Ayman's blog

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The Secretary General of Egypt’s Social Fund for Development (SFD) and the governor of South Sinai signed an agreement on Saturday aimed at improving the quality of drinking water in the Sinai Peninsula, the Ministry of International Cooperation announced in a statement.

The agreement is worth EGP 350.000, including EGP 300,000 provided by the SFD through a German debt swap agreement, with the remaining EGP 50,000 funded by the local governorate.

The project aims to extend drinking water networks in the disadvantaged areas of El-Mallil and El-Fanar in South Sinai’s Dahab City and is expected to create 700 jobs during its implementation.

A second agreement was signed by the SFD and the Local Community Development Society Abu Zanima to finance micro enterprises in the peninsula. The deal will see the establishment of a number of new projects, as well as the development of existing ones through the allocation of additional funds.

The deal will see a greater focus on empowering women and youth in disadvantaged areas of the Sinai, which, according to the Ministry of International Cooperation’s statement, will “provide permanent job opportunities, increase production, and improve standards of living.”

The two agreements were overseen by Minister of International Cooperation Sahar Nasr and Minister of Trade and Industry Tarek Kabil during a visit to South Sinai, where they distributed hundreds of food cartons and clothes to underprivileged families ahead of the holy month of Ramadan.

During the visit, Nasr emphasized the government’s priority to improve the living standards of Egypt’s poor and stressed her support for people living in underdeveloped areas.

Meanwhile, Kabil announced that he had approved a plan to establish a new industrial zone in South Sinai worth EGP 820 million, according to Aswat Masriya.

On her part, Minister of Investment Dalia Khorshid, who was also present during the visit, said that her ministry is seeking to attract both Egyptian and foreign investments to the Peninsula.

“We obtained loans and grants from Arab development funds…We are working on four aspects, including roads, infrastructure, water, sewage and desalination plants,” she said.

Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula has for decades suffered from the absence of economic development and the lack of priority given to it by successive Egyptian governments.

Egypt has recently signed a number of agreements aimed at developing the peninsula, including with the Saudi Public Investment Fund and the Saudi Fund for Development that are expected to see the establishment of new agricultural and residential projects in the area.


Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi vowed on Monday to end the problem of informal housing in Egypt within two years.

During a speech that took place at the inauguration of a housing project in Moqattam, President Sisi said that one of the aims of the Tahya Masr (Long Live Egypt) fund, which was founded as an account to accept donations from the public, is tackling national projects such as ending the issue of informal housing.

Preisdent Sisi added that if forced to make personal sacrifices for the sake of the Egyptian people, then he will do so. The Egyptian President, in many of his speeches, refers to making personal sacrifices. As an example of such a personal sacrifice, President Sisi said in 2013 that he would be donating half of his salary, which is just under EGP 42,000 a month, to the Tahya Masr donation pool.

The project in Moqattam promises 16,000 housing units for disadvantaged citizens.

During the same speech, Egyptian President Sisi thanked civil society organizations for working to alleviate the pain and suffering of Egyptians.

The exact number of housing units that will be built for disadvantaged citizens remains unclear. A large social housing program launched in 2014 promised to build one million units over a period of five years.

Meanwhile, in a recent speech, Egypt’s Minister of Housing said that 32 state-led development projects will achieve the building of 656,000 new affordable housing units at a total cost of EGP 97 billion.

Since the Ministry of Housing began the informal housing project two years ago some 125,000 social housing units have been built, the official MENA news agency quoted Madboly as saying.

According to recent government statements, almost 850,000 people live in ‘slum areas’ across Egypt. More than EGP 14 billion will be dedicated to developing these areas and providing adequate housing.

Egypt has long been struggling with housing issues, particularly the spike in informal settlements. According to estimates by economist and urban planner David Sims, as much as two-thirds of Cairo’s inhabitants live in informal settlements that have sprung up since the 1950s.

Many of these settlements are unsafe and some have collapsed, such as the 2008 incident in Mansheyet Nasser, where as many as 50 homes collapsed due to a rock-slide, killing 115 residents.

The 2014 constitution stipulates the right of every citizen to adequate housing and commits the state to solving the problem of slums and informal housing through proper planning and providing infrastructure to meet the people’s needs.

