Sir-- Five years ago, a tall wall started to be built throughout Luxor, stretching as far as Karnak. Little by little parks disappeared and two years ago a whole side of a street adjacent to the train station was demolished, taking away the livelihood of people who had in all probability been in business for many years. I have witnessed the knocking down of every building on Al-Montazah Street, one hospital, and one hotel, and heard several rumours of additional attraction pieces, including bazaars, going down.
The destruction in Luxor is still going on despite the fact that in many parts of the world there is a recession going on and also the construction industry is virtually dead but in Luxor it should be termed the destruction industry. There are still buildings being demolished along the Corniche. I am resigned to the fact that the ancient city of Luxor which I loved has now become the modern city of Luxor which I do not like. The whole thing is criminal and very illogical.
On a more positive note I found the new ferry boats in Luxor wonderful and really add character to the area so full marks to whoever instigated the transformation of the ferry service.
However, I am not impressed with the complete destruction of the ancient city of Luxor. It is all very sad because the mystery and the charm of the city are being eroded.
What's good for Russia
Sir-- Re 'Don't blink' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 23-29 July) the ongoing US defeat in Afghanistan is indeed a boon for Russia and even the rest of Europe. And it rings true that Ukrainians want an EU-type relationship with Russia (everybody loves the EU!) Indeed, both Russia and Ukraine also want such an agreement with the EU itself. But you fail to mention that the reason why Georgia and Ukraine are not in NATO is because the European members of the alliance have blocked their joining until they mend their fences with Russia, which effectively gives Russia a veto on their joining. In fact, what the writer proves is that there is nothing wrong with NATO that wouldn't be cured by the US and Canada withdrawing and Russia joining.
Sir-- Re 'Mauritania at crossroads' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 23-29 July) I am not sure where you got your figures from, but in Mauritania the Arab/Berber group does not account for 80 per cent of the population. Truly independent estimates would put the figure at 40 per cent at the most, and that would include native Africans turned slaves who now speak Arabic. Mauritania has organised three major population censuses in the past 47 years. And the result of every one of those population counts has been concealed or destroyed by the governing Arab rulers. It's fairly easy to understand why. The fact of the matter is the Arab/Berber population has an average of four children per household, compared to the native African population's average of nine children. The natives still practise polygamy at a large scale, and that explains in part the gap in birth rate. This 80 per cent figure is usually bandied around by Arab nationalists in an effort to portray the country as a purely Arab nation. Which does not square well with the demographic reality of the country. And that offends the demographer in most of us.