Saturday,29 July, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1345, (18 - 24 May 2017)
Saturday,29 July, 2017
Issue 1345, (18 - 24 May 2017)

Ahram Weekly

The good people of Minya

Governor Essam Al-Bedewi talks to Nevine El-Aref on his plan to fight terrorism by improving the Upper Egyptian governorate and putting it on the country’s tourist map

The good people of Minya
The good people of Minya

Although he is not from Minya, Governor Essam Al-Bedewi arrived in what is called the Bride of Upper Egypt a year ago to assure the governorate’s inhabitants of security and stability, especially after a period of sectarian strife. But after a year in the governorate Al-Bedewi realised that Minya’s residents have nothing to do with terrorism. On the contrary they are the fulcrum between the north and south of the country and are the proud owners of civilisation and culture.

“Minya is not the source of terrorism as claimed, but some terrorism leaders are from Minya,” Al-Bedewi said, adding he believes that its residents are good people who are living together in peace and harmony.

In fact, he says that although Minya experienced several violent incidents following the 30 June 2013 Revolution, it did not mean that the governorate is a safe haven for terrorism even if the heated atmosphere in the governorate at that time provided the opportunity for terrorist leaders to use it to foment unrest in the country as Minya is the link between Lower and Upper Egypt.

“I completely refuse to have sectarian strife in the city. It is only a communal conflict that has no relationship with religious faith. Some try to impose a sectarian classification on any problem between families in order to gain sympathy and popular attention,” Al-Bedewi told Al-Ahram Weekly. He added that he talked with several families and realised that their problems do not have any sectarian roots. “Residents of the village of Ismailia, for example, have built a church for their Coptic brothers.

“Only four or five villages in Minya suffer from genuine sectarian strife.

“The governorate drew a plan in collaboration with civil society organisations to prohibit the spread of sectarian strife by raising cultural awareness in society and spreading cultural activities across the governorate,” Al-Bedewi told the Weekly.

On what the government did to eliminate sedition and raise awareness among people and whether he drew up a plan with clergymen, Al-Bedewi said, “We have to admit that the elimination of sectarian sedition does not only depend on clergymen alone. They are doing their job as much as they can but it will continue to be useless without the cooperation of civil society organisations.

“Clergymen deliver their religious sermons in mosques on Friday but after worshippers leave the mosque they do whatever they want.

“We have to create large-scale cultural awareness in Minya by resurrecting the role of cultural palaces and implementing several cultural activities.

“Cooperation with civil society organisations and NGOs is the only solution to support a cultural movement,” he said.

Al-Bedewi said that starting June, an ambitious plan to develop Minya in culture, industry, agriculture and mining is to be implemented.

“Cultural development is one of the essential ways of stopping terrorism and increasing awareness among the people who will protect the nation’s history and its monuments.”

Al-Bedewi said the governorate is pushing forward a strategy to put Minya on the country’s tourism map by increasing hotel capacity and opening new tourist attractions and entertainment venues such as cafeterias, shops and antique galleries. The governorate offered two void lands on the Nile Corniche and neighbouring the planned Aten Museum in a bid to build two hotels to increase the number of rooms in Minya and increase the number of touristic nights without depending only on one night trips from Luxor and the Red Sea coasts.

The governorate is implementing a comprehensive plan to develop its archaeological sites in collaboration with the Ministry of Antiquities.

For example, Al-Bedewi pointed to Tuna Al-Gabal where a cachette of mummies was recently discovered. He said it will be the first area to be developed to be more tourist friendly. The resthouse of Sami Gabra, the first Egyptian Egyptologist to carry out scientific excavations in the site, from 1931 to 1954, has been transformed into a new tourist attraction. The resthouse was also used in the film Doaa Al-Karawan (The Prayer of the Curlew) played by renowned Egyptian movie stars Faten Hamama and Ahmed Mazhar based on Taha Hussein’s novel that holds the same name.

Inspired by the story of the Greek martyr of love Isadora, whose tomb is located a few metres away from the resthouse, he said, Taha Hussein, dean of contemporary Arabic literature, wrote Doaa Al-Karawan during his visit to his friend Gabra.

“Regrettably, Minya is witnessing a decline in tourism and it requires more effort in several domains in order to restore it.

“In addition to precious monuments, Minya is rich in products. It is a first class city in agriculture, industry and mining. It has fertile land cultivated with strategic goods such as wheat, sugar cane, garlic, potatoes and medical and aromatic plants. All these are of high quality and could improve the city’s agricultural resources and economy.

“If we export a ton of Minya wheat we can import with its price three tons of other wheat,” Al-Bedewi said.

He said in industry, the governorate is second in the world in quarrying. It houses a large number of limestone quarries used in 114 industries. Therefore, he asserted, after putting the investments law into action, Minya would be transformed into an industrial arena of iron and steel, cement and textiles.

Minya has allotted 106 feddans for textile industries and 13,000 feddans for poultry farming.

As for archaeology, he said the governorate has “very distinguished archaeological sites that attract many tourists. Minya’s inhabitants are well aware of these sites and what backs what I’m saying is what they did after the deterioration and looting of Malawi Museum in the aftermath of the 2013 Revolution.”

Malawi’s inhabitants, Al-Bedewi said, returned most of the looted artefacts and did not smuggle or sell them.

“We are trying hard to create a strong relationship between the city’s heritage and its residents by holding activities and workshops in museums and cultural centres for children and adults on archaeological awareness and handicraft.

He said the governorate is working overtime to build bridges of confidence with businessmen in order to create a positive atmosphere for them to invest in the governorate and to support cultural, archaeological and communal activities.

“The lack of sanitation in several villages in the governorate is the main problem in Minya,” Al-Bedewi said.

He added there was a number of villages suffering from lack of sanitation which has created many problems although the governorate has completed 18 sewage networks from Al-Adwa to Deirumwas villages. It is expected to open three more stations in addition to present water networks. “We are working but there are places in the villages that still need more work. At the end we are on the right track.

“All encouraging ways of development are available in the governorate. The land is there and the network of roads linking the governorate in all regions of Egypt is working efficiently,” Al-Bedewi asserted, adding that at the beginning of June “we will announce an integrated plan for development, investment and industry in Minya and we await the response of all business, investment and industries to them.”

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