has not happened thus far and will not happen. I mean, Egypt will definitely be there if Saudi Arabia really need the support but Egypt won’t take an extreme position,” she says, adding that the country now understands that the real threats facing the region are terrorism and rogue militias; not conflicts between states.

At the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, Arab World Affairs expert Khairat Ramsy agrees with Mokbel and stresses that Egypt wants to stabilize things back home more than anything else. “We have a lot on our plate. We cannot shift our attention to conflicts that are taking place away outside our borders," he says. "I really do hope that we do not get embroiled in any such conflicts. This would be disastrous for Egypt."

Ziad Waleed, a financial economist at Beltone, believes the economic consequences on Egypt will be more pronounced. “The impact on Egypt from the current tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia will not serve Egypt’s economic interests. Before, there wasn’t really an outright link between the aid the Saudis give and the problems it has with Iran. Now, on the other hand, with tension intensifying, we are likely to see this change," Waleed says. "The Saudis are likely to request significant commitments on the part of Egypt when it comes to the ongoing cold war, be that in Syria or Yemen, for aid to continue. However, this is not necessarily something that will serve Egypt’s national security or economic interests."

Saudi Arabia

The fallout that ensued after the execution should have been no surprise to Saudi Arabia. Nimr had been shot and arrested during protests in Saudi Arabia’s predominantly Shiite Eastern Province back in 2012. He was sentenced to death in October 2014 on charges of “foreign meddling,” prompting Iran to warn on September 25 that the execution, if carried out, “would exact a heavy price on Saudi Arabia,” in the words of Iran’s deputy foreign minister for Arab and African Affairs.

This begs the question of why Saudi Arabia would go on with the execution despite knowing the consequences. Mokbel believes the Saudis were trying to consecrate the Kingdom’s position as a powerful regional actor. “The new king, Salman bin Abdulaziz, operates a bit differently when it comes to issues related to Iran than his predecessor, King Abdallah. He deals with matters more sternly, as we have seen in Yemen and the move to form a coalition to attack the Houthis there. Regardless of the actual outcome in Yemen, he wants to show that Saudi Arabia is powerful, influential and will do what it wants, in this case executing Nimr, regardless of the anger Iran or Shiites in the Gulf feel,” Mokbel explains, adding that relations did not just begin to fray with the execution, but have gradually been eroding.

The heated exchanges are not simply confined to reactions to the execution. On September 30, after a crowd collapse in Mina, Mecca, during Hajj left hundreds dead, Iran and Saudi Arabia embarked on a heated war of words. Iran’s Supreme Leader threatened Saudi Arabia with “tough and harsh” retaliation and claimed that Saudi Arabia failed to compensate victims appropriately as thousands of Iranian protesters marched in Tehran chanting “death to Al Saud family.”

“We are not talking about two normal countries here, but two regional players who have been in a nontraditional cold war so to speak. This is especially evident after the Iran nuclear deal. The Saudis do not see this as a technical matter in any way. They understand that this deal primarily has to do with legitimizing Iran’s political role in the region," she says. "Traditionally, Iran has been seen by the West and the Gulf as an interventionist country that plays on sectarian tensions. Now, with the materialization of the deal, Iran has come to be perceived as a potential partner. And we see this very clearly in Iran’s participation in the Vienna process concerning Syria."

Another reason the kingdom is under pressure to make its presence felt is what Mokbel terms as a US “withdrawal” from the region. “The US is not withdrawing out of weakness but rather because it wants to retreat. The US wants to regionalize conflicts, in the sense that it wants to see powerful players like Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey and even outside powers like Russia step in to solve the region’s problems.”

The reason for the shift in the US’ policy toward the Middle East, according to Mokbel, is that the Americans have grown frustrated with the region’s problems. “No single US administration can put out the flames eating up the region. Its experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown that. The US now understands that perhaps by leaving a gap and retreating, other players can step in and relatively stabilize matters. For instance, look at how Iran stepped in to fill in the void left in Iraq following the US withdrawal.”

Another reason for the US retreat, according to Mokbel, lies in the US’ shift to the Asia-Pacific region, especially with China’s ever-growing power and the American desire to contain it.

Not everyone agrees, however, that the Saudis wanted to send any particularly message with the execution, rather viewing Iran as the main instigator.

“I believe the execution of the cleric was a domestic matter for Saudi Arabia that Iran shouldn’t have gotten involved in to begin with. The Saudi government acted upon its own laws and sentenced a Saudi Arabian citizen to death on their own land — I believe it had nothing to do with him being Shiite or Sunni,” Ramsy maintains.

From his point of view, Iran was the one to create the conflict and the Saudi government decided to sever its relations with Iran because of the attack on the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Tehran. “It was very obvious that because of the executions that took place in Saudi Arabia, the Iranian Shiites would not be pleased and some acts of vandalism were expected," Ramsy says. "Yet the Iranian government stood still and didn’t take precautionary measures to ensure the safety of Saudi citizens or their property."


Far from being reactionary, Iran also had a role in escalating the tension, Mokbel says. “When it comes to Iran’s reaction, we clearly observe that something is not right. The executions carried out by Saudi Arabia also included many Sunnis. Yet Iran tried to spin this as a sectarian matter. Keep in mind that this is a sectarian state that will always try to play sectarian cards so it can intervene in other countries’ internal affairs. When the US or Europe condemn executions, it is somewhat understandable, with them being democracies and all. Iran, however, tops the list of countries that annually carry out executions. So when we see it condemning executions, a lot of red flags are raised.”

Mokbel also maintains that the Iranians could have protected the Saudi embassy and consulate, but chose not to. “It did not protect the embassy to achieve some interests. Per its international obligations and the Vienna Convention, it was required to prevent this from happening," Mokbel says. "Yet Iran stood by and allowed the attacks to happen. Afterwards, it announced to the world that it would investigate the incident and hold the attackers accountable and even apologized to the United Nations Security Council.”

Further backing Mokbel’s argument are the following statements made by Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on January 21: “We do not have a fight to pick with Saudi Arabia. ... We believe that Iran and Saudi Arabia can be two important players who can accommodate each other, who can complement each other, in the region. ... Unfortunately, the Saudis have had the illusion that backed by their Western allies, they could push Iran out of the equation in the region.”

From this perspective, the Iranians escalated tensions and then tried to play them down in order to appear as responsible players in the eyes of the international community, especially before the implementation of the nuclear deal.

“The Iranians are extremely smart. They essentially fueled tension and then tried to calm things down to make themselves look like they are out to stabilize matters,” says Mokbel, who notes that the plan seems to have worked, with the IAEA recently announcing that Iran had kept its end of the bargain when it comes to the nuclear deal.

“The Iranians bet on the time factor and knew that things would eventually subside," Mokbel says. "Now all eyes are positively on Iran with sanctions being lifted. This current situation in no way favors Saudi Arabia.”

Regional spillover

Both Iran and Saudi Arabia are at the heart of many of the region’s current crises. Most notably, they are core players in the current wars in Yemen and Syria and tensions between the two countries usually end up playing out there. However, while some observers now estimate that prospects for a peaceful settlement of either crisis seem far out of sight, others do not think relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia affect wars in Yemen or Syria.

[caption id="attachment_465994" align="alignnone" width="620"]A Saudi strike on Yemen. A Saudi strike on Yemen.[/caption]

“The implications for Syria and Yemen are undoubtedly huge. Now, the chances of a solution to the crisis in Yemen are slim," Mokbel says. "The Saudis will now completely reject any potential negotiation between the Houthis and the current government. We will also see intensified attacks on the Houthis.”

The situation in Syria will become even more complex than it already is and this is apparent with the Kurd’s absence from the Riyadh talks, Mokbel adds, in which opposition forces agreed for the first time to consider ending the crisis peacefully.

Iran enjoys heavy Russian support and as time passes, both Iran and Russia are managing to turn the focus and priorities of the international community toward combating terrorism rather than ousting Assad — a loss for the Saudis, Mokbel says.

Conversely, Ramsy maintains that Saudi Arabia is driven by internal motivators when it comes to taking certain actions or sides in the region, noting that “Iran has nothing to do with it and it cannot influence Saudi Arabia in any way. … I believe where Saudi Arabia stands on the Syrian issue is not clear. Saudi Arabia has always been a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood. First, they insisted on removing Assad from power, but when things got out of hand and ISIS got involved, they sided with Assad, by setting agendas and signing agreements, in his fight with, what they now call, well-funded and well-trained terrorist organizations.”

One regional player that observers have given attention to is Israel, which has qualms with both Iran and Saudi Arabia. Just recently the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, Ali Jafari, said in a speech that Israel and Saudi Arabia were “partnering up” with the Kingdom acting as Israel’s “defense shield.”

“Today, the enemies have resorted to proxy wars and using other Muslim world capacities, instead of direct confrontation, against the Islamic Revolution and its example can be seen in what Saudi Arabia is doing,” Jafari said in a January 19 speech, adding “Today, Al-Saud has turned into a defense shield for the Zionists.”

Mokbel cautions that both Saudi Arabia and Iran are Israel’s enemies, and that Israel would not look to support either country.

“They are not allied with either country. Even if there is some level of minimal cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, it is all conducted through secret and informal channels," Mokbel says. "Still, Iran is definitely Israel’s prime enemy currently, and Israel’s eyes are on it - especially after the nuke deal.”

Ramsey believes Israel always manages to appear as a spectator of the events unfolding across the Arab World. “Of course, they are going to come out and condemn everything happening in the Arab World. But everything is happening for a reason and that reason is that the US needs to make sure that its 51st state, Israel, is safe while its surrounding countries are suffering.”

Drums of war?

Mokbel dismisses the idea that Saudi Arabia and Iran could enter into direct military confrontation. She argues that neither side has the necessary strength or will power to pursue such a war.

“This crisis shows just that. The Saudis resorted to diplomatic channels like the GCC and the Arab League. They did not pursue direct confrontation and cannot afford to tarnish their image in this manner," Mokbel says. "We can’t even speak of a proper proxy war between the two countries since Saudi Arabia simply cannot keep up with Iran, which has proxies in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. ...Who does Saudi Arabia have?”

Ramsy dismisses the notion of a hot war between the two countries. “The biggest indication regarding this matter is that right after the attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran, Iran immediately came out with an apology. Iran has had its fair share of wars, such as the one with Iraq that lasted for almost 10 years. I do not believe that they are willing to relive this experience.”

Ultimately, Mokbel says, time is on Iran’s side and its relations with Turkey, the West and the rest of the GCC countries are bound to grow stronger now that sanctions are lifted and everyone converges to reap what they can from relations with a rising regional economic powerhouse.

Time is not in Saudi Arabia’s interests. The IMF recently warned in its latest regional outlook report that the kingdom may go bankrupt within the next five years if it maintains current policies and does not undergo serious reforms. This, coupled with rumored internal power struggles within the monarchy, paints a gloomy portrait for the country’s future, particularly when considering the kingdom’s high youth unemployment rate and relatively marginalized but sizable Shiite population.

With Saudi Arabia’s financial power receding at a time when Iran’s economy is set to gain a massive boost with the lifting of sanctions, some have postulated that perhaps Egypt may start to enhance ties with Iran, with which it had severed ties in 1989 and with which it could have very profitable economic relations.

Mokbel, however, does not expect to see a breakthrough in relations between Iran and Egypt anytime soon, let alone Iran replacing Saudi Arabia as a main ally. “While I think Egypt would strongly benefit from relations with Iran, I don’t think that’s feasible in light of current relations with Saudi Arabia. Egypt is a huge country and having strong relations with Iran would pose a huge threat to the GCC national security. This is why this is a red line for Saudi Arabia.”

Egypt also fears Iranian intervention in its own domestic affairs. “Even if their numbers are small, there are Shiites in Egypt and Egypt is wary of Iranian intervention in that regard," Mokbel adds, stressing that while Egypt would benefit from having relations with Iran, the moral, economic and diplomatic support Egypt receives from Saudi Arabia is undeniable.

“Egypt won’t let go of that support easily. In the end, this is not about Egypt following Saudi Arabia, but about maintaining its interests,” she says.

Ramsy believes it is only a matter of time before the Saudis recover their economic strength. “Saudi Arabia has always been a strong ally to Egypt. It is only a matter of time until the Saudis get back on their feet economically. Egypt will not need Iranian assistance,” he says. “Oil prices have nothing to do with Saudi Arabia. I believe the US managed to lower oil prices to hit the Russians. Yet this also affected Saudi Arabia since they depend highly on oil exports. Still, I am sure things will eventually normalize. The US doesn’t want to lose one of their strongest proxies in the Middle East.”

2/28/2016 4:23:41 PM
<![CDATA[In Pictures: St. Maron Church Marks Centennial ]]>The Saint Maron Heliopolis Church celebrated its centennial last month with a huge ceremony attended by many religious and political figures.

written and photographed by Sherif Anis

Together, hand in hand along with the church Fathers, religious leaders blessed the consecration of Saint Maron Church in Heliopolis after renovation and celebrated its centennial anniversary. In a strong message of unity and peace, His Beatitude Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Al Rahi, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East of the Maronites, headed the Mass along with His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of Saint Mark Coptic Orthodox Church, and the Patriarch Abraham Isaac, the Patriarch of the Coptic Catholic and head of the Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Egypt.

[caption id="attachment_436260" align="alignnone" width="620"]Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Al Rahi, Pope Tawadros II and Patriarch Abraham Isaac all attended the anniversary celebrations. Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Al Rahi, Pope Tawadros II and Patriarch Abraham Isaac all attended the anniversary celebrations. The Fresco behind them was redesigned in a 3D concept, adding a beautiful Liturgical idea of the evangelists flying in the infinite sky, including the Holy Spirit Symbol and Saint Maron's well-known picture. St. Maron is the father of the Maronite Churche's spiritual and monastic movement. The painting is based on his hermitic lifestyle, as it was characterized by living in the open air during the hot summers and cold winters. He lived hte life of an ascetic, residing on a hilltop where an ancient temple to the Babylonian god Nabo stood. He converted the temple to a Christian church.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_436261" align="alignnone" width="620"]Event 8 copy Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Al Rahi, Pope Tawadros II and Patriarch Abraham Isaac at the celebrations.[/caption]

Saint Maron Church, located in El Korba in Heliopolis, was commissioned by the Belgian Baron Empain in the early 20th century. El Korba is known as being one of the most attractive neighborhoods in Cairo and is especially renowned for its architecture. Fathers Nabil Rafoul, Joseph Haj, and Hanna Morany, the figures behind the church’s renovation, were motivated to protect Korba’s unique architectural glory. They contracted internationally renowned Lebanese artist Habib Khoury to create the church’s paintings. Khoury’s murals adorn the walls of many churches in Lebanon and his paintings are part of private collections around the world.

[caption id="attachment_436263" align="alignnone" width="620"]Saint Anthony was a Christian monk from Egypt, revered since his death as a saint. For his importance among the Desert Fathers and to all later monasticism, he is also known as “The Father of All Monks.” Saint Anthony was a Christian monk from Egypt, revered since his death as a saint. For his importance among the Desert Fathers and to all later monasticism, he is also known as “The Father of All Monks.”[/caption]

The Syriac Maronite Church of Antioch is an Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with the Pope, Bishop of Rome. It traces its heritage back to the community founded by Maron, a 4th-century Syriac monk venerated as a saint. The Maronites, the followers of the Syriac Maronite Church, remain one of the principal ethno-religious groups in Lebanon. The remarkable nature of the Maronites’ history lies hand in hand with that of Lebanon, which for centuries was their retreat and fortress. It was in July 1745 that Father Moussa Helana Al Shamy arrived in Egypt and started the Maronite mission. Afterward, Maronite churches were established in different Egyptian governorates.

[caption id="attachment_436264" align="alignnone" width="620"]Saint John Maron was a Syriac monk, and the first Maronite Patriarch. Saint John Maron was a Syriac monk, and the first Maronite Patriarch.[/caption]

For 100 years, the Saint Maron Church in Heliopolis has served men and women who immigrated to Egypt from Lebanon as well as the generations of their descendants. In addition to the Lebanese families residing in Cairo, the Saint Maron Church community also includes men and women of different nationalities who are drawn to the spirituality and traditions of the Maronite Rite.

[caption id="attachment_436265" align="alignnone" width="620"]Saint Joseph and the Christ Child: The idea is based on Italian Guido Reni’s original painting (1638-1640). The figure of Saint Joseph displays a tender, loving gaze at the newborn Jesus, expressing his adoration for the infant Saint Joseph and the Christ Child: The idea is based on Italian Guido Reni’s original painting (1638-1640). The figure of Saint Joseph displays a tender, loving gaze at the newborn Jesus, expressing his adoration for the infant.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_436266" align="alignnone" width="620"]The Virgin of the Lilies: Copied from William Adolphe Bouguereau’s original painting (1899), which depicts Mary and the Christ Child; showing the Blessed Mother clothed in a black robe holding Jesus, with her eyes cast downward. Artist Habib Khoury altered the Virgin’s eyes, making it look as if she is presenting the child to the world. The Virgin of the Lilies: Copied from William Adolphe Bouguereau’s original painting (1899), which depicts Mary and the Christ Child; showing the Blessed Mother clothed in a black robe holding Jesus, with her eyes cast downward. Artist Habib Khoury altered the Virgin’s eyes, making it look as if she is presenting the child to the world.[/caption]

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1/27/2016 6:02:43 PM
<![CDATA[Inside Deir al-Maymun, A Historic Egyptian Coptic Village]]>Photo Editor Mohsen Allam joins sociologist Kees Hulsman on a trip to discover Coptic villages in Egypt.

The village of Deir Al-Maymun is located on the eastern banks of the Nile, around 100 km south of Cairo. It is said that Saint Antony’s asceticism lies at the origins of the village’s founding. Local priests claim that Saint Antony chose to relocate to the village (then called Pespir) in order to isolate himself from the world. There, he spent almost 20 years weaving baskets for a living, before seeking more isolation and moving further into the mountains to the location where the Monastery of Saint Antony is now located.

Today, Deir al-Maymun is still quite isolated and boasts a predominantly Coptic population. Its approximately 500 families, almost all of whom are Christian, make it one of the few almost entirely Christian villages in the country.

[caption id="attachment_429687" align="alignnone" width="620"]Approximately 500 families, almost all of them Coptic, live in the isolated village of Deir al-Maymun. Approximately 500 families, almost all of them Coptic, live in the isolated village of Deir al-Maymun.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_429689" align="alignnone" width="620"]Most men in Deir Al-Maymun work in agriculture or the local quarry. Most men in Deir Al-Maymun work in agriculture or the local quarry.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_429688" align="alignnone" width="620"]Wheat being prepared for baking bread in Deir Al-Maymun. Wheat being prepared for baking bread in Deir Al-Maymun.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_429686" align="alignnone" width="620"]A mother with her baby in Deir Al-Maymun. A mother with her baby in Deir Al-Maymun.[/caption]

The Saint Antony church is at the center of the village, alongside the church of Saint Mercurius, which locals believe to be the oldest church structure in the world.

[caption id="attachment_429684" align="alignnone" width="620"]The Church of Saint Mercurius in the village of Deir al-Maymun served as the seat of the Coptic Orthodox Pope of Alexandria from 1300 to 1500, and still has its original foundation intact. The Church of Saint Mercurius in the village of Deir al-Maymun served as the seat of the Coptic Orthodox Pope of Alexandria from 1300 to 1500, and still has its original foundation intact.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_429696" align="alignnone" width="620"]The entrance to the Saint Antony church. The entrance to the Saint Antony church.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_429693" align="alignnone" width="620"]A nun in Deir Al-Maymun. A nun in Deir Al-Maymun.[/caption]

The village of Atfih lies approximately 80 km south of Cairo on the east bank of the Nile. There, the local historic church of Deir Al-Rasul (Monastery of the Apostle) can be found. The church is said to house the holy site where Saint Paul the Simple sheltered himself from the outside world in the late 3rd century.

[caption id="attachment_429695" align="alignnone" width="620"]Deir al-Rasul church houses historic relics and icons, including those of Saint Paul the Simple, and Martyr Mina the Miraculous and the internationally-known Saint George. Deir al-Rasul church houses historic relics and icons, including those of Saint Paul the Simple, and Martyr Mina the Miraculous and the internationally-known Saint George.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_429694" align="alignnone" width="620"]It was only in 2009 that the Ministry of Culture finally contracted an engineer to renovate Deir al-Rasul Church after it was damaged in the 1992 earthquake. It was only in 2009 that the Ministry of Culture finally contracted an engineer to renovate Deir al-Rasul Church after it was damaged in the 1992 earthquake.[/caption]

The Saint Menas church in New Beni Suef is built in honor of Martyr Minas the Miraculous. The church was built in 1970, but was heavily damaged in the earthquake of 1992 and rebuilt in 2009.

[caption id="attachment_429691" align="alignnone" width="620"]Stained glass windows inside the St. Menas Cathedral in New Beni Suef. Stained glass windows inside the St. Menas Cathedral in New Beni Suef.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_429692" align="alignnone" width="620"]St. Menas Cathedral in New Beni Suef. St. Menas Cathedral in New Beni Suef.[/caption]

Over 30 people of various nationalities embarked on a trip to visit villages near Cairo with a strong Christian heritage, most notably the villages of Deir al-Maymun and Atfih in Beni Suef. Participants were offered insight into the rich Coptic history of Egypt and the Coptic villagers who still hold steadfastly to their traditions and religion. Hosted by the Center for Arab West Understanding and the Arab West Report, the trip featured Cairo-based Dutch sociologist Kees Hulsman, who guided the travelers and pointed out the history and significance of the churches.

1/18/2016 1:31:18 PM
<![CDATA[DHL Aims To Promote Egyptian Trade, Tourism]]>On the heels of a new state-of-the-art hub in Cairo, DHL launches a year-long campaign to promote investment, trade and tourism in Egypt.

By Ahmed Goher

DHL’s Middle East and North Africa CEO, Nour Suliman first joined DHL during the 1970s, when DHL had just begun expanding its services globally. Suliman held different positions in different countries and has served in all the countries of the MENA region. Although he has been with the company for more than 30 years, it was only in 2011 that he became MENA CEO.

In MENA alone, DHL Express moves around 10 million shipments yearly. Indeed, Suliman is tasked with managing a small empire, with approximately 200 facilities in the region, employing 5,000 people while running an impressive average of 160 domestic and international flights daily.

Egypt is at the heart of DHL’s operations in the region, and while the 1,500 active customers it enjoys in the country may seem modest, they actually comprise 40% of the market share and include organizations operating in different industries, banks and multinationals. Moreover, Egypt enjoys special importance for DHL due to its unique geographic location, allowing it to serve as a gateway to Africa. Provided the country invests in its logistics capacity, Egypt could also become a central hub in the Middle East from which DHL could gain access to Europe.

Egypt Today interviewed Suliman to get his take on his company’s position in the Egyptian market and his outlook on the current investment climate in Egypt. Edited excerpts:

You joined DHL when it was still a relatively young organization, and became CEO at a very turbulent time in Egypt. What has been your focus since acquiring this position?

Our main focus for the last five years has been to invest, expand, and grow. That is our formula for success if you may. We invest in infrastructure, technologies, and people, which help us expand our reach and our network, and then our business grows naturally. In the past year we have managed to open some of our largest investments in the region that we started a few years back, namely our new facilities and offices in Cairo, Dubai, and Riyadh.

We restructure based on market requirements. Opportunities require us to be flexible, knowledgeable and always prepared to meet market demands, and changes in global drives and trends.

A recent DHL technology conference in April highlighted that the Middle East is the place to be for technology investors, with Egypt being eyed for its strategic location. How significant is Egypt to DHL’s Middle East portfolio?

The Middle East is well connected to the rest of the world. We have a strong established network with the global market; in addition, people in the Middle East are quite tech savvy and internet friendly. Egypt is one of our markets that have huge potential for growth. It provides a strategic geographical advantage as well as being rich in resources and workforce capacity. The Middle East and North Africa trading lanes are growing in connectivity, and becoming more important, and our plan is to be right at the center of that growth.


The Egyptian market is far from huge. What is DHL’s share of it?

DHL Express has almost 45% of the international express market in Egypt, and we don’t intend to stop at that number. We have a very committed plan to grow, and intend to fully deliver on that plan. Just last year we opened our new state-of-the-art facility at Cairo International Airport that is a result of an LE 400 million investment. We now intend to continue further down this investment plan.

The only way for us is forward and in order to continue to move ahead we need to be ahead. Ahead of market trends, customer demands, and rising competition. Our plan takes all this into consideration, and Egypt provides us with a great foundation to support our growth strategy. In 2014 you told our sister publication Business Today Egypt that, “Egypt is now number one and it is not a helpless country, Egypt has a very strong economic foundation and a very good military together with stability.” Do you feel that this still holds true, and is Egypt looking more appealing to investors in the short term?

The country’s recent major investments in projects have definitely presented a significant boost in optimism. However, short-term optimism remains highly affected by the geopolitical situation in the region. Egypt’s location contributes to its significance to our global network as it could play a vital role in connecting the Middle East to Africa. It is a vital market where presence is absolutely necessary.

What’s the potential upside that DHL sees in Egypt and the region at large?

The government plan for investment and growth in Egypt is a boost of confidence to the economy overall. Moreover, all traders, both importers and exporters, see an increase in intra trade between Egypt and the Middle East, especially the trade lanes to and from the Gulf states; and equally so, Europe and the US will continue to be robust as Egypt further strengthens its economic ties, and free trade agreements, which will add more confidence and increase opportunities.

We feel it is a good idea to invest in Egypt; not necessarily only for the short term gains, but more for the long-term ones. It has always been our view that the economy has an immense opportunity to grow, especially when coupled with a stable political atmosphere. Security issues aside, there would be no reasons whatsoever not to invest in Egypt. For MNCs seeking a long-term return, Egypt is a good candidate for longterm trade prosperity.

But we don’t just say it’s a good idea to invest in Egypt, we put it to action. We recently launched a campaign to help support Egypt’s way forward by promoting investment, trade and tourism. For one whole year, all our outbound packages from Egypt will have a clear message to Invest, Trade and Visit Egypt. We made it our mission to deliver Egypt to the world.

DHL-Leipzig-1 10779

How have regional political conflicts and pressures affected DHL operations and logistics? DHL clients must also have been affected – what has this meant for DHL?

We always make an effort to be “first in, last out” for the benefit of our customers, and to be able to continue to serve countries and customers as best we can at all times.

However, we still do get affected by political conflicts. We sometimes face delays as a result of the instability or change in security measures, but the good news for us is how fast we are able to turn things around. This is one of the perks of being such a large international company with a big experienced network. That, along with our commitment to be first in, last out, makes us well capable of developing and delivering on contingency plans that are constantly updated, and put into immediate effect when needed.

Can you speak about DHL’s latest big investments in Egypt and upcoming ones?

Our most recent investment was our new state of the art facility and country office at the Cargo Village in Cairo International Airport. In addition, we added Cairo to our air network with a weekly flight linked to Beirut.

We now intend to further expand our footprint at the airport, and are currently negotiating the subject matter with Airport management. Moreover, we also intend to open a new facility in Alexandria next year, and expand even further in Port Said with another new facility.

How do you evaluate the government’s current economic trajectory?

The government was quite active in revitalizing the economy and so introduced and effectively executed a number of new projects among which was the Suez Canal project, and then focused even more on free trade and economic agreements. Although the recent security issues may be a slight setback, I still believe there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic and the long-term trajectory seems very positive.

What more can the Egyptian government do to help attract investors?

Transparency is a key factor for investors. They want to know that both the government and organizations have transparent processes, and practices, and that they exercise transparent decision-making. Another key factor is the infrastructure: the more we invest in solid infrastructure, the stronger and more stable the future is.

What would you tell investors eyeing Egypt?

Evaluate and analyze what is best for you and your customers, and think beyond the short-term. In a thriving economy with a market of 85 million people, and a stable and secure geopolitical environment, I think you would want to be in Egypt.

What’s planned for DHL Egypt in the near future? What breakthroughs can customers expect in 2016?

We are planning for a logistics facility expansion at the airport, positioning Egypt as the main gateway to Africa. In addition to the new facilities in Alexandria and Port Said mentioned above, we are also planning some new service points.

Tell us a little about your green solutions and your CSR initiatives. What’s in the pipeline for those two areas in 2016?

We are all part of this community; we understand that and take our social responsibilities very seriously. Our commitment to be green for instance got us to recently upgrade our plane fleet to new ones that saved carbon emissions by 8%; and we intend to upgrade them all again soon to save even more.

We also had a campaign to support the refugee camps in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Jordan; where we delivered donations including stationary and school supplies collected by our partnering NGOs. The campaign’s main aim was to support camp schools and provide them with some of the tools necessary for them to be able to carry out their mission.

We intend to continue our work with the refugee camps this winter as we start a new campaign of delivering blankets, socks and other winter essentials that have been donated by people around the region.

This past Ramadan we partnered with the Food Bank to deliver food boxes to families in need across the whole region and in total managed to deliver 10,000 boxes in Egypt alone.

DHL started operating in 1969, delivering packages from San Francisco to Honolulu. By the mid-1970s, it started eyeing global expansion. Today, DHL has become the global market leader in the logistics industry.

1/4/2016 10:21:43 AM
<![CDATA[Year In Review: The Most Important Events Of 2015 ]]>By Ahmed Goher



Shaimaa El-Sabagh, a workers’ rights activist and a member of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party in Alexandria, was shot dead at a march commemorating the January 25 Revolution in Downtown Cairo on January 24, raising massive controversy as her fellow marchers accused the police of gunning her down.


Relatively calmer than the previous year’s anniversary, January 25 still saw its fair share of violence as the country marked the fourth anniversary of the 2011 revolution that led to the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak. According to the Ministry of Health and Housing, at least 23 people, including at least three police officers, died in clashes and protests over the holiday weekend.


On January 1, the Court of Cassation ordered a retrial for the Al-Jazeera English journalists sentenced to prison for spreading false news and working with the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. The original trial and guilty verdict drew international criticism as an attack on press freedom.


On January 5, the tomb of previously unknown Queen Khentakawess III was discovered in Abu-Sir, southwest of Cairo. Queen Khentakawess III is thought to be the wife or mother of Pharaoh Neferefre who ruled 4,500 years ago.


Egyptian actress Faten Hamama died on January 17 at the age of 84. Hamama was one of Egypt’s most prominent actresses during the 1950s and 1970s, having acted in a number of TV shows and films.

[caption id="attachment_399174" align="alignnone" width="620"]Faten Hamama Faten Hamama[/caption]


Mubarak’s sons Gamal and Alaa were released from prison on January 26, after serving the maximum pre-trial detention period of 18 days. The pair face a retrial on corruption charges. Their release came one day after the fourth anniversary of January 25, which culminated in the 2011 revolution that saw their father step down from power.


A series of violent attacks in North Sinai killed at least 30 and injured over 100 on January 29, according to state media. The scope and size of the attacks were unprecedented, taking place at 10 military facilities in Al-Arish, Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah. Terror group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement released on January 30. In the statement, Maqdis claimed to have killed hundreds of people; however, the Egyptian government claims that the number is much lower.



Terror group ISIS released a video on February 15 depicting the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya, sparking outrage and furthering Cairo’s concern over terrorism both in Egypt and in its neighboring country. On February 16, a day after the video went viral, Egyptian jets, assisted by Libya’s air force, bombed what they believed were Islamic State sites along Libya’s eastern coast, killing around 64 millitants per reports by the Libyan military.


A stampede killed dozens of football fans outside the Air Force Stadium on February 8. Over two people were killed as fans tried to enter the stadium to watch a match between Zamalek and Enppi, which led to the police’s use of tear gas to calm the overzealous crowd. In an attempt to escape the tear gas, a stampede broke out, which led to the majority of fatalities. According to the government, family members of the fans who were killed outside the match were offered LE 25,000 (U.S. $ 3,280) in compensation for their loss.


Putin arrived in Cairo on February 9 on a two-day visit to Egypt, his first visit to the country in over 10 years. Banners and posters bearing Putin’s face were placed along Cairo’s busiest streets to welcome the Russian leader, who met with President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to discuss bilateral relations and trade.


Australian journalist Peter Greste, one of the journalists involved in the Al Jazeera English trial, was pardoned by President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi and released on February 1. Following his release, Greste immediately boarded a plane bound for his home country. Two weeks after Greste’s release, on February 13, two other journalists involved in the trial, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, were released pending a retrial.


Sisi issued a new decree concerning Law No. 8 on the organization of terrorist entities on February 24. The law, made up 10 articles, defines a “terrorist entity” and a “terrorist person,” and tackles the source of money, financing and the freezing of funds belonging to terrorists. The other articles specify the authorities tasked with drawing up a list of terrorist entities and the parties entitled to appeal their listing. Controversy ensued as activists feared the law would allow the authorities to label most opposition groups and human rights organizations as terrorist entities.



A press conference on March 13 announced a massive plan by the Egyptian government to build what’s being called the new capital city. The new capital city, which would be built in a corridor between Cairo and the Red Sea, promises to be a ‘smart city’ and a ‘city for Egypt’s future,’ aiming to boost employment statistics and alleviate the overpopulated centers of Downtown and elsewhere in Cairo. While the government promised to complete the city’s development over the next 12 years, the announcement was met with skepticism by many. EGYPT ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CONFERENCE HELD IN SHARM EL-SHEIKH

Egypt held a heavily publicized Economic Development Conference in Sharm El-Sheikh on March 13-15. The conference was attended by over 1,700 investors, government officials and experts, including high profile names like Tony Blair and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde. During the first two days of the conference Egypt signed investment deals worth more than $138 billion and the countries of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates promised to donate an additional $12 million to help stabilize the country’s economy.

[caption id="attachment_399170" align="alignnone" width="620"]Sisi called for an annual Economic Development Conference; deals worth more than $138 billion were signed at this year's event. Sisi called for an annual Economic Development Conference; deals worth more than $138 billion were signed at this year's event.[/caption]


Within the same week, two students died in Cairo in separate tragedies. On March 8, a fifth grade student died after succumbing to injuries sustained after a schoolteacher beat the student. In a separate incident, 19-year-old Yara Tarek Negm was killed near the German University in Cairo after being hit by a bus.


On March 17, reports circulated that foreigners will no longer be able to obtain a visa from Cairo International Airport upon arrival. Starting May 15, foreigners must obtain visas from embassies and consulates prior to their arrival in Cairo. Only foreigners on organized trips will be exempt from the rule, as their tour groups can organize visas for them. EGYPTIAN FOOTBALL PLAYER SELECTED FOR UEFA’S EUROPE LEAGUE

Twenty-two year old Egyptian football star Mohamed Salah was selected for UEFA’s Europa League, media outlets reported on March 21. Previously, Salah was with Italy’s Fiorentina, on loan from Premier League giants Chelsea FC.


Zamalek Club Chairman and former presidential candidate Mortada Mansour was sentenced to one year in prison on March 21. Mansour was convicted for insulting a lawyer who represents the Ultras White Knights, Tarek El-Awady.


Egypt’s interior minister, Mohamed Ibrahim, was replaced as part of a cabinet reshuffle on March 5, which also saw new ministers appointed to the ministries of tourism, education and agriculture. Ibrahim, who was an officer in the Ministry of Interior under former President Mubarak and was appointed to the position by former President Morsi, was replaced by Maj. Gen. Magdi Abdel-Ghaffar.


Former Mubarak-era Interior Minister Habib El-Adly was acquited on March 19. El-Adly was acquitted of corruption charges that claimed he used political influence to obtain illicit gains amounting to LE 181 million.


A preliminary agreement on March 22 in Khartoum was signed by Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to end the crisis over the Nile River. The declaration of principles focused on the controversy surrounding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and intended to be a promise by the leaders of all three countries that they will come to a peaceful resolution.


A bomb exploded outside the Egyptian Supreme Court on March 3, killing two people and wounding nine according to the Ministry of Health. Included in the injured were seven police officers. Two other bombs went off in Cairo the same say, one outside a fire station and another outside a police station.



Former President Morsi was sentenced to 20 years in prison on April 21 over the killing of protesters outside the presidential palace in December 2012. The verdict was the first in a series of cases that have been brought against the deposed president since his removal from power on July 3, 2013. Morsi and 14 other defendants were acquitted of a murder charge that would have seen them face the death penalty. The other defendants, all Muslim Brotherhood members or people from his administration, include Mohamed El-Beltagy and Essam El-Erian.


A brewing conflict in Yemen between the Houthis and Armed Forces saw its neighbors get involved in early April, including Egypt. A ten-member Arab coalition intervened in the Yemeni conflict, led by Saudi Arabia, in Operation Decisive Storm. Although Egypt originally denied that it would get involved, it later promised to contribute naval and air forces, adding that it would contribute ground forces if necessary.


Renowned Egyptian poet Abdel-Rahman El-Abnoudi died April 21 at the age of 76, after having underwent brain surgery at a Cairo hospital just days earlier. The leftist poet, whose fans called him “uncle,” rose to fame in the 1960s for his poems, some performed by legendary Arab singer Abdel Halim Hafez. Sisi and Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab offered their condolences to Abnudi’s family.


Egyptian explorer Omar Samra completed the Adventurers Grand Slam. Samra became the first Egyptian to complete the Grand Slam after successfully reaching the North Pole on April 21.


Sinai-based Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis, also known as Walayat al-Sinai, was placed on Egypt’s terrorist list on April 16 by Egypt’s Criminal Court.


Egypt’s decision to cancel on-arrival visas was suspended in April. Egypt’s Foreign Ministry announced in March that it would suspend on-arrival visas at the airport on May 15, making it mandatory to obtain visas from embassies prior to arrival.


The Egyptian Cabinet announced on April 20 that Egyptians would not be switching their clocks for daylight saving time and may cancel the practice altogether.


Egyptian director Mohamed Galal Okasha was killed in April after being kidnapped in Libya in August 2014. Okasha was working at Libya TV station Barqa at the time of his kidnapping.



Egyptian activist and human rights lawyer Mahienour El-Masry and Journalist Youssef Shaaban were arrested on May 11 over “storming” a police station in 2013 during the reign of Islamist President Morsi. An Alexandria court sentenced her, Shaaban and activist Loay El-Ahwagy to one year and three months in prison on May 31.


Retired football player Mohamed Abu Trika’s assets were frozen on May 8 according to the government. The government committee tasked with confiscating Muslim Brotherhood assets announced the confiscation of properties belonging to tourism company Asshab Tours, which the former Al-Ahly and national team player has shares, noting that it financed terrorism, and also froze all of Abu Trika’s bank accounts.


Judge Ahmed Al-Zind was sworn in as the new justice minister on May 20, replacing his predecessor, Mahfouz Saber, who had resigned on May 11 over public outrage due to comments he made on TV that rubbish collectors’ sons are unfit to occupy the position of judge.


Six people were executed on May 17 after being sentenced to death in October 2014 in a military trial, known as the Arab Sharkas case, for belonging to Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and carrying out attacks against military forces.