A Muslim holding the Quran (left) and a Coptic Christian holding a cross are carried through opposition supporters in Tahrir Square in Cairo February 6, 2011. Photo: Dylan Martinez, Reuters

A Muslim holding the Quran (left) and a Coptic Christian holding a cross are carried through opposition supporters in Tahrir Square in Cairo February 6, 2011. Photo: Dylan Martinez, Reuters

In a new address related to the stripping and beating of a Coptic Christian woman in the Egyptian town of Minya during sectarian violence, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi vowed that all those responsible for the recent assault on “an Egyptian woman” will be punished.

Referring to the Coptic Christian victim of last week’s attack, Egyptian President Sisi said he called her an “Egyptian woman” because “we are all the same and we have equal rights and duties.”

During his speech, the President also said that the attack was “deplorable” and promised to punish all those responsible “no matter how many there are”, reported Aswat Masriya.

The attack saw hundreds of people attack the woman and set fire to a number of homes following rumours that her son, a Christian, was involved in a romantic affair with a Muslim woman, something that is frowned upon across the country.

So far, at least 11 people have been arrested in relation to the attack, with Egypt’s Prime Minister promising that the search for others wanted in the attack will continue.

Following the attack, the Coptic Church demanded that authorities take swift action to ensure justice and the application of the law.

Egypt’s highest Sunni Islamic authority, Al-Azhar, also condemned the attack and said it was unacceptable and un-Islamic. Al Azhar said it would send a delegation to Minya to ease tensions and urge unity.

While there are no official figures, Pope Tawadros II said earlier this month that Coptic Christians make up approximately 16 percent of Egypt’s population, with 15 million Copts in Egypt.


Employees speak on phones at an exchange office in downtown Cairo June 5, 2014. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Employees speak on phones at an exchange office in downtown Cairo June 5, 2014. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Egypt’s economic growth in the first half of the 2015-2016 fiscal year amounted to 4.5 percent, representing a slowdown by one percent from last year’s 5.5 percent growth rate, planning minister Ashraf Al-Araby said, according to Reuters.

Al-Araby added that the Egyptian government is aiming to reach a growth rate of under 4.5 percent in the second half of this fiscal year, with a total of 4.4 percent in 2016.

The reason given for the lowered GDP growth forecast was the uptick in attacks by militants against the tourism sector, as well as other problems negatively impacting the economy.

Egypt has lately been hard-hit by a series of incidents that have affected the country’s revenues drawn from the critical tourism sector. Since the 2011 uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule, foreigners and investors have shied away from coming to Egypt due to security fears.

A number of other setbacks have occurred since then, including the downing of the Russian airliner last October – for which the Islamic State claimed responsibility – and the accidental killing of eight Mexican tourists by Egyptian security forces.

The torture and murder of Italian PhD student Giulio Regeni and the hijacking of an EgyptAir plane by a man wearing a fake suicide belt in March have also put increased pressure on the Egyptian government to improve security for people visiting the country.

The falling tourism revenues have been amplified by the dwindling foreign currency reserves that negatively affected the budget deficit.

For the 2016-2017 fiscal year, Egypt’s government is targeting a 5.2 percent growth rate with the prognosis for the following year amounting to 5 percent.

In February, Egypt lowered its economic growth forecast for this fiscal year from an earlier estimate of 5 percent to a range of 4 to 4.25 percent.

More than 14.7 million tourists traveled to Egypt in 2010, with that number falling to 9.8 million in 2011. Last month, tourism minister Yehia Rashed said that tourism numbers have declined by 40 percent compared to the same period last year.

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A Kuwaiti employer who was captured beating a wailing and naked Egyptian employee was arrested, announced Egypt’s Minister of Manpower citing information he received from Kuwaiti authorities.

Earlier in the week, a video went viral on social media after it appeared to show a man dressed in traditional gulf Arab clothing physically assaulting an Egyptian worker who was standing naked in a corner.

Throughout the video, the man, who was later identified as a Kuwaiti store owner, is seen verbally assaulting the Egyptian while smacking him with a stick and his hands. At some points, the Kuwaiti man is grabbing the Egyptian by the hair while slapping him and insulting his father.

While the context is not clear, reports indicate that the beating started after the Egyptian employee allowed a customer to exchange his faulty phone with a new one. In the video, the employee is heard saying that it was just temporary.

According to Egypt’s Foreign Ministry, Kuwaiti authorities identified the employer and are set to shut down his store. The Ministry added that the Egyptian employee had not filed any complaints with the Egyptian consulate in Kuwait, but that after the video went viral Egyptian officials approached Kuwaiti authorities.

According to some estimate,s there are around 500,000 Egyptians living in Kuwait. The majority tend to travel to Kuwait in hopes of finding employment, normally in the construction and other labor-related areas.

