3 - 9 June 1999
Issue No. 432
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
Egypt Region International Economy Opinion Culture Profile Interview Travel Sports People Time Out Chronicles Cartoons Letters
Sir-It was wonderful to read a special four-page supplement about Armenians in Egypt (Al-Ahram Weekly, 20-26 May) in your widely appreciated newspaper. I would like to make a few comments on some of the issues mentioned.
Although the Armenian diaspora has existed for a long time, its current form took shape in 1915, after the genocide of the Armenian people by the Ottoman government. In this context, political parties were established to organise the struggle for self-defence and liberation. Clearly they had to work in the countries where nearly half the Armenian people were forced to seek refuge. These parties, moreover, had to build associations in order to keep alive Armenian culture, heritage and beliefs. Without this work, Al-Ahram Weekly would have been hard put to find Armenians in Egypt to write about today.
True, these parties need to be modernised in accordance with new realities, foremost among which is the existence of independent Armenia. But it is not true that the parties working within the community in Egypt do not exist in Armenia, as one of your Egyptian Armenian sources claimed. These same parties work in Armenia, put up candidates for presidential and parliamentary elections, publish newspapers and hold seats in parliament.
For a small country like Armenia, a large diaspora can act as a strong lobby, helping the motherland achieve its development objectives. The Armenian government is moving towards establishing an international council to help bridge the gap between Armenia and the diaspora. Is this not the proper way for a country which has been governed by communism for more than 70 years to move towards democracy?
Clean up your act
Sir-It was reported recently that Luxor's infrastructure is "undergoing major improvements". These include allotting a marketplace in some unspecified location for street vendors. Presumably, these will include traders being "cleansed" from the streets of Luxor in an unprecedented campaign, which began about a year ago and has recently been intensified to eradicate the people, services and commodities that are so characteristic of Egypt, so attractive to visitors and appreciated by foreign and Egyptian residents alike. These ruthless street sweeps, when combined with the heavy-handed local brand of security, are guaranteed to deter those being wooed by the Tourist Authority.
The last distressing raid I observed was in a particularly spacious street with light traffic, where no harm at all was being done -- quite the contrary -- by a few tables and chairs spilling over onto the pavement, people selling snacks, etc. Ironically, the harmonious appearance of this same street, created by more enlightened authorities, is being disfigured by ugly and intrusive new buildings garishly painted in contrast to the former prevailing and appropriate deep ochre.
Just around the corner, the unsightly MacDonald's and, nearby, a garish Cola bottle painting, can be most effectively viewed from the Corniche, through the columns of Luxor's magnificent temple.
What role will this brave new Luxor, in which streets and monuments are disfigured and dehumanised, play in Egypt's celebration of its seventh millennium of civilisation so widely promoted outside?
All readers' contributions and comments should be addressed to The Editor. Fax: +202 578 6089
E-mail correspondents are asked to give postal address. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.