The Cairo Misdemeanor Court sentenced controversial TV presenter Islam el-Beheiry on May 31 to five years in prison for defaming Islam during his daily show “With Islam” on private TV channel Al Kahera Wal Nas.


Beloved Egyptian stage and screen actor Hassan Mostafa, one of the funniest men in Egyptian cinema, passed away on May 19 at the age of 81.



Egyptian TV presenter Islam El-Beheiry was acquitted June 24 of charges of blasphemy by a Giza misdemeanors court.


In June, the government announced a campaign to collect donations to hold a giant celebration of the inauguration of the New Suez Canal Project. Head of the Suez Canal Authority Mohab Mamish stressed that the State’s coffers would not bear the approximately USD $30 million needed for the celebrations and that this would be financed through donations to a fund.


Former President Morsi’s death sentence in the prison break case was upheld on June 16. Appearing wearing the infamous red execution garb, Morsi continued to appear in court throughout the month of June to be tried on espionage charges. The court ruling caused an eruption of controversy, with some decrying the sentence as unjust and others arguing it should have come much sooner.

[caption id="attachment_399172" align="alignnone" width="620"]Former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi's death sentence was upheld in mid-June. Former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi's death sentence was upheld in mid-June.[/caption]


Sisi travelled to Germany June 3 in an effort to enhance relations between the two countries. While Egypt earned sizable investments through the visit, the trip was not controversy-free. Brotherhood supporters awaited Sisi’s arrival by holding protests in the German capital, denouncing him and his regime. Meanwhile, Sisi’s supporters staged their own demonstrations to support the president in Germany.


Former Minister of Civil Aviation Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister under Mubarak, submitted his resignation to the National Movement Party on June 14, which he founded, citing his presence outside of the country (in the UAE) as a reason for him not being able to carry out his duties. The party rejected the resignation and launched a media campaign in his support. The postponement of a two-episode interview with Shafiq on Al Assema TV channel further fueled the controversy, as it was claimed that the State banned the airing of the interview when Shafiq threatened security forces with incriminating documents were he not allowed to return to the country to participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections.


Sisi on June 17 pardoned 165 individuals sentenced in cases related to breaching the protest law and other misdemeanors on the occasion of Ramadan.


On June 29, Egyptian General Prosecutor Hisham Barakat was assassinated after a car bomb targeting his convoy in Cairo was detonated. Ansay Bayt al-Maqdis assumed responsibility for the attack.



As Egypt continued its third year of the war on terror, terrorist organizations targeting military forces in Sinai and civilian targets in Cairo stepped up their game. In early July, hundreds of militants conducted synchronized attacks against army checkpoints in North Sinai, and while foreign media were quick to announce heavy casualties among army soldiers, it was later revealed that most of casualties were on the side of the attacking militants, as per the military. The Italian consulate in Downtown Cairo was also bombed in July 11. Sinai-based Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis released statements taking responsibility for the first attacks while ISIS itself released a statement taking responsibility for the consulate’s bombing.

[caption id="attachment_399171" align="alignnone" width="620"]The Italian Consulate in downtown Cairo was bombed on July 11 by terror group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis. The Italian Consulate in downtown Cairo was bombed on July 11 by terror group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis.[/caption]


Egypt’s new state budget was released on July 2, later than usual and with little societal discussion prior to its publication, which drew the ire of many. Nevertheless, views were somewhat divided, with some praising strong points in the budget, such as reduction of the deficit, and others lamenting the rising national debt. Of particular notice, spending on supporting the export sector saw the most remarkable increase in this year’s budget, jumping by 98% compared to last year, while health and education increased by only 21.5% and 8.3% respectively. PRESIDENT ISSUES CONTROVERSIAL LEGISLATION

With the People’s Assembly still unseated, Sisi took it upon himself in July to issue a series of controversial legislation to fill in the legislative gap that has afflicted the country for the past three years. The most controversial is an anti-terrorism law proposed by the government, which was met with outrage by local journalists, who frowned on the idea that they could be sent to jail for publishing data that differs from that provided by government sources (the sentence for the crime was later reduced to a fine of LE 250,000 to 5000,000 with no jail time). Another law gives the president the authority to depose the heads of supervisory bodies if they “harm national security” or fail to carry out their duties, which many speculate was aimed at head of the Central Auditing Organization Hesham Geneina, who recently accused the Interior Ministry, the Judges Club and the General Prosecution of corruption. The third law authorizesdthe Ministries of Defense and Interior, and the General Intelligence Agency to found security companies that provide services of protection of facilities and/or money transport.


Editor in chief of the privately owned Al-Watan newspaper and TV host on satellite TV channel CBC Extra Magdy el-Gallad, CBC owner Mohamed El-Amin and a writer for the show, Wael Saad, were sentenced by the Cairo Misdemeanor Court to six months in jail for broadcasting “false news” on the squandering of public funds.


On July 9, Sisi ratified the parliamentary election law, paving the path for finally holding long delayed parliamentary elections.


Former Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif was sentenced to prison on July 22 on charges of corruption and illicit profiteering. The Cairo Criminal Court sentenced Nazif to five years imprisonment, and slapped him with a fine of LE 53, 353,130, also ordering him to return the sum of LE 48, 610,000 to the State.


Al-Jazeera’s Canadian-Egyptian Mohammed Fahmy, Australian Peter Greste,and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed, who were detained in December 2013, were all found guilty of aiding a terrorist group (the Muslim Brotherhood) and sentenced to three years in jail. Judge Hassan Farid ruled that Fahmy and Mohamed were not journalists and not members of the Journalists Syndicate and therefore did not enjoy the protection journalists are afforded in Egypt. The ruling sparked heavy controversy both inside and outside Egypt, with several Western governments — including the United States, Canada and Britain — and local activists condemning the ruling as a politicized attack against free speech.


An Egyptian military aircraft crashed near the Libyan border on August 13 during a raid against Islamist militants, killing four people and injuring another two. A statement by the military said the crash, which occurred over Marsa Matrouh, was due to a “technical fault.”


Former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly and 12 of his colleagues were arrested on charges of squandering public funds during their time in office, on August 3. The officials were accused of illicitly signing over bonuses to police officers and ministry figures during a period spanning from 2000 to 2011, worth LE 1.8 billion in state funds.


Egypt opened an expansion to the Suez Canal on August 6 with a huge multi-million pound celebration. World leaders, including officials from Arab nations such as King Abdullah II of Jordan, and Western countries such as French President Francois Hollande, attended the event.



Security forces in Egypt killed 12 people, including eight Mexican tourists, on September 14. Ten Mexican tourists were also injured. Egypt’s interior ministry said four vehicles in which the tourists were travelling were “mistakenly dealt with” in a joint military police and armed forces operation in the Wahat area of the Western Desert. Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto condemned the incident and called on Egypt to investigate the incident.


On September 7, Social Security Minister Ghada Wali announced that 57 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were dissolved for alleged links to the Muslim Brotherhood, per a court ruling banning the Brotherhood and ordering its funds to be seized.


Just moments after submitting his resignation to Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab, Egypt’s Minister of Agriculture Salah Helal was arrested September 7 on charges of corruption. The resignation came “per the instructions of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi,” according to a statement by the Cabinet, and Helal was charged with corruption and receiving bribes including, according to the Public Prosecution, a villa in 6th of October City to the tune of LE 8.25 million, membership at a famous sports and social club in Cairo worth LE 140,000, clothes costing LE 230,000 and an all-expense-paid pilgrimage to Mecca for 16 of his family members. MAHLAB’S CABINET RESIGNS

Ibrahim Mahlab’s Cabinet submitted its resignation on September 12 amid the scandal of the Ministry of Agriculture corruption case. President Al-Sisi instructed Sherif Ismail, then minister of petroleum, to form a new cabinet as prime minister within a week.

[caption id="attachment_399175" align="alignnone" width="620"]Former Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab's cabinet resigned in September. Former Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab's cabinet resigned in September.[/caption]


As the nation continued to grapple with its energy woes, Egyptians finally received some positive news: Italy’s Eni discovered a massive gas field (at least 30 trillion cubic feet of gas) that could translate into around $48 billion of revenue for the government after Eni’s share is accounted for. The field, named Shorouk, lies off of Egypt’s Mediterranean coast, in the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone. It is pegged to see investments worth $6 billion to $10 billion for its development and is expected to satisfy Egypt’s domestic demand for gas for at least the coming decade.


Mariam Malak aka “Zero schoolgirl” dominated headlines for days in September and quickly became a symbol of anti-corruption after she received a zero on her secondary school examinations. Malak, who had been top of her class for years, and her lawyers, claimed that her exam was intentionally switched with one written by a child of wealthy, well-connected parents. Her case gathered massive attention both inside and outside of Egypt, with tens of thousands of social media users spreading her cause.


Making good on his promise to diversify Egypt’s relations internationally, President Al-Sisi in late August and early September embarked on tours to Russia and Asia, visiting Singapore, China and Indonesia and meeting Russian President Putin, Singaporean President Tony Tan and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minster Li Keqiang, and Indonesian President Joko Widodo.



The first round of Egypt’s parliamentary elections were held in October in 14 out of Egypt’s 27 governorates with disappointing turnout rates. Many parties chose to boycott the elections due to what they perceived as an antagonistic political scene. Media outlets reported a minuscule 2% turnout rate on the first day of voting. The next day, the government decided to give state employees a half day off work and encouraged the private sector to facilitate voting for employees. Rumors of a LE 500 pound fine for not voting also failed to draw in bigger numbers at the polling stations.


Egypt was able to secure a $3 billion loan from the World Bank in October. Egypt’s Finance Minister Hany Kadry Dimian announced the news a week after the annual International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank meeting in Lima, Peru. According to the Central Bank of Egypt, the reserves declined to $16.334 billion, compared to $18.096 billion in August, reaching around half of the $36 billion Egypt’s coffers enjoyed before 2011. The country also depreciated its currency more than twice. EGYPT WINS NON-PERMANENT SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBERSHIP

Egypt won a two-year, non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council in October, with 179 of the 193 UN member states voting in favor of its membership. Africa is traditionally allocated two non-permanent seats on the council. Senegal won the second seat with 187 votes.


TV host and actress Entisar was arrested and put under investigation in October after claiming on her show, which aired on Al-Qahira Wal-Nas TV channel, “Most Egyptian men know nothing about how to have a real sexual encounter, therefore they must watch porn to learn how to act during their first time.”


Acclaimed Egyptian novelist Gamal El-Ghitiani passed away on October 18 at the Galaa Hospital for Armed Forces Officers Families in Cairo after slipping into a comma. He was 70. RUSSIAN PLANE CRASHES NEAR SHARM

Russian Metrojet flight 9268 crashed on October 31, following its departure from Sharm el-Sheikh, killing all 224 people on board. Terror group ISIS claimed responsibility for the crash. The incident gained heavy media attention worldwide and hit Egypt’s vital tourism industry at a peak season, with a number of countries, including Russia and the UK, evacuating tourists from the resort and suspending flights over Sinai. Russia banned all Egypt Air planes from flying in and out of Russia. On November 17, Russian authorities announced the jet had been brought down by a bomb with the force of a kilogram of explosives and detonated using a soft drink can planted under a seat. The Russian government also announced it is offering a $50 million reward for information. EGYPT CITIES FLOOD

With winter at the door steps, rain water flooded Beheira, North Sinai, and Alexandria. While Cairo did not have it as bad as the other three areas, the rain did bring traffic to a standstill in the country’s capital. In North Sinai, Alexandria and Beheria various homes were destroyed while tens were injured and died. Amid ongoing public outrage at the deplorable state of Alexandria’s infrastructure, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail accepted the resignation of Hani El-Mesery, the governor of Alexandria, on October 25.



The second round of parliamentary elections took place in 13 governorates on November 22 and 23. Parties and candidates campaigned for the second stage of the parliamentary elections between 2 and 20 November. The elections were generally more competitive than the first round, as they included Cairo and other densely populated governorates in the Nile Delta. JOURNALIST HOSSAM BAHGAT DETAINED

Mada Masr Journalist Hossam Bahgat was detained by military intelligence and interrogated by military prosecution on November 7. Bahgat was accused of violating articles 102 and 188 of the Egyptian penal code, which deal with deliberately broadcasting false information that disturbs public security, incites public panic and harms the public interest, and falsely attributing sources or involuntarily disseminating false information or forged documents that disturb public order, incite public panic and harm the public interest. After local and international outcry, Bahgat was released November 10 after signing a document stating that he “will abide by legal and security procedures when publishing material pertaining to the Armed Forces.”


Six coordinated attacks left 130 dead in a night of terror in Paris. President Francois Hollande declared the attacks an act of war and promptly launched an international manhunt for escaped perpetrators. ISIS claimed responsibility for masterminding the terrorist plot. Among the victims were Egyptian Saleh Al-Jabali, 28, and French-Egyptian Lamia Mondegeur, 30. Waleed Abdel Razek was branded one of the killers when his passport was found at the Bataclan Theater where the deadliest attack took place, but it later transpired he was one of the injured and at press time he was being treated in hospital.


Two suicide bombers and a gunman attacked a hotel in Arish, Sinai, targeting judges who were supervising the parliamentary elections. At press time seven people had been killed.

12/28/2015 10:31:34 AM
<![CDATA[Egypt's stock market indices hike during last week's trading]]>By Aswat Masriya Egypt’s stock market indices hiked during last week’s trading, where the main index EGX30 rose by 0.48 percent, to reach ...read more

Via:: Aswat Masriya

12/18/2015 7:54:17 PM
<![CDATA[Analysis: Egypt On The Road To Development ]]>Egyptian policy makers sit down for a national dialogue to evaluate the country's current development trajectory.

By Ahmed Goher

Is there really a “cruel choice” between economic growth and political reform? Conversely, does the pursuit of economic and political reform need to be simultaneous? If not, which should come first, economic development or political reform?

These were among the tough questions asked at “Between Political Reform and Economic Development - Egypt the Future,” a national dialogue held by the Economic Research Forum (ERF) on September 30.

The relationship between political and economic reform in Egypt is a particularly complex one. To some extent, many in Egypt believe that there is a certain tradeoff between having political freedom and economic development. In this sense, political reform is many times construed as leading to instability and chaos. With the country having undergone two revolutions in the past few years, this idea has become even further ingrained in the minds of many.

It is within this context that the Cairo-based network of economists hosted political scientists, policy makers and journalists to debate the nature of the relationship between economic development and political reform in Egypt. The dialogue, held in Arabic, was moderated by ERF Managing Director Ahmed Galal and featured former Arab League head Amr Moussa, former Minister of International Cooperation Ziad Bahaa-Eldin, former Member of Parliament Amr El-Shobaki, and former Director of Research at the National Bank of Egypt Salwa el-Antary.

“The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually slaves of some defunct economist,” Galal said in his introductory remarks, quoting John Maynard Keynes.

Galal also stressed the importance of understanding that the diversity of opinions is valuable in itself. In this sense, he stressed that ERF’s national dialogue provides an open and independent platform through which different ideas can be discussed.

Moving on, the event kicked off with Antary identifying two conditions for economic development in Egypt that inherently involve political dimensions: combating monopolies and fighting corruption. Citing World Bank reports, Antary stressed that the main obstacle facing Egypt’s private sector manifests in politically well-connected monopolies that crowd out the market and ultimately lead to the economic challenges and disparities the country suffers from.

On the other hand, corruption, she said, places a huge burden on the Egyptian economy and results in billions of pounds, which could have gone toward development, being lost to a quagmire of venality.

She also pointed out that politics and economics are generally inseparable and that while people usually agree that economic problems exist, they disagree on how to solve them. In this sense, she noted that different solutions for economic problems entail different biases and different costs and benefits to different actors.

Speaking next, Shobaki underlined the concept of political development. He explained that while much has been said about the importance of political reform and economic development, little do people approach the topic of political development. According to Shobaki, political development is related to the capabilities and capacities of civil society and political parties and their ability to organize regardless of the political system in place. Without such political development, Shobaki noted that economic development cannot happen.

Shobaki added that one way to achieve political development is by capitalizing on the values of professionalism, integrity and efficiency that fueled mega projects in Egypt, like the new Suez Canal project. Such values he said, are a core gain from economic achievements that should be spread to all aspects of societal life so that they become reflected in reality.

In August 2015, Egypt had inaugurated a heavily publicized so-called ‘New Suez Canal.’ At the time, observes were mixed on the economic viability of the project, with many seeing it as an instrument to garner support for the president.

Shobaki also noted that in Egypt suffers from a lack of adequate political tools, explaining that while some have gone to “vilify the opposition,” protests have started erupting within the state (for instance against the Civil Service law). This, he said, highlights the need for the state to adopt the tools of compromise and negotiation when dealing with differing voices. In this way, a partnership between the state and society can be nourished, which would ultimately lead to political and economic development.

On his part, Bahaa-Eldin said that economic decisions are inherently political and agreed that “economic development can in no way take place in Egypt without adequate political reform that opens the way for political participation.”

In this context, Bahaa-Eldin identified five economic benefits that result from having a solid political foundation in Egypt, one characterized by stability and room for participation. The first such benefit is that it ensures the efficient formulation of economic policies by allowing for diverse perspectives to be taken into account. The second is that a good political system will guarantee that economic decisions promote social justice. Thirdly, political participation is conducive to less-corrupt economic policymaking since decisions are taken in a transparent manner that allows society to absorb them. Fourthly, political participation makes economic decisions more viable and more prone to actually being implemented. Finally, political participation ensures that governments have more opportunities to correct their mistakes. In this sense, Bahaa-Eldin said that the strength of a political system manifests in its ability to correct its mistakes and not simply cover them up.

Despite all of the aforementioned benefits, Bahaa-Eldin noted that in Egypt there is societal resistance to pursing political reform hand-in-hand with economic reform. He attributes this to a prevalent discourse in the media that political reform means less stability, which in turn hampers economic growth. In this framework, Bahaa-Eldin stressed the need for intellectuals to convince public opinion that political reform and participation are necessary, desirable and beneficial on all levels.

Finally, Moussa commented that Egypt is in dire need of a comprehensive project for reform. In this framework, he noted that such a project needs to encompass administrative reform alongside political and economic reform.

Moussa stressed the importance of the Constitution and the upcoming parliament in paving the path for both political and economic reform in Egypt. For instance, he noted that parliament is the best outlet for the political participation of Egyptian society and said that the constitution has clearly laid out the groundwork for achieving social justice by stipulating precise percentages to be spent on health and education while safeguarding the rights of women.

In terms of the challenges facing Egypt, Moussa identified “neglect, terrorism, corruption and hypocrisy” as the main ills afflicting the country and stressed the need to work to overcome them.

Moussa ended on a positive note, emphasizing that the road in front of Egypt is “clear” and that the country is “past the phase of experimentation.” He referenced India and Brazil as examples of countries that are on their way towards development and are now “knocking on the doors of great powers” to make their voices heard. This article is part of Egypt Today’s five-part series looking at the nation’s road to economic recovery. Despite the uncertainties, this past year has seen investors eyeing Egypt’s market quite favorably, predicting that in the long run the country’s economic outlook will turn positive. In this package, we ask investment gurus to weigh in on the current investment climate, including interviews with the MENA CEO of DHL in addition to Philips to get their take on the state of Egypt’s economy. We also spotlight one investment in the country’s attractive education sector: the scheduled opening of prestigious British school Malvern College.

Read the full series now in the December issue.

12/18/2015 3:41:28 PM
<![CDATA[Analysis: Egypt's Investment Climate, The Future Of Tourism ]]>Analyst Omar Shenety, managing director of investment bank Multiples Group and chairman of consultancy firm Quick Wins, looks back on the nation’s investment climate over the past year and ahead at how we’ll need to overcome this year's over-optimism.

[caption id="attachment_396635" align="alignnone" width="620"]Omar Shenety Omar Shenety[/caption]

By Ahmed Goher

How do you assess Egypt’s investment climate over this past year?

2014 was a very good year for the Egyptian economy and we can also say the same for the beginning of 2015. There was good growth. People had very high expectations and economists generally respond to expectations and signals. However, during the last few months, we have seen some setbacks. This is no surprise. Back in 2014 and the beginning of 2015, people were too optimistic; I did not see any fundamental changes taking place to justify people’s exaggerated optimism. Sure, you had the announcement of national projects and the holding of the Sharm el-Sheikh economic conference, which saw amazing representation from investors, emirs and officials from the region and abroad, giving a very positive image, but these things were exaggerated and overrated and with time we eventually had to get back to reality.

Where did all of this false hope come from?

Many people supported the changes promised by the January 25 and June 30 events. These past years were basically a huge storm that no one expected. All of a sudden, a 30-year regime fell only to be replaced by some new guys that no one had heard of before. And to the influential people in Egypt, these political newcomers were making very strange moves. So there was a lot of skepticism and apprehensiveness after two and a half years of violence and protests, perhaps until the first quarter of 2014. With the beginning of 2014 you could start to see signs of stability returning. Naturally, after years of uncertainty, investors were hungry and jumped at the opportunity to finally start investing their money. People always have savings and want to invest, and by 2014 people were starting to see signs of a system they could like, perhaps not completely, but at least it was there.

The second factor is at the beginning of 2014 the country saw unprecedented support by the Gulf countries right after June 30. I mean, you got around $30 billion — enough to breathe life into a dead economy. And then from mid-2014 to the beginning of 2015 you could see good growth as a result of such generous support. This revitalized the market and people felt currency pressures were easing up and that Gulf countries will stand by Egypt and invest in the country. Moreover, Egyptian workers in the Gulf were also expected to be impacted positively by these developments and thus inject more money into Egypt. In this sense, Gulf aid played a very significant part in this optimism.

The third factor that contributed to the optimism was the promises made during presidential elections that the country would see a dramatic transformation after June 30. President Sisi enjoyed immense popularity when he came to power because people viewed him as someone special, holding promises for a better life. A new trend so to speak. He was the hero of June 30 and fostered this idea that things would transform, which in turn generated huge expectations. National projects, like the new Suez Canal, also played a part. The Suez Canal holds huge symbolism for Egyptians, kind of like the pyramids. It is something they’ve bragged about since they were children.

Ultimately, consumer behavior has much more to do with psychology than just practical business rules. During this period, the psychology was very positive. You had a president people were infatuated with, who also enjoyed support from the state, police, army, media and the business community. In just one week, he was able to collect LE 64 billion for the Suez Canal project. Even the most optimistic individuals could not have imagined such a figure: from the perspective of an average investor, it was clear that this success was the start of a better period.

Finally, the media played a big role in exaggerating things and raising expectations, making it look like it was only a matter of time before things got better. This was problematic.

Today, you have no Gulf aid due to the decrease in oil prices, and things are not very stable. The consequences of the inflated exaggerations are coming to bear. When reality finally hits people, you start seeing widespread frustration.

The government has announced a sustainable development strategy titled “Egypt 2030,” promising a growth rate of 12%, an investment rate of 30% of GDP, an unemployment rate of 5%, and an illiteracy rate of 7% by the year 2030. Does this seem feasible to you?

First off all, to be thinking as far ahead as 2030 is in itself a positive move. Regardless of the content, the idea to come up with a strategy for sustainable development and to start thinking 15 years ahead to make sure entities are working together towards a common set of goals is a very good initiative that should be supported.

Having said that, looking at the contents of the strategy we can see that it suffers from the often-repeated mistake of having unrealistic goals. If you get an investor and tell them that you will give them 15% return on their money and you actually manage to get them 16% then that’s great. The investor will love you. On the other hand, if you promise 20% and only actually achieve 19%, the investor will feel lots of frustration. When you set the bar too high for yourself and miss it, people will be very frustrated.

Frustration is the difference between expectations and reality. Having a strategy is good, but to say you’re going to have a 12% growth rate is very aggressive and harmful. China, in its heyday, did not have such growth rates in a sustainable manner. You are also so far away from having a 30% investment rate. Where will the investments come from? Purchasing power is very low. People can barely afford basic needs. Where will savings come from?

A more reasonable thing to do is to re-check these numbers, especially if they were based on the availability of endless Gulf aid, FDI coming to the country, a secure environment and high tourism. Today, none of these factors are there. There is no Gulf aid, no tourism and no security. The variables that were taken into account when coming up with this plan have changed, and revising it now makes perfect sense.

Egypt’s economy is also not isolated from the global economy. You are affected by what happens in the world. You do not affect global trends but are affected by them. And the global economy today is not at its best.

Egypt’s government also seems to have adopted the idea of megaprojects as a solution for its economic woes. What is your take on this?

There are two theories when it comes to national projects and the idea of the government leading development. One theory postulates that the government should just provide infrastructure and allow the private sector to lead. The other theory suggests that during times of crisis, the private sector and investors have no desire to take risks and so the government must step in by pursuing projects that help the country and create job opportunities until the private sector can get back on its feet and lead. And here we should note that such projects do not necessarily need to be mega ones; working on smaller-scale projects may sometimes make more sense.

In Egypt, the megaprojects being pursued raise many issues, and here I’m not talking about the Suez Canal. Firstly, Egypt’s experience with megaprojects is generally not good. Toshka is, of course, a prime example of bad experience; perhaps the main example of a successful megaproject pursued by the state in Egypt’s modern history is the Aswan High Dam. Secondly, megaprojects also entail long-term returns. The returns you get on the money you put in today will only materialize 10 to 15 years from now. Today you need quick returns on investment. Thirdly, megaprojects require a lot of financing. Today, you don’t have many such sources and relying on loans or issuing investment certificates pressures market liquidity.

Finally, the bigger the project, the bigger the risk. If you have LE 10 billion and divide them over 10 different projects and one project fails, you only lose 10% of the money. If you invest the 10 billion in one big megaproject, you lose all the money. In 2015 the IMF came to Egypt and advised the government to stay away from megaprojects, so that the private sector is not crowded out, and to instead focus on developing the country’s infrastructure. Pursuing megaprojects is a huge gamble and is not the best way to invigorate an economy.

What about the new Suez Canal Project? To what extent was that a positive endeavor?

I think the Suez Canal needs to be evaluated from a number of different angles. It’s very hard to reach a single conclusion declaring it beneficial or not. What we can do is divide the different aspects of the project into three components: widening and deepening the current waterway, creating a parallel waterway and digging new tunnels.

The first component of widening and deepening raises no issues. In fact, making the canal more efficient is a necessity, as ships are getting bigger while their numbers are getting smaller. You need to expand the canal to be able to accommodate bigger ships in the future. Keep in mind that you have already been expanding the canal every few years and the returns on investment are good, maybe even overdue. Before the expansion, 100% of small ships and most medium ships could pass but almost 40% of big ships could not. Now more mega ships can pass in one day, if there is traffic.

On the other hand, creating a new parallel waterway raises many issues. First of all, why are you digging a new canal? To reduce waiting times? Only convoys coming from the north had to park and wait for the ships coming from the south to pass. Essentially, the new waterway reduces the waiting time of north convoys from 18 hours to 11. This is good and might be very convenient for some companies and may even allow you to charge a slightly higher passage fee. Still, a reduction of seven hours waiting time can only allow you to charge so much. The journey between Asia and Europe is not a short one, and a ship that has spent 15-20 days in the water will not be ready to pay double the fees just because you reduced the trip by seven hours. The economic benefit is not too clear. Before its creation, 79 ships could pass through, now 99 can pass through. On average, however, only 50 ships pass through.

Finally, when it comes to the tunnels, there is no denying that connecting Sinai to the rest of Egypt is good. But how many tunnels do we really need and how fast do we need to have them? Spending on infrastructure is a long-term investment. … I’m collecting money using short-term investment certificates for a long-term project when I’m in desperate need of shortterm results.

Having said all that, the ultimate goal is to develop the canal area as a logistical center and an industrial area. This is very important, but we still have not started on that and I think the current economic problems will prevent this in the short term. While some people think the new waterway should create a “buzz” and help expedite the bigger development plan, I think you could have started developing the area without new tunnels and a new waterway. Was using investment certificates to finance the project a good idea?

In terms of financing, this may actually be the best aspect of the Suez Canal Project. Through the 12% investment certificates, the government created a tax-free investment vehicle, which got it a lot of money. This was very attractive and profitable to investors.

However, time has showed that the original figures of the expected returns from the project were not realistic. The difficult state of affairs in Europe and China worsened the matter and international trade was negatively impacted, which means less ships. This was a matter of bad luck. You expected revenues would increase, although they actually decreased as international trade is going through a turbulent period.

Again, when you pursue massive projects, you cannot control the outcome and things become very risky. Even if international trade picks up, it is still hard to reach $13 billion in revenues in 8 years.

Let’s talk a bit about the upcoming parliament. What impact will its formation have on Egypt’s economic landscape?

I think that investors, in general, deal with Egypt as a presidential country where power is concentrated in the hands of the president, regardless of what the constitution says. So in terms of the business community, there are no huge expectations.

Still, the formation of a parliament would have some positive impact. This is especially true when talking about IMF and World Bank deals, where having a parliament is very important. Also, I think big investors and big oil companies will be happy to have parliament ratify executive signatures.

Locally, you won’t really see much of an impact. Internationally, however, big multinationals and lenders will view this as a positive sign —but nothing too huge.

With the challenge of terrorism on home ground, can the government achieve its ambitions while being embroiled in such a conflict?

The Sinai crisis in fact is not just a local or regional problem but a global one. We need to realize that when terrorists attack Paris and hurt tourism there, this will also impact us. The spread of terrorism globally means less FDI, tourism and even local investment. Moreover, even when it comes to government spending, we will see a huge effect, with spending mostly going toward defense and weaponry. Until terrorism is comprehensively dealt with, prospects for short-term growth are very limited for Egypt and other similar countries.

What about tourism? What are the repercussions of the Russian plane incident? Can Egypt’s tourism industry survive this blow?

During 2014 to 2015, Egypt saw a huge recovery in its tourism sector and so even more improvements were expected for 2015-16. But now this Russian plane crash just turned into this huge crisis that no one expected. Today, there is a complete travel ban from some countries. I mean the response in 1997 with the Luxor incident was less dramatic. So the outlook on tourism in the short term, specifically next year, is very bad. After that, it really depends on how the state attracts tourism and how it deals with the terrorism problem.

[caption id="attachment_396637" align="alignnone" width="620"]The Russian plane crash has turned into a crisis that makes the outlook on tourism in the next year very bad, Shenety says. "After that, it really depends on how the state attracts tourism and how it deals with the terrorism problem." The Russian plane crash has turned into a crisis that makes the outlook on tourism in the next year very bad, Shenety says. "After that, it really depends on how the state attracts tourism and how it deals with the terrorism problem."[/caption]

Some observers have described President Sisi’s economic agenda as “neo-liberal,” with an overt focus on attracting foreign investment, while adopting a policy of austerity. What’s your assessment of the president’s policies?

The first year and a half since June 30 would indicate that it is indeed a neo-liberal government. There is high dependence on foreign investment, and the private sector was expected to play a huge role along with fiscal consolidation. Still, it’s not a very classical version of neo-liberalism. This time government plays a stronger role, either through public-private partnerships or the intervention of sovereign institutions. So it is neo-liberalism, but with government having a strategic role in parallel.

From 2014-15 policies were pretty much like the ones followed during the Mubarak era. But Mubarak did not fail because of neo-liberalism, but because his regime neglected the redistribution of wealth and combating corruption and so on. The problem was thus a form of neo-liberalism devoid of equality or social considerations.

The question now is whether this neoliberal track will continue. I don’t think so. Neo-liberalism can only flourish in an environment conducive to FDI. This is currently not the environment we are in due to the global recession. Our biggest investor is Europe, and it is in pretty bad shape. Gulf countries are suffering from low oil prices and won’t come to invest. The private sector may be doing fine in the short term because of the external cash flows of lasty year, but can’t operate alone and needs help from foreign banks and entities.

With the Russian plane crash and so on, we need to realize that if countries are afraid to send tourists, they definitely won’t send investments. In this sense, I think reliance on the private sector will decrease and the government will have a bigger role during the coming period. We have already started seeing this with interventions to regulate prices and the current emphasis of the military as an economic tool at a time of crisis.

You say that the problem was not neo-liberalism per se, but rather neo-liberalism that does not take into account social considerations. But isn’t not taking account of social considerations an inherent feature of neo-liberal policies?

Neo-liberalism indeed does not really take social aspects into account. It is based on the idea that the market will adjust itself and that the trickle-down effect will happen in the long run. Still, this is oldschool neo-liberalism. Over the past six years, after the financial crisis, the IMF itself announced that social aspects will need to be considered, and so we are essentially seeing neo-liberalism with social considerations as a school of thought lately. For example, in a recent report the IMF talked about income inequality as a major barrier to development. You would have never seen this before. There is now a new direction worldwide to focus on the inequality problem. I believe you can have a more fine-tuned version of neo-liberalism that can take social aspects into account.

How do you see Egypt’s move to negotiate a $3 billion loan from the World Bank?

As far as I understand, part of this loan is built on the idea that the World Bank supports countries that are developing and pursuing serious reform agendas. The WB is different from the IMF. In its terms, if a country is undergoing economic transition, then credit lines can be made available to it to expedite reforms. From the perspective of the government, we are currently liberalizing the economy, by depreciating the currency and reducing subsidies and so on, as the IMF and WB recommend.

Accordingly, per WB customary practice, Egypt can be eligible for direct support to the tune of $1.5 billion toward liberalization reforms and another $1.5 billion to specific developmental projects. Overall, I think the loan is good and important, but I don’t think it will attract too much FDI. Instead, it will bring in cheap dollars at a time at which they are heavily needed. This will help alleviate pressure on the pound to some extent.

Egypt’s monetary policy, specifically the recent announcement of the replacement of the Central Bank’s governor and the Bank’s response to the dollar crisis, have raised controversy. What is your take on these developments?

I think there is a realization as of late that we as a country are desperately looking to attract foreign investors and are thus trying to depreciate our currency toward that end. However, the region is on fire so to speak, with terrorism and political instability afflicting Egypt. With that in mind, FDI is not coming rapidly, the balance of payments problems put pressure on the pound and the fact that you are losing Gulf investors does not help. We need to stop dreaming that depreciating the pound will attract investors.

We now need to deal with our currency comprehensively. Classic policy would suggest you increase the interest rate on the pound to push individuals to convert their money to it and benefit from higher interest rates. So for instance, getting 12.5% over five years on your pound deposits versus keeping your saving in dollars at home means a 60% increase, and the pound will probably not depreciate 60% in five years. In fact, despite the turbulence of the past five years, you saw only a 35% depreciation in the pound.

The Central Bank of Egypt is trying to fight dollarization and the purchasing of luxury goods and thus put a limit on dollar deposits. Yet this showed itself to be more harmful than beneficial. People respond to signals. When people see the CBE fighting dollarization and being unable to protect the pound, they figure it’s better to keep their dollars. In effect, this increases dollarization. Moreover, such moves by the CBE hit not only those who dollarize, but also importers who had to reduce their import of basic services, which made everyone unhappy.

Now, however, the policy has changed. Instead of hitting demand, it is hitting supply and encouraging people to save in pounds with the 12.5% interest rate. I think we can expect the interest rate to increase to 13.5-14% by mid next year to further dissuade people from dollarization.

But, of course, prices are rising. Today, inflation is caused by the CBE printing too much money to buy treasury bills, so this won’t really eliminate inflation, but just limit it. In this sense, Egypt’s monetary policy is largely directed toward protecting the pound. One negative repercussion from higher interest rates is that interest rates on loans taken by companies will also increase. This will deepen the recession and increase unemployment.

In terms of the move to strengthen the exchange rate against the dollar, the CBE essentially saw that its moves to fight the black market also impacted clients who had taken loans in dollars (due to lack of dollars in the market) and intended to pay back loans in pounds, but were hit by the pound’s several rounds of depreciation. So by strengthening the exchange rate against the dollar, the CBE basically figured that FDI is not coming anytime soon anyways, but clients are at risk of overdraft. So they injected dollars into the banks directly to help banks cover the dollar overdrafts, while strengthening the pound. Through these actions, approximately 25% of overdrafts were covered.

Even so, further devaluations of the pound will need to take place. There are two types of foreign investment that come to Egypt. One is direct and the other is in government treasury bills. Today, we are trying to bring this second type of investments back. Accordingly, we can expect further devaluations of the pound in a few months to bring these in. What is your outlook on Egypt’s economic conditions during the coming year?

Well, there were big expectations that next year will be the year Egypt finally passes through the bottleneck. Yet it now seems that next year will be the bottleneck. I expect a very tight year with higher energy prices and more moves by the government to lower pressures on the budget. The Civil Services Law will be implemented to achieve efficiency and reduce government salaries’ growth from year to year. So from the standpoint of fiscal policy, we can expect more austerity.

When it comes to monetary policy, we are likely to see further increases in interest rates, at least twice, by about 1-2%. Moreover, by mid-2016 we will probably see another round of devaluations, maybe by 4-5% or 6-7% after solving the overdraft problem.

In terms of growth in 2016, economic activity will likely not pick up as expected. There will be no substantial FDI and interest rates on loans will increase, which will slow down growth and exacerbate the recession. That said, I don’t think we will see economic ‘collapse.’ This is just not applicable to a country with such a high consumption base.

What advice would you give to the government and, alternatively, to investors who are eyeing Egypt?

To the government I would say that it is extremely important to share the real economic outlook with people in a realistic format. Do not do what you did a year and a half ago by making all these unrealistic promises. I mean, do not give a very bleak view of things either, but just actually say how things really are and how you plan to get out of this mess. People will definitely appreciate that. Also, stay away from megaprojects, like the one for a new administrative capital and the other one of the million feddans. Instead, work on developing infrastructure across governorates. This is an urgent need, as demonstrated by the consequences of the recent floods. By focusing on infrastructure, you can both avert potential crises and increase economic activity. Additionally, understand that FDI and tourism rates are decreasing and that we should now look toward achieving growth domestically. External flows are not so high anymore.

To investors I would say that while Egypt has become a risky venture as of late, some sectors are characterized by being very stable, like defensive sectors built on local consumption. Egypt has 90 million people and they all eat, require health and education services and so on. Investing in these sectors now will allow you to gain a strategic position in the market that you may not be able to attain later on.

In the coming period, austerity measures will push the government to offer many public-private projects that could be very rewarding for long term investors. Now is the time to invest in food and beverages, education, and health sectors. These sectors are all very consumer-oriented, very lucrative and offer massive returns. However, investors coming here should be looking for a long-term position. Exit and entry into the Egyptian market is not easy, unless you are coming for the long-term where you benefit from very cheap infrastructure. Indeed, this is what multinationals are doing today.

This article is part of Egypt Today's? five-part series looking at the nation's road to economic recovery. Despite the uncertainties, this past year has seen investors eyeing Egypt's market quite favorably, predicting that in the long run the country's economic outlook will turn positive. In this package, we ask investment gurus to weigh in on the current investment climate, including interviews with the MENA CEO of DHL in addition to Philips to get their take on the state of Egypt's economy. We also spotlight one investment in the country's attractive education sector: the scheduled opening of prestigious British school Malvern College.

