|Al-Ahram Weekly Online
26 July - 1 August 2001
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
Queen Boat scapegoatsSir- I was shocked yet not surprised to hear about the 52 Egyptian men who were detained in May for the mere fact of being present at a local bar that is reputed to be frequented by gay men. As I understand it, no illicit acts were reported in the bar, but that obviously didn't stop the police from raiding it and arresting all "Egyptian single men" present at the time.
This unnecessary gesture by the Egyptian government has created a sense of distrust within the Egyptian community. No one knows what scapegoat the government will use next to divert people's attention from the corruption, recession and political instability facing Egypt.
As a consequence of this latest horrifying incident, the lives of 52 men are now damaged forever. They will always be labeled with abrasive and insulting words that refer to their sexuality. I am so disappointed in Egypt for walking the path of fanaticism Iran walked some 20 years ago.
Ismail A Al-Sharif
West Hollywood, California
Fully cookedSir- Two weeks ago, my wife and I went to the Thomas Cook branch in Mohandessin and booked a package holiday trip to Italy. The operator asked us to leave our passports so they could be stamped, and we were asked to come back for them a few days later.
I returned on the specified date only to be informed by the operator that someone had already come and taken our passports! In response to my incredulous questioning I was given a very detailed response: "Someone came in and asked for the passport of Hala Shukrallah [my wife's name] and the man with her. So we gave them the passports. Yesterday." No identification required, no receipt for our passports, nothing -- they had vanished into thin air and, as far as Thomas Cook was concerned, it was not Thomas Cook's problem.
The next day we went back and persisted, and eventually someone found our passports, presumably hidden at the back of some drawer. "A mistake," we were informed. The kind that can happen all the time, as far as Thomas Cook is concerned?
We were totally shaken by the incident. We no longer wanted to travel and when we finally do decide to head beyond our borders Thomas Cook will not be our operator of choice. Something should be done to insure that Egyptians spending good money to travel abroad get proper, professional treatment.
Another brick in the wall?Sir-Beauty, tranquility, serenity, and the inspiration they can bring: these are the words I would have chosen to describe Lake Nasser. In modern life they are rare qualities that many -- especially from the West -- desperately seek. Whether they are still appropriate I have to question.
It has been my privilege to cruise on Lake Nasser with both Eugenie and Kasr Ibrim on more than 10 occasions from 1995 onwards. These visits represented quite a considerable investment in Egypt on my part. However, it was just those qualities that brought me back again and again.
Abu Simbel was built on the frontiers of Egypt as much to demonstrate the power and wonder of Egypt as to honour God (or the gods as they were perceived in those times). To build a wall around it sends all the wrong messages.
Furthermore, I believe that to deny the cruise ships mooring adjacent to the temple precincts is unreasonable. I have seen the care the boatmen take when mooring their craft and I have marveled at their expertise. If there is a problem regarding these moorings I think it is more probably because of water erosion rather than bad marinership.
When I was moored at Abu Simbel, I never slept. The silence of the night, the amazing ever- changing ceiling of the stars and the moon illuminating the temple are sights that I will take to the grave. I will never forget the peace that your country gave to me but that other travelers should be denied it seems tragic. Surely development must be sensitive to the surroundings -- and who needs protection from peace?
Mary Ross Macarthur
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