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TOPIC: egypt

In The News

Kherson Pullout, Biden’s “Good Day,” Art Auction Record

👋 Bonjour!*

Welcome to Thursday, where Russia gives up the key city of Kherson, Biden basks in the U.S. midterms and a late Microsoft billionaire’s art auction pulls in $1.5 billion. We also take a closer look at how Sharm el-Sheikh, the Egyptian coastal resort, has been reinvented (again) to host world leaders for the COP27, and it’s come at the expense of the local ecosystem.

[*French]

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Sharm El-Sheikh, What's Lurking Behind COP27 Shine

The Egyptian coastal resort has been reinvented (again) to host world leaders for the COP27, as it aims to cast a climate-financing-hungry Egypt in a favorable light. But the cosmetic changes hide years of harm to the region's ecosystem.

SHARM EL-SHEIKH — Amgad* arrived in Sharm el-Sheikh about 40 years ago, driven by curiosity like many other Egyptian youths at the time to explore this corner of Sinai, newly returned to Egypt in the wake of the 1973 war after a 15 years of Israeli occupation.

What Amgad found was a small Bedouin village sheltered within an immaculate landscape: to the east, the Gulf of Aqaba, teeming with marine creatures and jeweled with coral reefs; to the south, two Egyptian islands — now transferred to Saudi Arabia — that separated Sinai from Saudi Arabia; to the west, valleys and mountains, part of the Great Rift Valley, traversed by the Bedouin tribes who have settled in the area for centuries.

The coastline is home to 200 unique species of coral, 500 species of marine vegetation and various species of fish and marine animals, part of the Egyptian barrier reefs that marine ecology professor Mahmoud Hassan Hanafy tells Mada Masr are among the last sanctuaries for this type of marine life in the world, having demonstrated unique resilience to climate change. Onshore ecosystems also serve to protect marine life, he notes.

If, however, you’re among the thousands converging on the city this month to attend COP27, four decades separate you from the site of natural beauty that Amgad first laid eyes on.

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Clean Hydrogen Production In Egypt: A Big Green Step Or More Hot Air?

As the Mediterranean region awakens to the potential of green hydrogen as a clean alternative, Egypt is still hesitant to invest heavily in the sector. For good reason?

CAIRO — When it opened in Aswan in 1963, the KIMA fertilizer plant was a clean energy producer ahead of its time. Running entirely off the surge of cheap, hydroelectric power spilling over from the Aswan Dam, it produced green hydrogen, used to make green ammonia and ultimately fertilizers, all part of a national politics of the time that was oriented toward self-sufficiency.

That the KIMA plant boasted state-of-the-art green credentials was almost a “coincidence” of the project, says Osama Fawzy, hydrogen consultant and manager of Hydrogen Intelligence platform, who attributes the decision to use renewable power at the fertilizer factory to its proximity to the dam and the relatively low cost of hydroelectric power for Egypt at the time. Yet as the natural gas and oil sectors boomed in the 1970s, KIMA’s specialized hydroelectric equipment deteriorated and was never replaced, and the plant was converted to run on cheaper natural gas in 2019.

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Birth Rights And Resources: Why Egypt Has A Record High C-Section Rates

Seven out of ten children in Egypt are born by Caesarian section, over three times the world average, according to recent government data. C-sections may be more profitable and easier to schedule for overworked and understaffed medical personnel, but they represent a higher physical and mental health risk for new mothers and babies. Civil society and the government are trying to bring more awareness — but reversing the trend will take time.

PORT SAID — Nahla, a 39-year-old Egyptian, and recent mother recalls the birth: “On my due date in February, 15 minutes after I got into my hospital bed, the unbearable pain had me kneeling on the ground and I received no support from the medical staff present at that moment," she recalled. "I turned to my husband, asking him to immediately take me out of there and drive me to my doctor for a cesarean section."

Nahla’s doctor told her she wouldn’t be able to endure the pain of vaginal birth, advising her to opt for a C-section, which she ultimately did even though there was no medical necessity for it. It was not until later that she learned that she could have undergone vaginal birth with epidurals or other painkillers..

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Society
Mohamed Abu Deif

Egypt's Overcrowded Christian Churches Are A Fire Risk — Building New Ones Is Risky Too

After a fire at a church in August killed 42 people, Egypt's Christians are worried about the fate of their places of worship, which lack proper infrastructure and financial support to meet safety standards. But, as Egypt's Mada Masr reports, this is not a new problem, and it is one that has been ongoing for years, during which Christians were not given permission to set up churches.

GIZA — The St. Demiana Church is only distinguishable from surrounding buildings in the neighborhood of Imbaba, in northern Giza, by the crosses on its windows and the security kiosk and metal gate encircling its perimeter. Before prayers commence, the church is already packed to the brim, as hundreds of families fill the premises leaving almost no standing room.

As people pack in, the parish priest, Father Ghaios Bekhit, conducts a safety check around the premises. He checks on the state of the electric cables attached to the air conditioning units and ensures the functionality of the fire extinguishers.

His vigilance has been triggered by fear of a fire scenario repeating itself in his own parish, in the aftermath of the tragic fire that broke out just 4 kilometers away in the Martyr Philopateer St. Mercurius [Abu Sefein in Arabic] Church in Imbaba, during a morning mass, said to have been caused by an electric short-circuit in an air conditioning unit in the building. According to the Public Prosecution., 42 people were killed in the August 14 blaze, including 15 children.