Read the full series now in the December issue.

12/15/2015 8:57:30 PM
<![CDATA[For Entrepreneurs, Line Between Work And Life Often Blurred ]]>The line between where life ends and work begins is blurred because startups are often all-consuming, entrepreneurs said during a panel at the RiseUp summit on Sunday.

"It takes all of your time and your energy. In a lot of cases, you try to make the best of it," said Karim ElSahy, of Konnecti. "We have to travel a lot, so we bring our spouse with us for a couple of days. There are a couple of hacks, but at the end of the day you have to take the punches."

"You have to multi-task," said Yousef Elsarnaa of Taqalid, adding that his tailor met him at the summit to work on a shirt. Since there's often no line between work and life, the trick is to schedule time for family and friends, Elsarnaa noted. If you leave hobbies for when you're free, you never will be so it's better to plan and fit them into your calendar.

"You have to enjoy what you're doing and have people around you who understand what it's like to be an entrepreneur," advised Nesma Elfar of Taqalid. Having a dynamic team also makes a difference, said Dina El-Mofty of Injaz Egypt, because then you don't feel like you're carrying the whole load.

12/13/2015 5:21:15 PM
<![CDATA[Entrepreneurs Can Make Impact, And Profit ]]>Entrepreneurs in Egypt should know that making a lasting impact in society doesn't have to come at the expense of profit, industry insiders said during a panel titled 'Entrepreneurship with Impact' at the RiseUp summit on Sunday.

"We want to create a culture where it's ok to become an entrepreneur and make money, but also make sure that you have an impact on society," said Mariam Farag of MCB Group. "We need to send out the knowledge of what sort of impact we can create on the ground, and this is the role of the media ... It's easy to focus on startups, but we want to make sure the community is taken care of."

MBC Group wants to reach out to the less privileged communities that are often forgotten, Farag added, as well as to universities in Egypt.

Private sector companies gain when investing in entrepreneurs who make a social impact because those entrepreneurs also boost the economy, which benefits everyone - especially the private sector, said Ahmed El Sheikh of PepsiCo.

The philanthropic sector can also play a role in supporting entrepreneurs who improve society. "We use entrepreneurs as a vehicle to think of innovative products and services to empower those below the poverty line," said Sally Metwally from Misr El Kheir. "We have a small amount to support this program, but we're supported by the private sector and our main supporter is PepsiCo."

12/13/2015 1:03:19 PM
<![CDATA[The Dos And Don'ts Of Selling Your Company ]]>A panel of three investors offered up their dos and don'ts on how entrepreneurs should sell or say goodbye to their companies during a key panel at the RiseUp summit on Saturday night.

"There are different challenges for each stage of a company's life cycle, and you have to realise when you have to let go," said Abdulaziz Al Loughani, former managing partner of Talabat.com. "Make sure you're always ready for an exit, and always have the right resources, the right matrix and focus on the business." The key is to surround yourself with people smarter than you are, Abdulaziz added, but don't fool yourself with rosy pictures if your hard work doesn't translate into profits.

Look at the rest of the world when you're exciting, advised Khaled Ismail, founder of Kiangel. "A lot of people think the entrepreneur is a robot, and in all the literature a very important thing is ignored - the emotional part. It's a tough journey ... to get to success and let it go," Ismail said, comparing the process to losing a child when they grow up and get married. An entrepreneur has to be emotionally strong to let go of their company, he noted.

Henri Asseily, managing partner at Leap Ventures, advised entrepreneurs to raise money whenever they can, because you never know what may happen in the future. "Surround yourself with awesome people," he said. "The bigger you grow, the more you need to have people carry the company."

12/12/2015 8:38:05 PM
<![CDATA[EU to hold special summit with Turkey on refugee crisis]]>By Deutsche Welle The post EU to hold special summit with Turkey on refugee crisis appeared first on Daily News Egypt. This is a ...read more

Via:: Daily News Egypt

11/13/2015 1:33:00 AM
<![CDATA[A look back on Hossam Bahgat's encounter with Seymour Hersh]]>By Aswat Masriya Close to a year after Seymour Hersh advised Egyptian investigative journalist Hossam Bahgat to "keep on going" and to publish ...read more

Via:: Aswat Masriya

11/12/2015 9:14:53 PM
<![CDATA[Top 5 Weekend Picks]]>1 -- Students from the Al Darb Al Ahmar Arts School will take the stage for a night that mixes acrobatics with jazz, rope walking with juggling and singing with trapeze stunts. The school, launched in 2011, aims to train children aged 8 to 18 for careers in the arts, and to raise awareness of the value of art in the historic but at times neglected district in Old Cairo. It's a cause worth supporting during what promises to be an inspiring night.

Friday, October 30 at 8pm El Genaina Theater, Al Azhar Park, Salah Salem Rd. See the event's Facebook page here

2 -- A unique exhibit will give you the chance to view historic images of 19th-century Egypt in 3D, through a special stereoviewer box and glasses. Egypt Stereoviews: Underwood & Underwood includes images from AUC's rare books and special collections library that have never been shown before. This interactive exhibit offers plenty of stunning images to feast your eyes on.

Ongoing until November 12 AUC New Cairo campus, Abdul Latif Jameel Hall See the event's listing here or view the library's digital collection here


3 -- Iconic Egyptian bellydancers like Taheyya Kariokka are showcased in retouched images that are altered to give them a nostalgic, local and distinctively baladi feel in artist Atef Ahmed's exhibit The Revival of Rhythms. Atef has "established himself as the voice of the marginalized and simple people and their aspirations for a better future. He is also greatly interested in highlighting popular symbols, time-honoured traditions and rituals in society," says Gallery Misr.

November 1-25 Gallery Misr, 4A Ibn Zinky St., Zamalek See the event's Facebook page here



4 -- The Egyptian Project is the fruit of a collaboration between Egyptian musicians and a Frenchman that blends the sounds of the Delta and Cairo with hip hop, electro and more. The result is timeless, otherworldly and danceable music.

Sunday, November 1 at 10pm Cairo Jazz Club, 197 26th of July St. See the event's Facebook page here or listen to them on SoundCloud here


5 -- One of our favorite downtown?restaurants?Eish & Malh is now hosting brunches with live music on Fridays that couple their tasty Italian cuisine with the chill jazz grooves of musician Ibrahim Elhaddad. Or, try their live blues evening on Saturdays with dinner.

Brunch & Jazz every Friday from 1-3pm, Dinner & Blues on Saturdays from 7-9pm Eish & Malh, 20 Adly St. (in front of the synagogue,) downtown See the cafe's Facebook page here or read our review of the restaurant here

brunch copy]]>
10/29/2015 4:30:10 PM
<![CDATA[Despite Obstacles, Syrians Making A Home In Egypt ]]>While Egypt is generally viewed as a transit hub for refugees on their way to the West, tens of thousands of Syrians are here to stay.

By Ahmed Mansour

There are around 127,000 Syrian refugees registered with UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and more than 50,000 African and Iraqi refugees in Egypt, says UNHCR Senior External Relations and Communications Officer Ragnhild Ek. Most of Syrian refugees are concentrated in Greater Cairo, Alexandria and Damietta, and others are scattered all over the country.

On its part, the Egyptian government estimates that at least 300,000 Syrians came to Egypt after the crisis erupted in 2011, and Ek says most of them arrived before the government imposed a visa restriction in July 2013. Afterward, she says, the number of Syrian refugees “dropped dramatically.”

“Egypt has for years been a departure point for Europe by the sea. Since 2013, there has been an increase in such irregular departures to Europe,” Ek says. “Syrians are among the nationalities which attempt to leave to Europe irregularly.” Through their resettlement services, UNHCR Egypt will submit 5,500 refugees, including 3,500 Syrian refugees, for resettlement in 2015.

In this sense, Egypt is usually seen by refugees as a transit country on their way to more developed final destinations. Ek notes, however, that irregular migration (resettlement) is a “complex issue which requires a holistic, multifaceted approach that takes into consideration the national interests of states as well as the protection needs of people on the move.” Still, she adds that UNHCR is encouraged by the “pro-active approach Egypt is showing in hosting and providing leadership in multilateral dialogue with East and Horn of African states as well as with the EU.”

The UNHCR registers and conducts refugee status determination (RSD) for asylum seekers in Egypt according to the 1954 Memorandum of Understanding with the Egyptian government. Syrian refugees approach the UNHCR offices in either Cairo or Alexandria with their family to register. Provided they have their identity documentation with them, after the registration process is done, they receive an asylum-seeker card, commonly known as the “yellow card,” which they can use to receive a residency permit from the department of passports and immigration in Mogamma El-Tahrir.

“Unfortunately many Syrians have lost hope in finding a near solution to the Syria crisis. Every refugee has dreams and aspirations just like you and I. They seek to accomplish the basic dream of a secure place and future for their children, in terms of good education and healthcare,” Ek says.

But not all Syrian refugees want to leave Egypt, and some have chosen to settle in the country as their new home. Mohamed Murad, a husband and father of two, is one such case. He was among the first that came to Egypt as soon as the war started in Syria. “I fled with my family to Egypt as soon as I got the chance. The way the media presented the political situation in Egypt made me believe that I was running from one warzone to another. Yet as soon as I reached Cairo I actually found that the country was somehow stable. I decided that I’d stay in Egypt and work on creating a life for myself here. I came from Syria by bus and the government allowed us to pass the borders with a three-month permit that could be renewed,” says Murad.

[caption id="attachment_351061" align="alignnone" width="620"]Egypt is usually seen as a transit country by refugees, who ultimately seek to settle in the West. (photo by EPA) Egypt is seen as a transit country by refugees, who ultimately seek to settle in the West. (photo by EPA)[/caption]

Upon arrival to Cairo, Murad settled in Sixth of October City, where a community of Syrians has sprung up in recent years. “Little Damascus,” as it has become known, feels like a small part of Syria, with shawerma stands on every corner and displays dedicated to selling Syrian staples.

Yet with an official unemployment rate of 13.4%, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics in Egypt, making a living in Egypt is not easy for the local population or, of course, for refugees.

“As soon as I got settled by renting a place in Sixth of October City, I started looking for a job that best suited my experience. I graduated from the faculty of civil engineering in Damascus, and I have over 15 years of work experience, but whenever I try to apply for a job, no firm hires me,” Murad says, adding that he believes it is because he does not have the right paperwork. “I decided that I will leave what I have learned behind, and start something that will help me make a living. And so my wife and I decided to work on offering catering services,” added Murad.

Many Syrians have used their life savings to flee Syria and enter Egypt, but after years of living in exile with no access to legal or regular work, most refugees have managed to deplete their resources, and thus tend to create their own jobs, Ek says.

But competition among the Syrian community is high. Offerings of Syrian cuisine, a straightforward choice for many refugees, have become an ubiquitous sight in Egypt, particularly in Sixth of October City and other destinations that have become popular with Syrians such as Rehab City and Madinaty. “My husband and I are working very hard to make it here. Egypt is not an easy country to get settled into, and with the amount of competition that we see almost every day in Cairo, especially in Sixth of October City, we are not making enough money compared to the effort that we put into our work. Still, we do thank God every day that we are alive and that our family is safe,” says Randa Hussien, Murad’s wife.

“Due to the fact that refugees and asylum seekers cannot access legal employment in Egypt, they only have access to informal employment,” Ek says. Some Syrians have managed to establish small businesses and found ways of making a living, but for others it is difficult to make ends meet if they don’t get help from UNHCR and its partners who provide some vocational training and micro grants in order to assist Syrian and other refugees to achieve self-reliance.

Even Syrians who are not refugees, and who came to Egypt quite a while back, still find it hard to make ends meet. One such case is Nadia Saeed, a Syrian who has been living in Cairo for the past 25 years. She got married to an Egyptian man when she came, but when he passed away three years ago, she found that she could not go back with her children to her war-torn homeland.

“I’m a mother of four, and I’m not educated, so I find it really hard to find a job that would help me support my family, plus I had to move from my home to another because we couldn’t afford it anymore. Finally, when I decided to leave the country and go live with the rest of my family, the war broke out in Syria. Now I’m stuck here in Cairo supporting my family with the little money that my husband’s relatives send monthly. I really do wish things get better in Syria, but I always wondered how the refugees manage to create a decent life here with no support from the government,” she says. “I know nothing about my family in Syria, whether they are alive or dead and they know nothing about me either, to the extent that if they were in Egypt they wouldn’t know where I live.”

Finding education for their children is also not an easy matter for Syrian refugees in Egypt, particularly if they lack the required paperwork, which many Syrians here do. “Right now our children are being homeschooled until I can validate my stay with the government here in Egypt. After I do, I’ll be able to enroll them in any public school in Cairo,” says Murad.

In coordination with the Egyptian government, the UNHCR provides healthcare assistance through local health facilities, education grants and vocational training. Financial assistance is granted to the most vulnerable Syrian refugees (with stipends of LE 400 to LE 1200) and, according to Ek, more than 31,000 Syrian refugees receive such support, in addition to 53,000 Syrians who receive World Food Programme vouchers.

Yet when considering that there are more than 300,000 Syrian refugees in the country, these numbers do not seem so significant. Ek concedes that the UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations are going through funding shortfalls and therefore face limitations on the aid they can give.

While the UNHCR has praised the Egyptian government for granting access to public schools and health facilities to Syrian refugees on an equal footing with Egyptian nationals, she says the UNHCR hopes that the Egyptian authorities would consider “decentralizing the issuing of the residencies for refugees and asylum seekers, particularly to Alexandria where a third of Syrians live, in order to save them time and transportation expenses,” adding that extending the validity of residency from six months to one year would also significantly help refugees. The government’s further expansion and acceleration of issuing family unity visas for many refugee families who have been separated for a long time, would also be helpful, she says.

"What is as important as providing shelter and food is the psychological rehabilitation, which is a humanitarian responsibility on behalf of the hosting countries to allow the refugees to get back to their normal lives,” AUC associate professor of psychology Hani Henry said at last month’s “Future of Syrian Refugees” roundtable. “For the Syrians settling in Europe, do the hosting countries put into consideration the refugees’ culture and religion? Children are going to these countries with traumas, are these countries ready for the refugees? If rehabilitation is not offered, then such a situation will likely create ticking bombs in these countries.”

Here in Egypt, this is not a major concern, with Syrians sharing the same language and broad cultural and religious beliefs as the local population. It’s likely that this is one reason Egypt was a favorable destination for Syrians once neighboring Jordan and Lebanon closed their borders to migrants and refugees. Indeed many Syrians who have settled in Egypt are finding it welcoming, despite economic obstacles.

“I’m truly grateful for all the help Egyptians have offered me ever since I came here,” says Murad. “I really do wish the Arab governments unite as the Arab people have united.”

10/28/2015 2:43:13 PM
<![CDATA[Top 5 Weekend Picks ]]>1 - Whether you're an industry pro or just a music lover, MUZIX will bring everyone together this weekend to promote the industry, and empower new talent from the region. "Our goal is to make the music industry larger, more professional and more welcoming than what it is today," organizers say. Dubbed as the first event of its kind in the Middle East, the expo will include exhibits from top brands, competitions, workshops, discussions (on anything from shaabi music to creating a record label,) and, of course, live music from acts like Massar Egbari or Hany Must (listen to him on soundcloud here)

Friday, October 23 to October 24, from 11am to 9pm AUC Greek Campus, 28 Falaki St., Bab El Louq, downtown See the event's Facebook page here

[caption id="attachment_346393" align="alignnone" width="600"]Hany Must Hany Must[/caption]

2 - Student Nouran Gamal, who's currently studying to be an art teacher, will be featured at Kafein in an exhibit that spans both floors of the Abdeen coffee house. Using watercolors and illustration pens, Gamal aims to show the beauty of black next to color while using fictional characters as an escape from daily life. We think Gamal has a good palette and understanding of colors, making her a promising new talent.

Ongoing until November 28 Kafein, 28 Sharif St., Abdeen, downtown See the event's Facebook page here

[caption id="attachment_346394" align="alignnone" width="620"]Artwork by Nouran Gamal. Artwork by Nouran Gamal.[/caption]

Nouran Gamal,

3 - Colorful and bittersweet, Hayam Abdelbaky says her oil paintings are inspired by the idea of discrimination in all its forms, especially society looking down on women. Abdelbaky spent a year living with Bedouins and observed the women always hidden behind veils to discover the bitterness they hold for not being able to achieve their hopes and dreams. Abdelbaky says she later decided to free these women in her paintings, bringing them to life in glorious colors and movement, while inspired by the reverence shown to women in Ancient Egyptian art. Catch her breathtaking exhibit now before it closes.

Ongoing until Thursday, October 22 Ubuntu Art Gallery, 20 Hassan Sabry St., Zamalek See the event's Facebook page here

[caption id="attachment_346396" align="alignnone" width="620"]Painting by Hayam Abdelbaky Painting by Hayam Abdelbaky[/caption]

Hayam Abdelbaky

4 - This isn't one of those three-hour white tutu ballets that you've got to be a fan to love. Coppelia is light-hearted and fun, based on stories by E.T.A. Hoffman, about an inventor who brings a life-size dancing doll to life. It's also about the young Franz, a villager who becomes so infatuated with this perfect, beautiful woman that he forgets all about his fiance, the very imperfect and very human Swanhilda. The antics are at moments laughably funny, and Leo Delibes' melodic score adds to the otherwordly beauty of this ballet.

Ongoing until October 23 Cairo Opera House, Main Hall See the event's Facebook page here

[caption id="attachment_346398" align="alignnone" width="620"]Dress rehearsal for Coppelia at the Cairo Opera House. Dress rehearsal for Coppelia at the Cairo Opera House.[/caption]

5 - A night celebrating a decade of the Alexandrian band Masar Egbari's music will feature their distinctive mix of rock, jazzy blues and oriental.

Thursday, October 22 at 10:30pm Cairo Jazz Club, 197 26th of July St. See the event's Facebook page here or listen to them on YouTube:

10/21/2015 6:35:53 PM
<![CDATA[Top 5 Weekend Picks ]]>1 - We followed them on Facebook, and then on Instagram, as they showcase some of the best street photography around the country. Now we're excited to see the raw, real and often just beautiful photos from their contributors during the Everyday Cairo exhibition to celebrate their one-year anniversary.

Opens Thursday, October 15 and runs until October 23 The Shelter Art+Photography, Yamama Center, Zamalek See the event's Facebook page here

[caption id="attachment_341031" align="alignnone" width="620"]Photo by Tarek Wajeh, via Everyday Cairo. Photo by Tarek Wajeh, via Everyday Cairo.[/caption]

2 - The residential buildings on the periphery of the capital meant to ease the "housing crisis" of the 1960s, but today they stand largely unoccupied creating ghost-town landscapes. Photographer Anthony Hamboussi photographed these urban and architectural landscapes over four years. The SURPLUS! Housing from the Periphery exhibit includes 18 of his photos, plus two evenings of curated conversations with the photographer on urban conditions, housing and artistic engagement with the city's urbanism.

Opens Sunday, October 18 at 7pm and runs until November 10 Townhouse Gallery, 10 Nabrawy St., off Champollion St., downtown See the event's Facebook page here

[caption id="attachment_341032" align="alignnone" width="620"]Photo by Anthony Hamboussi. Photo by Anthony Hamboussi.[/caption]

3 - The seven Cairenes that form The Riff Band have been playing for 13 years their interpretations of jazz standards and popular songs. Their reportoire includes classics from jazz icons like Cole Porter and Duke Ellington, making their show a perfect way to experience the ongoing Cairo Jazz Festival.

Thursday, October 15 at 10:30pm The Greek Campus, 28 Falaki St., Bab el Louq, downtown Listen to them on YouTube here or see the event's Facebook page here

event 3

4 - If wandering around the historic neighbourhood of El Darb El Ahmar makes you nervous, then this weekend's free walking tour hosted by Mosaic Club is a great chance to explore one of Cairo's most underrated districts and meet new people, if you're going alone. The club regularly offers tours around Cairo and beyond, and is open for anyone to join. Prior registration is required.

Saturday, October 17 at 9:45am Meeting point at Bab Zuweila See the event's Facebook page to register here

[caption id="attachment_341034" align="alignnone" width="620"]Darb Al Ahmar, from Wikimedia Commons. Darb Al Ahmar, from Wikimedia Commons.[/caption]

5 - The Backstreet Festival will hit Alexandria for the third time with a full week of circus performances, street art and multimedia shows throughout the city by local and international troupes.

Friday, October 16-22 Alexandria, various venues See the event's Facebook page here

event 5 copy

10/15/2015 4:47:45 PM
<![CDATA[Top 5 Weekend Picks ]]>Salah El Mur is inspired by the earthy colors of his native Khartoum in his bright and expressive paintings. He is also a filmmaker, photographer and all-around valuable member of the local art scene who encourages new talent. His latest exhibit "The Last of Domestic Rituals" is a collaboration between two galleries and will run simultaneously at Mashrabia and Gallery Misr. We're looking forward to this show of his compelling and colourful works that depict daily life. Opens on Sunday, October 11 at 7pm Runs at Gallery Misr (4A Ibn Zinky St., Zamalek) until October 31, and at Gallery Mashrabia (8 Champillion St., downtown) until November 19 See the event's Facebook page here [caption id="attachment_333513" align="alignnone" width="671"]By Salah El Mur By Salah El Mur[/caption] 2 - The annual Date Palm Festival is back for a day of tasting, cooking lessons, getting to know local producers, lectures, games and music. Also, making ropes and climbing palm trees. An annual event hosted by Slow Food Cairo, the festival is a celebration of the versatile date palm and those who work with it. The family-friendly event will include a pit roast date lunch, with reservations: a gourmet goat slow-roasted and marinated in date juice. Saturday, October 10 Fagnoon Art School, Giza See the event's Facebook page here event 2 3 - Photopia's first Street Photography Festival is a two-month extravaganza that includes photo walks, workshops, critiques and more. Seven photographers, each with their own approach, will hold a series of events over seven weekends that includes a field trip on Fridays and critique on Saturdays. The event is in full swing with photographer Nadia Mounier slated to give a workshop this weekend on the Practice of Strolling the City. Nadia Mounier workshop, Friday and Saturday, October 9 and 10 See the event's Facebook page here [caption id="attachment_333515" align="alignnone" width="958"]By Ahmed Negm, a student of Karim Hayawan's workshop By Ahmed Negm, a student of Karim Hayawan's workshop[/caption] 4 - There's more to rai music than Cheb Khaled. The Sahra Band, one of the few who play rai and fusion music in Egypt, will do a show featuring their unique take on the genre. Blending a bit of rock, a bit of rai and oriental, Sahra will make you feel like you're kicking back in Algiers' old kasbah. Saturday, October 10 at 10:30pm Cairo Jazz Club, 197 26th of July St. See the event's Facebook page here or listen to their songs on Soundcloud here event 4 5 - Three bands will play the free of charge TECNO BOOM Concert on the grounds of the art gallery Darb 1718, including rockers Khayal, bluesy band Bluezophrenia and Alexandria's alternative rap duo Y-Crew. Friday, October 9 at 6pm Darb 1718, Kasr El Shama St., Fustat (near the Mar Girgis metro station) See the event's Facebook page here event 5]]>10/7/2015 3:51:55 PM <![CDATA[6th of October Generals Not Held Back by Injuries]]>By Farah El Akkad

Generals Sayed Wagdy and Hassan Abd El-Hamid survived but sacrificed their health for their country.

Sayed Wagdy recalls how he felt when the soldiers raised the Egyptian flag after crossing the Suez Canal. "It was a whole host of different feelings, I wanted to cry and laugh and hug every single Egyptian and I kept on going around kissing the land - we all did."

But the infantryman came perilously close to martyrdom when he was gravely wounded in the battle. He does not recall much about the moment of his injury: "I remember it happened after we crossed the Canal, I was one of the soldiers in the front line in the Second Army sector. All I recall is seeing black lights and being carried away, the sound of bullets and smoke. At the same time the sound of soothing voices telling me, 'You will survive.'"

The next thing Wagdy knew is waking up in Maadi Military Hospital, in a cold sweat, unable to move and totally disoriented. "I had a strong feeling we won the war, but I still needed to hear it," he says. "It was the first thing I asked."

Wagdy's war injury left him a paraplegic with a series of other health complications, and his ongoing treatment keeps him mostly confined to the Maadi Hospital grounds, where he has been living more or less for the past 40 years. Yet despite his physical incapacitation, Wagdy's eyes still carry the flame of that courageous young soldier and a brilliant tough adventurer whom he still is in his own way. An Akhbar El-Youm columnist and the personal secretary of former First Lady Jihan El-Sadat for more than 10 years, the general is an intellectual who can talk about almost everything from antiques to the effects of global warming to the history of the Roman Empire.

"Staying in a room in a hospital for most of the time does have its benefits," says Wagdy, referring to all the free time he spends mostly reading, particularly after retiring from both his writing and secretarial jobs in the early 2000s. Wagdy explains that having a job, "particularly a job I enjoy," has helped immensely in him adapting to this lifetime injury. Another savior has been his longtime friend General Hassan Abd El-Hamid. A retired engineer whose injury in the 1973 war left him with one leg paralyzed, Abd El-Hamid lauds his friend: "Wagdy is a very talented writer. Mrs. Jihan offered him the position after she was greatly impressed by his writing."

Over the decades, the veterans have had a host of other companions at the hospital: Actress Aziza Helmy and her friend Red Crescent volunteer Seham El-Bashshary were constant visitors.

[caption id="attachment_332879" align="alignnone" width="620"]El-Bashshary treated the veterans like her own family. El-Bashshary treated the veterans like her own family.[/caption]

"Not just visitors," stresses Wagdy. "They were more like our mothers and best friends. They used to come three days a week and spend most of the time with us, going out to the movies or discussing politics or just sitting watching TV. They were always there for us."

Abd El-Hamid recals: "Mrs. Jihan insisted we call her Mama Jihan and would get really upset if we did not." Unfortunately, Helmy and El-Bashshary passed away in the 1990s, leaving a huge void in Wagdy and Abd El-Hamid's lives. El-Sadat, though, is still very close to them, Abd El-Hamid says. "She visits and calls regularly, and we are always the first to know if she is travelling and when she comes back."

In recent years, Wagdy and Abd El-Hamid have been spending most of their time on field trips around Egypt and visiting museums. Abd El-Hamid, now a grandfather, says he is "usually between the Maadi Hospital and Alexandria because my family lives over there."

Wagdy can sometimes visit his brother living in Tagammua, but lives full-time in the hospital. Abd El-Hamid spends about half of the month in Maadi hospital, in the room right next to Wagdy's. When Wagdy's condition is stable, Abd El-Hamid sometimes invites him to Alexandria. The buddies share a passion for fishing, and they both bet on who will catch more fish. "Yes, we're fishing experts, we catch the best fish in the whole of the Mediterranean," Abd El-Hamid asys with a laugh.

Since their injuries and to this day, Abd El-Hamid and Wagdy have been receiving complete medical care courtesy of the military, including medical tests, travel and accomodation in hospitals as well as travelling abroad in the 1970s and 1980s for rehab programs.

Looking back on the recent political turmoil, Wagdy recalls how earlier in 2012 he was "totally devastated and wished to die when the black flag (referring to the Al-Qaeda banner) was raised in Cairo. How many martyrs have died to keep the Egyptian flag high? Has Egypt forgotten its dead sons?"

Abd El-Hamid explains that after the January 25 Revolution, they had hopes that Egypt would be better after the 30 years of corruption of Mubarak's regime, which also neglected the rights of the injured and those who made many sacrifices for the country. He admits that under Mubarak, they have received sufficient medical care but he doesn't feel they got much social or psychological support, "what really mattered." Compared to President Anwar Sadat, whom up until his assassination in 1981 regularly visited and formed a very close relationship with all the injured soldiers, Mubarak did not give the veterans their due respect within the military institution. "When Mubarak resigned from office, I told myself that on this day, the youth of the 1973 War are now passing the flag to the youth of January 25 to continue the road of victory and make our dreams come true for a better Egypt. But unfortunately it turned out to be different than what we expected."

That said, Wagdy and Abd El-Hamid say their hopes were restored after June 30. "We trust the Egyptian army had to interfere to do the best for this country," says Wagdy. He explained that the army interfered when they felt Egypt's national security was under attack from "terrorists and extremists." He also believes that the army does not seek power as some people claim, but on the contrary, "they did what had to be done at the right time to avoid a civil war."

This article was first published in the October 2013 issue.

10/6/2015 3:40:51 PM
<![CDATA[Called Out: Who Regulates the Nation's Food Industry?]]>Public shaming campaigns on social media are calling out unhygienic food establishments, but what is the government doing to regulate the nation's food industry?

by Ahmed Mansour

Back in August, some 400,000 viewers watched and shared a video of a large rat nibbling at a salad bar in what was allegedly a fast food restaurant at one of New Cairo’s busiest malls. A few months earlier reports that donkey meat was being passed off as beef and complaints that processed cheese and lunch meat producers were using expired ingredients were all over Facebook, prompting heated discussions on radio and TV shows. But while vermin and insect infestations at restaurants, poor hygiene standards and foodstuffs unfit for human consumption are by no means new to Egypt, recent public shaming campaigns on social media and traditional news media are not only calling out unclean establishments and encouraging consumers to boycott them, they’re succeeding in making the authorities sit up and take notice.

Case in point is the TBS incident this past Ramadan. Six people came down with severe food poisoning after eating from the local bakery chain and the news was quickly shared on social media. Within hours a post on the TBS official Facebook page carried an apology along with an explanation that the fault lay in the baking process whereby the eggs used in their signature Om Ali, launched for Ramadan, were undercooked, resulting in bacteria in some 25 to 30 pots. “We cannot express how sad and shocked we are to learn of the suffering of some of our clients and we will never be able to apologize enough to ease their frustration and pain,” the post added.

TBS later announced they would handle all hospital expenses of clients who had fallen ill from their product, promising that those responsible would be penalized and that the quality would improve.

Unlike thousands of food poisoning cases before it, the TBS incident was not able to fly under the radar thanks to the wave of activity on Facebook and Twitter. The news was shared so much that it wasn’t long before the Ministry of Health announced a decision to shut down the TBS factory and two of its branches after finding they failed to meet food safety standards.

But several weeks have since elapsed, and at press time TBS was still operating, with no indications that they would be shutting down anytime soon.

“I understand that there have been many issues regarding the spoiled Om Ali batch that led to the poisoning of six people, but there hasn’t been any talk about TBS shutting down,” says Mohamed Ghazala, a chef at TBS’ 6th of October branch. “I heard rumors but no one has informed me that I’ll be out of a job soon, so I doubt they will shutting down at all.”

So why do places like TBS and others that are deemed unsafe continue to operate when the government decides that they should shut down?

egypt street food

“There are plenty of reasons government decisions to close down establishments or factories are neglected, but if I had to choose one in particular, it is the greasing of palms,” claims Farid Edward, owner of To Go fast food restaurant in 6th of October City. “I wouldn’t go as far as accusing the government of corruption, but I do have to say that they there are some corrupted elements that obstruct the application of a decision to close down a multimillion franchise or factory because people got sick. Owners of a well-known franchise, company, or restaurant is sure to be well connected and bribes play a big role in these situations.”

There are many rules and regulation set by the Ministry of Health that establishments dealing in foodstuffs have to abide by in order to preserve food from being spoiled, and there are also multiple vetting procedures to ensure products meet standards.

“Among those rules, and the most important of them, is that everything inside the restaurant or the factory should be labeled with the expiry date. If a company uses a product that is expired but still being processed, this company faces legal action that might lead to the closure of the facility. As for the meats and chicken, they should be properly stored at regulated temperatures that can keep them fresh for a certain time,” says Egyptian Consumer Protection Agency official Mohamed Ghabour. “We really do care about the welfare of the Egyptian citizen, and we have a large team focused solely on investigating restaurants and factories all across Egypt. We make thorough surprise inspections, and if we find intentional violations we make sure that we report the facility to the authorities so that proper action can be taken against them.”

Organizations like the Egyptian Consumer Protection Agency receive complaints on their hotline which they then investigate. All they can do is call out violators — but they cannot take legal action against them. The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Supply too can investigate cases. Ministry inspectors are tasked with roaming the streets of Egypt in search of violations at restaurants and factories. Mahmoud Diab, official spokesman of the Ministry of Supply, clarifies that the role of the Ministry of Supply inspectors stops short of legal action against establishment owners. “Inspectors are only authorized to file a report. The general prosecutor alone can take the decision to close down an establishment,” he told reporters last month after three lunch meat factories were shuttered. It is here, between the investigators’ report and the decision to take action against an establishment, it is commonly thought, where the corruption starts to appear.

cairo street food

One establishment that has had a dodgy reputation for some time is El-Prince in Imbaba. A few months ago authorities succeeded in closing down the popular Oriental restaurant after documenting spoiled meats and produce on site following a surprise inspection by the Ministry of Health that turned up “around 100 kg of spoiled meats and vegetables,” according to local media.

“There have been many attempts made by officials to close El-Prince down, but somehow the owner of the restaurant, Nasser El-Prince, managed to get off by paying fines and compensation to those who were poisoned from the food served there, in order for them to drop the charges against the restaurant,” alleges lawyer Omar Hamada. “It wasn’t until the son of a government official came down with poisoning that El-Prince was officially red-flagged and closed for good."

Read the full article in the September issue.

