Al-Ahram Weekly Online   19 - 25 May 2005 Issue No. 743 Reader's corner

Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875



Us before them

Sir-- It is my firm belief, as an American of Egyptian descent, that the only way for Egypt to be an active player in the forefront of global politics is for it to create a real national identity. Egyptians must learn to put their nation before Palestine, Iraq or Sudan. Only if we start to take ourselves seriously as Egyptians will other nations take us seriously enough to listen to our concerns and invest in our economy. The blame-America phenomenon has come to its long-overdue end. The only way to modernise is to truly play an active role in the Euro- Mediterranean partnership and take advantage of our various regional trade groups (Agadir Declaration, COMESA, EU-Egypt Association Agreement).

We must further embrace our common Mediterranean and Middle Eastern identity.

Finally, it is time we get serious about cooperation with Israel. We have a global technological superpower with much disposable income at our doorstep yet all we can think of is war and hatred. Egypt's loss of its Jewish inhabitants was loss enough to our nation; it's not time we lose such a potentially valuable neighbour. We must continue the Pharaonic, Graeco-Roman, Coptic, Islamic and colonial legacies that made Egypt such a global power. We cannot further wait for progress to come to us; we must go and seek it through closer cultural and economic co- operation with the West, Israel and our Arab neighbours in the Mashreq and Maghreb.

Patrick Elyas
Los Angeles

Scratching heritage

Sir -- I am sickened and appalled by the unending desecration of the mummies of our ancient ancestors by the current Egyptian Antiquities authorities 'Tutankhamun unmasked

' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 12-18 May). What is even worse is to learn that this desecration is performed for the unimportant purpose of achieving inconclusive results about the cosmetic appearance of a deceased Pharaoh, based on interpretive speculation by modern computer technicians.

I sincerely ask the concerned official to lay down the body of King Tutankhamun for a minute, and in disguise take a trip to visit the earliest remains of Egyptian civilisation in the most beautiful, yet critically endangered tombs of the Old Kingdom in Saqqara. There he will see how the illiterate guardsman standing at the gate of a tomb, hungry for cigarette money, will volunteer to show the visiting tourist around the tomb by pointing his key chain and scratching it across some of the most ancient surviving remains of human heritage of art and civilisation. He will also see how large tour groups, unchecked in their numbers, will in one rush, follow their tour guide into the narrow tombs, brushing and leaning with their sweat-drenched bodies and back- packs against these walls which are filled with the masterful carvings and colour relieves that have survived the ravages of time since the third millennium BC. These tomb walls are left completely naked and unprotected by any sort of barrier that will prevent these crimes of negligence which are happening against them on a daily basis.

Such is the tragic state of our antiquities, not only in Saqqara but all over the Egyptian map. I sincerely recommend to the Egyptian tourist officials that unless they take immediate professional steps to protect our monuments, in 10 years the dwindling number of tourists visiting Egypt will have nothing here to see but featureless erased walls, and powdered remains of our ancient kings, pitifully displayed next to a ridiculous picture of a CT-scan in a glass box. Such an imminent crime will never be forgiven by future generations of Egyptians to come.

Kareem Hammam

Out of reach

Sir-- Rasha Sadek's article 'Owning paradise' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 28 April-4 May) was an accurate portrait of the unequalled beauty and elegance of Sharm El-Sheikh. I believe that the same is true for many places alongside the entire Red Sea coast. The atmosphere is that of luxury and opulence one expects in the featured five-star hotel, and many others in the same category. Egyptians, myself included, are proud that tourists from all over the world return to their countries with wonderful memories of Egypt.

But my pride is tainted with bitterness because I know that the "paradise" is economically out of reach for no less than 99 per cent of the Egyptians, and I am probably optimistic. I dare say that a one-night stay at such resorts is way beyond the means of an Egyptian middle class family, making it literally unthinkable. The streets of Cairo and some other cities have recently seen angry demonstrations. There may be many reasons behind them, some justified and some not, but the inescapable fact is that poverty is behind people's anger. Reform must start by improving the economy and may be someday, that middle class family can afford to spend a night in Sharm El-Sheikh or at least have a soft drink in a five-star hotel.

Fikry Boulos Salib