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Monday, December 6, 2021

Message to Prince Charles: This is not your father’s Egypt

GIZA, Egypt – The royal visit was carefully planned. Egyptian authorities closed roads, cleared debris and expelled camel drivers, hawkers and tourists seeking to showcase the pyramids to Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. But no one took into account the stray dog.

Defiantly dark, he wagged his tail across the road just as the royal black BMW approached the Great Pyramid. Violent gunfire ensued. The dog drove off, the people in the suits exhaled. Their Royal Highnesses posed, smiled and went on the tour, Charles holding Camilla’s hand to keep her on the rocks.

The Thursday afternoon tour marks the first visit by the Royal Family to Egypt since 2006 and their first outside the UK since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, a trip that Royal Family observers found even more appealing given the fragile health of Charles’ mother, Queen Elizabeth II. from which she handed the travel cards to her son.

But the Egypt that Charles saw was not the Egypt that he saw 15 years ago, and, for that matter, the Egypt that the previous Prince of Wales visited on a camel in 1889, seven years after Britain conquered Egypt and began its sixtieth birthday. long occupation.

Despite the stray dog, this Egypt is nobody’s colony.

The royal family’s next stop after the pyramids on Thursday talked a lot about where Egypt, under the rule of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, sees itself: an elegant new restaurant overlooking the pyramids that is one of the jewels of the government’s drive for a fir environment. up his stellar attraction, where tumbling debris and over-the-top barkers tended to erode his greatness.

In fact, Mr. El Sisi has planned redevelopment for virtually all of Egypt. In his quest to modernize the Arab world’s most populous country, he is building a vast new capital, building new roads and bridges across central Cairo, destroying poor informal neighborhoods, and even eliminating the tuk-tuk, three-wheeled taxis used by many of the poor. country.

After years of political instability and violence in the wake of Egypt’s 2011 revolution, Mr al-Sisi, who supported popular support for the government following the military coup that ousted the president-elect in 2013, has also changed the country’s position as a regional heavyweight: host of the next climatic a United Nations summit, a growing competitor in the gas industry, a business destination for European energy and defense giants, and a valuable United States partner on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

“For Egypt, this visit marks the next important step as the regime continues to rebuild its image,” said Hafsah Halawa, a nonresident Egyptian-Iraqi-British scholar at the Middle East Institute. The visit, she said, “confirmed the regime’s growing self-confidence.”

And all this despite the ever-increasing repression and human rights violations that have shaped the rule of Mr. Al-Sisi. The day before Charles and Camilla arrived, an Egyptian court sentenced three prominent opposition figures to extended prison terms.

For two countries with such a difficult history – Britain ruled Egypt as a colony until the 1950s, hiring peasants, brutally suppressing opposition, and controlling Egypt’s finances – the rise of the royal family caused little tension. (The main objections on the Egyptian side came from supporters of Princess Diana, who greeted the visit with displeasure over Charles’ treatment of his ex-wife.)

Cairo has traces of British rule, from the former British officers’ club, where upper-class Egyptians can still play croquet, to a central square named after the liberation of Egypt. But Britons in Egypt are more likely to hear Egyptians fire over Manchester United and Mohamed Salah, the Egyptian football star who plays for Liverpool, than lament Britain’s long-standing control of the Suez Canal. Some Egyptians even praise the British for building trains and other infrastructure, even though they were originally built to serve British economic interests.

Relations are now good and Egypt welcomes significant British investment and trade. Charles’ long-term work in climate protection turned the visit into a kind of handover of responsibilities as host of the global climate conference, which was held in St. Glasgow this year and next year will come to Egypt. The couple were scheduled to travel to Alexandria on Friday before returning to the UK.

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In respect of Charles’ interest in religious diversity, the royal family moved from meeting Mr al-Sisi on Thursday at Al-Azhar, the most influential center for Muslim education in Sunni Islam.

Then it came to the pyramids, where the government brought in one of Egypt’s largest conglomerates to build new restaurants and a new visitor center, develop a sound and light show, and transport tourists on a new electric bus system.

Nearby was the Great Egyptian Museum, which is scheduled to open next year at the pyramids after a long delay, as one of the largest museums in the world. Its gray, angular volume could hardly have contrasted more with the dusty pink neoclassicism of the 119-year-old Egyptian Museum in downtown Cairo, which it aims to replace.

Every week, a little more treasures from the old museum are brought to the new one. Some watch with sadness the devastation of the building with its noble, ragged charm. But it’s hard to deny the symbolic appeal of transferring the legacy of the pharaohs of Egypt from an institution invented by Europeans – a building named after some of the pan-European Egyptologists who transported many of Egypt’s most significant artifacts back to Europe – and back to Europe. Egyptian Museum.

Europe’s enduring possession of some of Egypt’s most famous antiquities, including the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum, is just one bottleneck in Egypt’s harrowing relationship with the West.

Egyptian society, or at least its upper echelons, turned westward, at least since Khedive Ismail, then ruler of Egypt, remodeled downtown Cairo with Parisian-style boulevards and European-style facades in the 1860s. Wealthy Egyptians today buy homes in gated communities with names such as Beverly Hills; they make sure their children learn English, even at the expense of classical Arabic, at private international schools with names such as Malvern College.

“When you say barra — abroad” in Egyptian Arabic — you automatically mean a better place, ”wrote Youssef Rakha, an Egyptian writer, in the 2020 essay Barra and Zaman.

Mr al-Sisi also craves Western approval, as evidenced by his attempts to meet face to face with President Biden. But his government is also lashing out in the West to rally Egyptians around its regime, accusing dissent of foreign interference, harassing human rights groups on politically motivated charges of receiving foreign funding, and responding to Western criticism of human rights in Egypt.

An insult to the West may now be nothing more than a nationalist slap on the chest, but it is rooted in a bitter struggle against the British occupation.

To suppress opposition, it was the British who pioneered many of the repressive tactics that succeeded Egyptian authoritarian regimes later applied to their citizens.

“The irony is that many of the methods and institutions that the Egyptian state used to arrest, torture, and sometimes kill its alleged enemies were used and designed to maintain de facto British colonial rule,” said Aaron Jakes, professor of history. in The New School, who wrote The Occupation of Egypt: Colonial Economism and the Crises of Capitalism.

The British occupiers considered the Egyptians to be backward, unable to govern themselves. Mr. El-Sisi, too, often seems to think little of the Egyptians, whom he often encourages to lose weight and stop having so many children.

Maybe that’s why the authorities spent hours before Charles and Camille arrived at the pyramids, driving away most of the Egyptians.

On the road that had just been cleared of coffee carts and fried sweet potato vendors, there were cops and Union Jacks fluttering instead. This time there were no camels in the pyramids. Only the stray dogs remained.

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
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