10/5/2015 2:35:09 PM
<![CDATA[Top 5 Weekend Picks ]]>Mashrabia Garage Sale you can explore art in a more casual setting - and buy it too, starting at the price of a snack at Costa. Curated by Mashrabia Gallery, this unconventional sale goes through the venue's 25 years of history and includes artworks, art books, magazines, posters and postcards. Have a drink and browse the selection that ranges from 100 to 5,000 LE for artworks. The sale starts Thursday, October 1 at 7pm and goes until October 8, daily from 11am to 8pm Mashrabia Gallery, 8 Champollion St., downtown See the event's Facebook page here. event 1 Basheer takes the lively folk music of Upper Egypt and gives it a steadier, dancier beat, sometimes jazzing it up with a saxophone and always keeping it interesting without losing the feel of the original. Catch his show at the Cairo Jazz Club after the long break, or listen to a sample on YouTube here. Saturday, October 3 at 10:30pm Cairo Jazz Club, 197 26th of July St. See the event's Facebook page here. event 2 The four-day CairoComix Festival includes seminars, film screenings, book signings and the launch of a new phone app called Comics Kiosk. On the final day, there will be events for children and a workshop with illustrator Walid Naif. Wednesday, September 30 to October 3 The American University in Cairo, Tahrir Campus See the event's Facebook page here. event 3 This book launch of Discovering Downtown Cairo: Architecture and Stories (English with Arabic translation,) is very timely as the area is getting more popular interest. The book's two editors, Vittoria Capresi and Barbara Pampe, will present this volume that documents the 19th-20th century heritage of the district along with detailed architectural plans and stories of the inhabitants. Register ahead for the 4pm walking tour of downtown where the two editors will show you their best-of buildings and stories. Friday, October 2 at 7pm (walking tours from 4-6pm) Goethe-Institut, 5 El Bustan St., downtown See the event's Facebook page here. event 4 One of the world's top art curators, Simon Njami, will lead a talk that will kick off the Darb 1718 Exclusive Artwork Collection Exhibition. The exhibit will feature prominent artists from Egypt and around the world in painting, photography, sculpture, mixed media and more. Njami will also be the main curator of Something Else, Off Biennale Cairo, a one-month event in November set to include exhibits and performances showcasing local and international talent. Opens September 30 at 7pm Darb 1718, Kasr El Shama St., Fustat (near the Mar Girgis metro station) See the event's Facebook page here. event 5]]>9/30/2015 2:14:55 PM <![CDATA[Online Show Scouts for New Singing Talent ]]>By Sherif Awad Zee3 Mawhbtak (Broadcast Your Talent), the first online Egyptian talent show scouting for singing talents from different governorates, is fast becoming one of the most visited sites since it was launched a few months ago. Shot in a booth that travels to a new governorate every week, each new episode is uploaded online to receive voting on the show’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Contestants with the highest viewer votes will have the chance to record a professional studio song and shoot a music video. Zee3 Mawhbtak is a franchise of popular online show Zee3 Enta, which follows a mobile booth travelling around Egypt and stopping to ask people to comment on daily events happening across the country. Both shows, the original and the franchise, are the brainchild of producer Sherif Hosny, founder of PMC, a social awareness company with a number of political campaigns utilizing social media as their main platform under its belt. PMC’s flagship project Zee3 Enta was launched in 2010, quickly catching the eye of TubeStar Network. The latter approached Hosny to create Zee3 Mawhbtak, the first season of which features 10 eight-minute episodes filmed in 10 Egyptian governorates and shot with 200 talents. “We aim for maximum reach to target spectators of a certain age at any time since broadcasting a show on television is constrained by a certain time slot,” explains Hosny. “For online content like ours, viewers can watch or re-watch the show as much as they like. Moreover, from a budget point of view, our online platform allowed us to launch the show smoothly on Facebook and YouTube without building big sets or seeking sponsors.” The format of the setup is simple: Before going to an Egyptian governorate, the team of the show launches a weekly internet call announcing that their booth will be visiting. Anyone who thinks they have a good voice can come and try out at the booth after registering online with a short sound clip. The clip is posted to Facebook and the contestant that gets the most votes is presented with a Golden Ticket allowing him or to cut through the long lines and get to the booth. The two contestants from each governorate with the highest scores get to record a professional audio then a music video to help him or launch their career. “At the end of each season, we will have ten finalists with ten professional music videos who will compete for another first and big prize through online voting,” explains Hosny. Zee3 Mawhbtak is presented by actor Ahmed El-Garhy, a regular on the cast of Elbernameg hosted by Bassem Youssef. Before the plug was pulled on Elbernameg, El-Garhy moved on to co-star in a comedy horror film called Hasalena El-Ro’b ( We Are Terrified), an Egyptian spoof of the Scream and Scary Movie series. The film flopped at the box office, and El-Garhy’s casting calls dried up. Luckily Hosny, who collaborated with El-Garhy on Zee3 Enta, asked to him to return in Zee3 Mawhbtak, recognizing “El-Garhy’s special comic way in approaching people and presenting the show.” El-Garhy is thrilled to be back on the new show. “I am happy that I help to discover talents outside of Cairo and Alexandria where the cultural events and TV activities are usually concentrated,” he explains. “Let’s not forget that our great singers like Abdel-Halim Hafez and Umm Kolthoum came from outside Cairo. I also like meeting people and chatting with them for the show because many Egyptian have really great talents that go undiscovered — not only in music and singing, but also in acting, football and so on. I think the show acts like a tool to present these people to the audiences across Egypt and helps to find new talents.” But could established singers feel threatened by the newly discovered “talents”? Neither Hosny nor El-Garhy think that their show, because it might stumble on new music talent, will generate envy from musicians currently in the spotlight. “The show is for all audiences and all the decisions are made by the clicks of their mouse,” explains El-Garhy. “Another element is the acceptance and charisma. Some who come to the show are talented in singing and composing but sometimes they are not that appreciated or liked by the audience,” adds Hosny. “The show allows anyone to step into the limelight and become a professional singer, even those who have not studied music. Maybe later they can consolidate their talents with musical studies.” Hosny says the show’s popularity is so overwhelming he’s thinking of bringing Zee3 Mawhbtak to the small screen. Follow the show at zee3mawhbtak.com for their latest news.]]>9/28/2015 2:10:06 PM <![CDATA[CBE determined to eliminate parallel currency market, make speculators incur heavy losses: Ramez]]>By Hossam Mounir The bank is able to face all challenges in spite of unfavourable circumstances over the last four years The post CBE ...read more

Via:: Daily News Egypt

9/14/2015 5:48:13 AM
<![CDATA[How Egyptian Expats Got Their News]]>Four former Egypt Today writers, now living abroad, look back on how the Rabaa and Nahda dispersals were?being reported outside Egypt MARWA HELAL, Writer and Web Editor , Brooklyn, New York How are you getting your news about Egypt? I am following journalists based in the US, U.K., and Egypt on Twitter. I also read everything from The New ?York Times, Al-Jazeera, The Guardian, BBC, NPR and the Christian Science Monitor. Egyptian coverage is obviously more immediate and less objective. Foreign media tells the story with distance, but that doesn’t mean they are any closer to the truth. I’m left confused by all media coverage, especially when combined with conflicting reports from live tweets and Facebook updates. What is the reaction of the non-Egyptians in your community to the events in Egypt? Are you feeling any backlash to the anti-US rhetoric coming out of Egypt? I have definitely not heard any backlash to the anti-US rhetoric coming out of Egypt — I feel like a lot of Americans (at least the ones I know) can understand where that comes from. Current events are met with concern, sadness, and disappointment. Those who have visited know that the Egypt they are seeing in the news is not Egypt at all. There isn’t necessarily new interest in the country; most people I’ve spoken with are, like me, simply trying to understand what exactly is happening. It isn’t clear that this is just a fight between the army and the MB. If anything, the media and governments have further confused the public by wasting time debating rhetoric like, “Is this a coup? Is this a massacre? etc.,” instead of providing answers and insights. What do you think Egypt needs to do now? I’m not qualified to answer this question. I just pray things get better. YARA EL-KALLINY, Associate in Corporate Practice for Burson-Marsteller, San Diego, California How are you getting your news about Egypt? I mostly consume news from non-Egyptian sources such as CNN, Reuters, BBC, The New York Times. Although I would rate general reporting on Egypt as average at best, I find that unfortunately Egyptian media reports conflict too drastically to be trusted. To supplement broadcast and print news, I also follow a handful of selected journalists via Instagram and Facebook and have found their “social photojournalism” to be insightful snapshots of what’s happening on the ground. What is the reaction of the non-Egyptians in your community to the events in Egypt? Are you feeling any backlash to the anti-US rhetoric coming out of Egypt? From my observation based mostly on social media, the non-Egyptians (Arabs) are very vocal about the current affairs of Egypt — they believe that since many of their own countries of origin in the Middle East have experienced some similar degree of crisis, this makes them entitled to harshly criticize how the revolution(s) have played out. There is a high sense of involvement from this group due to Egypt’s status as the former crown jewel of the region, which has obviously caused some tension between many non-Egyptians and Egyptians. Meanwhile, the non-Egyptians (Americans) express concern mostly on a basic humanitarian level — for general loss of life as well as for damage to the destination best known to them for its fascinating tourist attractions. Although Egypt has been getting substantial media coverage in the US, many Americans do not understand the political nuances. Personally, I have not felt any backlash directly to anti-US sentiment from Egypt. What do you think Egypt needs to do now? Unfortunately, Egypt’s immediate future doesn’t appear very promising. The country has experienced a severe succession of events that has been accelerated seemingly to the point of no return. Before the hasty decision-making continues — by everyone involved — the dust needs to settle so some sense of stability can resume and uncertainty doesn’t continue to dominate daily life. The ideal pursuit of democracy won’t happen overnight, but as this process continues with all of its growing pains, all parties need to be acknowledged and included. As someone who has very close ties to Egypt even while living abroad, I hope my current pessimism for the country’s future will stand corrected. RANIA OTEIFY, Associate Editor with a magazine publishing company, Seattle, Washington How are you getting your news about Egypt?? Twitter and Facebook are my first source of breaking news. Following people from all sides of the ongoing conflict means that I know when something big is taking place, and getting real time updates — regardless of their accuracy. Then, I typically try to get coverage from Egyptian TV channels that provide live streaming, like ONTV. To filter this information and to get more facts and less biased analysis, I usually search on the internet for coverage of particular stories by news wires like Reuters, AP, etc. The coverage in local U.S. media is typically lagged and short on details. For me, it is wise to always keep in mind the affiliations of different news providers. By trying to offer a big-picture story that is relevant to the US audience, local reports often are influenced by the US political context and divisions — making a point for or against the US administration, for example. What is the reaction of the non-Egyptians in your community to the events in Egypt? Are you feeling any backlash to the anti-US rhetoric coming out of Egypt? There has been some interest since the events became top news around June 30 and since July 3rd. But, in most cases, the situation is not very clear for many people on the street. Some think it is a continuation of the first revolution, without being clear on what happened in between. Others do know many of the details, but repeat the common media line that goes like, “What a shame an elected president was ousted too soon.” Those who actually have followed Egypt closely are often surprised at how much they miss in the local media coverage — again in terms of details and perspective. But I have to say the longer the turmoil goes on in Egypt, the less intense the interest is. Often I feel people have begun to view Egypt as just another Middle Eastern troubled state, bundled with Syria and Libya. Am I feeling any backlash to the anti-US rhetoric coming out of Egypt? Absolutely not. Again, people are either not following the news or they are following the local media coverage with its narrow perspective. With the lack of details in the news, people don’t really get the scale of rhetoric or perhaps write it off as intended for local consumption. Despite what many Egyptians would like to think, Egypt’s politics are not at the center of attention here – at least for ordinary Americans. Everyone I know is more concerned with checking on me to ensure that my family members back in Egypt are safe. SARAH O. WALI, Freelance Journalist, Kuwait I returned to Washington DC in January of this year ready to see the Muslim Brotherhood out or broken in some way. I had watched my countrymen attempt to kill each other under my balcony in Roxy Square [during December’s Ittihadeya Palace clashes], and it left me angry and vengeful. My conservative father and I butted heads for the first few weeks I was home. We finally came to the conclusion that I could not argue Morsi’s politics because Morsi did not communicate effectively with his people, and my father conceded that this was the error that will lead to his downfall. Yet, on June 30, it didn’t matter who you supported politically, because from what we saw there was no political system. American and Western media reported a military coup that happened with the support of the people. On Egyptian television, the same presenters that had denied the 2011 protests were even happening now adamantly called on their countrymen to flood the streets. My Egyptian-American friends coined me the Brotherhood supporter. I argued we didn’t know enough and I didn’t want to see another group galvanized by a perceived illegitimate violence. I also argued that no one had covered the events leading up to June 30 objectively. The response I heard always was “He just has to go.” To me, there is no justification for giving the army this much power. It scares me to hear things like “the most powerful man in Egypt, General Sisi,” and that the country is listening to the very people that benefited from decades of corruption under Mubarak’s rule. It’s appalling that even those who know that a war on terrorism is just a political wild card used to wield violence as the powers that be deem fit, support the military takeover of Egyptian politics. Our location, our land and our people are immensely important to many outside forces, and our leaders benefit from a quieted people. My only hope is that we move our focus from political events and concentrate on the change we desperately need on the ground. No matter how great our leadership is or how strong our political systems are, the country will not change until the people do.]]>8/14/2015 1:31:33 AM <![CDATA[Egypt confiscates assets of Juhayna's chairman for Brotherhood ties]]>By Aswat Masriya The committee tasked with managing Muslim Brotherhood funds confiscated on Thursdays the assets of Juhayna's chairman Safwan Thabet, all except ...read more

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8/13/2015 8:09:33 PM
<![CDATA[Religious Endowments calls for branding Al-Azhar Front Scholars as ‘terrorist’]]>By Menna Zaki The group allegedly called for protests on 14 August in commemoration of Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in dispersal The post Religious Endowments calls ...read more

Via:: Daily News Egypt

8/1/2015 7:06:52 PM
<![CDATA[Religious Endowments calls for branding Al-Azhar Front Scholars as ‘terrorist’]]>By Menna Zaki The group allegedly called for protests on 14 August in commemoration of Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in dispersal The post Religious Endowments calls ...read more

Via:: Daily News Egypt

8/1/2015 7:06:52 PM
<![CDATA[Religious Endowments calls for branding Al-Azhar Front Scholars as ‘terrorist’]]>By Menna Zaki The group allegedly called for protests on 14 August in commemoration of Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in dispersal The post Religious Endowments calls ...read more

Via:: Daily News Egypt

8/1/2015 7:06:52 PM
<![CDATA[Religious Endowments calls for branding Al-Azhar Front Scholars as ‘terrorist’]]>By Menna Zaki The group allegedly called for protests on 14 August in commemoration of Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in dispersal The post Religious Endowments calls ...read more

Via:: Daily News Egypt

8/1/2015 7:06:52 PM
<![CDATA[Religious Endowments calls for branding Al-Azhar Front Scholars as ‘terrorist’]]>By Menna Zaki The group allegedly called for protests on 14 August in commemoration of Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in dispersal The post Religious Endowments calls ...read more

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8/1/2015 7:06:52 PM
<![CDATA[REUTERS - Egypt to allow 24-hour access to East Port Said with new waterway]]>By Reuters Egypt plans to allow smaller vessels in the Mediterranean direct access to East Port Said around the clock instead of ...read more

Via:: Aswat Masriya

7/28/2015 11:38:52 PM
<![CDATA[Government takes steps to prevent tax evasion]]>By Daily News Egypt Ministry of Finance?plans to increase tax revenues for fiscal year (FY) 2015-2016 to EGP 422bn The post Government takes steps to ...read more

Via:: Daily News Egypt

7/7/2015 7:32:48 PM
<![CDATA[Government takes steps to prevent tax evasion]]>By Daily News Egypt Ministry of Finance?plans to increase tax revenues for fiscal year (FY) 2015-2016 to EGP 422bn The post Government takes steps to ...read more

Via:: Daily News Egypt

7/7/2015 7:32:48 PM
<![CDATA[Government takes steps to prevent tax evasion]]>By Daily News Egypt Ministry of Finance?plans to increase tax revenues for fiscal year (FY) 2015-2016 to EGP 422bn The post Government takes steps to ...read more

Via:: Daily News Egypt

7/7/2015 7:32:48 PM
<![CDATA[Anti-terror draft law is ‘unofficial state of emergency’: Civil societies]]>By Amira El-Fekki "Vague definitions in law leads to non-differentiation between terrorists and non-terrorists and broad crackdown," says NGOs joint statement The post Anti-terror ...read more

Via:: Daily News Egypt

7/7/2015 7:12:22 PM
<![CDATA[Anti-terror draft law is ‘unofficial state of emergency’: Civil societies]]>By Amira El-Fekki "Vague definitions in law leads to non-differentiation between terrorists and non-terrorists and broad crackdown," says NGOs joint statement The post Anti-terror ...read more

Via:: Daily News Egypt

7/7/2015 7:12:22 PM
<![CDATA[Anti-terror draft law is ‘unofficial state of emergency’: Civil societies]]>By Amira El-Fekki "Vague definitions in law leads to non-differentiation between terrorists and non-terrorists and broad crackdown," says NGOs joint statement The post Anti-terror ...read more

Via:: Daily News Egypt

7/7/2015 7:12:22 PM
<![CDATA[Anti-terror draft law is ‘unofficial state of emergency’: Civil societies]]>By Amira El-Fekki "Vague definitions in law leads to non-differentiation between terrorists and non-terrorists and broad crackdown," says NGOs joint statement The post Anti-terror ...read more

Via:: Daily News Egypt

7/7/2015 7:12:22 PM
<![CDATA[Anti-terror draft law is ‘unofficial state of emergency’: Civil societies]]>By Amira El-Fekki "Vague definitions in law leads to non-differentiation between terrorists and non-terrorists and broad crackdown," says NGOs joint statement The post Anti-terror ...read more

Via:: Daily News Egypt

7/7/2015 7:12:22 PM
<![CDATA[Sameh Kamal sworn in as new Administrative Prosecution head]]>By Daily News Egypt Major efforts need to be undertaken to reserve public funds, says Kamal The post Sameh Kamal sworn in as new Administrative ...read more

Via:: Daily News Egypt

7/7/2015 7:08:00 PM
<![CDATA[Sameh Kamal sworn in as new Administrative Prosecution head]]>By Daily News Egypt Major efforts need to be undertaken to reserve public funds, says Kamal The post Sameh Kamal sworn in as new Administrative ...read more

Via:: Daily News Egypt

7/7/2015 7:08:00 PM
<![CDATA[Sameh Kamal sworn in as new Administrative Prosecution head]]>By Daily News Egypt Major efforts need to be undertaken to reserve public funds, says Kamal The post Sameh Kamal sworn in as new Administrative ...read more

Via:: Daily News Egypt

7/7/2015 7:08:00 PM
<![CDATA[Sameh Kamal sworn in as new Administrative Prosecution head]]>By Daily News Egypt Major efforts need to be undertaken to reserve public funds, says Kamal The post Sameh Kamal sworn in as new Administrative ...read more

Via:: Daily News Egypt

7/7/2015 7:08:00 PM
<![CDATA[Sameh Kamal sworn in as new Administrative Prosecution head]]>By Daily News Egypt Major efforts need to be undertaken to reserve public funds, says Kamal The post Sameh Kamal sworn in as new Administrative ...read more

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7/7/2015 7:08:00 PM
<![CDATA[Hisham Salah: A Victim's Tragic Story]]>Hisham with his father in Germany Hisham with his father in Germany[/caption] In Egypt Today’s March 2015 issue, Hisham Salah’s story was profiled as part of a piece about healthcare associated infections in Egypt. On March 28, Hisham passed away at a German hospital. To the dismay of his family and friends, his tragic story has not ended, despite his death By Ahmed Mansour During the days of the January 25 Revolution, when people vacated their homes and flooded the streets leading to Tahrir Square to demand the removal of Hosni Mubarak’s regime, it went without saying that the possibility of never returning home, the possibility of death, was real. Parents who feared for their children knew that, but the youth at this time didn’t care much for their parents’ permission or their own lives. Completing the mission was the order of the day, safety came second. After successfully ousting Mubarak and dissolving the National Democratic Party in 2011, another regime headed by Mohamed Morsi came to power after the country held its first presidential elections since the revolution. Dissatisfaction with Morsi’s rule coupled with social and political movements that saw Egyptians flood the streets once again in protest led to a chain of events that saw Morsi removed from power by the Armed Forces on July 3, 2013. The overthrown president’s followers would not sit quietly, however, and resisted Morsi’s dismissal with their own protests and sit-ins. Hisham Salah, a former student at the Faculty of Dentistry, was one of those young men that wanted to achieve something for their country. He was shot during one of the Muslim Brotherhood’s raids on Al-Manial after the forced evacuation of Al-Nahda Square in July 2013. Immediately after he was shot, two of his friends rushed him into to the nearest hospital: Qasr El-Aini Hospital. After his first operation, Hisham’s temperature started rising. It was only after his parents transferred him to a private hospital that he was diagnosed with a Salmonella infection, caused by bacteria found in feces. His family members claim that Hisham caught it during his operation in Qasr Al-Aini Hospital. After being treated in a private hospital for almost a year, while his medical fees climbed to exceed more than LE 800,000, Hisham was transferred to Germany so that his treatment could continue. On the day before his last surgery, Hisham posted on his Facebook page: “Tomorrow I’ll be having my last surgery, the doctors will be attempting to remove the last pieces of the bullet inside me, and I hope things go well. I also hope that you pray that I make it safely, and in case I don’t I want you all to forgive me for all the trouble that I have put you through and if I ever hurt anyone please forgive me and accept my apology. I wish I could go back home and meet my family and friends, whom I miss greatly. Only your prayers can make this dream of mine come true.” Hisham entered a coma for three days after his surgery, and passed away on March 28. “Words could not express how we felt when Hisham passed away. We were all surprised that he did because we all felt that his will was strong enough to make it. Obviously his body couldn’t bear the amount of surgeries he had in such a short period of time, so it just gave in,” said Ahmed Salah, Hisham’s brother. “After Hisham passed away, we were trying to get his body back from Germany, and as hard as it was to try and get the paper work ready for his transfer, the Egyptian airport seized his body and demanded that we pay LE 30,000 in body transportation fees,” said Ahmed. “We didn’t have this money on the spot, so we had to ask people to donate money so that we could afford to get him out for a proper burial. This day I realized that we live in a country that has no respect for either the dead or the living.” The fee for Hisham’s body to be released is one of many financial burdens his family has been dealt. According to one of Hisham’s friends, Omar Mostafa, in order for the private hospital to release Hisham so that he could continue his treatment in Germany, his family had to pay the remaining fees of Hisham’s operations: LE 625,000. “His family couldn’t of course manage this amount of money in such a short period of time, and they also refused to sign any paper that states that they will owe the hospital the money,” said Omar. “So a friend of ours called Kareem Mahmoud, without telling anyone, signed the papers so that they would release Hisham to continue his treatment in Germany. Right after Hisham’s death, a letter was sent from the hospital to Kareem’s house stating that a lawsuit has been filed against him for not paying the money.” The families of both Kareem and Hisham have been trying to ask the hospital to drop the charges against Kareem, with the promise of paying the money in installments over the next seven years, but the hospital refused and insists on taking legal action against Kareem. Egypt Today tried to get in contact with the hospital’s spokesperson, but they refused to give insight about the case, stating “that this is an important legal matter and we wish not to get the media involved.” “Hisham is a victim of the lack of security in the country, he was a strong, intelligent, hard worker who only cared about his country and did everything he could to protect it,” said Amany Motaz, Hisham’s mother. “The government should get involved by paying this money to the hospital or forcing them to give them up. We owe LE 625,000 to 34 or 36 hospital owners, so if they all, or some of them, decided to give up on the money they won’t be losing a lot. We cannot afford to pay this money, we lost all we had trying to save Hisham from the negligence of a public hospital that many people rely on.” According to Hisham’s mother, his medical fees in Germany exceeded LE 8 million, but the German hospital gave up on the money, stating that because he died under their roof no one is obligated to pay. Unfortunately, that same reasoning does not hold in Egypt. While Egyptian hospitals maintain that they will take legal action, Hisham’s mother upholds her position and continues to seek justice for her son. “I demand government interference.”]]>4/22/2015 4:15:43 PM <![CDATA[52 Weekends: Readers Competition]]>The Prize You could win a four-night stay at Hurghada’s Jaz Aquamarine, two nights at the Four Seasons Axandria San Stefano Egypt or one night at the Cairo Marriott Hotel & Omar Khayyam Casino. Email your answers, your name, city and contact phone number with the subject line “Egypt Today 52 Weekends” to editor@egypttoday.com by May 23. Three winners will be randomly chosen from all correct entries and announced in the May issue. How to Enter To win, answer the following three questions (hint: the? answers to the contest questions can be found mentioned somewhere in Egypt Today’s April 2015 52 Weekends issue). Send answers via email to editor@ibaegypt.com Send us the correct answers by April 20, and you could be the lucky winner of one of the following prizes: ? Four nights at the Jaz Aquamarine Hurghada on a half-board basis (for two persons). ?Two nights at the Four Seasons Alexandria San Stefano (suite) on a half-board basis (for two persons). ?1 night at the Cairo Marriott Hotel & Omar Khayyam Casino on a half-board basis (for two persons). Questions CONTEST QUESTION 1: What is the name of the ancient Egyptian god believed to have invented music? CONTEST QUESTION 2: Who built the original Marriott Palace? CONTEST QUESTION 3: What is the name of the artist who painted a portrait of Hassan El-Shark? The Egypt Today 52 Weekends Readers Competition is sponsored by Egypt Today, Four Seasons Hotel Alexandria at San Stefano Egypt, Jaz and Cairo Marriott Hotel & Omar Khayyam Casino. Employees and relatives of sponsor establishments are not eligible to participate in this competition. HINT: You can find all the articles with the answers here in 52 Weekends.]]>4/19/2015 3:32:42 PM <![CDATA[Coming Clean]]>Despite an alarming rate of healthcare associated infections in both public and private facilities, Egypt’s Ministry of Health is consolidating efforts to stem the contagions by partnering with local and international health organizations to get better results. By Ahmed Mansour In late January local newspapers ran a story about a cat giving birth to a litter at a government hospital in Alexandria. The heavily pregnant tabby had taken shelter from the icy winds lashing the coastal city in the hospital’s intensive care unit’s medical supply cabinet. The story quickly set off rights activists on social media, with many bemoaning poor service and conditions at public hospitals and decrying the generally rampant negligence in the nation’s health care facilities. But the issue of healthcare associated infections (HAI) is not limited to Egypt. HAI is one of the biggest issues hospitals face worldwide, with up to 13 percent of patients admitted to hospitals catching infectious diseases during their period of treatment resulting in at least an additional week of medical treatment to the patient according to the World Health Organization (WHO). HAI poses a huge financial burden to hospitals all over the world; in the United States alone, between $28 billion and $34 billion is spent each year to treat victims of HAI, while in developing countries such as Egypt, the financial burden is two to three times higher according to WHO findings. Egypt is no stranger to negligence in hospitals, with the WHO estimating the rate of HAI in the nation’s intensive care units and operating rooms to be 15 percent. The most commonly contracted HAI diseases in Egypt are MRSA, VRSA, Salmonella, HIV, Hepatitis C and E. coli. “The main cause of healthcare associated infections in Egypt, and worldwide, is human behavior,” says Dr. Abdel-Karim Kamel, assistant professor of medical biochemistry at Cairo University. Kamel, who is also a healthcare consultant, explains that, “hospital staff sometimes don’t put into consideration the fact that when dealing with a patient, washing their hands can [slash] the possibility of HAI down to 50 percent. For example, if the operating doctor touched his patient’s skin while he is wearing gloves, he is not supposed to continue the operation until he changes the gloves; unfortunately doctors here in Egypt barely do that, thus the rate of HAI is very high.” Although infections are frequent at public hospitals in Egypt, Kamel does commend local government efforts to combat their occurrence. “The Ministry of Health plays a major role in preventing HAI, by sending doctors abroad to Germany and the United States to take workshops and courses to learn new techniques so that they can apply them in the ER and the OR to prevent getting infected or infecting the patients.” The Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has worked with public health institutions in Egypt in collaboration with the Naval Medical Research Unit No. 3 (NAMRU-3) for over 20 years. In 2009 the CDC worked with the Egyptian government, WHO, local partners and other United States Government agencies to reduce the impact of HAI in public and private hospitals around Egypt by creating the Global Disease Detection Program (GDD). According to the GDD’s website, the body’s main goals are the “reduction of the impact of emerging diseases, building capacity in areas such as laboratory systems and epidemiology, strengthening immunization services, responding to public health emergencies and conducting surveillance, surveys and studies. GDD supports efforts to protect the public’s health by developing and strengthening the ability of Egypt and the region to rapidly detect and respond to emerging Healthcare associated infectious diseases.” Since 2009, 3,963 Egyptian nationals and 2,273 Ministry of Health staff have been trained in collaboration with NAMRU-3 to decrease the rate of HAI in hospitals and in surveillance and laboratory diagnostics, according to the CDC, which emphasizes that the impact of the program saw a 20 percent drop in the rate of HAI in the first month it was applied. The efforts thus far may be admirable, Kamel says, but they are not enough. “[Even] after the efforts of the CDC and the Ministry of Health, HAI rates are still very high and more work should be done to decrease this number. Egyptian hospitals should be able to spend money on products that work on decreasing the rate of HAI and training not only doctors, but nurses as well so that they are able to keep themselves and the patients safe. This way hospitals will also be able to save money in the long run,” Kamel stresses. At the end of November 2014, the Ministry of Health and Population and the Supreme Council of Universities met with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and NAMRU-3 to scale up the programs in place for monitoring the level of antibiotic-resistant infections in Egyptian hospitals nationwide. “If a doctor subscribes a weak or wrong antibiotic to cure a certain bacterial infection, the patient might be subjected to bacterial antibiotic resistance, which means that the bacteria will have immunity against the antibiotic and the patient will not be cured,” says neurosurgeon and Minia University Professor Dr. Ahmed El-Narsh. “Each bacterium has a certain antibiotic that is considered to be the most effective when it comes to defeating it and if the wrong antibiotic is subscribed, this might subject the patient to a longer period of treatment, thus allowing the bacteria to take its toll on the patient and eventually leading to a permanent infection or death.” El-Narsh believes the USAID initiative is very positive, given what he describes as a “massive increase” the rate of HAI today. “The education regarding the use of the right antibiotic is very important and experts should always be consulted when it comes to fighting bacteria with antibiotics. The fact that Egypt is hosting international experts for this matter is great. Weeks after the USAID negotiations, a local family-owned fabrics company announced the official launch of a new product called Guard Textile, an anti-microbial textile which provides protection against transition of microbial infections. Hani Salam, the owner and Managing Director of Salamtex, which was established in 1936, explains that the technology behind Guard integrates silver and metallic silver antibacterial agents into the fabric thus killing bacteria immediately. Guard is also extremely hydrophobic, so when it comes into contact with any liquid, it simply slides off without being sucked into it. “This technology has the potential to help hospitals reduce the spread of infections. Prevention methods requiring active participation are always difficult due to human nature. The hospital staff is always busy responding to emergencies, giving little attention to not infecting the patient or being infected by the patient or by their surroundings. Guard serves as a passive system that immediately kills bacteria, and requires the least attention,” Salam adds. Salamtex claims replacing all soft surfaces in a hospital, such as lab coats, scrubs, uniforms, privacy curtains, patient apparel and bed linens with Guard could help reduce the rate of HAI by 99.96 percent. Guard Technology has earned the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 accreditation from Europe; meaning that it supports human ecology through bio-compatibility and the absence of harmful substances in the manufacturing process. Guard is also Federal Drug Authority (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved. “Hospitals continue to make procedural improvements in an effort to reduce the number of accidents resulting from bacterial cross-contamination, but textiles and clothing have largely been ignored until now. Infection control depends on washing and sterilization of textiles, but unfortunately this method has been proven to be ineffective since they quickly become infected again as soon as they leave the laundry room. Our product doesn’t require this much attention and it would be extremely beneficial when it comes to controlling HAI, especially that it costs less than the traditional textiles hospitals currently use,” Salam adds. Salamtex is currently receiving offers for the groundbreaking textile — branded as “self cleaning and continuing to provide antimicrobial protection after over 160 washes” — in the hope that it will aid in curbing the spread of MRSA, E. coli, VRE and Salmonella.]]>3/30/2015 4:18:31 PM <![CDATA[A Public Service]]>Parliamentary elections were expected to be held this week in March; however, a ruling by the Supreme Constitutional Court delayed the elections once more after the constituency law was ruled unconstitutional. Despite another delay in the much anticipated vote, Egypt Today's March 2015 issue takes a look at how the elections are shaping up and who the main players may be. Mohamed Hassanein, former senior consultant to former interim President Adly Mansour, weighs in on what to expect of the successful candidates who will form the next assembly. By Ahmed Mansour What should the public expect from the upcoming parliament? The members of [this] parliament are up for a very hard time, and we, as experts, make sure that we clarify this fact to them through the media. What we really should be expecting from the members is for them to be the voice of the people; they are the ones that represent us when it comes to matters that involve the government, such as safety, job opportunities and all of our basic needs that are supplied to us by the government. Each member goes to the secretary general with the problems in his district, so the representative should be well aware of the issues taking place, and he must find a solution for them, and that is the main job of each member in the parliament. Another important task of the parliament is that they act as a watchdog over the president and his government; they are the ones that discuss the laws issued by the president and decide whether to approve them or not, and they have the total right to vote a minister off his seat if most of the Assembly agrees that he’s not doing a [satisfactory] job. How different is this assembly from the ones before? Previous parliaments were ruled by a majority of members of parties that the presidents belonged to, and by default, this always creates common interests by forcing the president to work on what the party favors and vice versa. This parliament is different because President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi wasn’t a member of any political party before [he was elected], and he doesn’t show any signs of loyalty to any specific regime or political ideology. Does the constitution limit the assembly’s authorities? There is a misconception that the recently amended constitution limits the parliament’s authorities, but on the contrary, it allows them to do whatever they want, and personally that was the main reason why I voted yes to the modifications in the latest referendum. The idea was to have no limits on the authority of the parliament so that the president and the government wouldn’t feel like they own their decisions, and from previous experiences, one should always have a backup plan in case the government decided not to take their jobs seriously. On the other hand, the constitution places a lot of limitations on parliament members as individuals. For example, they don’t have the political immunities they once had and it’s easy for the people to push out their district representative if they felt like he is not meeting their expectations. A lot of parties and individuals are boycotting the parliamentary elections because members of the National Democratic Party are running for seats, do you think this is the right course of action?? ? I believe that there were politicians in the NDP that worked really hard to steer Egypt to a better place, but their reputation got smeared just because they were under the umbrella of the infamous party. Personally, I’m upset at the fact that Ahmed Ezz, specifically, is running. As for the parties’ decision to boycott the elections, I think that is na?ve. No one will listen to them when they choose not to talk; they should join in to at least win some votes from the NDP members and that is how you work on avoiding a crisis, rather than blame the authorities for allowing them to participate in the first place. Why do you think celebrities are nominating themselves to be parliament members? Ever since the January 2011 Revolution, everything is evolving around politics and them being celebrities, it’s in their nature to always seek the spotlight and remain under it. In my opinion, I think it’s ludicrous. Most of the celebrities trying to win seats in parliament have no political education or experience whatsoever, and participating in political events since the 2011 Revolution simply doesn’t cut it. I’ve been practicing politics for almost 30 years now, and I know that I am not experienced enough to handle such a position with such responsibilities. et Mohamed Hassanein has a PhD in Parliament Election Studies and is a former senior consultant to former interim President Adly Mansour.]]>3/23/2015 5:08:29 PM <![CDATA[Making Things Complicated]]>The alarming rate of healthcare associated infections, coupled with general dissatisfaction on the part of medical staff, is putting more and more patients at risk By Ahmed Mansour

In August 2012, Hisham Salah was in his own neighborhood of Al-Manial when he was shot during clashes between pro- and anti-Muslim Brotherhood groups. His friends immediately took him to the nearest hospital — Qasr El-Aini in Garden City. They now say it was the worst decision they ever made.

Salah’s family claim that he was kept in the emergency room three days before doctors operated on him, but they could not remove the bullet. Four days after the operation, his temperature spiked dangerously. His family knew that there was something wrong, but they allege none of the hospital’s doctors knew why Salah’s temperature was rising. It was only after the family transferred him to a private hospital in Mohandiseen that the doctors diagnosed Salah with a salmonella infection, caused by bacteria found in feces. The family members claim Salah contracted the infection during his operation in Qasr El-Aini.

On its website, the 12-story, 1,200-bed Qasr El-Aini hospital proclaims itself an icon and a milestone in the world of medicine. It is certainly one of the best known of the nation’s public hospitals, attracting poor and middle-class Egyptians who cannot afford care in private hospitals, where the simplest operation can cost up to LE 30,000. It may be an icon, but it is also a symbol of the decaying national health care system.

Salah is a victim of what is known in the medical community as a healthcare associated infection (HAI), contracted during a hospitalization and often resulting in an additional week or more of medical treatment. It’s a global problem, but in developing countries like Egypt, the rate of infection is higher than the global average, occurring in 15 percent of Egyptian surgical and intensive care patients compared to 13 percent of hospital patients globally, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Many cases of HAI can be prevented with basic hygiene procedures.

“It is very obvious that there is negligence inside? Qasr El-Aini,” asserts Ahmed Salah, Hisham’s brother. “Everything was dirty: cats all over the hospital, insects [everywhere] and bloodstains on the floor. When my brother Hisham was inside the emergency room we all could go in and out unsupervised, because the man who was guarding the door was too busy smoking a cigarette 20 feet away from my brother and the [fourteen other] patients in the ER.”

In March 2013 Salah transferred to a hospital in Germany, where he is still receiving treatment for the infection, the bullet and the spinal cord injury it caused.

“I received the worst medical care ever at Qasr El-Aini,” Salah told Egypt Today over the phone. He also claims that doctors there failed to diagnose a spinal cord injury even though he constantly complained of back pain.

“Aside from the fact that they barely had medications,” recounts Salah, “when I was told I needed a blood transfusion, my family had to buy it from the blood bank because the hospital didn’t have any. The nurses were extremely unprofessional and unhygienic and all I was thinking of at the time was that I couldn’t bear the smell of cigarette smoke that filled the ER from the security man’s cigarette.”

Qasr El-Aini Hospital has no visiting hours, and many people who get in end up camping inside the hospital to be with their sick relatives or friends. It’s not uncommon to see people with blankets sleeping in the hallways, smoking and eating.

On a recent visit to investigate the allegations, this reporter was met with a trail of bloodstains on the floor leading all the way inside the emergency room. When asked to call someone to clean up the blood as it was unhygienic and probably infectious, the security guard at the main gate glibly replied, “Don’t worry about it, it will soon dry up.”

Inside the ER, the ceiling was leaking above the patients, trashcans were overflowing, and syringes were thrown on the floor. Insects buzzed and crawled around — there was even a rat. The bathrooms were filthy, and people were smoking anywhere they pleased.

“Cases like Hisham’s are very common in the hospital,” says Dr. Khalid Mohamed Mansour, who works in Qasr El-Aini. “It’s not the doctor’s job to sanitize his equipment. It’s the nurse’s job, and because of their ignorance they do not believe that they have to [do this] after every operation. […] We filed hundreds of complaints but what do you expect when the [former] Health Minister herself, Dr. Maha Al-Rabbat, says on television whenever you see a cat just shoo it instead of taking a picture of it?”, referring to an incident in February 2014, when TV show host Wael Al-Ebrashi confronted Al-Rabbat with a picture of a cat curled up on a hospital bed at a government-run hospital.

“It’s impossible for us doctors to work in such an environment and give 100 percent,” Mansour continues. “The hospital administration are never available, and we, as Egyptians, we do not give 100 percent unless the management is there to observe and punish those who are not doing their jobs. I blame the janitors and the nurses, and of course I blame the hospital’s management.”

Naglaa Mohsen, a nurse who used to work at Qasr El-Aini, agrees with Mansour. “No one can deny that there is of course negligence inside the hospital, from the nurses, the janitors and the doctors; but above all the administration is most negligent. Whenever we ran out of alcohol, which we used to sterilize the equipment, the administration always told us to use hot water instead because they were reducing costs by not buying the alcohol. We used to bring our own water boilers to sterilize the equipment before the doctors used them to operate. This unprofessional atmosphere is what led me to quit the hospital and join a private facility.”

Egypt Today’s attempt to speak with administrators for a response to the complaints of negligence ended with our reporter being escorted off the premises by security guards.

Dr. Mohamed Sayed Hassanein, official spokesman at the Ministry of Health, says, “The government is well aware of the transgressions in the hospital and we are doing our best to turn Qasr El-Aini Hospital into the best place for treatment in all of Egypt.” When asked how and when the ministry planned to do this, Hassanein declined to answer.

In the area of HAI, at least, Qasr El-Aini has made some small progress over the years. In the article “Nosocomial Infections: A Study Among Surgical Patients in Kasr El Aini Hospital,” published in the July 1998 issue of The Egyptian Journal of Medical Microbiology, a group of Egyptian physicians reviewed cases in 10 of the hospital’s surgical units for HAI cases and found an infection rate of 12.1 percent. The researchers called for stricter surgical and antibiotic protocols, concluding, “An improvement in this situation will only be achieved by a greater commitment from health authorities and hospital administrators to solve the problem. More investment in targeted research and in establishment of effective infection surveillance and control programs will inevitably result in better healthcare and a consequent improvement of hospital costs.”

In 2009, a similar study reviewed two of Qasr El-Aini’s surgical units. The paper “Incidence and Predictors of surgical site infections at Cairo University Hospitals,” published in the January 2012 issue of The Egyptian Journal of Community Medicine, found an HAI rate of 9 percent. While it was lower than the 1998 study, researchers concluded, “[Surgical Site Infection] rate was found to be quite high in comparison to developed countries,” and recommended the “establishment of an organized SSI surveillance programs in Qasr El-Aini Hospital.”

Amr Imam, a lawyer specializing in human rights, says that since 1998, 49 lawsuits by different lawyers have been filed against Qasr El-Aini Hospital; seven of which were related to “lack of hygiene,” 28 lawsuits were against doctors working in the hospital, three were against the hospital’s security personnel, another three alleged “black marketing of blood and organ donations” at the hospital as well as eight others. No verdicts have been issued in any of the cases.

“In any advanced country, and in some third-world countries, if a patient or any visitor came across negligence in a hospital and went to the authorities, this hospital would be immediately subjected to a fine — and sometimes it goes as far as imprisonment of the ones responsible,” Imam says. “But here in Egypt matters go differently. Since negligence in hospitals goes beyond Qasr El-Aini, here the minister himself should be subjected to trial, and whether he wins or loses the case, he should submit his resignation. This goes beyond the administration of Qasr El-Aini; this hospital is the government’s responsibility and they should start acting responsibly toward it.”

“The main reason that Qasr El-Aini is a free hospital is because the students of Cairo University’s faculty of medicine get to be trained at the hospital, so the probability of operational errors is very high,” says Dr. Samar Hanafi, a senior advisor with the Egyptian Doctors Syndicate. “We all agree that the hospital is among the worst in the world; so try to imagine the standards that we are setting for our future doctors,” says Hanafi, who argues, “It’s not the doctor’s responsibility to make sure that the hospital is clean, they have a lot on their plates to begin with, but we all take matters into our own hands since that we already know that no one else will. But it’s very tough to try and coordinate our time to see patients, operate and assign janitors to clean the hospital bathrooms, hallways and stairs.

The conditions are so dire, Hanafi claims, “No one wants to work because they do not get properly paid,” Hanafi continues. “The janitor shows his face in the morning because that is the only way he will get paid 500 pounds at the end of the month. The government needs to work on generous salaries for the doctors, nurses, janitors and security of the hospital so that they realize the importance of the positions they are holding. We have contacted the minister of health, the governor, the prime minister and even the president hundreds of times, but all we get are false promises.”