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Geopolitics
Beesan Kassab, Daniel O'Connell, Ehsan Salah, Hazem Tharwat and Najih Dawoud

Patronage Or Politics? What's Driving Qatar And Egypt Grand Rapprochement

For Cairo, Qatar had been part of an “axis of evil,” with anger directed at Al Jazeera, the main Qatari outlet, and others critical of Egypt after the Muslim Brotherhood ouster. But the vitriol is now gone, with the first ever visit by Egyptian President al-Sisi to Doha.

For the first time since coming to power in 2014, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi traveled to Doha last month on an official visit, a capstone in a steadily building rapprochement between the two countries in the last year.

Not long ago, however, the photo-op capturing the two heads of state smiling at one another in Doha would have seemed impossible. In the wake of the Armed Forces’ ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013, Qatar and Egypt traded barbs.

In the lexicon of the intelligence-controlled Egyptian press landscape, Qatar had been part of an “axis of evil” working to undermine Egypt’s stability. Al Jazeera, the main Qatari outlet, was banned from Egypt, but, from its social media accounts and television broadcast, it regularly published salacious and insulting details about the Egyptian administration.

But all of that vitriol is now gone.

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In The News
Meike Eijsberg, Anna Akage and Emma Albright

Lavrov On A Mission In Africa

Timing is everything. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is in Africa this week, which follows straight on the heels of the agreement signed to end the blockade in the Black Sea that had been preventing much needed grain exports to the continent.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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In The News
Lisa Berdet, Emma Albright and Anne-Sophie Goninet

Ukraine War, Phase 2: The Battle For Donbas Begins

👋 Moien!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where the battle for Donbas begins, tensions are rising in Gaza after Israel’s airstrike and Biden’s mask mandate for air travel is struck down. Meanwhile, Ukrainian journalist Anna Akage zeroes in on the strategic significance of the city of Mariupol in this second phase of the Ukraine war.


[*Luxembourgish]

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Future
Laura-Maï Gaveriaux

The Mirage Of Egypt’s New Capital City

In an area the size of Singapore, Egypt is building its new capital. Constructed under the close control of the military and the head of state, the city embodies the grand ambitions of an increasingly autocratic president. But will it turn out to be a ghost city?

CAIRO — The concrete structure rises to a height of 1,263 feet (385 meters) on the edge of an expressway, where asphalt, as soon as it is laid down, lets out acrid fumes. With its double collar that licks the sky, the Iconic Tower is already the tallest building in Africa. It is also the flagship of this vast assembly of open-air construction sites over 450 square miles, an area the size of Singapore, which will be the location of the new Egyptian capital.

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Ideas
Carlo Petrini*

Butterfly Wings & Wheat: How The Ukraine War Could Spark Global Food Crises

In an interconnected world, we are faced again with the negative implications of the so-called "butterfly effect" when a localized conflict can have far-reaching consequences and trigger lasting crises. For our world's broken food systems, the war in Ukraine should be a wake-up call.

-OpEd-

Could the conflict that erupted in Ukraine cause a new bread revolution in Egypt? Alas yes, the conditions are in place for this — and other similar upheavals — to happen.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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The outbreak of war in Ukraine — which is upsetting, unexpected and utterly unjustifiable — again leaves us feeling powerless and overwhelmed by circumstances far beyond our control. In a deeply interconnected world, this also forces us to again reckon with the negative implications of the so-called "butterfly effect:" how a dramatic event limited to a specific geographical area can have unexpected consequences in faraway areas of the planet, laying the foundations for serious and lasting crises.

Here, I want to focus specifically on the agri-food sector, in light of a sad fact: conflict and hunger are intimately connected phenomena, when one occurs the other follows almost naturally.

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Society
Nada Arafat

COVID Exposes Harsh Reality Of Egypt's Public Schools

In Egypt, private schools are driven solely by profit. As the economic effects of COVID-19 forces families to choose cheaper schools, many parents are forced to confront the country's endemic education problems. And they're discovering that expensive private schools are better in outward appearance only.

For the past several months, Heba Ismail has been wracked with feelings of anxiety and guilt over her son’s future and mental health.

It all started when her husband lost his job amid the coronavirus pandemic and they could no longer afford the fees for seven-year-old Ali Eddin’s private school. She transferred him to a cheaper experimental public school — a type of school that teaches part of the curriculum in English. However, far from being a smooth transition, Ali Eddin’s experience at the new school was “devastating,” Ismail says, prompting her to keep her son from attending classes and getting him tutored at home. “If I had the money, I would transfer him back to his old school, no question,” she says.

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Geopolitics
Osman El Sharnoubi

When The Only Way Out Of Prison Is The Price Of Your Citizenship

Several notable political prisoners in Egypt have renounced their citizenship to gain freedom. The choice is a difficult one to make personally, and the practice is highly questionable politically.

CAIRO — On January 8, Egyptian-Palestinian activist Ramy Shaath arrived in Paris after Egyptian authorities released him from prison and deported him after over 900 days in remand detention. He walked out of Charles de Gaulle Airport with his wife Celine Lebrun-Shaath to a cheering crowd of supporters. Yet the conditions of his release were no cause for celebration — Shaath was forced to renounce his Egyptian citizenship in exchange for his freedom.

Shaath's detention was part of a continuing crackdown on political dissent under Egypt's president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, which has trageted liberal critics.

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