Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
29 March - 4 April 2001
Issue No.527
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Current issue | Previous issue | Site map

A year of action

ONCE again, university students have taken direct action to express their anger at the situation in the occupied territories. Cairo University students, protesting against Israeli's policy of violence and dispossession against the Palestinians, attempted to march on the Israeli Embassy.

The demonstration began at the students' hostel, where they chanted anti-Israeli and anti-American slogans and demanded that the Arab Summit adopt harsh measures against Israel. They then tried to break down the fence keeping them off the street, pelting police with stones while the latter used batons to prevent the protesters from leaving the confines of the hostel grounds. According to official sources, six students were wounded in the clash.

On the campus itself, approximately 2,000 students burned an effigy of Israeli premier Ariel Sharon and urged Arab governments to forge a united stance in support of the Palestinians.

There were reports that similar demonstrations were held at universities nationwide.

Sins of the father

AUTHORITIES at Cairo Airport arrested a suspected militant Islamist who is reportedly the son of one of the closest aides of the Afghanistan-based Saudi dissident, Osama bin Laden. Mohamed Medhat Omar was arrested upon his attempt to enter Cairo in mid-March with a fake Yemeni passport, in order to hide his Egyptian nationality. Omar's father, better known as Abu Khabab, has been referred to by experts on Islamist groups as one of bin Laden's top military aides due to his long experience in fighting against the former Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

Islamist lawyer, Montasser El-Zayyat, has asked the authorities to release Omar, saying that even if it was confirmed that he was Abu Khabab's son, "we should not punish him for what his father did." El-Zayyat, who has been trying to meet with the suspect, said Omar told investigators he was planning to visit Cairo for a few days before heading to Chechnya to join Islamic rebels there fighting against Russian troops.

Bin Laden is at the top of the United States' most wanted list. He has been accused of masterminding the bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, killing more than 250 people. More recently, US officials said they also believed the Saudi militant leader was behind the bombing of the carrier USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden in October. A number of bin Laden's alleged aides are currently on trial in the United States for their suspected role in the US embassy bombings in Africa.

Up in smoke

IF YOU think air pollution is so bad it is enough to turn anyone off doing further voluntary damage to their lungs, you are wrong. Thirteen million Egyptians smoke 1.4 billion cigarettes each year.

The statistics, released this week by Qena University, show that teachers have the highest number of smokers out of all the professions, with 56 per cent lighting up, followed by the medical profession with 42 per cent. It is also estimated that 21 per cent of the population below the age of 18 smoke, as do 35 per cent of university students. Finally, the findings claim that the average Egyptian family spends five per cent of its income on cigarettes, compared to only two per cent on health.

Booming business

THE FEAR of mad cow disease has led to a boom for local meat producers and those dealing in white meat. The Minister of Agriculture, Youssef Wali, announced this week that the increased demand for local alternatives had prompted the ministry to grant the Milk and Meats Producers Authority LE620 million in grants. The money will fund projects to replace the meat formerly imported from Europe.

Chicken meat production has hit a record high of 680,000 tonnes, egg production reached six billion eggs this year and milk production is recorded at 2,600,000 tonnes. The ministry is also promoting a "veal project" to produce 300,000 veal calves annually. The question remains: what are these animals being fed?


IT SEEMS you can make a lot of money if you are the bodyguard of a minister -- not so much the salary, but the money you can skim from other people on the basis of your position.

Posing as the guard of Minister of Housing Mohamed Ibrahim Soliman, Adel Hilal, described as a professional extortioner, amassed $130,000 after convincing 18 people that he could obtain government flats for them by using his position. That people believed him leaves little room for comment.

Skin deep

MOST of us tend to think of Cleopatra as being synonymous with beauty. Well, if you still subscribe to this myth it's time to shake it off once and for all: she was so plain she verged on ugly. No long neck and svelte figure, no high cheekbones and perfect teeth. The description is more along the lines of short with a tendency to plumpness and bad teeth.

The first evidence of this came from coin portraits which showed a "small, pert face with strong, undistinguished features," according to one guide book. This month, a new exhibition opening at the University of London will bring to light eleven statues of Cleopatra VII which were previously thought to portray other queens.

Why did men such as Julius Ceasar and Mark Antony simply drop at her feet, and why did she inspire no less than 32 operas? "Her personality was said to be captivating" -- and she was of course the ruler of a great and rich country, greedily coveted by "ambitious" Romans.

Compiled by Fatemah Farag

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