Part of the problem is that there is no independent body to monitor healthcare facilities. In the United States, for example, the Joint Commission is a non-profit organization that audits and certifies healthcare facilities that meet a set of standards.

“There should be a group of doctors, preferably from the Egyptian Doctors Syndicate, to serve as a watchdog over Qasr El-Aini and all public and private hospitals, to ensure that they are performing the way they should be,” says Imam. “Those doctors should be appointed by the Ministry of Health to provide detailed analysis of the performance of the hospitals in Egypt, and give suggestions on how to improve the quality of the medical care provided.”

Salah isn’t the only one leaving the country in search of decent healthcare. In an informal poll, Egypt Today asked people in Egypt and abroad to list reasons why Egyptians would immigrate to another country. Healthcare was a common response, given as much weight as decent jobs, education and security.

Hassan Hassan, an Egyptian engineer who moved to the UAE, sums it up: “Egyptians immigrate to other countries because the life of an Egyptian citizen in Egypt has no value. People prefer going to countries where they treat humans humanely, and they fear for the person’s welfare. I decided to live abroad when I realized that I cannot trust the Egyptian hospitals in case I, or any member of my family, got sick. And at some point everyone needs to visit a hospital.”

3/19/2015 1:57:12 PM
<![CDATA[Building the House]]>The much-anticipated People’s Assembly elections were postponed once again, after a March 1 verdict from the Supreme Constitutional Court decided that the constituency law regulating electoral districts was unconstitutional. But, amid motions flying back and forth contesting the constitutionality of the legislation outlining the mechanics of the vote, it remains to be seen how parliamentary elections will change the political game. ? By Muhammad Magdy Ghamrawy While it was fully expected that Egypt would finally head to the polls at the end of the month to elect a new parliament, for the first time since 2012, a March 1 court verdict has changed the game yet again. The Supreme Constitutional Court decided that Article 3 of Law 202, the Elections Constituency Division Law, which regulates electoral districts, was unconstitutional. The ruling has delayed the elections to a yet unannounced date, while President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi urged the cabinet to amend the law within a month’s time. As the High Elections Committee announced the delay following the court ruling, it said it would set a new time frame after legislative ammendments to the elections law are issued. Still, however, parties and political players are gearing up, and some bowing out, ahead of the long overdue parliamentary vote. ?This set of elections, considered the third and final leg of the roadmap, announced after the removal of President Mohamed Morsi on July 3, 2013, has already been much contested without even having taken place. The roadmap had originally stipulated that a House would be seated within six months of the ratification of the new 2014 constitution, but the interim president during the transitional period, Adly Mansour, amended the roadmap in January 2014, moving up the presidential elections to precede parliamentary elections. Since then there has been much speculation about when or even if a vote would take place. It wasn’t until early January of this year that a solid time frame for the voting process was announced, with the High Elections Committee later opening the door for candidate registration on February 8. The registration period was meant to close on February 17 but was twice extended and finally ended on February 21. With the latest delay in the elections announced, it is unclear how the candidacy of some and the districts represented may change. The elections will be divided into two phases: The first was originally set to begin March 21-22 for expatriates and March 22-23 for Egyptian residents, while the second was expected to take place on April 25–26 for expatriates and April 26–27 for local residents. Although the elections will still be divided into two phases, it could be some time before they are rescheduled. The upcoming People’s Assembly will seat 567 members, in only one chamber called the House of Representatives instead of the previous two chambers (People’s Assembly and Shura Council). Of these, 420 will be independents and 120 will be elected according to the party list voting system, while the remaining 27 members will be appointed by the president. Several international organizations, including the African Union and the European Union, in addition to a number of local organizations, have announced? they will be monitoring the elections. On October 15, 2014, the Carter Center announced that it would close its field office in Egypt after nearly three years and would not deploy an observation mission to assess Egypt’s parliamentary elections. “This decision reflects The Carter Center’s assessment that the political environment is deeply polarized and that political space has narrowed for Egyptian political parties, civil society, and the media. As a result, the upcoming elections are unlikely to advance a genuine democratic transition in Egypt. Both Egyptian civil society and international organizations face an increasingly restrictive environment that hinders their ability to conduct credible election observation,” the center explained in a statement. Picking a Team A fluctuating time frame for elections and regulations has only added to the confusion that was the electoral spectrum at press time, with a noticeable increase in the number of electoral coalitions, some of which include parties with conflicting or differing ideologies. The cracks could threaten to dissolve coalitions early on, bringing down all the players on the team. The biggest divisions have appeared in coalitions like the Egyptian Front Coalition, which includes political parties with a liberal approach alongside the Mubarak-era leftist Tagammu Party. The latter has already announced it would withdraw from the coalition along with two other parties: El-Ghad and Al-Motamar (Egyptian Congress). Meanwhile at the Egyptian Wafd Coalition, which has a liberal approach to political issues, several parties also announced their secession. These include the Egyptian Democratic party, the National Partnership Current and the Justice Party (which first withdrew from the Democratic Current Coalition before joining the Egyptian Wafd Coalition). The Jusice Party, El-Ghad and Al-Motamar later announced they would boycott the elections altogether. Most recently, the Social Justice Coalition, which includes Nasserite and socialist parties, witnessed the withdrawal of the Egyptian Communist party. “Each party will work for its own sake,” says Yasser El Houdaiby, a member of Al-Wafd Party, clarifying this is the main reason some parties could not bear to remain united. In fact, the only reason these parties even came together, Houdaiby adds, is the constituencies’ division law, which obligated political parties to unite, given the breadth of the constituencies. It is unclear how the recent court ruling will affect coalitions and their make up. The law, which was endorsed by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, created only four constituencies in a party list system with 120 deputies. It was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Constitutional Court on March 1, leading to the delay of elections. In the 2012 parliamentary elections, which saw an estimated 55 percent turnout, there were 120 constituencies in the party system and 58 electoral districts open to individual candidates. The struggle to secure the largest number of seats has prompted some to form electoral lists to run for the party-based seats, too. Perhaps the most prominent electoral list to emerge on the arena is Fi Hob Masr (For the Love of Egypt), previously known as “the Ganzouri list,” the go-to prime minister to any regime, Kamal el-Ganzouri, had been trying to form a “patriotic list” but failed after several political parties, in a meeting with the president, accused el-Ganzouri of acting on behalf of the government. Today Fi Hob Masr includes high-profile figures, members from the Masriyeen Al-Ahrar (Free Egyptians) party, which is heavily financed by the well-known Egyptian businessman Naguib Sawiris, Al-Wafd Party, despite its initial criticism of the list lineup, and Al-Motamar Party. Another big-name list is Sahwat Misr (Egypt’s Awakening), led by Abdel Gelil Moustafa, a former member of the constituent assembly tasked with amending the constitution in 2013. The list excludes members of the Muslim Brotherhood and National Democratic Party. Other lists include the Egyptian Front, which is endorsed by the Egyptian National Movement party led by Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister, and the Independent Current in addition to the electoral list of Al-Nour Salafist party which participated in the parliamentary elections held during the Muslim Brotherhood’s tenure and is currently supporting the government. Each list, according to the electoral law, should include six categories: women, youth, Copts, people with special needs, Egyptian expatriates, farmers and workers. The Naysayers On February 4, the Strong Egypt Party, led by former presidential candidate Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh, announced in a press conference that they would boycott the elections, citing the absence of a proper democratic atmosphere, which hinders the ability to hold “real competitive elections.” Other political parties announced similar concerns, like the liberal Al-Dostor Party established by veteran politician Mohamed ElBaradei, which is also opting to boycott the elections. On February 7, the party released a statement announcing it will not participate in the elections, due to the “narrowing of the political field by authorities, physical violations to human rights which reached its peak after the slaying of the activist Shaimaa Al-Sabbagh, and detaining dozens under the umbrella of the protest law.” It added that the “the current political atmosphere does not encourage political parties to participate in public life.” The party further added that the government refused its frequent demands to amend the elections law. On the same day, Al-Watan Salafist Party announced in an official statement that it would not be participating in the elections for the following reasons: the suspension of the 2013 constitution, issuing and enacting what it has called “repressive laws” and the lack of guarantees for holding fair elections, citing the absence of the “neutral” election observation missions. Al-Wasat, the Socialist Popular Alliance Party and the Popular Current (under establishment) also announced that they would boycott the elections. ?NDP Back in the Running? The National Democratic Party’s figureheads, who once dominated the political spectrum, are looking to make a comeback. Notorious steel tycoon Ahmed Ezz, the secretary-general under Hosni Mubarak’s NDP, announced his intention to run for parliament. Many see his candidacy as a return of the NDP, which was dissolved after the January 25 Revolution, when millions took to the streets demanding change and the removal of the regime. His announcement has irked the nation, so much so that in Sadat City in Menoufia, where Ezz is set to run for a seat, a group of youth launched a campaign titled “We do not want you.” A video soon circulated on social media allegedly showing a woman burning the blankets distributed among constituents in return for voting for Ezz. Another video appeared shortly after in which the same woman appeared, admitting that someone gave her money to burn the blankets. But analysts are quick to point out that the NDP itself will not return. “The NDP was not really a party; it was a collection of individuals loyal to the president and the regime. The same individuals may return and even if they do not, they will be replaced by similar sorts of people,” explains Nathan Brown, a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, adding, “The NDP as a party will not return — that will make the parliament even more disorganized than the one disbanded in 2011.” Ezz, who was arrested following the January 25 Revolution and faced charges of profiteering and misuse of public funds, was later cleared but could still be banned, along with other NDP members, from running in the elections. There have been several lawsuits filed calling for their exclusion based on Article 86 of the constitution which states that “protecting national security is a duty.” At press time Ezz’s candidacy had not been accepted, the reason given that he had not sufficiently completed his paperwork. Ezz promptly filed an appeal which has yet to be heard. A Foot in the Door One reason the race for a seat in the house is so cut-throat this year is that the constitution has clearly expanded the authorities of the upcoming People’s Assembly. “The parliament became a partner in the authority,” Said Al-Gamal, a constitutional jurist, explains. “In the past the president enjoyed absolute powers but now he has a partner [the parliament].” The 2014 constitution, which received an overwhelming approval of 98 percent, downsized the president’s authority in favor of the parliament. In the presence of the House of Representatives and according to the constitution, there are many things the president cannot do without receiving the confidence of the majority of parliament members, like appointing a new prime minister, declaring war, or sending the Armed Forces on a combat mission outside the state’s borders, dissolving the government, declaring a state of emergency and appointing the heads of autonomous organizations and control agencies. The House of Representatives, according to the constitution, may propose to withdraw confidence from the president and hold early presidential elections upon filing motions to be signed by a majority of members. “There is no doubt that what the constitution has granted to the parliament [will bring a new era] to constitutional life in Egypt,” Al-Gamal adds. But will the House of Representatives be strong enough to activate such constitutional articles or will the president be able to move around these new guidelines for power? Brown clarifies that the relationship between the president and the parliament is dependent not only on the constitutional text but also on the political context. The same constitutional provisions can operate very differently in practice depending on the party system, the electoral law and many other factors. “All indications in Egypt are that the presidency will be very strong. Existing institutions are hard-wired to be oriented to the presidency; the party system is weak and the electoral law will make parties weaker,” says Brown. And so the question on everyone’s minds is: Will this house face the same destiny of the previous one [dubbed the “Muslim Brotherhood Parliament”] and be dissolved? The Constitutional Court settled this controversy on March 1, when it decided that the constituency law, was unconsitutional, leading to a delay in elections. “[The court will rule on] the postponement of the elections or if they are to be held on time without threats of dissolving the parliament in the future,” El-Houdaiby says, noting, “that’s why some political parties were hesitant in announcing their final electoral lists.” He believes the independent candidates standing outside of the coalitions are going to win a majority of parliament. The People’s Choice But even if PMs do have more authority, will they use it in favor of the constituency that elected them or will promises go flying out the door as they did with previous assemblies? “We want to see new people in the parliament, and if I find figures affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood or the NDP I will boycott the elections or give my voice to independent candidates,” says Ahmed Magdy, a private bank manager in his late-30s. His main demand would be that parliament ensure freedom of expression. Meanwhile, Ahmed Saed, who has a master’s degree in agriculture and who is currently studying in Italy, is only mildly optimistic. “There is a glimmer of hope but this depends on the people’s choice.” Other voters see a clear absence of opposition parties that Ahmed, a 28-year old police officer, believes “will lead to the dominance of one party or a coalition and turns the clock back.” Going back to the constitution, analyst Brown maintains that the 2014 charter left a lot of areas to be filled by legislation. “Former interim President Adly Mansour and President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi have issued important decree-laws that limit rights and freedoms,” he explains alluding to the protest law, noting that, “these need to be reviewed.” Regardless of the current political hurdles and pitfalls, there is hope that the new People’s Assembly can constitute a stepping stone towards a real state of law, particularly if the new representatives, who come from such diverse ideological standpoints can overcome their differences and agree on drafting legislation that meet people’s aspirations.]]>3/16/2015 4:50:36 PM <![CDATA[Hidden Lessons]]>Nazih Girgis mixes classical music, ballet and children’s books to build a better citizen

By Yasmine Nazmy

Passionate about children, education and development, Nazih Girgis is, above all, a storyteller. He first became involved in musical education and literature in the late 1980s, when he translated Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf into Arabic.

“Music has played a great role in my life as a child and as an adult, so I’ve always believed that music is education. It’s a medium that lifts the minds and hearts of people — it brings about understanding and culture ties,” says Girgis.

It can also teach children healthy, responsible lifestyles and good citizenship. His four books, which he packages as the Children’s Integrated Awareness Program, address the environment, water conservation, road safety and proper nutrition. His books about the environment and water conservation have been set to classical music and dramatized in ballets presented around Egypt.

“I always say: get me a terrorist who loves music or who has any appreciation for any kind of art. Or get me a person who loves music and that can turn into a violent person,” says Girgis, 67. “Beethoven said: ‘I despise a man who does not believe that music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy,’ and I believe that.”

It was Beethoven who initiated Girgis into classical music as a child, when he accidentally came across the 18th-century German composer’s Ninth Symphony on the radio. “I was six years old and we had this big radio that worked with a car battery. I heard this music that really got me, and then I heard this singing that took me to heaven. At the end, the announcer said it was Beethoven’s Symphony Number 9,” he recalls. “Back then, we had a library called The Library of the Arts on Hoda Shaarawi Street, and you could go there and listen to music. You would write your request on a piece of paper and wait for your turn. I was 11 at the time, and every time I would write Symphony Number 9. One day, the man there asked me why I always asked for Symphony Number 9, and I told him it was the only one I knew. He helped me learn about Beethoven and listen to other pieces.”

Over the years, Girgis’ passion and knowledge of classical music grew, and he later immigrated to the United States in 1981. There, he befriended conductors and musicians from around the world and got to know Prokofiev’s son, Oleg, whom he later collaborated with on readings of Peter and the Wolf. Girgis has held countless readings, ballets and interactive performances in both Egypt and the United States.

Music and Cultural Mediation

In 1988, with the support of famed cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich, Girgis founded the US-Middle East Music and Fine Arts Council in Washington, DC with the purpose of bringing the National Symphony Orchestra from the US capital to Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. In 1990, the council organized a concert for an audience of Arab ambassadors, senators and high-ranking US Army officers at the Kennedy Center Opera House. The program included Peter and the Wolf narrated in Arabic by Girgis and conducted by Maestro Cal Stewart Kellogg.

Among Girgis’ mementos is a copy of the program from the Kennedy Center performance, written in both English and Arabic — a battle that he fought hard to win. “I threatened to file a lawsuit against them if they didn’t allow me to include Arabic in the program,” he recalls. “The purpose was to build bridges between America and the Arab world. The maestro was a very good friend of mine, Maestro Rostropovich, and he was eager to do this because he was a man of peace.”

After lobbying with sponsors and the orchestra, Girgis seemed confident that the Middle East trip would happen. But plans were cut short when Girgis told a journalist from the Washington Post about his proposal; an article published the next day raised questions with congressmen and the Israeli ambassador to the US about a tour to the Middle East that did not include Israel, prompting the executive director of the National Symphony Orchestra to put the tour on hold indefinitely.

“What I want to arrive at is that music and culture bring people together and create harmony and understanding — music fixes what politics ruins. I don’t want to get into politics, but this incident is a perfect example of what I want to say about music and its impact on people,” Girgis explains. “There are a few Arab-American political organizations in Washington, DC, but Israel doesn’t pay attention to them. But when they hear about cultural exchange events between America and the Arab world, it bothers them. And then Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, so everything stopped for a while,” he adds, laughing.

A Change of Course

During the mid-1990s, Girgis was taking his Arabic translation of Peter and the Wolf to book fairs across the US. In 1995, he met Mark Linz, at that time the enthusiastic director of publishing at AUC Press in Cairo. “He bought 1,000 copies on the spot. He told me that he wanted to distribute them in Egypt and invited me to come to a book-signing event in Cairo,” says Girgis. “I came in January 1996 and I was supposed to stay for two weeks. I ended up staying for 12 years.”

After a performance of Peter and the Wolf at AUC’s Ewart Hall with Cairo Symphony Orchestra’s Maestro Mostafa Nagy, Girgis began to ask about musical education at schools in Egypt, and, much to his surprise, he found that there was none.

“People made fun of me — they said these children are deprived of everything, do you think they will have music? So I decided to pack up and leave.”

One day before his scheduled flight, Girgis met Hala El Kholy, then head of the human development agency Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA), who persuaded him not to return to the US. “She said, ‘Please stay, you are very badly needed here.’ I wanted to give Egyptian children what I was deprived of as a child, and that visit was a turning point in my life.”

El Kholy sent Girgis to a school in Beni Sueif to do a reading of Peter and the Wolf, an experience that marked the beginning of a new course for him. “The children were extremely poor, they were barefoot — they had nothing. We listened to Peter and the Wolf on cassette and then we re-enacted it,” he says. “The children absorbed the story, even though it was foreign to them; they kept trying to find solutions for the duck that gets stuck in the wolf’s stomach.”

After a series of workshops in Beni Sueif, Girgis collaborated with ballet instructor Fatma Marzouk to choreograph the piece. “We performed the ballet at the cultural center in Beni Sueif. I was the very first one to take ballet to Upper Egypt, and I was asked to do more in other areas,” he adds proudly.

Over the next 10 years, Girgis conducted 1,200 workshops in governorates across Egypt. “And then Hala said to me, ‘Peter and the Wolf is great, but is there anything else that we can do?’ I had heard Camille Saint-Sa?ns’ The Carnival of the Animals, and the music inspired me to write a story.”

The resulting story, also titled Carnival of the Animals, is about animals at a zoo who become fed up with the mess left behind by visitors and decide to clean it up and set an example to visitors. Published in 2001, it was Girgis’ first original story, and it won two awards from the Suzanne Mubarak competition for writing and illustrations. Its environmental lesson also caught the attention of then-Minister of Environment Dr. Nadia Makram Ebeid, as well as many development agencies. The Danish International Development Agency distributed 35,000 copies of the book at schools. The story was also adapted into a ballet performed at the Cairo International Conference Center (CICC).

It was after the CICC performance that Girgis was called for a meeting with the Minister of Irrigation Dr. Mohamed Abu Zeid. “He asked me to do something about water for an international conference in Sharm El-Sheikh. I said, ‘Honestly, I don’t know anything about water, except that I drink it,’ but I admired him,” says Girgis. “So I was lying in bed at 2am when I heard Handel’s Water Music in my head. I got up and wrote a poem in which I portrayed the drop of water as a queen who has four daughters — Rain, Rivers, Oceans and Wells — which are the water resources.”

Once again, Girgis worked with choreographer Marzouk, who adapted the piece as a ballet performed at the Sharm El-Sheikh conference. Afterwards, Abu Zeid invited Girgis to perform Queen Waters at the World Summit for International Development in Johannesburg in 2002, where Girgis met the late Nelson Mandela.

His autograph book includes photos from the ballet performance of Queen Waters at the summit. Girgis stays in touch with the ballerinas who traveled with him to Johannesburg and he still sees them when he’s in Cairo or Dubai. “They’re all grown up now,” he says with a laugh. “They’re all married and have children.”

In 2004, Girgis published Stop and Learn From Dr. Wise, the Elephant, which deals with road safety and won the Suzanne Mubarak award for best book that year. The story was inspired partially by his own son, who, as a child, reprimanded him for speeding while driving. It was on the streets of Cairo, however, that Girgis realized that Egypt was in dire need of lessons on road safety. “It’s very humiliating — you have to fight to cross the street. And I believe that children learn from adults, like I learned from my son Alexi when he was six.”

Most recently, he wrote The Dolphin Park to address the issue of healthy eating and exercise habits, partially inspired by first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” program to counter obesity in America. “Obesity is becoming a big problem in the world, not just in America,” Girgis notes. “I published The Dolphin Park in English and I did readings in libraries and schools. In 2012, Mrs. Obama sent me a letter of appreciation co-signed by the president.”

Encouraged by changes in Egypt, Girgis returned to his homeland once more in 2014. “I thought that, with the new revolution, maybe I could do something with children, so I put the four books together, and I called it The Children’s Integrated Awareness Program.”

The author is a regular at the Frankfurt Book Fair and other exhibitions in the Emirates, where he makes deals with large companies to purchase and distribute his books to schools, gas stations, environmental conventions and other places.

Girgis believes that there is hope in Egypt — at least as far as children are concerned — and he plans to send his collected works to President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, whom he believes is interested in both the environment and education. “I am a child advocate, Girgis says. “Children are entitled to good health and to education.”?

2/16/2015 4:46:40 PM
<![CDATA[The Week in Quotes: Jan 29 - Feb 5]]>Egypt Today rounds up this week’s news and milestones By Egypt Today Staff AJE Journalist Peter Greste Released, Mohamed Fahmy Gives Up Egyptian Citizenship Australian journalist Peter Greste, one of the journalists involved in the Al Jazeera English trial, was pardoned by President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi and released on February 1. Following his release, Greste immediately boarded a plane bound for his home country. News of Greste’s release comes after an Egyptian court accepted an appeal on January 1 that would order a retrial in the court case. Greste, along with fellow Al Jazeera English journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, was in prison for over a year following their arrest on December 29, 2013. The three journalists were sentenced to seven years in prison for aiding a terrorist organization and for threatening Egypt's national security, in what has been labeled as the "Marriott Cell" case. Rumors of Greste’s potential pardon and release from prison began circulating in mid-January, in addition to reports that Fahmy would also seek deportation to Canada. Two days after Greste’s release, on February 3, local media outlets reported that Fahmy had renounced his Egyptian nationality with the belief that doing so would open the road for his deportation to Canada. Prior to this announcement, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said that Fahmy’s release was “imminent.”?Other reports cited that Fahmy was asked to either remain in prison or let go of his Egyptian nationality. While Greste and Fahmy held onto hope for release or deportation thanks to their foreign nationalities, their Egyptian colleague Baher is set to remain behind bars with what appears to be no hope for release. In addition to the seven-year sentence, Baher was also sentenced to an additional three years for being in possession of a bullet at the time of his arrest. In Peter Greste’s interview with Al Jazeera English following his release, he said, “You spend 400 days in such close proximity with people and you really get to know them very well, so it was a very difficult moment walking out of that prison saying goodbye to those guys not knowing how much longer they will have to put up with this.” Bashir Al Aadl, founder of the Committee for the Defence of the Independence of the Press, expressed his hope that other official actions will be taken to release all Egyptian journalists, and those with dual citizenships, who haven’t been found to have been involved in any criminal activity or issues of national security, in respect for the freedom of expression and opinion, which is guaranteed by the constitution. He also added that the deportation proceedings came from a clear desire to take the law into account without submitting to any outside pressures, which confirms the independence of Egypt’s decision. Head of the Press Syndicate Diaa Rashwan said he expects the release of journalist Mohamed Fahmy, a defendant in the Al Jazeera case, in the coming days. In a statement to Youm7, he added that there were many circumstances since the beginning of Peter Greste’s case that relate to his causing the country a lot of problems. The head of the Press Syndicate noted that the matter was cleared up?when President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi issued a presidential pardon for the Australian journalist, pointing out that it was a good start. “A message of peace to the Western media” is how Nagi Al Shahabi, head of El Geel party, described President Al-Sisi’s decision to release Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste, stressing that Al-Sisi wanted to send a message to the Western media, which always puts the blame on Egypt. Al Shahabi said that Egypt wants Western journalists who come here to abide by the laws and rules of the country, and to not deviate from them and to not work against the country’s interests for a specific purpose. Yehia Kadry, Vice Chairman of the National Movement, believes that the release of the Al Jazeera journalist or keeping him in prison will not help Egyptian-Qatari relations because journalists work away from the corridors of politics, and do not have any personal interests. Kadry said that all they have to do is respect Egyptian laws as long as they work inside Egypt. Political thinker Gamal Asaad said, “There’s no doubt that Al Jazeera has managed to cause a media and political battle on a global level as a result of the arrest and trial of three of its journalists, and President Al-Sisi has emphasized more than once that he doesn’t condone arresting and prosecuting the media, and that if he had been president when they were arrested they would’ve been deported to their countries.” Hafez Abu Saada, member of the National Council for Human Rights, explained that the international community demanded the release of Al Jazeera’s journalists more than once, and the president’s decision corresponds with these international claims because major countries and international organizations like the United Nations have called for their release.   Violence Escalates in North Sinai A series of violent attacks in North Sinai killed at least 30 and injured over 100 on January 29, according to state media. The scope and size of the attacks were unprecedented, taking place at 10 military facilities in Al-Arish, Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah. Wilayat Sinai (State of Sinai), previously known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement released on January 30. In the statement, Wilayat Sinai claimed to have killed hundreds of people; however, the Egyptian government claims that the number is much lower. The attacks varied in scope?and scale, some involving car bombs and some mortar rounds that targeted checkpoints or military vehicles, according to local news reports. Violence and militant attacks have continued to plague Sinai since the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. Wilayat Sinai has claimed most of the responsibility for these attacks. The group swore allegiance to Daish (the Islamic State) in November 2014. President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi during his speech at Al Galaa Theater, “In front of everyone here bearing witness, take the responsibility of not letting this happen again, to me and to the Egyptian people you are responsible for developing Sinai and you are responsible to make sure that what happened doesn’t happen again. We are all with you, may God help you. And let everyone hear that we are going forward with rebuilding?before seeking revenge and killing criminals.” The Minister of Health Adel El-Adawi said in a statement on Monday that there is a need for cohesion between Egyptians, the military and the people to face this brutal terrorism. Adawi wished a speedy recovery for the injured and called for their return to their posts?to fight against terrorism and move towards a stable and secure Egypt. Adawi said that he saw in the eyes of the wounded Armed Forces soldiers determination to return to North Sinai to protect Egypt, and he felt in their words a spirit capable of defeating terrorism and avenging their comrades and Egypt from terrorism, its supporters and sponsors. Major General Hani Abdel Latif, spokesperson for the Ministry of the Interior, said “There are requests made by a number of police officers asking to be transferred to North Sinai to meet the challenges faced by their colleagues there.” Tamer Amin on his show Men el Akher, “And I am saying to the army, crush and don’t care, the time for kidding around is over. I don’t want to hear a single person say ‘do you want an oppressive police state’ because we need a lion of a law in the face of terrorism.” Ahmed Zewail said in a statement that the dangerous terrorist escalation will not undermine the determination of the Egyptian people who have lined up in the same trench to rebuild Egypt. Egyptians are capable of defeating terrorism in solidarity and by supporting the brave men of the Armed Forces who are giving up their lives to defend the nation. Abdullah Al Sinawi, journalist and political analyst, said, during an interview on Al Hadath Al Masry, “We must prepare ourselves for a difficult and expensive war with terrorism that might be long.” Hamdeen Sabahy said on Twitter, “Our martyrs are in eternal paradise. The pain and sorrow that breaks our hearts increases our determination to root out terrorism. Egypt is facing terrorism and will defeat it.”]]>2/5/2015 4:35:42 PM <![CDATA[Hand in Hand]]>Two grassroots projects work to build up a slum area in Old Cairo with the help of its residents and fresh engineering graduates By Farah el-Akkad A bird’s eye view of Cairo shows what appears to be a massive swath of gray concrete. It is quite a sobering perspective, driving home just how heavily built up the capital has become. Just five years ago, in 2010, the UN Human Settlements Programme estimated that half of Egypt’s 80 million-strong population were urban dwellers. Back then the programe projected that by 2025, the country would have an urbanization rate of 59 percent. Today an estimated 60 percent of Egypt’s 94 million population is living in informal housing, with Cairo alone hosting some 41 percent of the nation’s slum population, according to the Social Performance Index. But with the birth rate, unemployment and inflation all spiraling out of control, slums are the only option for families who cannot find affordable housing. Radwa Rostom is a 2009 civil engineering graduate who might have just come up with a solution to the nation’s slum crisis. Her breakthrough approach is simple: Get everyone involved. In 2011 she started Hand Over, a project that seeks to develop ashwa’iyyat by bringing all the players to one table. Starting with architecture and civil engineering students, Hand Over encourages young engineers to work with residents of local slums to design and build affordable and sustainable homes. “The answer to such massive problems includes engaging everyone in the planning process, accommodating their needs, planning for future needs as well as using cost-efficient materials to build homes,” says Rostom, who has been interested in community service ever since she was a student. She is currently a fellow of the DO School in Germany, a one-year program that teaches students how to turn innovative ideas into action that creates change. Having worked with the NGO Alashanek ya Balady (AYB) in college and in the Ezbet Abu Qarn district (a slum area in Old Cairo) since 2011, Rostom wanted to do something not only environmentally friendly but also sustainable. The cornerstone of the project is the “rammed earth technique,” which involves using natural raw materials such as soil, sand, gravel and water to build walls. “After months of researching and talking with experts in Cairo and Germany, I came up with the conclusion that this technique will provide people with affordable, safe and sustainable houses in little time,” Rostom explains. Houses built using the rammed earth technique tend to resistant to sound, fire and moisture, and have a high thermal mass which minimizes temperature fluctuations. The Hand Over project focuses on human-centered design, involving local residents in the early stages of the project and paying attention to their needs and expectations so they can take part in and learn the skills needed for the design and construction process. “I want them to learn how to build their own places and maybe benefit from the process as a business,” Rostom adds. If properly applied, Rostom believes the project could help solve to the lack of private space and the health problems associated with slum areas. Slum dwellers typically suffer from overcrowding, lack of hygiene and poor mental and social conditions. According to the Participatory Development Programme in Urban Areas’ 2009 release Cairo’s Informal Areas between Urban Challenges and Hidden Potentials. Facts. Voices. Visions, “The constraints within which informal areas grow, their location on agricultural land or in unsafe geographical areas, the entrepreneurial initial subdivision, and the ex post facto introduction of infrastructure have all led to several major shortcomings in the quality of life for those living there. Also important in this regard are the poor quality of roads and of means of transportation, the poorly ventilated dwellings and the unregulated construction.” In addition to tackling the problems arising from slum dwellings, Hand Over’s other goal is to engage engineering students around Cairo in community service activities and provide practical experience before graduating. “A group of local and international experts prepares and delivers a comprehensive internship program to the engineering students, introducing them to sustainable techniques of construction,” Rostom explains. Rostom introduced Hand Over to her friends at AYB and both teams decided to work together and kickstart the project in Ezbet Abu Qarn. “The place is ready and we are taking it one step at a time,” she says. The first phase of the project began in December and will end this month with intensive workshops for students in team building, human-centered design and the social and construction aspects of slum areas. The training will also tackle sustainable techniques of construction, designing concept, as well as project management. “In its first year, Hand Over plans to create one prototype through the training of a group of 20 engineering students and six local residents for the joint construction of one house in Ezbet Abu Qarn,” Rostom adds. Hand Over will work in Abu Qarn on a sub-division of AYB’s current Ezbet project, which is working to develop the area by involving residents, academics, students, NGOs and community organizations. While AYB focuses on community service, Hand Over is tackling the housing aspect and empowering engineering students around Egypt. The project is receiving mentoring from the DO School through April 2015.]]>2/5/2015 2:03:15 PM <![CDATA[Week in Quotes: January 25 Edition ]]>Egypt Today's “The Week in Quotes” turns its focus to the fourth anniversary of the January 25 Revolution

By Egypt Today Staff

This January 25 marks the fourth anniversary of what began as the 2011 revolution that led to the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak. Like every year since January 25, 2011, how the revolution has been remembered by the state and society has changed depending on the political circumstances of the time. This year is no different.

There would be no state sponsored ceremonies on this anniversary of January 25, after President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi announced on January 23 that celebrations for Police Day and the anniversary would be canceled after a seven-day nationwide period of morning for the death of Saudi Arabia’s Kind Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz.

Cabinet spokesperson Hossam al-Quwaish later stated that celebrations would be postponed instead of canceled.

The government announced that Tahrir Square, which was a focal point of protests during the 18 day uprising in 2011, would be closed and off limits. The government also declared January 25 a national holiday, which has kept many people at home. Streets that are usually heavy with traffic around Cairo and in the Downtown area were quiet and mostly deserted, while some gatherings were dispersed by police.

According to The Cairo Post, protests and large crowds have been banned and will not be tolerated due to the seven-day period of mourning for King Abdullah. Despite the ban, several groups, including April 6 Youth Movement, Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya, Students Against the Coup, and the Muslim Brotherhood, announced calls for protest ahead of the January 25 anniversary, according to Daily News Egypt.

While?gatherings on January 25 have been banned, a march on January 24 in Talaat Harb that hoped to honor those killed during the revolution was marred with blood after a protester was killed by a pellet wound.

Shaimaa El-Sabagh, who was marching with the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, was shot during a procession to Tahrir Square as her and other marchers carried a wreath to lay in the square to honor the dead.

The Interior Ministry denied that she had been gunned down after police moved to disperse the march with pellets and tear gas, stating that she was injured, hospitalized and later succumbed to her wounds.

On January 25 Egypt’s prosecutor general announced that it would order an investigation into El-Sabagh’s death.

Despite the ban on protests on January 25, some demonstrations and marches took place to voice different concerns about the anniversary. AFP and Ahram Online reported that an Islamist protester had been killed in Alexandria after demonstrators fought with police in the streets. Reports on Twitter by several journalists claimed that some pro-Sisi gatherings could be found in areas around Tahrir Square, while Reuters reported that several pro-Muslim Brotherhood gatherings took place near the square.

Police also reportedly used tear gas to disperse protesters in Ramses Square, while Rabaa Al-Adaweya Square, where hundreds of pro-Mohamed Morsi protesters were killed in August 2013, was on lockdown.

An explosive device that went off outside a sports club in Heliopolis wounded two police offers on January 25. In Beheira, two people were killed after bombs they were planting exploded, according to Reuters.

In 2011, an estimated 800 people were killed between January 25 and February 11, the day Mubarak announced he would step down. On January 25 last year, 2014, 108 people were killed during demonstrations, according to Wiki Thawra.

Quotes on January 25

[caption id="attachment_107571" align="alignnone" width="783"]Tahrir Square on January 25, 2011. Photo credit: Wikimedia. Tahrir Square on January 25, 2011 (photo from Wikimedia)[/caption]

“It is unreasonable and unacceptable that the blood of Egyptians who want to express their views peacefully continues to be spilled four years after the glorious revolution.” – Hamdeen Sabahi, former presidential candidate, in a Facebook post commenting on Shaimaa El-Sabbagh’s death.

“To fulfill the demands of the revolution, bread, freedom, and social justice, there must be a revolution inside us that shall push us forward in all fields.” – said President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi during a televised speech on January 24.

"The Egyptian Revolution is moving steadily towards its goal: the ultimate defeat of the illegitimate coup. The revolutionary will of the Egyptian people in all squares and streets across the country will not back down, despite all the barbaric junta tactics which include killing unarmed protesters, and arbitrary arrest and detention by coup security authorities." —?Anti-Coup Pro-Legitimacy National Alliance in a statement on January 25.

“Unprecedented! Egypt announces seven days of mourning for death of Saudi monarch! We have never had more than three days of mourning for anyone before.” — Shahira Amin, an Egyptian journalist, on Twitter.

“I don’t regret the revolution, never did and never will. It’s one beautiful major turning point in my life.” — Reem Khorshid, an Egyptian blogger, on Twitter.

“If protests materialize, there will likely be blood on the streets.” — Louisa Loveluck, a journalist based in Cairo, on Twitter.

