13 - 19 July 2000
Issue No. 490
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
Egypt Focus International Economy Opinion Interview Culture Features Travel Living Sports Profile People Time Out Chronicles Cartoons Letters
Holiday in not placeSir- In Plain Talk of the 29 June - 5 July issue of Al-Ahram Weekly, Mr Mursi Saad El-Din describes The Faber Book of Utopias by John Carey.
Unlike Mr Saad El-Din, I "vote" for utopias as well as "to make do with the world we have got." I need now and then a holiday from "the world we have got" in utopia or "not place," the term coined by Thomas More.
Utopias do not all reflect naive hippie dreams of "universal happiness," "a smiling world with everyone loving everyone else," which Carey assigns to humanity; nor do they all enjoin on a more sinister note the exclusion of "bad and weak types of people."
Thomas More in Utopia and Aldous Huxley in Island used the genre to critique the world they lived in with zest and humour. Huxley, for instance, proposed ideas on how human societies could avoid falling into totalitarian systems.
Carey is not fair in lumping today's green movements with Adolf Hitler even if he was a "keen green." If there is a risk that as Carey thinks "communism will be back" (or some other totalitarian system for that matter), this will be due to severe political, economic and social crises like those that caused 20th-century totalitarianisms -- not to utopias.
Dressed to impressSir- Like Lesley Whiting (Letters to the Editor, Al-Ahram Weekly, 29 June - 5 July), I am baffled by the move to undress the galabiya-clad taxi driver and re-dress him in restricting pants and shirt. The edict (Traffic Law 2000, Article 98) has recently been enforced on Luxor taxi drivers, who must wait interminably in the incredible heat of Upper Egypt for their passengers. At many sites there is no shade. Although a foreigner, like Upper Egyptians, I too find wearing a cotton dress or galabiya to be the most sensible way to beat the heat.
I wonder if the edict was initiated in the mistaken belief that tourists prefer things to be the same as at home. Now we have a McDonald's across the road from Luxor Temple. Recently the road was widened at the expense of local pedestrian access and trees that gave much needed shade to the city. Now buses can park while their foreign passengers alight to partake of hamburgers. I wonder: Are taxi drivers being forced to dress in Western clothing for the psychological comfort of tourists?
Will this new law soon be extended to calèche drivers, felucca captains, guards at historical sites, all Egyptians? Isn't it just superficial window dressing? Surely there are more pressing problems. Replacing inadequate electrical wiring and outdated sewage systems, cleaning up the pollution of the river caused by the cruise ships, providing affordable housing for local people and reducing the class sizes in schools come immediately to mind. Or have these been deemed too hard, and in-tead attention is being given to the un-ecessary harassment of local people?
Luxor is sold to tourists as an open-air museum town, yet its taxi operators are being pressured to dress in Western-type clothing. Are the Egyptian government and Luxor governorate confusing West-rnising with modernising?