1/25/2015 2:01:07 PM
<![CDATA[The Cluster Effect]]>This design company sees community buy-in as the key to urban renewal By Frank E. Bartscheck II The Kodak passageway was an odd place for an art gallery. Like so many of Downtown Cairo’s alleys, it suffered from long-term neglect and had descended into dilapidation. Many of the storefronts along the passage — including the Kodak store, labs and warehouse — lay vacant and crumbling. But last April, it took a baby step towards rehabilitation when the Cairo Laboratory for Urban Studies, Training and Environment Research (CLUSTER) used the space to host an exhibit by internationally celebrated Egyptian artist Hassan Khan, the largest display of his work ever presented in Cairo and first solo show in 11 years, for the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF) To convert the space into a pop-up gallery, CLUSTER, an organization focused on critical urban discourse and design practice, teamed up with Khan and D-CAF to conduct a full-scale, ground-up renovation of unused storefronts to transform them into contemporary art spaces. Normally, the story would end when the show closes, and the space is once again abandoned. But in November, CLUSTER broke ground on the final stage of the passage’s revitalization, based on the input of its residents and business tenants who have committed to maintaining the new space. When it reopens in January, the Kodak passage will include a completely new walkway and some green space. The CLUSTER designers hope this can provide a formula and the opening for renovating the rest of Downtown’s walkways. Urban renewal involves renovating dilapidated areas of a city and often includes clearing slums through official channels. This traditional approach entails constructing new buildings, parks, roadways or industrial areas, often without consulting those living and working in the targeted region. At best, this type of project can alienate those within the community. At worst, it forcibly removes and relocates them. CLUSTER’s urban renewal concept is more comprehensive than traditional methods because it includes local community stakeholders, art and culture in the development process. Co-founder Omar Nagati describes it as “a combination of local experience and local knowledge along with an outside perspective. I think this is the right format that can be very regenerative.” As successive governments have wrestled with stabilizing the country on the national level since 2011, local needs have often been left unaddressed. In that gap have risen informal community reclamation projects in many forms, from makeshift stairs connecting a slum area to a major thoroughfare to microbus stops carved out of a busy road. CLUSTER wants to augment these reclamation projects and set them on the path of legitimate urban renewal. The idea of CLUSTER, founded by Nagati, an architect and urban planner, and American artist and designer Beth Stryker, was hatched while they were documenting changes directly after the revolution, particularly how individual communities were reclaiming public spaces. “On an individual basis we were, as a loose collective, starting to take photographs and interviewing people. We were interested in archiving this manifestation of the revolution,” Nagati explains. “Then we began to formalize our company and began investigating the informal usage of public spaces as an entry point for the establishment of our company.” Preserving Passageways The inspiration for the Kodak passageway revitalization project actually came prior to the 2011 Revolution, with Nagati observing how passageways serve as a bridge between different spaces. “I have always been fascinated by these in-between spaces. So I started trying to identify where these places are and we did a comprehensive mapping of Downtown to indicate where there are passageways,” he explains. His team has mapped more than 100 passageways in the past three years. “The idea is to look at the in-between as a condition, not just as a physical gap between buildings.” Since the revolution, he points out, these spaces have served as a powerful representation for the change the nation has recently undergone — “a transitional living space between an order that has collapsed and a new one that is coming. So it is a really incredible metaphor for a state of being.” The actual development of the Kodak and Phillips passageways, located off of Adly Street between Mohammed Farid and Sherif Pasha, traveled a long route to fruition. Stryker says the process began after the Hassan Khan exhibit with an “outreach to do a community stakeholder analysis with all of the tenants of the passageway to develop a design brief and then hold a competition. The results of this competition were the design ideas for the two passageways, which CLUSTER has developed further and are actually on the ground and starting to implement. The negotiations with the community’s stakeholders, who had specific requests and concerns both large and small, initially encountered a heavy dose of skepticism. Then CLUSTER started the physical work, incorporating engineering designs not usually seen locally. “People took notice because we spent the first two weeks digging [irrigation] trenches [to protect the building foundation against water damage],” Nagati says. “I think this kind of intervention created a sense of credibility within the community. Once they saw we were really taking care by doing things to a certain standard, in a way that is not often done, they started to take us more seriously and began to help and even conceding” some of their specific demands for the benefit of the greater good of the project. The Kodak passageway renewal “is ultimately an experiment in the hands of the community,” Nagati says, adding that he is hopeful that the passageway “will take on a life of its own after we leave. Maybe people will change it or redesign it, I don’t care. It isn’t about the design itself but whether it will [make a] difference in the lives [of stakeholders], increase business, better the livelihood [of tenants] and promote more inclusive activities and accessibility.” Stryker says it is already happening, noting that local stakeholders have started taking, “ownership and responsibility for the future life of the project” through a “community board to maintain and manage the upkeep” of the renewed Kodak passageway. She says that the new board is spearheaded by those who have offices in the buildings along the passage, and CLUSTER is helping them set up their first meeting. Nagati notes that the open dialogue of the passageway renewal project has fostered a sense of community that did not previously exist. If the project is a catalyst for local stakeholder maintenance after CLUSTER’s role is concluded, Nagati says, “that to me would be the measure of success.” Moving forward, Nagati and Stryker hope the Kodak and Phillips projects provide a format for a larger concept within Cairo, envisioning “a green oasis, a network of green passageways.” The projects can also showcase the company’s design ideas to highlight Downtown’s potential. In fact other areas are already taking notice. The company was approached by Popular Coalition of Ard Al-LewaArd Al-Lewa, Giza, a group of residents who in 2012 were protesting a housing development plan that would have eliminated the last vestige of open green area within the community. The activists, focused on renewing their community, wanted to see the land turned into a shared public space for civic usage. CLUSTER has been working with the coalition, ministries and government agencies to develop and implement potential designs for the land. “[The Ard Al-Lewa activists] see in the planner/architect a leader who can approach authorities,” Nagati notes. “For them they see a good partner that puts them in a better negotiating position.” Another project involves the UN Habitat Safer Cities Program, which works with local companies and organizations to improve the overall welfare and security, for women. One of several companies involved in the UN’s Cairo project, CLUSTER is working on designing more accessible and safer public spaces within informal neighborhoods. The CLUSTER Culture C?LUSTER’s unique approach to urban revitalization can be found in the merger of disparate scholarship. “One of the things we do here is [promote] an intersection between architecture, urbanism and art so we collaborate a lot with artists in historic cultural spaces,” Nagati says. Among its cultural projects, the design company is working with Cimatheque to rebuild the historical movie house on Adly Street with state-of-the-art features that can accommodate film screenings, workshops and events, making it a cultural meeting point for filmmakers and audiences to connect. The construction is in the final stages and the venue is due to open very soon. CLUSTER is also documenting Cairo’s architectural heritage with a map of Downtown walking tours. The routes list historical locations and buildings with a synopsis of each locale’s history. The team plans to host guided walking tours of Cairo as well. Perhaps the most valuable of CLUSTER’s projects does not include design work at all: the company has created the Cairo Urban Initiatives Platform (cuipcairo.org), a web-based community platform that connects organizations and businesses involved in issues related to Cairo’s architecture, advocacy, urban development, arts, culture and urban environment. Businesses can communicate with each other to “avoid repetition and share resources,” Nagati says, and these organizations also communicate with the community through an interactive map with locations of all participating firms and a monthly calendar detailing each initiative’s events and activities. CLUSTER’s office is a beehive of activity, with seven employees actively discussing and exchanging ideas. The integrative approach is reflected in the layout of the workspace. “All of the studio work, all of the discussions happen in one [shared/common] space,” Nagati notes.“It becomes like a kitchen, there is an interplay going on.” The company founders say they empower employees with more autonomy to learn and create than might be afforded at other companies. “This is part of the experiment,” explains Nagati who, along with Stryker, are considering expansion, which would provide even more freedom to employees. “We are at the [stage] where we have been here for three years and have staff that have been with us that long as well. Part of what we are doing is also trying to help bring them up,” Stryker says. “So I think that will be how we eventually expand: They will take on more and more autonomy and we will start to grow as they can start to mentor people under them.” Nagati sees this work environment as “an incubator” for both ideas and his employees, and he hopes they will one day be able to branch out and establish their own offices within their own respective communities. “I think CLUSTER will be successful if someone is mature enough and has their own vision [so] they can establish an offshoot of CLUSTER.” Eventually, he adds, they will have “quite literally a cluster of CLUSTERs.”]]>1/15/2015 2:46:45 PM <![CDATA[The Week in Quotes: Jan 1- Jan 8]]>Egypt Today rounds up this week’s news and milestones By Egypt Today Staff Al Jazeera English Journalists Set for a Retrial Egypt’s Court of Cassation on January 1 accepted an appeal toward the sentencing of three Al Jazeera English journalists and has ordered a retrial. The three journalists, which include Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fahmy, Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed and Australian journalist Peter Greste, were arrested on December 29, 2013 for reporting news that was “damaging to national security” and for working with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Although bail was not granted to the imprisoned journalists, both Canada and Australia have stated that they are working with the Egyptian government with the hope that Fahmy and Greste can be deported to their respective countries. Greste’s brothers, Mike and Andrew, told Al Jazeera English that the Egyptian court’s decision to order a retrial is a “positive step in the legal process and one step closer to justice being served.” Marwa Omara, Fahmy’s fiancée, confirmed to Daily News Egypt that the Canadian embassy is working to negotiate the deportation of Fahmy. Hope for the deportation of Fahmy and Greste saw new light when President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi approved a new law on November 13 that would allow for foreign defendants and detainees to be “transferred” to their home countries for trial. In related news, after The Guardian published a report that said Amal Clooney, who is the lawyer for Fahmy, risked arrest in Cairo based on a comment that was critical of the country’s judicial system. After several media outlets picked up the story, Clooney denied that she had been threatened by Egyptian officials. In the aftermath of the confusion, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement that called for foreign journalists to fact-check their sources before circulating such information. The Guardian correspondent Patrick Kingsley responded by saying that he had confirmed the quote before the story was published. “I would like to remind Mr. Sisi that in the war he is waging against the cancer of political Islam and its violent offspring, journalists are not enemies but allies. We expose the truth about the terrorism he is striving to defeat.” — Mohamed Fahmy in an op-ed for the New York Times. “We urge the judicial authorities to dismiss all the charges and acquit the Al-Jazeera journalists at the new trial. They are not guilty on any of the charges and, in reality, are paying the price of the regime’s persecution of media with real or imagined links to the Muslim Brotherhood. We also call on the authorities to ensure that the new trial is conducted fairly, not a sham trial as the last one was. And the journalists must be released without delay.” — Reporters Without Borders program director Lucie Morillon. “The most basic professional rules require verification of the accuracy of the news before it is published and drawn from official sources, as well as the need to disseminate any formal correction or comment in the same place and space.” — Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Badr Abdelatty said in a statement following reports that Amal Clooney was threatened with arrest. Massacre at French Satirical Newspaper Twelve people were shot dead in the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on January 7 in what has been reported as an attack my ‘militant Islamists.’ Three masked gunmen entered the office of the magazine and opened fire indiscriminately, killing four of the publication’s cartoonists, including its editor Stephane Charbonnier. The BBC reported that witnesses claimed to have heard the gunmen proclaim, “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad” and “God is Great” (“Allahu Akbar”) during the siege. French authorities have listed three suspects in the case: Hamyd Mourad and brothers Said Kouachi and Cherif Kouachi. All three are reportedly French nationals of Algerian heritage. The attack has received massive condemnation from the world’s leaders, including responses from the United States, the United Nations and Egypt. In a comment to Egypt’s state news agency MENA, Al-Azhar said the it condemns the “criminal attack” and remarked that “Islam denounces any violence.” Social media has seen an outcry of disapproval and solidarity for those slain and injured in the attack. An image that reads “Je Suis Charlie Hebdo” (“I am Charlie Hebdo”) began circulating Facebook and Twitter shortly after news of the attack broke. This was not the first time the magazine has come under fire for its caricature of politics and society. In November 2011, the office was firebombed a day after it printed a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad. “Terrorism is an international phenomenon that should be confronted and eradicated through joint international efforts.” – President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in a letter addressed to French President Francois Hollande. "On behalf of all Egyptian journalists we present our condolences to all the victims' families in that horrifying attack. […]?Those attackers cannot belong to any religion, especially Islam. They are only savage killers.” — The Egyptian Journalists Syndicate said in a statement following the attack.
Milestones Historic, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi visits Cairo’s Abbasiya Cathedral for Christmas mass in an unannounced visit on January 6. Al-Sisi became the first Egyptian president to attend Coptic Christmas mass. Discovered, archaeologists the tomb of Queen Khentakawess III in Abu-Sir, southwest of Cairo. Queen Khentakawess III is thought to be the wife or mother of Pharaoh Neferefre. History, adventurer Omar Samra becomes the first Egyptian to ski to the South Pole. The challenge is part of Samra’s goal of completing the Adventurers Grand Slam, which will see him ski to the North Pole on his next adventure.]]>
1/8/2015 4:30:01 PM
<![CDATA[2014 Perspectives: Said Sadek on Politics?]]>Political pundit Said Sadek talks about politics in 2014 and what to expect in 2015
By Frank E. Bartscheck II?
  Dr. Said Sadek earned his Ph.D in political science from Cairo University and has taught at the American University in Cairo. A political pundit who has appeared as a guest on numerous television news shows, Dr. Sadek currently teaches at California Miramar University Cairo, Egypt.   What were the major challenges Egypt faced in 2013?   As you know, 2013 was the year directly after getting rid of Mohamed Morsi, which was a very important development that heavily influenced the events of this past year. Accordingly, 2014 was primarily solidifying the new political system and stabilizing the country. The country has been going through a lot of ups and downs due to two big revolutions within the past three years. So last year was an attempt to stabilize the country.   Were there any major changes you have witnessed within Egyptian society?   Egyptians had been accused of being absent when it comes to politics. All of a sudden during the last three years you have seen how much people have been politicized. People who went to Tahrir Square did not come back the same people. They have changed. They have become very politicized and very interested in following politics. The millions who turned out for both revolutions show you that people have changed.   However, it seems as though people do not want revolution anymore in the past year. You may have noticed a decline in the protests and demonstrations in the street. In addition you had the protest law come into effect in the past year, but I still think people are fatigued and exhausted and they don’t want another revolution. This sentiment was not well read by would be revolutionaries and activists. Now many of the revolutionary figures are in jail or outside of the country. As you know revolutions will inevitably eat its children. Many of the 2011 revolutionaries are now negatively portrayed in the media and many people now don’t like them. It seems as though nobody wants violence or unrest, which touches upon my previous point that the country is stabilizing.   What were the major political developments in Egypt in 2014?   Well, you had the new constitution in January 2014. Egyptian’s elected President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi and soon Egypt will have a new parliament, which is the last link in the Egyptian political roadmap. I believe the parliament will be in place in early 2015. So again, the country and the political system within Egypt are stabilizing. The country in December 2014 is much more stable that is was at the same time the previous year.   Do you foresee any major unrest or major political changes in the near future within Egypt?   Every day Al-Sisi is consolidating his power. I doubt there will be a major revolution within the next 30 years because the country is exhausted. Those who have been defeated claim there will be a third revolution if they do not get their way, however, I think they fail to understand the political will of the country and how fatigued they are of revolution. There is no revolution that does not end and you cannot get everything from revolution. As of 2014 the people have been transformed, the political system has been transformed and the regime has been transformed. For example, the rule of the president is limited to four years, which undermines his power and redistributes it to the prime minister and the parliament. So change has happened but I think 2014 is the year of cooling down the fire of revolution.   As an example, if you remember on November 28 there was a lot incitement from the Muslim Brotherhood and other countries that support them to have the salifis and others create an armed uprising. A very small number went to the street.   What are your thoughts on Hosni Mubarak’s recent acquittal?   With many revolutions the leaders often escape, many dictators get away with it. For example, Pinochet in Chile, Idi Amin in Uganda, Ben Ali in Tunisia and Erich Honecker in East Germany, they tried him, he was sentenced and then pardoned. He then left the country with his family and later died in Latin America. In many revolutions the dictators escape. Assad, I think will be the same.   There is quite a bit of social and political upheaval within the region, do you think this could affect Egypt in 2015?   I don’t think Egypt will be like Syria or Libya. We have escaped this fate due to intervention by the military as well as the mobilization by liberals, free thinkers, the Copts, regional powers and the deep state against the Muslim Brotherhood. If this did not happen it would have been a very different scenario. I see Egypt making a lot of progress. I believe that during the four years of Sisi’s rule there will not be any trouble, major changes or successful assassination attempts. So the country is stabilizing. I believe things are much better today.   I believe this is reflected by the fact that Obama met with Al-Sisi in 2014. In the previous four years Obama did not meet any Egyptian leader. He did not meet Mubarak, he did not meet Morsi because American sources in Cairo told Obama that Morsi was not a strong leader. Al-Sisi meeting with Obama in New York is an indication of America’s view of the situation in Egypt. Additionally, Al-Sisi secured the borders with Libya and closed the tunnels between Gaza and the Sinai. Terrorism has been kept in check so there are a lot of things that show Egypt has a promising future.   What do you foresee in 2015?   I think the country will continue to stabilize. In March there is the international donor conference, this will be an important conference for Egypt. Economically, we hope this conference will attract more investment. Al-Sisi will also reveal the result for the New Suez Canal so I believe the country will restore its national self-confidence. There is also the last link in Egypt’s roadmap with the formation of the parliament. I think 2015 will see Egypt in the final steps of solidifying its political system, which is important because security and economy are related. The security of Egypt is much better than it was one year ago. The economy after this investment conference will get a new boost. I think once we have this conference, which is very important for Egypt, it will provide a strong message. While things are not great, economically speaking, Egypt is not a basket case because it has a lot of resources.  ]]>
1/4/2015 7:49:33 PM
<![CDATA[2014 Perspectives: Farida Temraz on Fashion?]]>Egyptian designer Farida Temraz talks about fashion in 2014 and what to expect in 2015
Frank E. Bartscheck II
  Farida Temraz is the owner and designer for Temraz Haute Couture and Bridal Dresses. Her dress designs have graced the runways in Cairo, London and soon Paris. She also provides fashion tips on the television show “Kallam fe serrek” on channel Hayyat 2.   What were the major events that took place in 2014?   The fashion industry is rapidly evolving. There are a lot of new job titles within fashion and some people do not fully understand what these titles mean. For example, some fashion bloggers think they only need to put pictures. I believe good fashion bloggers actually need to write and not just take photos. There are numerous people who are taking the title of fashion designer, fashion stylist or fashion blogger, but many of them don’t know the specifics involved in each job. More recently people are starting to understand what being a fashion blogger, fashion designer or fashion stylist entails and what is required for each job. As with every industry there are the good and the bad, there are those who are not so good and a few who are very professional. In 2013, there were two or three professionals in each respective job within Egyptian fashion. For example, there are two or three fashion designers, two or three fashion stylists and maybe two or three fashion bloggers in Egypt who were very good and professional. It seems as though everyday there are lots of new accounts within social media claiming to be a fashion designer, fashion stylist, fashion blogger or all of the three combined! However, it seems that toward the end of 2014 people were becoming more aware of what is involved in each of these jobs within the fashion industry, which I think is a great development.   Ultimately, the expansion of these titles within Egypt is a great development, but having those who want to get involved have a better understanding of these jobs is even better progress.   How do fashion bloggers fit into the world of fashion in 2014?   I believe fashion blogging is very important. I am not a fashion blogger by any means, but I am a fan and I do check out what the blogs have to say. I would like to see more blogs with more writing. I still don’t see a blog that is marketed well, most blog by just posting pictures only and do not write articles that are richly describing the fashion. I believe that is needed. temraza What were the important events that took place in Egypt in 2014?   Cairo Fashion Festival. Every year the festival is improving by learning from previous mistakes so I believe we are getting there. It is important that we continue to improve each time because this is the first thing people see when it comes to fashion within Egypt. It is the biggest fashion show in Egypt and of course there are good and bad things with it, but we are getting there. We need to give the organizers of the event the space to get there. Each year they get more fashion designers and advertisers so people are starting to become more aware that fashion in Egypt is starting to become a big thing. It is by far the biggest fashion event in Egypt and I think it is extremely important because it brings together, motivates and provides a platform for young designers in Egypt.   Moving forward into 2015, where do you hope to see fashion in Egypt?   First, I am really happy and proud that the word fashion has come back to Egypt. I really hope that in 2015 the fashion stylist, fashion designer and fashion blogger will come to understand and know the job specifications that are involved with each profession. I would like to see people not call themselves a fashion blogger just because they know how to take a picture; it has to be more than that. The same is true with stylists and designers. Those who belong will be truly professional. I believe that Egyptians within fashion who are professional will be successful. I know the Egyptian fashion scene as a whole is progressing greatly.   What do you see for Temraz Couture in 2015?   I will be showcasing a collection in Paris in March and also be showcased on Fashion TV. I will be one of the first Egyptians to be showcased on the international channel so I am very excited. Like myself, I believe that the fashion industry in Egypt is very motivated. When you go out in Egypt, for example in a café, you will almost always find at least one fashionista in the establishment. So, it is a thriving phenomenon that is developing really fast. I am very happy to be part of this and would like to see even more stylists, designers and bloggers in Egypt to be part of this, but in the right way, the professional way. As Egyptian fashion gains more international notoriety, I believe this is very important, because the rest of the world needs to be inspired and see that Egyptians are becoming the pioneers in fashion.   Any final thoughts on Egyptian fashion in 2014?   I am so proud to be one among Egyptian designers because I am so proud to be Egyptian. Although Egypt has just passed through a few years of turmoil politically, I believe it gave us a voice, motivated us more to have a say and become achievers. I am so proud to see so many in Egypt become career-oriented while also thinking outside of the box. As I always say, the sky is my limit.   Interestingly, the world of Egyptian fashion suffered a great loss without much fanfare. The founder of the world-renowned French fashion label Chloe (1952) was born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1921. Unfortunately, Gaby Aghion passed away in September 2014. Having worked along side such fashion luminaries as Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney, Gegard Pipart and Phoebe Philo she is a great lost to the Egyptian fashion community. It is within her shadow that a new generation of Egyptian designers are striving to restore Egypt’s previously held status within the world of fashion.    ]]>
1/4/2015 7:34:50 PM
<![CDATA[2014 Perspectives: Hesham Essawi on Film?]]>Hesham Essawi talks about Egyptian cinema in 2014 and what to expect in 2015
By Sherif Awad

  What were the most significant events, highlights and developments in the Egyptian film scene in 2014?   I think the most significant events in 2014 for Egyptian cinema are as follows:  
  1. A) Cairo Film Festival is back and Samir Farid played a part in restarting the festival. He planted a good seed; hopefully, the people who will follow him can take care of the seed until it blooms.
  2. B) The creation and success of Zawya. Even though Zawya started a couple of years before, I think it planted its foot in 2014 and it is going to be here, in Cairo, for a long time. Very exciting for movie buffs.
  Is the Egyptian cinema industry recovering from the economic troubles of the last few years?   It has not recovered fully yet, but it is better in 2014 than the years before. This is especially after 2011 when it was totally dead. I think 2014 was a better year and people are starting to go back to the theaters. There were more productions than before but its more important that audience start to crawl out of their comfortable zones in their homes and go to the theaters. It is very important for the movie industry to bring back the excitement of watching movies in the theaters.   What is the status of creative freedom in the film industry now? How have 2014’s controversies over Halawat Rouh and Khaled Aboul Naga affected filmmakers?   The creative freedom in the film industry is not great for sure. I think it was better in 2013, 2012 and 2011 than in 2014. For sure, in 2014 we start to see that the government is back, banning movies and such, and the old ways are back. The government is using the same old method, "we want to protect society" as before. The morality police are back in force. The case of Halawat Rouh and Aboul Naga are good examples.But the good thing is people are standing up to this kind of stupidity. They don't hide anymore and don't bury their heads in the sand. They fight back. I think we're going to see more of this in 2015: Artists challenging the authority for freedom of expression.     What do you expect in 2015?   I expect more productions, especially low budget ones with important subject matters. I also expect heavy-handed morality police with the support of the corrupted media to ban movies and attack artists and filmmakers. On the positive side, there will be more productions and attempts to make movies.   Who are the promising new directors to look for in the coming year?   Personally, I look forward to watching Mohamed Diab’s new film and I am waiting for Ahmed Fawzi Salah’s new film (Ahmed directed the movie “Live Skin” a couple of years ago) Also, Hany Abu Assad’s new film.]]>
1/4/2015 7:18:57 PM
<![CDATA[November 2014]]>1?Eight men are sentenced to three years in prison for appearing in a video that allegedly depicts a mock same-sex marriage. The men are charged with “inciting debauchery” and “offending public morality.” Even though tests subsequently confirm the men are not homosexuals (one of the men involved in the “marriage” said it was just a joke to celebrate their friend’s birthday), the video, which features two men exchanging rings and kissing during a ceremony on a Nile boat, is deemed by the prosecutor to be akin to a “satanic ceremony” that is “shameful.” The men will also be subject to three years probation after completing their sentences. 3?Silver-screen beauty Mariam Fakhr Eddine dies at age 81. The actress passed away at a military hospital in Cairo after recently undergoing brain surgery. She starred in over 200 films, including Hikayat Hob (Love Story) with Abdel Halim Hafez and El-Aydy El-Naema (Delicate Hands) with Ahmed Mazhar. 8 A move by the owners of seven private newspapers to establish a Chamber of Private Press Industries is met with disapproval by the Journalists Syndicate, which describes the act as a “suspicious and worrying attempt” to dominate the media. The dispute highlights the press’ tango with politics amid continued debate about press freedom in Egypt. Soon after French journalist Alain Gresh and two Egyptian journalists are held for two hours at a café in Downtown Cairo after a woman notifies two security officers outside that the journalists were discussing politics. 9 Egypt is crowned the new world champion in karate at the 22nd Karate World Championships in Germany. The Egyptian team won three gold medals, two silver medals and one bronze. 10 Acclaimed actress Maali Zayed dies at age 61 after a short-lived battle with lung cancer. Best known for her role in the 1980s spy series Gomaa El-Shawan with Adel Imam, Zayed’s last appearance was in television drama Mawjah Harah (Heat Wave), which aired two years ag [caption id="attachment_86501" align="alignleft" width="300" class=" "]Endless river Endless river[/caption] 10 After a 20-year hiatus, iconic Pink Floyd releases a new album compilation, The Endless River. Ahmed Emad Eldin, an 18-year-old Egyptian digital artist, designs the new album cover. 10 Three Germans and six Egyptians are sentenced to five years in prison for damaging and stealing artifacts from the Great Pyramid of Giza. The three Germans are tried in absentia, while the six Egyptians are charged with assisting in the act. 12 Dr. Essam Heggy and Dr. Essam Marouf are among four Egyptian scientists and researchers recognized for their involvement in the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission. The mission makes history when it completes the first-ever landing on a comet. 12 The Cairo International Film Festival awards Simon Massi, Italian sand painter and animator, the prestigious Naguib Mahfouz Lifetime Achievement Award (The Golden Pyramid) for his extensive cinematic record and contributions to Egyptian films and documentaries. 15 Egypt places first at the World Body Building Championships, raking in 11 medals. Attia Shaalan becomes world champion in the over-100kg category. 19?Actor Youssef El-Assal is found dead in his Heliopolis home after an apparent armed robbery. The actor, who last appeared in the period drama Saraya Abdeen (Abdeen Palace) last Ramadan, was frequently given roles of Westerners or the ‘khawaga’ because of his fair complexion and non-Egyptian features. 19?Egyptian radio bans popular singer Hamza Namira’s songs for their strong criticism of authorities. Human rights activists denounce the move, which follows backlash against actor Khaled Abul Naga who days earlier had voiced criticism of the president. The actor may face a charge of “disturbing national security” amid calls from his detractors that he be charged for treason and have his Egyptian citizenship revoked. 20 The doctor and the father of 13-year-old Soheir El-Bataa, who died after allegedly undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM), are both acquitted in a landmark trial in Egypt. This is the first time an FGM case is tried, and activists had hoped for a strong sentence to act as a deterrent. et]]>12/31/2014 4:45:00 AM <![CDATA[Best of 2014: Art]]>George Bahgory George Bahgory[/caption] Nostalgic Dreams Georges Bahgory at Al Masar Gallery, January – February Sabah Naim Exhibition at Safarkhan, February – March Epigraphy Dr. Mahmoud Hamed at Gallery Misr, February Vitality Essam Darwich at Al Masar Gallery, January – February. Contemporary Views VI Group exhibition at Al Masar Gallery, May – September   [caption id="attachment_86479" align="alignleft" width="300"]Contemporary Views VI Contemporary Views VI[/caption] Amen – A Prayer for the World Group exhibition at the Modern Art Museum–?Al-Bab Gallery, June. El Mahrosa Ibrahim El Tanbouli at b Art Gallery, October – November 16. God Save Egypt Farid Fadel at El Hanager Art Center, October It’s Not Funny! Tarek Montasser at Al Masar Gallery, October – November The Journey Group exhibition at Art Lounge Cairo, November   [caption id="attachment_86477" align="alignright" width="277" class=" "]Magnomics Magnomics[/caption] Magnomics Group exhibition by artists from Magnoon Magazine at Karma Bin Hanii Culture Center, November Farfasha Nadia Omar at Al Kahila Art Gallery, November Abdel Salam Eid exhibition at Safarkhan Gallery, November – December 6. Mariam Abdel Aleem exhibition at Safarkhan Gallery, December 15 – January 17, 2015 Like a Mirage Amr El-Kafrawy at Mashrabia Gallery, November – December 11et]]>12/31/2014 4:33:00 AM <![CDATA[Best of 2014: Music]]>More and more young musicians are experimenting underground, fusing traditional tunes and Western genres. Here’s a look at some of the top ‘underground’ bands that have made it to the top of the scene.   [caption id="attachment_86468" align="alignright" width="960"]1411 ET TGM 20/10/14 Courtesy of Eftekasat Eftekasat[/caption] Eftekasat In 2002, Eftekasat debuted their world jazz fusion sound with four songs and a gig at the Cairo Jazz Festival. Today they have two studio albums and a live concert DVD, and they are working on their third studio album, with a summer 2015 release date followed by a European tour. Eftekasat recommends: “Greeky,” “Jazzmina,” “Nubian Syndrome” and “Third Eye” Asfalt Created in 2005, the hip hop duo Asfalt currently features rappers Ibrahim Farouk and Mohamed Gad. They only release singles, not albums, because Farouk believes “people now are more interested in singles.” Asfalt has collaborated with many of the nation’s top acts, including Fathi Salama, Zap Tharwat, Ameer Yossef, Mado and Menna Hussien. Asfalt recommends: “Ana Satreen” and “Kolo Bytlaa Fil Ghaseel” Massive Scar Era (Mascara) Do not try to assign a genre to Massive Scar Era, formed in 2005 by vocalist Sherien Amr and violinist Nancy Mounir. “Genres are defined when you go into a professional production process, we’ve never worked with producers,” Amr says. Their fans flock to their concerts for their melodic hardcore metal sound. Also known as Mascara, the band has no albums but has released four 45-minute “episodes.” Mascara recommends: “Pray,” “Gravity,” “10 Years” and “My Ground” Salalem Named in honor of their jam sessions on the Ain Shams University stairs, the indie pop group Salalem helped pioneer the underground scene in 2005. With Sonic Ltd., Salalem released their first album Kelma Abeeha in 2011, and they’ve been performing in big-name venues around the country ever since. Salalem recommends: “Kees Shebsi (Chipsy Bag),” “Maa’leshi,” “Kelma Abeeha” and “El-Donya Odda” [caption id="attachment_86466" align="alignleft" width="1000"]Cairokee Cairokee[/caption] Cairokee Formed in 2003, the rock band Cairokee had their first big hit came with the 2011 Revolution. “Sout Al-Horreya” (Voice of Freedom) garnered a million views and a Youtube record for one of the most-watched videos in the shortest period of time. They have released three studio albums, including El Sekka Shemal (Wrong Turn) in April 2014. Cairokee was nominated for Best Middle East Act at the 2014 MTV Europe Music Awards (EMA) — the first Egyptian group to make it to the EMA. Cairokee recommends: “Ethbat Makanak,” “Matloob Za’eem,” “Sout Al-Horreya” and “Nas Betoros We Nas Betmoot”  
The veterans of the music industry did not disappoint this year, emerging from the studios with new albums, concerts and TV appearances. A look at the releases from our favorite heartthrobs.
? [caption id="attachment_86469" align="alignleft" width="158" class=" "]Nancy Ajram Nancy Ajram[/caption] Ma Tegee Hena (come over here) Nancy Ajram Nancy Ajram does not shy away from diversity in her songs, and this album draws on many dialects — including Egyptian, Lebanese or khaligi (Gulf). Ajram is also one of the judges in the hit show Arab Idol airing on MBC Masr every Friday and Saturday, and in September joined Tamer Hosny as a Murex d’Or recipient at the 2014 World Music Awards. 180 Daraga (180 Degrees) Tamer Hosny Tamer Hosny came fresh out of the studio with his 12th album then went straight on to pick up the prestigious Murex d’Or Award at the 2014 World Music Awards in September. [caption id="attachment_86470" align="alignright" width="218" class=" "]Elissa Elissa[/caption] Shoft El-Ayam (I saw the Days) Amr Diab No slacking off for Amr Diab — the pop icon released Shoft El-Ayam, his 30th album, in October, infused with electronic beats. Lifelong fans will be pleased with “Ana Mesh Anani,” (I’m Not Selfish), a retro tune reminiscent of the 1980s Diab. Ana Keteer (I’m too good) Sherine Abdul-Wahab Sherine Abdul-Wahab teamed up with some of the region’s greatest composers, including Hassan Al-Shafii and Belal Al-Zein, to release her best album yet. Backed by her strong voice and beautiful lyrics, the title song “Ana Keteer” racked up 12 million views on Youtube in less than 24 hours. Halet Hob (state of love) Elissa One of the most influential women in Arab music, Elissa released her ninth studio album after a two-year break. Halet Hob has her signature style, fusing elements of Western music with classical Arabic tunes.]]>
12/31/2014 4:00:46 AM
<![CDATA[October 2014]]>2 Judge Said Youssef, who handed down death sentences to 529 pro-Mursi protesters in March, is removed from his position in the Cairo Criminal Court. 5 ABM releases a video that allegedly shows militants beheading three Egyptians they accuse of being informants for Israeli intelligence. The video sparks concern over the group’s use of tactics similar to that of DAISH, which has released several videos of beheadings in recent months. 10 Army Spokesperson Mohamed Samir announces that Shehata Farhan, a top leader in the Sinai-based militant Islamist group ABM, has been killed in a raid near Rafah on the border with Gaza. The Armed Forces also killed a field commander of the Islamist militant group, Mohamed Abu Shatiya, during clashes south of Rafah in the previous week. 13 Thirty people die and 15 are injured when three microbuses collide on the Nile’s West Bank near Aswan. The minibuses, one was carrying a group of fishermen, were believed to have been speeding on the desert highway near the historic town of Edfu. 14?After 16 years of renovations, the Hanging Church, located in Mar Girgis, officially reopens to the public. Standing since 307 AD, the Hanging Church is considered one of the oldest churches in the world. Mahlab, Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria and a host of ministers, ambassadors and public figures attend the event. The restoration process, carried out by a team of Egyptian and Russian experts, cost LE 101 million. 15 The Carter Center, which has monitored elections in Egypt since the January 25 Revolution, announces it will close its Cairo office and stop monitoring elections due to Egypt’s deeply polarized political environment and restrictive policies. 16 The Supreme State Security Prosecution charges privately owned newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm’s Editor-in-Chief Ali El-Sayyed and journalist Ahmed Youssef with illegally acquiring confidential documents that the journalists allege contain evidence of rigging in the 2012 presidential elections. El-Sayyed and Youssef are detained, questioned and released on bail pending further investigations. 18 Egyptian squash player Mohamed Elshorbagy beats Amr Shabana to win the US Open and take top spot in the PSA World rankings. 20 Meeting with the Arab Journalists Union, Al-Sisi reveals he believes the three Al Jazeera journalists currently awaiting an appeal should have been deported and not incarcerated, even though some of the journalists imprisoned are Egyptian. The president asserts he cannot intervene before the judicial process is complete, adding that the judiciary is an independent body and that he would not comment on any court ruling. 21 Activist Asmaa Mahfouz, about to set off on a trip to Thailand, is banned from traveling. No reason is given for the decision, but a day later travel bans are lifted for activist Amr Hamzawy and journalist Abd El-Halim Qandil. 22 Musician Hani Mehanna is sentenced to five years in jail for fraud. Mehanna is accused of unlawfully acquiring public funds and illegally receiving over LE 3 million from the Bank of Alexandria. 22 The Royal Museum of Jewelry in Alexandria reopens after its closure for security purposes since the January 25 Revolution. The museum is home to some 1,045 archaeological pieces of jewelry and antiques that once belonged to the Egyptian royal family. 24 Thirty-three security forces are killed in two separate attacks in Sinai. In Al-Kharouba, northwest of Arish, a car bomb targeted two armored vehicles, reported to be filled with ammunition and weaponry, causing a large explosion and a death toll of 30. In the second attack, gunmen opened fire on the Karam El-Qawadis checkpoint in Arish, killing three security personnel. In a speech to the nation a day later, Al-Sisi declares a three-month state of emergency in North Sinai and states that the attacks received “foreign support.” No group claims responsibility for the attacks, and Al-Sisi later issues a presidential decree that gives military prosecution jurisdiction over those accused of crimes against the state’s “vital” institutions. The decree will be put into effect for at least two years, with some experts fearing it will further expand military courts’ jurisdiction to try civilians. 26 Twenty-three activists charged with organizing illegal protests are sentenced to three years in jail, followed by three years of probation. Among them are Sanaa Seif, sister of activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, human rights lawyer Yara Sallam, Al-Badil photojournalist Abdel-Rahman Mohamed and photographer Rania El-Sheikh. They are also fined LE 10,000 each. 28 Students from Helwan University’s Faculty of Arts launch a campaign to color the streets of Cairo. Taking the motto “If you want to see change, be the change” volunteers paint public bridges and stairs with 3D murals and designs. 30 An ancient Egyptian temple believed to belong to the New Kingdom’s King Thutmose III is discovered 40 kilometers south of the Pyramids of Giza. Residents of a Giza home dug up the tomb, which was under their house, only to be arrested for illegal excavation.]]>12/31/2014 2:46:28 AM <![CDATA[September 2014]]>3?Political activist and former presidential candidate Abul Ezz El-Hariri dies at age 68. The former member of parliament, who was one of the youngest MPs in his hometown of Alexandria, was exiled during the Sadat era. The outspoken labor and social rights activist ran for president in 2012. 12?Former prime minister Atef Ebeid dies at age 82. Ebeid, who served as prime minister from October 1999 to July 2004, was born in Tanta in 1932. The Administrative Control Authority, an independent watchdog claimed his tenure in parliament witnessed the largest wave of corruption in recent history, with an estimated LE 100 billion in unlawful earnings, over 80,000 reports of corruption and bribes to the tune of LE 500 million. Corroborating the report were the International Transparency Agency’s own findings, which identified the highest incidences of corruption in the housing and development sector. 12?Renowned writer and journalist Ahmed Ragab dies at age 86. Dubbed Egypt’s “king of satire,” Ragab was known for his satirical column in Akhbar Al-Youm and Al-Shorouk. Ragab had recently won Personality of the Year (2013) at the Arab Journalism Awards in Dubai. Egypt’s Journalists Syndicate called Ragab a “gentleman knight and a fierce fighter with his satirical style, and his pen mocked to defend the rights of Egyptians, especially those unable to express their everyday suffering.” [caption id="attachment_86417" align="alignright" width="200" class=" "]14 Hanging Church[/caption] 13?Egypt says goodbye to acclaimed director Saeed Marzouk, who dies at age 74. Although he never studied cinema, Marzouk was an avid reader and was self-trained in cinema arts. His first experiement was a video to the song “Onshoudat Salam” (Ode to Peace) which won him best TV production in 1965. Among his iconic works are Aadaa El-Horreya (Opponents of Freedom), El-Khof (Fear), Oreed Halan (I Want a Solution) and the 1970 biopic Demou El-Salam (Tears of Peace) about President Gamal Abdel-Nasser. 14 Google Maps adds Egyptian tourism sites, including the Pyramids of Giza, Hanging Church, Sakkara and Qaitbay Citadel, its 360-degree viewing database. Google Maps, which allows users to visit the corners of the globe, can be downloaded through the App Store or Google Play. 15 Political activist Alaa Abdel Fattah and two other defendants are released on LE 5,000 bail while they await a retrial for allegedly breaking the Protest Law. Following a request by the defense lawyers, the judge in charge of Abdel Fattah’s case steps down. Abdel Fattah faces a 15-year prison sentence for organizing an unauthorized protest. Two days later, Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat orders the release of 116 students imprisoned for protesting the Protest Law. Another prominent activist, Mahienour El-Massry, is released on September 22 after a court in Alexandria suspends her prison sentence. 15 A boat carrying at least 500 refugees and migrants sinks off the coast of Malta. According to some survivors’ accounts, the boat, which departed from Egypt’s North Coast on September 9, was deliberately sunk. The International Organization for Migration, a Geneva-based group that works with the displaced, says it is unable to independently verify survivor accounts. 18 Reports surface that Egypt is working with the sister company of a US-based security firm as it ramps up online surveillance of social media platforms, including Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. 19 Ahmed Gabr successfully breaks the Guinness World Record for Deepest Scuba Dive. The professional dive instructor reaches a maximum depth of 332.35 meters for the new record. 22?Egyptian comedian Youssef Eid passes away on September 22 at age 66. The renowned theater and film actor was best known for supporting roles alongside big-name stars such as Adel Imam, Ahmed Zaki and many others. 25 Star actor Khaled Saleh dies in Aswan following complications from an open-heart surgery. Born on January 23, 1964, the 50-year-old Saleh, a lawyer by practice, was known for iconic roles as a corrupt policeman in Heyya Fawda (Chaos) and a minister in The Yacoubian Building. He also portrayed pyramid schemer Mohamed El-Rayyan in the TV serial Al-Rayyan and played the lead role in Sultan el-Gharam (Sultan of Love). 21 An explosion at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs kills two police officers and injures at least five others. Initial reports claim the blast was the result of a car bomb but later reports reveal that the bomb was thrown at the security guards at the building’s 26th of July Street entrance. Militant group Ajnad Misr claimed responsibility for the attack, according to a statement posted on their official twitter account, arguing that the ministry acts as a tool for “foreign enemies.” 30 Yasmine Raees wins the Best Actress award at the Swedish Malm? Arab Film Festival for her performance in Factory Girl. The film, directed by Mohamed Khan, is also submitted by the Egypt Cinema Syndicate as Egypt’s official entry for the Academy Awards’ Best Foreign Language Film for 2015. Nine films will be selected from the nominees by the Oscar’s Foreign Language Film Award Committee to compete in the 87th Academy Awards.]]>12/31/2014 2:27:03 AM <![CDATA[August 2014]]>1?Iconic comedian Said Saleh dies at age 76. Saleh has been a fixture in Egyptian cinema since the 1960s, starring in hundreds of films and plays and films. He is best remembered for his hilarious roles in long-running hit comedy plays Madraset El-Moshaghbeen (School of Delinquents) and El-Eyal Kebrit (The Kids Have Grown Up) in the 1970s. 1?Images of Islam Yakan, a recent graduate of Ain Shams University who left his Heliopolis home to join DAISH (The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), stir up huge debate in local social media. Yakan posted a picture of himself wielding a sword on his Twitter account, after traveling to fight in the name of jihad. 4 Israelis and Palestinians agree to a three-day Egyp-brokered ceasefire after talks in Cairo between Hamas and Egyptian intelligence. Israel launches airstrikes again on August 8 after talks mediated by Egypt failed to extend the 72-hour truce. Another truce proposed by Egypt is launched two days later. 4?Actor Khalil Morsi dies at age 68. Morsi appeared in several films and TV series, including Rabia Al-Ghadab (Spring of Anger), Wanis wa Labad wa Ahwal al Bilad (Wanis and the Conditions of the Country) and most recently in the Ramadan series Al-Ragol Al-Enab (The Jujube Man) with Mustafa Shaaban. 5 Al-Sisi unveils plans to build a new $4 billion Suez Canal along the existing waterway in an effort to stimulate the economy. Digging for the expansion project, which would create a second waterway and develop the zone’s cities and shipping facilities, is to be completed in one year’s time, announces Al-Sisi. The Suez Canal Authority estimates a five-year timeframe for the entire project. Digging on the new canal — projected to reduce waiting times from 11 to three hours by creating a two-way passage for ships, allowing up to 97 vessels compared to the current 49 — starts the next day, with work divided among 33 Egyptian companies and two army battalions. [caption id="attachment_85583" align="alignright" width="300" class=" "]6 6[/caption] 6 Bibliotheca Alexandrina’s 12th edition of the Summer Festival kicks off with a wide lineup of local musicians, including bands Cairokee and Massar Egbari. The festival features concerts by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Chamber Orchestra and screenings of films by Egyptian women filmmakers. 9 The Supreme Administrative Court dissolves the Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. 11 Two Human Rights Watch (HRW) executive directors are denied entry, after arriving from the United States to release the results of HRW’s investigation of the 2013 dispersal of the Rabaa al-Adaweya and Nahda Square sit-ins. HRW claim their staff members have been denied entry for “security reasons,” but the Ministry of Interior says the delegation lacked proper visas. The HRW report brands the dispersals “crimes against humanity,” but critics write off the report as fabricated and biased. 16?Egypt’s most famous professional wrestler Mamdouh Farag dies at age 64. Farag won several championships during his 36-year career in the ring. After retiring in 1997, Farag made a name for himself hosting wrestling programs on TV. 16?Caricaturist Mustafa Hussein passes away at age 79. Born in 1935, Hussein studied photography at Cairo University’s Faculty of Fine Art and in 1974 became Al-Akhbar newspaper’s star caricaturist, his work a critical commentary of the sociopolitical events. Some of his jokes and characters, developed over the years with his writing partner, satirist Ahmed Ragab, were later adapted into TV series including Qot wi Far (Cat and Dog) and Nas wi Nas (Not All People). [caption id="attachment_85586" align="alignright" width="181" class=" "]17 17[/caption] 17 The Egyptian documentary movie The Square wins three Emmy awards for its “Outstanding Cinematography for Non-fiction Programming,” “Outstanding Direction for Non-fiction Programming” and “Outstanding Picture Editing for Non-fiction Programming.” The Square is also the first Egyptian production to ever be nominated for an Oscar. 17 Controversial Zamalek Club Chairman Mortada Mansour survives an alleged assassination attempt by gunmen who open fire as he is leaving the club. The 62 year-old high-profile lawyer and one-time presidential candidate, who served time in prison for insulting a judge in 2007, is not harmed in the attack; two workers are injured. 22 Two tour buses collide in Sharm El-Sheikh, killing 33 and injuring 41 of the passengers on board. The two bus drivers test negative for drugs but one is alleged to have fallen asleep at the wheel. 27?Political activist Ahmed Seif El-Islam Abdel Fattah dies at age 63. A founder and the executive director of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, Seif El-Islam was father to activists Mona and Sanaa Seif and Alaa Abdel Fattah, and husband to novelist Ahdaf Sueif’s sister Laila. The outspoken rights campaigner and leftist was imprisoned four times, twice during the Sadat era and twice under Hosni Mubarak.]]>12/30/2014 5:39:44 AM <![CDATA[Best of 2014: Technology ]]>easy taxi The free Easy Taxi app lets you hail a cab with a touch of your smartphone. The service notifies drivers closest to your location, and tracks your ride from pick-up to drop-off. Visit www.easytaxi.com/eg/ to learn more about the service. Recyclobekia Recyclobekia launched an initiative in February to encourage households to recycle their e-waste. Create an account at www.recyclobekia.com, and list what you need recycled, then volunteers from the NGO Resala will pick up the e-waste and you’ll earn points for e-coupons redeemable at the online shopping mall Jumia. ipad mini The new iPad mini with retina display matches the upgraded iPad Air in features and power, but is significantly smaller and weighs about 340 grams. The screen size is only 7.9 inches, but more limited in color and resolution than the iPad Air. In addition to being more portable than the Air, it also retails at about $100 cheaper. [caption id="attachment_85564" align="alignright" width="255" class=" "]Schneider Optics Schneider Optics[/caption] samsunG Galaxy S5 The long awaited Samsung Galaxy S5 was revealed in February with new color options, features and size. Samsung added a fingerprint scanner to rival the iPhone, as well as a heart rate sensor and runs on Android 4.4 KitKat. At 142mm x 72.5mm x 8.1mm, the phone weighs 145 grams and is taller and heavier than the Galaxy S4 as a result of its extra hardware. Schneider Optics Schneider Optics unveiled interchangeable photography lenses — Macro, Wide Angle, Super Wide, Fisheye and Telephoto — that are now compatible with several devices including the iPhone 5/5S, and 4/4S, as well as Samsung Galaxy S4 and current iPad models. A new clip allows the user to fix the lens on the back without damaging the device. Sony home cinema Sony unveiled its N-series of Blu-Ray Home Cinema and Sound Bar speaker systems, featuring Wi-Fi, bluetooth connectivity, an S-master digital amplifier and Football Mode, which allows you to suppress the announcer’s commentary so you feel like you’re watching the match live. The system is compatible with Sony’s line of 4K HD TVs and home theater projectors.]]>12/30/2014 5:00:44 AM <![CDATA[July 2014]]>2 Abdullah Morsi, the youngest son of ousted President Mohamed Morsi, is sentenced in absentia to a year in prison with labor and fined LE 10,000 for hashish possession. The 20-year-old was arrested with a friend on March 1 after security forces searched their parked car and found two cigarettes containing hashish, but were later released on bail. On July 19, Abdullah was arrested as a fugitive on a train to Beni Sueif, with security sources telling local media that Morsi was trying to flee the country. [caption id="attachment_85538" align="alignright" width="300" class=" "]4 4[/caption] 4 A hike of up to 78% on fuel prices is announced in a step aimed at shrinking the budget deficit. The hikes raised prices on octane gasoline, diesel and natural gas. 10?A 4,000-year-old ancient Egyptian statue of Sekhemka sells at a Christie’s of London auction for?£15.7 million. Egyptian Ambassador Ashraf Elkholy condemns the sale, saying the piece should be on public display and that the statue could now end up in a private collection. 19 Twenty-one military border guards are killed in El-Wadi El-Gedid near the Libyan border. An army spokesman announces terrorists are behind the attack, in which a weapons storage facility was blown up, killing the soldiers and two of the militants, and wounding four others. 19 Zamalek wins the 2014 Egypt Cup Final, beating Smouha 1-0. 28?Fawzia Salama, writer and TV show host, dies at age 73. Born in June 1941, Salama studied comparative literature before relocating to London where she worked at the BBC Arabic radio service and was editor in chief of Sayyidaty magazine and Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper. She also presented Kalam Nawaem (Women’s Words) with Nashwa Roweiny. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2013.]]>12/30/2014 3:57:39 AM <![CDATA[June 2014]]>2 After MBC Masr releases an apology to viewers for not returning El Bernameg to the airwaves as promised on May 30, show host Bassem Youssef ends the show, citing security reasons. [caption id="attachment_85512" align="alignright" width="208"]Final poster 3-8[/caption] 3 The Presidential Election Commission declares Al-Sisi Egypt’s new president, after capturing 96.9% of the vote. Turnout is indeed a low 47% but Al-Sisi’s supporters are euphoric as they gather in the thousands in Tahrir Square and celebrate his victory with fireworks. 3-8 Despite financial uncertainty and security concerns, the 17th edition of the Ismailia International Film Festival (IIFF) for Documentaries and Shorts begins at venues around the Suez Canal city. The budget was tight, with no private sponsors and only LE 1.2 million provided by the Ministry of Culture. The timing is tight as well, with the festival falling between the official announcement of the presidential election results and the start of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil on June 12. Still, the IIFF attracts 42 films from 32 countries and regional film veterans to serve on the judging panel. Director of photography Kamal Abdel-Aziz returns for his second stint as festival president, while producer Mohamed Hefzy is on board as the festival director. 7 The Shubra El-Kheima Criminal Court sentences 10 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death in absentia for blocking roads during protests and inciting violence during protests in Qalyoub. The sentences comes as Egypt bans unauthorized preachers from giving sermons in a move aimed to curb extremists. 8 Al-Sisi is sworn in as president, vowing that fighting terrorism would be a top priority. The lavish inauguration is attended by the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait’s emir and a lineup of African presidents, but the US sends a senior adviser to the Secretary of State, a more low-level representative, while most European countries send ambassadors. [caption id="attachment_85514" align="alignleft" width="300" class=" "]10 10[/caption] 10 After a video surfaces showing a woman being sexually assaulted in Tahrir Square, Al-Sisi orders the interior minister to fight sexual harassment. Seven men were arrested for attacks near Tahrir Square during inauguration celebrations. A national campaign launches, starting with a ministerial committee to investigate the reasons behind sexual harassment and steps needed to combat it. 11 Egyptian artist Huda Lotfi wins the grand prize of LE 100,000 at the Alexandria Biennale for Mediterranean Countries for her work exploring Egypt’s culture through painting, videos, photography and installations. Lotfi’s exhibit at the biennale included a three-minute video showing police marching to electronic music, and was based on photographs she took in Tahrir Square in 2011. 13?Journalist Abdullah Kamal dies of a stroke at age 49. Kamal served as editor in chief of Rose al-Youssef magazine and was also a member of the Shura Council between 2007 and 2010. 15 Former Head of the Egyptian Book Organization Fathiya El-Assal, dies at the age of 81. The prolific writer was a pioneering feminist figure, serving as secretary-general of the Progressive Women’s Federation and penning countless drama scripts. Her works are influenced by her own personal hardships such as her experience with FGM, her father’s adultery and the decision to pull her out of school. She was imprisoned three times for her stances on women’s issues. 17 Twelve artifacts reportedly smuggled to the United Kingdom after the January 25 Revolution are transferred to the Egyptian embassy in London for transport back to Egypt. The Middle and New Kingdom artifacts include a panel of red granite from the base of a statue of Pharaoh Amenhotep III, and carved marble and limestone busts. The same day, a ceremony is held in Washington, DC to present the Egyptian government with the family collection of Cynthia Croasdaile,?a former resident of Alexandria. Inspired by news of the post-revolution looting, Croasdaile decided to return her family ushabtis or small funerary statues, circa 685–525 BC. Croasdaile’s father served as head of Phillip’s Petroleum in Egypt in the 1970s, and was presented with these antiquities by his colleagues upon his departure from Alexandria. 17 Mahlab announces his new Cabinet, after being reappointed by Al-Sisi to tackle Egypt’s economic crisis and attract foreign funding. Thirteen new ministers are sworn in while 21 others return, albeit some of them in charge of different portfolios. Khaled Fahmy reclaims his position as minister of environment while Laila Iskandar heads up the only new portfolio in Mahlab’s cabinet: the Ministry of State Cultural Development, in charge of developing slum areas. New faces include Naglaa Al Ahwany (international cooperation), Nahed Ashri (manpower), Ghada Wali [caption id="attachment_85513" align="alignright" width="300" class=" "]20 20[/caption] (social solidarity) and Sameh Shoukry (foreign affairs). Shoukry was ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s secretary of information in the 1990s. Ministers remaining in office include Hany Kadry (finance) and Mohamed Ibrahim (interior). 19 The Giza Criminal Court issues preliminary death sentences to 14 senior Muslim Brotherhood members convicted of terrorism, inciting violence, rioting and murder outside Giza’s Al-Istiqama Mosque after the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi. The sentences are referred to Grand Mufti Shawqy Allam for consideration. Among those sentenced to death were Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, senior Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) member Mohamed Al-Beltagy, FJP deputy chairman Essam Al-Erian, Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya member Assem Abdel Maged, conservative preacher Safwat Hegazy and former Minister of Supply Bassem Ouda. 20 Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah meets briefly with Al-Sisi to show his support for Egypt’s newly elected president. The monarch does not leave his plane as he meets Al-Sisi at Cairo Airport during the short but symbolic meeting. 21 Death sentences are confirmed for Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badei and 182 supporters in a mass trial for the violence that broke out in Minya after President Mohamed Morsi was removed from power in July 2013. [caption id="attachment_85510" align="alignleft" width="138" class=" "]23 23[/caption] 22 After some delays and hitches, US Secretary of State John Kerry’s diplomatic visit to Cairo provides the impetus to resume US aid to Egypt. Kerry announces, “The process [President Al-Sisi] has put in place, the re-evaluation of human rights legislation, a re-evaluation of the judicial process, are very much on his mind. He’s only been in office for 10 days, but he indicated to me that we should work closely.” 23 Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste are sentenced to seven years in prison and Baher Mohamed to 10 years for working with the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood. The verdict sparked Western outrage, with critics calling the trial a farce. 23 Downtown’s Heytan graffiti space launches its first exhibit focusing on street vendors. The initiative is the joint project of blogger Mahmoud Salem, aka Sandmonkey, and street artist Mohamed El-Mosheer. 28 Al Ahly beats Zamalek 1-0 to win the Cairo Derby. 29 TV series Segn El-Nesa launches on the first day of Ramadan, heralding a change from the usual low-brow holiday entertainment with what critics called brilliant performances by the actors. The series is based on a theater play by late feminist writer Fatheya El-Assal about the lives of female prisoners.]]>12/30/2014 3:23:54 AM <![CDATA[2014 Perspectives: Ahmed Ghoneim on the Economy]]>Professor of Economics at Cairo University Ahmed Ghoneim talks about the state of the economy in 2014 and what to expect in 2015
By?Ahmed Goher
  How would you sum up the state of the Egyptian economy in 2014?   It is definitely better compared to the last three years. That's it in a nutshell. But there are still huge challenges that have yet to be addressed in terms of the budget deficit and unemployment; however, macroeconomic indicators have improved.   The main problem is that there is a lack of vision of how the Egyptian economy should function. Still, we may see such a vision materialize during the March conference (which will address the state of Egypt’s economy). In terms of the largest impact on shaping Egypt's economic conditions, how would you rank the prominence of the following actors in 2014? (Government, military, private sector, consumers and international donors, be they countries or institutions) The government is the major player in the sense of issuing new laws concerning taxes, tackling the budget deficit, acting as a guarantor in the Suez Canal project. So, yes, it's mostly the government that has a huge impact either when it is trying to enhance the business environment or when tackling the budget deficit. The private sector has been adopting a wait and see approach and international donors also played no major role (with the exception of the Arab Gulf states). The military's role has definitely increased but it is mostly limited to subcontracting in construction. So, if I were to rank the actors in 2014, it would go as follows:
  1. Government
  2. Military
  3. Private sector
  4. International donors
  What were the major economic highlights in Egypt for 2014? There were two major highlights: subsidy reforms and the Suez Canal project. When it came to subsidy reform, I was expecting more economic and political turbulence. However, it went relatively smooth and the inflationary repercussions were not as severe as we expected them to be. There are many reasons for this. I think the government had a role, although a little bit late, to control prices. The second thing is the kind of expectations that were there. In other words, the situation did worsen after the reforms, but not as bad as it could have and this kind of made everything a lot better. There was also media awareness in the mix. The media was able to show that the reforms are necessary. They delivered the message that the government is not just trying to annoy us, it's actually doing what it must.   What economic development or trend will impact or affect the average citizen the most - how and why? ? The Suez Canal project should have an impact, but I think they should look for other means to finance it. Reducing the budget deficit by undergoing subsidy reform was a good step but then they increased expenses by giving out the Suez Canal bonds. Other methods of finance should have been followed and maybe they will revise this decision, which would have an impact.   The other thing is that tax reforms should also affect average citizens, especially reforms of the overall tax system.   Austerity will continue, but it is incremental. It is a gradual process and so I believe citizens will be able to cope, especially if the government strengthens the social safety net. In terms of the largest impact on shaping Egypt's economic conditions, how would you rank the prominence of the following actors in 2015? (Government, military, private sector, consumers and international donors, be they countries or institutions.) How do you explain the difference (or similarity) between the 2014 and 2015 rankings?   The major goal is to stabilize macro-economic indicators and pursue slight improvements. The economy is currently on life support. You don't want it to get up and run but to just stabilize. So things will largely remain as they are. With the political situation we can't envision a bigger role for the private sector. It is rational enough not to embark on new things. Things can backfire. So, by default, the government will remain the major player until the political situation stabilizes. What is your outlook on the Egyptian economy for 2015? In general, are conditions improving? Are they worsening? Why? What are the country's most promising sectors? We are still not "om ael donya ad el donya." This takes time. What I hope for is that the budget deficit stabilizes without major inflationary effects. This is the most you can hope for under such constraints and during such a period.   Is there any economic advice you would give to Egypt? I would tell the government to rationalize the social safety net and start implementing the rule of law. Not just by drafting new laws but by actually implementing and enforcing the good ones. As for consumers, they are learning. Rationalizing prices is a good signal. You know increases in prices can regulate the bad consumption behavior we suffer from. It's a matter of learning by doing.]]>
12/29/2014 4:10:27 PM
<![CDATA[May 2014]]>1 A facsimile of Tutankhamun’s Tomb opens on Luxor’s West Bank. Created using 3D scanning and installed by Spain’s Factum Foundation, the facsimile is housed underground near the dig house of Howard Carter, now a museum dedicated to the archeologist who excavated the original tomb. Costing nearly LE 5 million, the facsimile was fully funded by the Factum Foundation, which gifted it to Egypt in honor of the 90th anniversary of the tomb’s discovery. The project was carried out with the support of the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Heritage and Monuments and with the backing of the European Union. It is the first stage of a larger project that will also create facsimiles of the Tombs of Seti I and Nefertari. X-SaidBaess-xxx ?17?Hussein El-Imam, actor and songwriter, dies at age 63 after a heart attack. The son of Hassan El-Imam and brother of Moody El-Imam, Hussein wrote the score for plays Ballo (Hullabaloo) and Lamma Baba Yenam (When Daddy Falls Asleep) as well as for films Kaboria (Crab) and Estacoza (Lobster). He also sang and hosted his own cooking show. 21 The Ministry of Heritage and Monuments announces the discovery of an ancient Egyptian limestone temple in the Gabal El-Nour area of Beni Suef. The temple dates back to 282-246 BC, the era of Ptolemy II. 21 After numerous delays, ousted President Hosni Mubarak is convicted of embezzlement and sentenced to three years in jail. Mubarak’s sons, Gamal and Alaa, are both sentenced to four years behind bars in a maximum-security prison, fined LE 125 million and ordered to repay another LE 21 million. The brothers are convicted of illegally siphoning presidential palace budget funds to pay for the construction of family-owned properties. After the sentencing, the 85-year-old Mubarak returned to the hospital where he has been since August 2013 when his health began to deteriorate. Considered by many to be the ‘Trial of the Century,’ the former president was sentenced to life in prison in June 2012. However, an court ordered a retrial due to technicalities in the case in 2013, which precipitated the new trial and conviction for embezzlement. 24?Writer and journalist Saad Hagras dies at age 68. The leftist thinker explored Arab and regional affairs in many of his works, as well as the phenomenon of globalization. 26?Actress Fayza Kamal dies at age 51 after battling liver cancer. Known for her dramatization of period roles in series such as La Illaha Illa Allah (There Is No God But Allah). Kamal also acted in drama series including El-Baqi Min Al-Zaman Saa (One Hour Left) and El-Mal Wil Banoun (Wealth and Progeny). 26-27 After two revolutions in the past three years, Egyptians begin voting in a historic election. Overseas voting for expatriates began on the 15th, but at home polls opened to a lower-than-expected turnout. The banned Muslim Brotherhood, calling for the return of deposed President Mohamed Morsi, boycotts the election entirely. Polls remain open an additional day, declared a national holiday, to allow more citizens to vote. Additionally, the government waives train and bus fares for this extra day to encourage more citizens to participate. 30 Initial counts show former Field Marshal Al-Sisi has won with a landslide victory, capturing 93.3% of the vote. Leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi receives approximately 3% of the vote and concedes defeat but only after asserting the vote was unethically conducted. Interim President Adly Mansour reveals that voter turnout was approximately 46% and states this reveals “a broad consensus.”  ]]>12/28/2014 7:40:44 PM <![CDATA[2014 Perspectives: Hesham Fouad on Security]]>Communications Engineer and Chairperson of HF Giza Systems Hesham Fouad talks about the state of security in 2014 and what to expect in 2015  
By?Omneya Makhlouf?
  What is HF Fire’s most successful project in 2014 in Egypt?   Our most successful project of 2014 in Egypt has been New Dar El Fouad Hospital in Nasr City; however, it is still under construction. We won the supply and implementation contract for the fire alarm system of the project, which is one of the largest ongoing projects in Egypt since it contains over 4,000 addressable points. ? Have there been any particular trends in Egypt’s levels of security before and after Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi became president?   President Al-Sisi has pushed for higher security measures and the implementation of fast methods of incident verification and deployment, especially after the revolutions of 2011 and 2013.   Additionally, the huge expansive projects that we are starting to see him and his administration push for, such as the new Suez Canal and the new north coast, have created multiple opportunities for investors and businesses to flourish with the government’s new strategy to emphasize upon life safety and security.   What are the implications of such trends? Has the security sector flourished since then?   These trends have certainly had a positive impact on the life safety and security business in Egypt since fire alarm systems have become mandatory for all commercial buildings and one of the most prominent solutions addressing everyday security requirements is video surveillance.   As a private entity, how close does HF Giza Systems work with the Egyptian government?   We work with the Egyptian government on multiple fronts, especially the oil and gas sector and the telecom sector, most recently we have commissioned the new financial supervisory authority building in smart village and the general authority for investment building in Nasr City’s free zone.   What are the prospects for security in Egypt in 2015?   Generally, with the continuation of the current trends and the more stable the economic and investment fronts become in Egypt, the higher the prospect and boom of life safety and security. Especially with the increasing adaptation of new technologies to enhance everyday public services and law enforcement such as the Cairo city surveillance system that will complement traffic management and control services.]]>
12/28/2014 7:03:36 PM
<![CDATA[Best of 2014: Books]]>If there had to be a book of the year, it’s Turkish novelist Elif Shafak’s The Forty Rules of Love, a bestseller in both English and Arabic. Diwan Bookstores and AUC Press share their best-selling books of 2014.   Diwan Bookstores Bestsellers Forty Rules of Love By Elif Shafak Elif Shafak’s novel about the famous Sufi mystic Rumi, Shafak effortlessly blends East and West, past and present, to create a dramatic, compelling, and exuberant tale about how love works in the world. The Alchemist By Paulo Coelho Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy, sets out on a journey in search of a worldly treasure as extravagant as any ever found. Along the way he discovers the wisdom of listening to his heart, reading the omens strewn along life’s path, and above all, following his dreams. 1984 By George Orwell Winston Smith works for the Ministry of Truth in London, where Big Brother stares out from every poster and the Thought Police uncover every act of betrayal. When Winston finds love with Julia, he discovers that life does not have to be dull and deadening. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari By Robin S. Sharma W?ritten by motivational speaker Robin Sharm, this book tells the extraordinary story of Julian Mantle, a lawyer forced to confront the spiritual crisis of his out-of-balance life, and the subsequent wisdom that he gains on a life-changing odyssey. AUC Press Bestsellers Nasser: My Husband By Tahia Gamal Abdel Nasser ? translated by Shereen Mosaad Featuring photographs from the family archive, this biography follows Gamal and Tahia’s life from their marriage in 1944, through the revolution and Gamal’s career on the world stage, revealing an intimate picture of the man behind the president. Butterfly Wings By Mohamed Salmawy ? translated by Raphael Cohen A chance encounter throws together Doha, unhappily married to a leading figure in the Mubarak regime, and Ashraf, an academic and leading dissident. Salmawy’s novel was first published in Arabic by al-Dar al-Misriya al-Libnaniya as Ajnihat al-farasha. immediately prior to the events of January 2011, and has been celebrated as ‘the novel that predicted the revolution.’ Diary of a Jewish Muslim By Kamal Ruhayyim ? translated by Sarah Enany This Egyptian novel accompanies Galal, who has a Jewish mother and a Muslim father, through his childhood and boyhood in the popular quarter of Daher from the 1930s to 1960s. Arabic Language Al Fil Al Azrak (The Blue Elephant) by Ahmed Murad 1919 by Ahmed Murad Hebta by Mohamed Sadek Guantanamo by Youssef Ziedan]]>12/28/2014 4:16:18 PM <![CDATA[2014 Perspectives: Hisham Al-Jakh on Poetry?]]>Hisham Al-Jakh discusses the state of poetry in 2014 and what to expect in the future
By?Ahmed Mansour?
  How important is a poet in the lives of Egyptians?   No one can deny the fact that the influence and popularity of poetry in Egypt has been declining. For the past 40 years, poetry has been monopolized by a small number of people and they never cared enough to pass their teachings to the younger generations. The poets of my generation have always been ridiculed, put down and undermined, but it was God’s will that I made out of this hole, but since now-a-days there are fewer boundaries I do hope there are a million people who will do the same as I did. Even though I made it to fame and many people know my name, I try as much as I can to be innovative and write my poetry in different tones and sounds, because people will remember us with what we had to say.   After July 30, did poetry get the same attention as it did after the January 25 Revolution?   In my opinion, the January 25 Revolution did not affect poetry in Egypt. In Tahrir Square, during the revolution, people used to recite the works of Al-Abnoudy, Ahmed Fouad Nejm, Salah Jahin, Beyram Al-Tounisi and Abdurhman Youssef. They used to recite it because they memorized it before the revolution, not after. But as for July 30, the people lost heart and were divided, so matters aren’t the same anymore; the people started concentrating on treason, explosions and revenge, giving little attention to poetry. Those things negatively affect poetry and creativity in general.   Are there any dramatic changes in poetry since the beginning of the year 2014? Did it evolve or regress?   With the people concentration being shifted away from everything that matters in life, such as their work or their families, and solely concentrating on politics, it gave poetry in Egypt a hard time. But I’m really optimistic about what the year 2015 will have to offer to poetry and to Art in general.   How did the revolutions in Egypt affect the poets of Egypt?   Poetry is no different than any other sort of art; it affects and is affected by the streets of its origin. But the poets that really felt the change were the ones who were not able to say what they wanted to say before the revolution, those are the ones that felt freedom after a long fight for it, and in my opinion, I think those poets are the ones that will continue fascinating their readers. The reason why I believe so is because the word that has been held too long is the most sincere and most memorable.   What are the obstacles that a starting poet could face, and how to overcome them?   There are two kinds of obstacles that any starting poet will face:
  1. The personal obstacles such as being lazy, giving up, negligence and being so eager to be famous. A poet should study poetry and Arabic grammar and make sure that he knows them by heart.
  2. Poets are often distracted by their surroundings. If a poet really wants to succeed he needs to be capable of living in a place really far away from the capital, the media and any kinds of pressures that will come in between the poet and his poetry.
But all these obstacles, and many more that I failed to mention, can be surpassed and concurred if, and only if, the poet has got what it takes and has a strong will.]]>
12/24/2014 4:23:26 PM
<![CDATA[April 2014]]>Mideast Egypt Cairo University[/caption] 2?Two bombs explode simultaneously around noon outside Cairo University and a third explosion detonates approximately two hours later. The initial explosions, outside of Cairo University’s Faculty of Engineering, fatally wound Director of Western Giza Investigations Tariq al-Mirjawi and injure five others. All three devices are improvised explosive devices embedded in trees located directly across from the University’s main gate. Activist group Students Against the Coup (SAC), which has been organizing demonstrations across campuses nationwide, declares, “SAC holds the officials of the Ministry of Interior responsible for the security vacuum present that allows for such senseless violence to occur.”

3 Lebanese starlet Haifa Wehbe’s film Halawet Rouh is released, pulling in nearly LE 1 million at the box office before being pulled from the big screen for containing excessive use of sexual?innuendo. The decision to suspend screening over the film’s storyline and scenes deemed

[caption id="attachment_79821" align="alignright" width="300" class=" "]Haifa Wehbe’s film Halawet Rouh Haifa Wehbe’s film Halawet Rouh[/caption]

sexually?provocative comes down from Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab who orders the nation’s censorship board to re-evaluate it before it can be shown again. Censorship head Ahmed Awaad, who had approved the film for release, resigns in protest of what he deems the “prime minister’s inappropriate interference” with his office.

4?Islamic theorist Mohammed Qotb dies in Jeddah at age 95. The renowned and controversial thinker was brother to Sayed Qotb, the prominent Muslim Brotherhood leader executed in 1966 for plotting to assassinate then-President Gamal Abdel-Nasser. After his brother’s execution, Mohamed fled to Saudi Arabia, becoming a university professor and publishing many books on Islam. He also edited and published Sayed’s books and was known to be an influence for Osama bin Laden while he was in Saudi Arabia. Among his seminal works are Studies in the Human Pysche and Doubts Around Islam. 4 A longstanding dispute triggers clashes in Aswan between the Nubian Al-Daboudeya and Al-Halayel tribes, resulting in the death of three people. The following day another 20 people are killed and 50 are injured in continuing violence. The dispute forces Egyptian police to request reinforcements to quell hostilities. Despite the heightened security presence, violence is renewed the following day and results in two more deaths and five others wounded. Governor of Aswan Mostafa Yousra calls on the army to intervene, while train services are discontinued, local schools shut down and classes suspended at Aswan University. Grand Imam of Al Azhar Ahmed El-Tayyeb travels from Cairo to head up a reconciliation committee between the warring tribes, who agree to a three-day ceasefire in an attempt to forge a permanent truce. [caption id="attachment_79822" align="alignleft" width="198"]ismail Hazem Salah Abu Ismail[/caption] April 5 Beloved radio announcer Mahmoud Sultan dies at age 74 after breaking his leg at home. Sultan was a gifted news anchor and was known for his narration of popular documentary show Alam El-Hayawan (Animal Kingdom). 6 Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, Salafi preacher and one-time presidential hopeful, is sentenced by the Cairo Criminal Court to seven years in high-security prison for forging official documents for his 2012 campaign, related to his mother having an American passport. 6 Wearing dark aviator sunglasses, outspoken lawyer and chairman of the Zamalek Club Mortada Mansour announces his short-lived campaign for president. Unafraid to speak his mind, often with language not typically associated with the office of the president, Mansour adds some flair to an otherwise very conservative campaign. Although he collects 20,000 recommendation forms, the lawyer ultimately withdraws from the race after less than two weeks and indicates his decision is due to a sign he received from God while on the metro. He throws his weight behind Al-Sisi. 8 Amid a nationwide wave of university protests and violent clashes with security forces, Ministry of Interior Spokesman General Hany Abdel Latif announces, “There will be no more protests on university campuses. Universities will be for education only.” The unrelenting protest violence throughout the semester forces Cairo University to approve continued police presence on campus and to ban 173 students from taking final exams during May. [caption id="attachment_79823" align="alignright" width="300"]Bassem Youssef Satirist Bassem Youssef[/caption] 14 The Cairo Court for Urgent Matters upholds the government’s designation of the militant group ABM as a terrorist organization. The Sinai-based militant group has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks on government and civilian institutions throughout Egypt. 21 Seventeen drown in separate incidents across the nation while celebrating Sham El-Nessim, according to the Ministry of Health. 28 MBC Masr announces satirical TV show El Bernameg is suspended until May 30, after the presidential elections. In a statement, management at the Saudi-owned satellite channel say the show has been postponed “so that the Egyptian voters’ orientation and public opinion wouldn’t be influenced.” Popular host Bassem Youssef had earlier announced he was off on Sham El-Nessim vacation, just to assure viewers he was not being pulled off air. [caption id="attachment_79824" align="alignright" width="300" class=" "]John Kerry US Secretary of State John Kerry[/caption]   29 US Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Nabil Fahmy to reaffirm previously strong diplomatic ties between both countries. The popular uprising and military removal of former President Mohamed Morsi had created a rift between the two countries, and the meeting in Washington, DC is the first publically announced diplomatic summit between the two countries and a big step toward normalizing relations. Heavily dependent on US financial and military aid, Egypt attempts to fulfill stipulations set forth by congress to restart aid suspended in October 2013, and Kerry is the final arbiter of this stipulation under US law.]]>
12/24/2014 1:07:11 AM
<![CDATA[2014 Perspectives: Richard Hoath on the Environment?]]>Egypt Today's resident environmentalist Richard Hoath weighs in on the absence of government attention on environmental issues?  
By?Kate Durham
  Egypt Today’s Nature Notes columnist Richard Hoath is also the author of A Field Guide to the Mammals of Egypt and a Fellow of the Zoological Society of London. With more than 25 years covering wildlife and environmental issues in Egypt, Hoath says he is cautiously optimistic for 2015. Edited excerpts:   What was the most significant environmental news for 2014? Well, unfortunately there’s been relatively little about the environment because so many other things have captured the news and attention. And that’s one of my big concerns, that there is so little emphasis on environmental issues, which should be right at the front of any new government’s concerns. Clean water, clean air, public health, natural heritage — they should be right up there with all the other concerns that people have.   What needs to happen to make these environmental issues relevant to the government? Well, I think that firstly we need stability, and that seems to be coming. Secondly, the economy needs to improve, and, again, that seems to be coming. A major part of that is tourism coming back. Certainly as regards to the Red Sea coast and desert safaris and Sinai and all these other wonderful areas we have which are packed full of wildlife and are so important for ecotourism and the future of Egypt’s tourism, once the tourists come back, that might be enormously helpful as long as they come back in a positive way, and we don’t just build hotels willy-nilly and destroy the environment that brings the tourists back.   Have there been any successes for 2014? I think if there are successes, then they are small-scale successes, and successes that have been made by local people in local communities, such as the NGO Sinai Reef that successfully stopped the Umm El-Sid cliff restoration project out of fears it will damage the coral reefs and other parts of the environment. I think over the past three years with all the turmoil, it’s gotten down to local people campaigning on local issues or Egyptian NGOs campaigning on local issues rather than governmental intervention. Another example would be of the threatened development of the north shore of Lake Qaroun in the Fayoum, where the Porto Group was planning on building this huge hotel there. And it took a big campaign in 2011 by Nature Conservation Egypt to stop this.   So there’s been this vacuum over the past three years, I feel, where the government has not been involved in these issues and locally people have to take them into their own hands. But, hopefully once things have settled down — and I’m optimistic for the future — the government can have a much greater impact on the environment.   One of the biggest development projects of the year is the Suez Canal expansion. What’s your view on this from the environmental front? I don’t think nearly enough has been done on the environmental impact of this second canal. I think it’s a bit like how the Ethiopians are treating their dam. And that might be quite a controversial thing to say, because [the canal] has become a mega national project and very difficult for people to criticize. I think it has crept in through the back door, rather. Obviously there is no going back on it, but we will have to see what impact it has.   What do you think the implications might be? I think it’s not going to impact any specific species. In the United States or Europe or the UK, etc., if you find a rare salamander in the middle of a development project, that development project stops and you preserve the salamander or whatever. I don’t think that’s the case with the canal.   But I think there are implications particularly in regard to pollution, water pollution and the interchange between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. There’s been some work done on that already with the existing Suez Canal, and there is evidence of an interchange of species, particularly fish species.   So it’s not a case of chopping down a rain forest and there’s going to be an instant impact. I think it’s going to be longer term.   What are your biggest concerns for the environment right now? My big concern is for the protected areas because, given the security situation in the country, access to them is getting more and more difficult. I used to go up every October to El Arish and the Zaranik Protected Area in North Sinai to monitor the migration of birds there every fall. I haven’t been able to do that. There is big concern not just in that area but across the North Coast about the netting of migratory birds in the fall. That is now largely unrecorded. People aren’t doing the work there, although there are some still very dedicated wardens at the Zaranik Protected Area that I do keep in touch with.   That is not just in North Sinai, but also in Central Sinai; with the disturbances there, St. Catherine’s is more isolated. And now I heard on the BBC recently that there is an Islamic State, an ISIS cell or training camp operating in eastern Libya. So, the border along Egypt’s Gilf Kebir, I don’t know what access is going to be like there anymore.   What do you fear might be happening when no one’s looking? In somewhere like St. Catherine’s, increased hunting of the minimal populations of gazelles and ibex we have there. The Western Desert and the huge area around the Gilf Kebir, etc., there are lots of very valuable prehistoric, pre-Pharaonic, Stone Age sites that could be open to looting, destruction, etc. The North Coast, it’s just a question of being able to monitor these places, being able to do the research, being able to look at what’s happening. And if you don’t know what’s happening, then your imagination can riot.   Do you have any predictions for 2015? Predictions for 2015? Well, in the spring, all the birds wintering in Africa will be migrating through Egypt and in the fall all the birds breeding in Europe will be migrating back through Egypt. I would be a fool, I think, to go much further than that. So much depends on stability. If the government and the people and communities have some sort of stability in their domestic and economic and security lives, then the environment should come to the fore. I would argue as an environmentalist that it should be at the fore anyway, because as I said earlier, clean water, clean air, clean environment, healthy environment should be at the priority of any government. Sadly that hasn’t been the case. But once the economy is sorted out, there is stability, there is security, and hopefully the environment can take its place right at the forefront right where it should be.]]>
12/24/2014 12:13:58 AM
<![CDATA[2014 Perspectives: Makram Mohamed Ahmed on Journalism]]>Former head of the Journalism Syndicate Makram Mohamed Ahmed discusses journalism in 2014 and what to expect in the future
Ahmed Mansour
Makram Mohamed Ahmed is the former head of the Journalism Syndicate and a writer for Al-Ahram Newspaper. How did journalism change in 2014? The change in journalism cannot be summed in the year 2014, as journalism has been changing ever since the January 25 Revolution. That change is very obvious because now journalism is bolder, stronger, firmer and straighter to the point. The reason why it became this way is because now the youth are the ones that are handling the press, and they are honest and have less fear to write the truth. Have any changes occurred in the way newspapers are managed? There are two major issues that make journalism the way it is right now, and the two major issues are the result of the management of the newspapers. The first is the lack of professionalism. The editors and the managers of a newspaper should have a saying regarding the content that is being written and whether or not it meets the standards of the newspaper or not. They also need to be able to punish those who publish false news or those who state their personal opinion in an article.? The second is, usually the managers of newspapers believe that their job comes with a present, which is a column in a page of their choosing to say what they want to say about anything, without any kind of supervision. I think this trend should stop. People read newspapers for facts and news, they do not read it to know what the owner thinks about matters in Egypt. Are there any improvements that were made in 2014 to provide fresh graduates jobs in state-run newspapers? The thing is, state-run newspapers are crowded with under qualified journalists. They take fresh graduates to train them and the training period goes for as long as six years, without any guarantee of hiring, and that is unacceptable. In the beginning of 2014, I filed a request to the owner of Al-Ahram newspaper requesting to limit the training process of a fresh graduate journalist to two years maximum, with the promise of hiring. If the applicant didn’t prove worthy in the first six months of his training period, the administration would dismiss him immediately. If the applicant passed the first six months, then for sure he will be hired. My request has been approved and is being implemented. What do you advise those who just decided to peruse a career in journalism? General information is very important when it comes to journalism. They should know a lot about everything, both in politics and society. They should be well informed and updated with all the recent events that are taking place in the country, Middle East and worldwide. I also advise them to stay in good relations with their contacts and their sources. They need to stay on them 24/7 until they get what they want to get, and always leave a good impression. While having a conversation with your source, never disagree with him but correct him if he’s wrong about facts. State the news exactly as it is and keep your personal opinion out of it. If you are writing an article about the worst person alive, make sure that your words show respect to that person no matter what, people do not want to know your opinion about that certain person. Journalism is a very tough job, especially here in Egypt, but Egyptians do have the material of a great journalist.]]>
12/22/2014 11:53:01 PM
<![CDATA[March 2014]]>1 A Super Cup match ends with Ultras Ahlawy and Zamalek’s Ultras White Knights football fans clashing with security forces at Cairo Stadium, resulting in 24 injuries. Days later the Egyptian Football Federation rules both Ahly and Zamalek teams play the remainder of their Champions League games without fans in attendance. 5 Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates recall ambassadors from Doha and discontinue diplomatic relations with Qatar after Gulf stocks plummet. The GCC states accuse Qatar of undermining regional security with its support of elements that “threaten the security and stability,” referring to the Muslim Brotherhood. The states are particularly critical of Qatar’s Al Jazeera channel which they allege regularly broadcasts often-slanted programming attacking GCC states that have cracked down on the MB. Egypt, which is at the heart of the channel’s coverage, endorses the multilateral move and decides not to send its envoy back to Doha. 10 Coca-Cola pledges to invest $500 million in Egypt in the form of capital expenditures and other commercial and community programs. 12 Acclaimed director Marianne Khoury launches Zawya, a series of art-house cinema screens that present alternative cinema to the Egyptian audience. Opening with a screening of Wadjda at Downtown’s newly renovated Odeon Cinema, Khoury’s initiative aims to utilize film theaters by screening an assortment of mainly independent films from Arab, European and several other countries to support and endorse the work of upcoming filmmakers, especially that of Arabs and Egyptians. Zawya also provides a well-rounded program of special events, retrospectives, film discussions and master classes. 17 A YouTube video of a female student being sexually harassed by a mob of males on campus at Cairo University makes headlines. The unnamed blond female, who is wearing black pants and a bright pink sweater, is surrounded and followed by a mob that verbally and physically assaults her until she is escorted off campus by security. Heated debate ensues after University President Gaber Nasser indicates that wearing brightly colored clothes, instead of a more conservative abaya, precipitated the incident. The video triggers a nationwide discussion about the perceptible increase in sexual harassment. 18-24 The Third Luxor African Film Festival, this year featuring 80 films from 41 countries, kicks off with US movie star Danny Glover and Egyptian icons Omar Sherif and Mahmoud Abdul-Aziz making appearances on the red carpet. 19 Protests at Cairo University turn violent, resulting in the expulsion of 23 students for campus violence and vandalism. The university accuses students of breaking campus surveillance cameras, destroying the main gate to the Faculty of Law and raising the flag of Al-Qaeda. [caption id="attachment_74985" align="alignleft" width="300" class=" "]Egypt's minister of tourism, Hesham Zaazoua Egypt's minister of tourism, Hesham Zaazoua[/caption] 23 In Luxor two ancient red quartzite monolithic statues depicting Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep III are unveiled for the first time in public. One of the newly discovered statues, portraying a seated Amenhotep III, weighs a staggering 250 tons and is 38 feet tall. 23 Egypt’s Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou indicates that Egypt’s tourism industry has completely collapsed due to ongoing instability. Attempts to revive the sector include offering incentives to EU tourism companies, improving charter flights via EgyptAir and directly lobbying Germany to ease its travel advisory. 24 In a shock verdict, the Minya Criminal Court sentences 529 Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death. The charges against the defendants include murder, attempted murder, joining a banned group, attempting to topple the regime and stealing government weapons during the storming of a police station in Matay that resulted in the death of the deputy commander of the station, Mostafa El-Attar, and multiple injuries to other police officers. Eighteen other people are acquitted in the controversial trial at which neither the prosecution nor defense teams were reportedly able to present arguments because the case lasted just two sessions. Defense lawyers are prohibited from being present in the courtroom during the verdict, which Amnesty International later describes as “injustice writ large,” concluding this is the largest collective death sentence it was aware of in recent history. 26 Al-Sisi officially resigns his military post and declares his candidacy for presidency. Wearing his customary beige and brown camouflage military fatigues, Al-Sisi begins his speech with the words, “I stand before you for the last time in the uniform that I have had the great honor of wearing for the last 45 years,” going on to announce the will of the Egyptian people had swayed his decision. Although he lists challenges like unemployment, threats of terrorism, healthcare, education, state debt, foreign aid to Egypt and attempted intervention by foreign interests, Al-Sisi claims his mission is to first “regain Egypt” but did not provide any specific platform for his campaign, revealing that he does “not have an electoral campaign program in the traditional sense.” 27 Colonel General Sedki Sobhi replaces Al-Sisi as the new defense minister of Egypt in the interim government. In his first conference as defense minister, Sedki salutes “the great, brave hero Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and all members of the Armed Forces who risk their lives every day for Egypt.” 30 Presidential elections are set for May 26-27 and the Egyptian Election Commission announces results would be expected no later than June 5, with a runoff held by mid-June if necessary. A three-week campaign window is to begin on May 3 after the door for applications closes April 20. Presidential hopefuls must collect at least 25,000 signatures from a minimum of 15 out of 27 Egyptian provinces. 30 Head of the Karama Socialist Political Party Hamdeen Sabahi announces his candidacy for the presidency of Egypt, outlining three tenets for his candidacy including encouraging political democracy, social justice and the “independence of Egypt.” 30 Al Azhar students torch the car of university President Osama al-Abd, as well as a police car near the campus dorms. Security forces intervene to disperse protests, the clashes leaving two students dead. The university administration requests the continued presence of police security on campus and two days later expels 25 students.]]>12/18/2014 5:10:38 PM <![CDATA[February 2014]]>2?Former head of the Egyptian Radio and Television Union Soheir El-Etriby dies age 74 after suffering a stroke. 9?Former head of the Fine Arts Sector Mohsen Shaalan passes away at the age of 63. Although a respected artist with multiple exhibitions in Egypt and abroad, Shaalan was convicted of negligence after a £Van Gogh painting was stolen from the Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil Museum in 2010; he spent a year in prison. 10?Abdel-Moneim Abou El-Fotouh, head of the Misr El-Qaweya party and 2012 presidential hopeful, announces he will not be running for president. [caption id="attachment_74618" align="alignright" width="300" class=" "]16 16[/caption] 13 Al-Sisi flies to the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow to negotiate an arms deal reportedly worth $2 billion. Russian leader Vladimir Putin receives Al-Sisi and wishes the military chief luck in the nation’s upcoming presidential vote, even though Al-Sisi has not officially announced his candidacy. 15 The Ministry of Culture announces plans to turn former President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s home into a museum. 16 Three South Korean tourists and an Egyptian bus driver are killed in a suicide bombing near Taba. ABM claims responsibility, sparking fears that Islamist militants are expanding their attacks to target an already fragile tourism sector. 17 Four Egyptian hikers die after being caught in a sudden blizzard while hiking in the Saint Catherine Natural Protectorate; four other hikers are successfully evacuated. The group’s day-trip in the mountains turned into a three-day ordeal, sparking public outrage over the perceived delay in rescue efforts. South Sinai Governor Khaled Fouda sacks the Saint Catherine city head for negligence in dealing with the lost hikers. 19 Amid rising tensions, security concerns and fears of student demonstrations, the government extends the midyear holidays for public schools and universities until March 6. 20 Egypt and Ahly defender Wael Gomaa announces his retirement at age 38. Gomaa joined Ahly in 2001 and won more than 25 titles including six Champions league trophies and six African Super Cups. [caption id="attachment_74619" align="alignleft" width="178" class=" "]22 22[/caption] 22 The Armed Forces announces its engineering department has invented a device that detects and treats HIV and hepatitis C viruses without having to draw blood. While the statement released by the Armed Forces claims a success rate higher than 90%, it does not include technical details. Amid much skepticism, Essam Heggy, scientific adviser to the interim president, casts doubt on the device’s abilities and cautions scientific institutions against announcing research before review in accordance with international standards. 20 Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste Baher Mohamed — he so-called “Marriott Cell” — and 17 others, go on trial, charged with assisting a terrorist organization and “airing false news” on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood. 23 Sixty-five Egyptian fishermen are arrested by Saudi Arabian border guards after their two boats entered Saudi waters without permits. During the arrest, one Egyptian died and another was injured when guards fired on the boat. 24 Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi and his Cabinet resign unexpectedly. El-Beblawi’s government had been under increasing pressure as doctors, textile workers and public transportation employees went on a wave of strikes over salaries and benefits. Ibrahim Mahlab, former minister of housing, is tapped to form a new government.]]>12/17/2014 6:45:54 PM <![CDATA[Best of 2014: Film ]]>The top grossing films of 2014 were all about larger-than life, action-packed sequels. This year’s top 10 list, based on box office receipts.     1. GODZILLA LE 5,023,725 X-Godzilla-xxx     2. DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES LE 4,821,550 apes     3. 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE LE 4,222,955 la_ca_0416_300_rise_empire 4. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 LE 3,979,455 1404 ETG, At a Cinema Courteys of: Sony Pictures Date: 24/03/2014 5. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST LE 3,541,460 X-XMenDaysOfFuturePast-xxx 6. MALEFICENT LE 3,287,995 X-Maleficent-xxx 7. CAPTAIN AMERICA 2 LE 2,962,150 X-CaptainAmericaTheWinterSoldier-xxx 8. TRANSFORMERS 4 LE 2,920,045 Transformers-Age-of-Extinction-2014-poster 9. ANNABELLE LE 2,831,405 annabelle 10. EDGE OF TOMORROW LE 2,753,974 X-EdgeOfTomorrow-xxx   Arabic Films

FACTORY GIRLEl FIl El Azraq (The Blue Elephant) LE 35,279,665

El Gezeera II (The Island 2) LE 33,065,813 El Harb el Alameyya el Talta (World war III) LE 30,226,446 Sonea Fi Masr (Made in Egypt) LE 9,244,276 La Moakhza (Excuse Me) LE 8,012,121 Fatat El Masna’ (The Factory Girl) LE 1,279,458]]>
12/16/2014 5:41:33 PM
<![CDATA[Best of 2014: TV Shows ]]>Reality Sets In   Star Academy 10 ?Presenter: Hilda Khalifa ? Channel: CBC After 10 seasons, Star Academy has a following but is struggling to stay on top amid the glut of other TV talent competitions. The series still has its reality show edge, showing the gritty details of the contestants lives off stage. Sahebat Al Saada ?Presenter: Isaad Younnes ? Channel: CBC Amid all the political TV programs, this entertainment talk show is a breath of fresh air. Isaad Younnes bonds with her guests and addresses her topics with a sense of humor. Arab idol 3 ?Presenters: Anabella Hilal, Ahmed Fahmy ? Jury: Wael Kafoury, Nancy Ajram, Ahlam El Shamsy, Hassan El Shafei ? Channel: MBC One of the most influential talent shows in the Arab World, Arab Idol brought in Wael Kafoury to replace superstar Ragheb Alama on the jury for season three. Yalla Nor’oos (C’mon, Let’s Dance) ?Presenter: Rita Hayek ? Jury: Nelly Karim,Pierre Dulain, Alissar Caracalla, Rojina (first 4 episodes only), Charles Makriss ? Channel: MTV, El Nahar, Fox Movies The international So You Think You Can Dance franchise made it to the Arab world this year, with this talent show for dancers airing in Lebanon featuring contestants from across the region. El Raqesa (The Belly Dancer) ?Presenter: Amr Samir ? Jury: Dina, Tamer Habib, Feryal Youssef ? Channel: El Qahera W El Nas Also debuting this year was El Raqesa, a talent show dedicated to belly dancing. The genre may be unique to the region, but the contestants hail from across the world, including Russia, the US, Ukraine, Egypt and other countries. The season started in September despite Dar El Iftaa’s criticism that it was corrupting morals. The Voice 2 ?Presenter: Karim Fahmy ? Jury: Kathem El Saher, Shereen Abdel Wahab, Saber El Robai, Assi El Helani The regional version of this singing competition was back for its second season, sorting contestants into teams mentored by one of the jury members. Season two’s winner was Iraqi contestant Sattar Sa’d from Kathem el Saher’s team. Sola ?Presenter: Asala ? Channel: El Nahar Host Asala jams all night with her musical guests in an apartment-like studio.

Ramadan Hits

After Ramadan gave us our fill of history, comedy and drama, the rest of the year was given over to talk and talent.
1407 et Ramadan MosalsaltCourtesy of Media City in EgyptDate: 25/06/2014   Segn El Nesa (Women’s Prison) ?Cast: Nelly Karim, Ahmed Daoud, Salwa Othman, Dorra Zarrouq, Ruby, Nesrine Amin ? Director: Kamla Abu Zikry ? Writer: Fathiya Al Assal This drama took us inside the Qanater prison for women, exploring many social issues related to prisoners. Critics hailed Segn El Nesa as the best Ramadan series this year and Nelly Karim as best actress. Heba Regl El Ghorab (The Unfortunate Heba) ?Cast: Donia Samir Ghanem, Reham Haggag, Hazem Samir ? Director: Tamer Bassyouni, Yasser Zayed ? Writer: Sherif Badr El-Din In the Egyptian version of the TV series Ugly Betty, Donia Samir Ghanem is the unfortunate Heba who falls in love with her handsome boss. esaraya-abdeen Saraya Abdeen (Abdeen Palace) ?Cast: Qusay Khoury, Youssra, Nour, Nelly Karim, Mai Kassab ? Director: Amr Arafa ? Writer: Heba Mashary Hamada Historians were unimpressed with this period drama about the palace intrigues of Khedive Ismail, who ruled Egypt from 1863-1879. Critics claiming the series distorted history, focused too much on the khedive’s relationships with his harem, calling it an Egyptian knock-off of the popular Turkish series Harim El Sultan. Farq Tawqeet ?Cast: Tamer Hosny, Nichole Saba, Sherine Adel ? Director: Islam Khairy ? Writer: Mohammed Soliman Abdel Malek After a womanizer disappears and then found in a coma, police start investigating. In the process, everyone connected with the victim — from his wife and brother to friends and lover — is accused of harming him. Saheb El Saada ?Cast: Adel Imam, Lebleba, Khaled Zaki ? Director: Ramy Imam ? Writer: Youssef Maaty Bahgat (Adel Imam), living with his wife, children and grandchildren, seeks happiness after retirement. Being the family man he tries to solve everyone’s problems. The series was one of Ramadan’s most-watched comedies. Ibn Halal ?Cast: Mohammed Ramadan, Hala Fakher, Reham Saed, Sarah Salama, Wafaa Selim ? Director: Ibrahim Fakhr ? Writer: Hassan Dahshan This mosalsal followed the trials and tribulations of an impoverished young man from the Upper Egyptian governorate of Qena who travels to Cairo to find a job as a construction worker. Imratoreyyet Meen? ?Cast: Hend Sabry, Mohammed Shahin, Ezzat Abu Auf, Salwa Khattab ? Director: Mariam Abu Auf ? Writer: Ghada Abdel Al An Egyptian family living abroad decides to return after the parents get homesick. But home culture shock quickly sets in with a series of comical situations. El Kabir Awy 4 ?Cast: Ahmed Mekki, Donia Samir Ghanem, Mohammed Shahin, Mohammed Salam ? Director: Ahmed El Gendy ? Writer: Mohammed Ezz El Din Ahmed Mekki reprises his many characters in the show’s fourth season. El Kabir Awy follows twin brothers, one the mayor of an Upper Egyptian village, the other raised in the United States. El Sabaa Wasaya ?Cast: Rania Youssef, Sawsan Badr, Ahmed Fouad Selim, Hana Shiha, Sabry Fawwaz, Ayten Amer, Mohammed Shahin, Haitham Ahmed Zaki, Nahed El Sebaei ? Director: Khaled Merai ? Writer: Mohammed Amir Radi Seven siblings plot to kill their comatose family after they learn he is worth LE 28 million. But confusion ensues after their father’s body mysteriously disappears.]]>
12/15/2014 3:23:16 PM
<![CDATA[January 2014]]>January 1 Cinema producer Mamdouh El-Leithy dies at age 76. El-Leithy, who graduated from the Police Academy in 1960, began his career writing stories for Rose al-Youssef and El-Shaab newspapers. He worked his way up at the Egyptian Radio and Television Union, heading up the production department in 1985. He also wrote several acclaimed scripts including Miramar, Gossip on the Nile and El-Karnak. He received the State Award for Arts from the Higher Council of Culture in 1992. 2 Egypt’s interim government orders a freeze of Muslim Brotherhood assets days after declaring the (MB) a terrorist organization. MB lawyer Hassan Saleh reveals that the assets belong to 132 members employed at the Guidance Bureau and the Freedom and Justice Party, the MB’s political party. The Central Bank also freezes the assets of over 1,000 NGOs alleged to have ties with the Muslim Brotherhood. 14-15 Egyptians head to the polls to vote on the draft constitution. According to the official results, turnout is 38.9% as compared to a 32.9% turnout for the 2012 referendum. The Presidential Electoral Commission announces that 98.1% of voters are in favor of the new charter. 19 Former football star Mido is appointed Zamalek coach. The former Zamalek striker succeeds Helmi Toulan, who was sacked after a disappointing 1-1 draw with Haras El-Hodoud in the Egyptian league. 19 Nineteen passengers die when their microbus crashes into a truck in Edfu, near Aswan. January 21 Comedian Farouk Naguib dies at age 73. Appearing in scores of both cinema and TV works, Naguib was best known for the comic play El-Hob fil Takhsheebah (Love in Detention). 21 Finance Minister Ahmed Galal and interim Prime Minister Hazem El-Bablawi head to the Davos World Economic Forum in Switzerland, hoping to show the world that Egypt’s economy is moving forward and ready for investment. DI-IslamicMuseumExplosion21-HS24 Four bombs go off across the capital, the largest targeting the Cairo Security Directorate in Bab El-Khalq. The dawn blast, caused by a car bomb parked outside the directorate, leaves four people, at least three of them policemen, dead and more than 75 injured. In addition to damaging the building, the blast causes extensive damage to the Islamic Art Museum across the street. The Minister of Antiquities reportedly estimates that repairing the building and restoring the damaged artifacts will cost $15 million. The second bomb goes off near Al-Behouth Metro Station in Giza, killing one and injuring 11 others. A third explosion follows outside a Giza cinema on Haram Street, killing one and wounding four, while the fourth bomb goes off in Haram’s Talbiya district but does not result in any casualties. While the militant Islamist group Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis (ABM) reportedly claimed responsibility for the Security Directorate attack, many people on the street held the Muslim Brotherhood responsible for the bombings. 24 Squash player Amr Shabana beats Frenchman Gregory Gaultier 3-0 in the final match of the J.P Morgan Tournament of Champions, winning him the title in New York’s Grand Central Terminal. 25 A military helicopter crashes in North Sinai, killing all five passengers onboard. Initial reports attribute the crash, which occurred near Sheikh Zuwayed, to technical problems, but ABM later claims responsibility, asserting that they downed the helicopter with a heat-seeking missile. 25 Thousands rally to commemorate the third anniversary of the January 25, 2011 uprising. In Cairo’s Tahrir Square, celebrations take place amid tight police security, with people chanting their support and loyalty to the military and the interim government. Outside Tahrir, pro-Morsi supporters and other marches by independent protesters chanting against both military and the Muslim Brotherhood are quickly dispersed in confrontations with police. The Health Ministry reports that 26 people are killed in clashes in Cairo’s Mataria district, and another 58 die in Minya, Giza, Cairo and Alexandria. Police make 1,079 arrests, while rights organizations report multiple cases of sexual harassment and violations against journalists covering the day’s events. 26 Interim President Adly Mansour announces that presidential elections would take place before the parliamentary elections. While the political road map set on July 3, 2013 stipulated parliamentary elections be held first, the newly ratified Constitution gives the interim president the authority to choose otherwise. Defense Minister Field Marshal Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi is expected to enter the race but does not immediately declare his candidacy. He does, however, announce he will run “if the people call for it.” 26 Protests break out in Port Said after the verdict in the murder trial of five-year-old Zeina Arafa is postponed a second time. In November 2013, Arafa’s badly broken body was discovered in front of the high-rise apartment building where she lived in Port Said. According to police investigations, two teenage boys, Mohamed Kasbar and Alaa Gomaa, allegedly kidnapped or lured Arafa to the building roof and attempted to rape her. When the girl resisted, they allegedly panicked and threw her from the roof. London Olympics Soccer Men 26 Footballer Mohamed Salah signs a five-and-a-half year contract with English Club Chelsea. Chelsea reportedly buys out the midfielder from the Swiss Club Basel for a reported £11 million. 27 The Supreme Council of Armed Forces endorses Al-Sisi, calling any decision of his to declare his candidacy “a mandate and an obligation” if the people willed it. Hamdeen Sabahi, a presidential contender who placed third behind Ahmed Shafik and Mohamed Morsi in the first round of the 2012 elections, announces his candidacy, vowing to pursue the goals of the 2011 and 2013 revolutions: social justice and anti-corruption. January 31 Actress Zizi el-Badrawi, born Fadwa al-Bitar, dies at age 71 of lung cancer. Among her acclaimed cinema achievements are Shafika El-Ibteya (Shafika the Copt), El-Banat Wil Seif (Girls and Summer) in addition to TV roles in Layaly El-Helmiya (Helmiya Nights) and El-Mal Wil Banoun (Money and Progeny).]]>12/14/2014 4:49:01 PM <![CDATA[11 killed in building collapse in Cairo- MENA]]>By Aswat Masriya Eleven people were killed when a building collapsed north of Cairo early Tuesday, state-run news agency MENA reported. ...read more

Via:: Aswat Masriya

11/25/2014 11:49:38 AM
<![CDATA[AUC’s Adopt-a-Plot Promotes Organic Gardening]]>11/16/2014 4:15:41 PM <![CDATA[Fuel Furor]]>As this story was going to press, Mercedes-Benz Egypt was not at liberty to comment on the breaking controversy over complaints about engine breakdown, amid reports of adulterated petrol. While the Ministry of Petroleum says there is nothing wrong with its gas, Mercedes says it has sent back samples of cars that have been brought to their service stations only to find that they contain lower octane levels than announced. After the November 2014 issue of Egypt Today hit newsstands, Mercedes-Benz released the following statemen,t in Arabic, on its official facebook page. We bring you the translation.   To Mercedes' reputable customers We've noted the increased media and social media coverage of the petrol quality and its impact on car engines. There have also been a number of complaints from clients regarding the breakdown of Mercedes engines in the 2013-2014 models at a rate of not more than 1% of total sold cars for the same period. After assessing the cases that have been reported to our authorized service centers, and after analyzing the petrol used at the company's Cairo labs for petrol refinement, it has been proven that there is a drop in amount of octane content in petrol, which in some cases has reached less than 85 octane, whereas the octane level specified by the producing company has been no less than 92-95 depending on the model. Mercedes-Benz products and engines are considered the most advanced in the world, crafted using cutting-edge technology, as indicated by the increasing demand for the company's products all over the world at a rate unsurpassed compared to competitors. Before assembling and importing these vehicles and engines into the Egyptian market, the company confirmed the existence of high-quality petrol in Egypt (92 and 95 octane) and has previously proved its sincerity by refusing to sell vehicles with diesel engines in the Egyptian market for lack of diesel of a quality to suit these engines. The company has coordinated with its partners in communicating with the responsible authorities, particularly the Ministry of Petroleum? ,Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation, the General Directorate of Supply and Internal Trade Police and the Consumer Protection Agency The Ministry of Petroleum and the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation confirm the quality and conformity of the high-quality fuel 92 and 95 octane, distributed to petrol stations across the country, and that it contains the amount of octane declared. The General Directorate of Supply and the Internal Trade Police, under the supervision of the Ministry of Interior, confirm they will continue to take immediate decisive legal action against petrol stations found to be mixing different types of fuel to take advantage of price differences. The Consumer Protection Agency confirms that customers must adhere to the operating instructions in the car's user manual so as to compel dealers and distributors to take responsibility when there is a defect in the purchased car. Mercedes-Benz stresses that its priority is customer satisfaction and continuing to top the high-quality auto market in Egypt A plan has been coordinated with the network of authorized distributors which is being implemented, to check cars that have been affected by the use of fuel not matching that recommended by the manufacturer and dealing with complaints swiftly to ensure customer satisfaction. The company and its distributors stress that they take pride in their customers' confidence and continuing to? provide the best after-sales service for cars that the Egyptian market has known to lead in meeting the needs and expectation of our esteemed customers. Many of you have been concerned with the recently reported octane cases. We Mercedes-Benz Egypt assure you that we have been working closely with all the entities involved to find adequate solutions for you. The following document explains the exact measures we have been taking to ensure your utmost satisfaction. We very much look forward to solving all your cases. Thank you for your patience and support.]]>11/5/2014 4:25:11 PM <![CDATA[CORRECTED-Egypt's strategic wheat reserves sufficient to last until March]]>Powered by WPeMatico

10/12/2014 10:37:27 AM
<![CDATA[Sisi calls on Israelis to "end the struggle" in the Palestinian territories]]>Powered by WPeMatico

10/12/2014 10:33:25 AM
<![CDATA[Douma tells court health is deteriorating, judge adjourns 2011 cabinet case]]>

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10/11/2014 5:04:26 PM
<![CDATA[President Award to Awadallah Ramzi at Sheraton Montazah]]>10/1/2014 10:30:56 AM <![CDATA[UPDATE - Blast at foreign ministry vicinity leaves at least two killed - State TV]]>]]>9/21/2014 10:15:31 AM <![CDATA[Sisi heads to New York]]>]]>9/21/2014 9:15:03 AM <![CDATA[U.S. to deliver 10 Apache helicopters to Egypt - Pentagon]]>9/21/2014 9:15:01 AM <![CDATA[Cairo to host Palestinian-Israeli talks within days - state news]]>9/20/2014 9:15:02 PM <![CDATA[Egypt to shift clocks one hour backward on Thursday]]>9/20/2014 7:15:03 PM <![CDATA[One of Sinai's "most dangerous extremists" killed in Sheikh Zuweid]]>9/20/2014 6:15:02 PM <![CDATA[Five sentenced to death for managing a "terrorist cell"]]>]]>9/20/2014 5:15:02 PM <![CDATA[Egypt's GASC buys 55,000 tonnes of U.S. wheat]]>9/20/2014 4:15:05 PM <![CDATA[26 Zamalek football fans released on bail]]>9/20/2014 3:15:12 PM <![CDATA[Sabahi's Popular Current turns into political party]]>]]>9/20/2014 3:15:11 PM <![CDATA[Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah nominated for European Parliament award]]>9/20/2014 2:15:04 PM <![CDATA[Sisi postpones deadline for June 30 fact-finding committee]]>9/20/2014 1:15:05 PM <![CDATA[Court postpones Mursi espionage trial]]>]]>9/20/2014 1:15:04 PM <![CDATA[Egypt's foreign minister warns Security Council of the dangers of terrorism]]>]]>9/20/2014 11:15:03 AM <![CDATA[Tariff for electricity generated by renewable energy announced]]>]]>9/20/2014 11:15:02 AM <![CDATA[Boy wounded in North Sinai blast]]>9/19/2014 8:15:05 PM <![CDATA[Update - Police captures five of fugitive prisoners]]>9/19/2014 7:15:18 PM <![CDATA[Update - Police captures five of fugitive prisoners]]>9/19/2014 7:15:18 PM <![CDATA[37 "Brotherhood supporters" arrested in protests across Egypt]]>9/19/2014 6:15:02 PM <![CDATA[Another beheaded corpse found in Egypt's Sinai]]>9/19/2014 4:15:04 PM <![CDATA[Egypt starts applying property taxes law]]>9/19/2014 4:15:03 PM <![CDATA[15 prisoners escape from police station in Gharbia]]>

9/19/2014 2:15:03 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt awards oil and gas exploration blocks]]>9/19/2014 11:15:02 AM <![CDATA[Egyptian Ahmed Gabr breaks world's deepest scuba dive record]]>Guinness World Records announces Egyptian diver Ahmed Gabr new title holder for deepest salt water scuba dive at 332.35 meters.

9/19/2014 10:15:09 AM
<![CDATA[Egyptian Ahmed Gabr breaks world's deepest scuba dive record]]>]]>9/19/2014 10:15:09 AM <![CDATA[Two mortar shells fired at security camp in Sinai]]>
9/19/2014 10:15:08 AM
<![CDATA[Two mortar shells fired at security camp in Sinai]]>
9/19/2014 10:15:07 AM
<![CDATA[Egyptian national shot in Libya's Benghazi]]>9/19/2014 9:15:10 AM <![CDATA[Saudi King hopes to carry out restoration of al-Azhar Mosque]]>9/18/2014 8:15:03 PM <![CDATA[INTERVIEW-Egypt must cut red tape to win investors in second Suez canal - law firm]]>9/18/2014 7:15:11 PM <![CDATA[UPDATE - Egypt targets last bastion of Muslim Brotherhood dissent]]>9/18/2014 7:15:10 PM <![CDATA[Egypt government reneges on amending protest law]]>]]>9/18/2014 6:15:05 PM <![CDATA[Egypt warns against traveling to Libya's Tobruk]]>]]>9/18/2014 5:15:13 PM <![CDATA[Egypt targets last bastion of Muslim Brotherhood dissent]]>9/18/2014 2:15:07 PM <![CDATA[1700 patients register to receive new hepatitis C drug]]>9/18/2014 1:15:03 PM <![CDATA[Sisi says maximum efforts must be exerted to counter threats]]>]]>9/18/2014 10:15:03 AM <![CDATA[Sisi says maximum efforts must be exerted to counter threats]]>]]>9/18/2014 10:15:02 AM <![CDATA[15 Zamalek football fans released]]>9/17/2014 9:15:06 PM <![CDATA[Salafist party exits pro-Mursi alliance]]>]]>9/17/2014 8:15:04 PM <![CDATA[Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis claims responsibility for latest Sinai attack]]>9/17/2014 5:15:03 PM <![CDATA[Defence requests referring "cabinet clashes" trial to different bench]]>]]>9/17/2014 4:15:35 PM <![CDATA[Russia, Egypt seal preliminary arms deal worth $3.5 bln - agency]]>9/17/2014 4:15:34 PM <![CDATA[Azhar students sentenced to 4 years for violating the protest law]]>9/17/2014 4:15:33 PM <![CDATA[Russia, Egypt seal preliminary arms deal worth $3.5 billion: agency]]>9/17/2014 3:15:04 PM <![CDATA[Russia, Egypt seal preliminary arms deal worth $3.5 billion: agency]]>9/17/2014 3:15:02 PM <![CDATA[Egypt's EGPC to buy 65 pct of its oil product imports from UAE]]>9/17/2014 2:15:12 PM <![CDATA[Cabinet decision allows renewable energy authority to produce and sell electricity]]>9/17/2014 2:15:11 PM <![CDATA[Hunger-striking activist arrives to court in ambulance]]>9/17/2014 12:15:10 PM <![CDATA[Egypt prosecutor orders release of 116 students]]>]]>9/17/2014 12:15:08 PM <![CDATA[Egyptian killed in Libya south west of Tripoli - MENA]]>9/17/2014 11:15:02 AM <![CDATA[Egypt summons EU ambassadors over "negative" statement]]>9/17/2014 9:15:02 AM <![CDATA[Egypt's military focus is at home, not on Islamic State - minister]]>9/17/2014 8:15:17 AM <![CDATA[Reduced sentences for hiding Brotherhood leader Beltagy]]>9/16/2014 9:15:14 PM <![CDATA[Finance minister hopeful reforms can revive Egyptian economy]]>www.binaryoptionsegypt.com and binary options brokers websites.
9/16/2014 8:15:06 PM
<![CDATA[Egypt reaches $8.5 bln funding goal for Suez Canal expansion: official]]>9/16/2014 6:15:14 PM <![CDATA[UFG to drop Egypt lawsuit if Israel import deal cleared - source]]>9/16/2014 5:15:06 PM <![CDATA[Egypt's GASC says buys 180,000 tonnes of French wheat]]>9/16/2014 5:15:04 PM <![CDATA[Final decision on Nassef Sawiris' dispute with Tax Authority on October 28: OCI]]>9/16/2014 5:15:03 PM <![CDATA[Calls for one-day hunger strike in solidarity with those "unjustly detained"]]>9/16/2014 4:15:05 PM <![CDATA[Interior Ministry says it arrested four terrorist cells]]>]]>9/16/2014 2:15:04 PM <![CDATA[New strategy to end power crisis: investment minister]]>]]>9/16/2014 12:15:02 PM <![CDATA[Egypt targets 11 pct budget deficit in fiscal 2014-15 - finance min]]>binaryoptionsegypt.com and binary options brokers websites.]]>9/16/2014 11:15:03 AM <![CDATA[6 police personnel killed in Sinai blast]]>9/16/2014 9:15:04 AM <![CDATA[As many as 700 migrants feared drowned in Mediterranean]]>9/16/2014 9:15:03 AM <![CDATA[Turkey would welcome Muslim Brotherhood figures who leave Qatar: Erdogan]]>9/16/2014 9:15:02 AM <![CDATA[UPDATE | Alaa Abdel Fattah and others released from Tora Prison]]>9/15/2014 9:15:03 PM <![CDATA[Proceeds of Suez Canal investment certificates reach 96 pct of target]]>9/15/2014 8:15:06 PM <![CDATA[Egypt Suez Canal certificates to be sold-out in under 48 hours: CBE governor]]>9/15/2014 6:15:03 PM <![CDATA[Muslim Brotherhood leader sentenced to life in prison for murder and inciting violence]]>9/15/2014 5:15:04 PM <![CDATA[Collapsed factory leaves two workers killed and four missing]]>]]>9/15/2014 2:15:55 PM <![CDATA[Mursi trial for escaping prison postponed]]>9/15/2014 12:15:23 PM <![CDATA[Alaa Abdel Fattah and others released on bail, bench steps down]]>]]>9/15/2014 11:15:03 AM <![CDATA[Egypt tourism could fully recover by end 2015 if stability persists - minister]]>9/15/2014 9:15:03 AM <![CDATA[Protest in support of hunger-striking political prisoners]]>]]>9/14/2014 9:15:11 PM <![CDATA[Egypt expects $425 mln from Islamic Development Bank]]>9/14/2014 4:15:09 PM <![CDATA[Kerry 'extremely encouraged' by pledges of military support against Islamic State]]>9/14/2014 4:15:08 PM <![CDATA[UPDATE - MOI says it eliminated Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis members in Suez]]>9/14/2014 3:15:03 PM <![CDATA[MOI says it eliminated Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis members in Suez]]>9/14/2014 2:15:27 PM <![CDATA[Mehleb launches new road to Farafra Oasis]]>]]>9/14/2014 2:15:26 PM <![CDATA[Court to rule on banning Ultras on Sept. 27]]>9/14/2014 2:15:25 PM <![CDATA[Egypt's water minister to visit Ethiopia on Saturday]]>]]>9/14/2014 1:15:04 PM <![CDATA[Mursi espionage trial postponed]]>]]>9/14/2014 1:15:03 PM <![CDATA[Suez Canal investment certificates available at Egypt Post authority today]]>]]>9/14/2014 12:15:05 PM <![CDATA[Suez Canal investment certificates available at Egypt Post authority today]]>]]>9/14/2014 12:15:04 PM