You can watch the video here.


Egypt’s Minister of Tourism Yehia Rashed said on Saturday that citizens of Gulf countries will in the coming period not be required to obtain a travel visa in order to enter the country, privately-owned Al-Shorouk reported.

Rashed told reporters at a press conference that the move is part of a wider campaign to boost tourism in Egypt. A number of other visa restrictions will also be eased, in addition to launching online visas.

The campaign, which will be launched in the coming days, aims to promote Egypt internationally as a tourism-friendly country. Rashed said that improving the image of Egypt is “the only way” for the tourism sector to recover, according to the newspaper.

He added that Egypt is aiming to increase the number of tourists visiting Egypt by ten million by the end of this year by increasing cooperating with tourism operators and intensifying promotional campaigns in other countries.

Rashed also noted that Egypt has come out of the crisis of the EgyptAir flight MS804 crash stronger than it was before due to the huge sympathy pouring in from around the world.

Egypt’s tourism industry is a vital source of foreign currency and a cornerstone of the economy. It has suffered greatly in recent years due to the instability that followed the 2011 uprising and a number of incidents that have occurred since then, including the crash of the Russian passenger plane in October last year and the murder of Italian student Giulio Regeni earlier this year.


An Egyptian court acquitted on Sunday controversial television show host Riham Saeed of defamation and infringement of personal privacy.

Saeed had been sentenced to six months in prison and was ordered to pay a fine of EGP 15,000 in February, but the television personality appealed the sentence thereafter.

Somaya Tarek initiated court proceedings in October of last year after Saeed aired private photographs, allegedly taken from Tarek’s mobile phone without her permission, on the television show Sabaya El-Kheir.

The photographs appeared to show Tarek in her bedroom, in a bathing suit on a beach, and more.

While airing the photographs, Saeed moved to blame Tarek, who was harassed and slapped twice by a man at a Heliopolis mall.

“Don’t you think your clothing was somewhat inappropriate for a place like a mall? Maybe your clothes gave the man the impression that you’re not a ‘good girl,’” said Saeed.

Later, Saeed appeared to threaten Tarek, saying that she could have aired much worse. The producer defended Saeed’s actions, saying that it was meant to be a lesson for all girls.

While Saeed claimed to have received these photographs through WhatsApp, Tarek said Sabaya El-Kheir’s production team stole the photographs from her phone while she was in the studio with Saeed.

Following an outcry across the country, Al-Nahar television network apologized to all women across Egypt and suspended Saeed’s show. However, despite numerous advertisers pulling out, Saeed returned to television less than two months later.

The man who slapped Tarek after sexually harassing her was sentenced to one month in prison.

A secondary school student taking his exam in Egypt

A secondary school student taking his exam in Egypt

Dar Al-Ifta, Egypt’s institute for the issuing of religious edicts (fatwas) and Islamic legal research, said in a statement that student’s preparing for exams will be allowed to refrain from fasting during the holy month of Ramadan if the religious practice will have a negative effect on their academic performance.

The decision to skip fasting should, however, be based on “genuine necessity” and does not apply to those who are able to achieve their academic goals while fasting. The conditions for allowing students to cancel their fasting include “the existence of genuine harm resulting from fasting, a strong probability that fasting will cause students to fail or negatively impact their exam results, studying cannot be postponed until after Ramadan, and finally that this concession operate only as long as the necessity is existent,” the statement reads.

Students who decide to abstain from fasting are required to make up for their missed days after they finish their exams.

The institute added that every individual student has to make the decision of whether to fast or not for her or himself.

Ramadan is expected to begin on June 6 and will last until July 7. The holy month will take place during the Thanaweya Amma exams, which are a series of standardized tests taken by high school students, the results of which serve as the entrance examination to public universities.

The holy month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. During the month-long fasting period, able-bodied adult Muslims are required to abstain from eating, drinking, having sexual relations and engaging in “bad behavior” beginning at dawn and ending when the sun sets.


This Thursday, the American University in Cairo will open the doors to its annual Tahrir Book Fair featuring titles from AUC press and other publishers.

The fair will take place from 2-5 June on the AUC’s Tahrir Square campus with some very attractive deals, including the sale of academic books with discounts of up to 90 percent, three novels for the price of two and children’s books for EGP 20.

The book fair will be open between 10 am and 5 pm (except from 1 to 5 pm from Friday).

The Tahrir Book fair was first held in March 2011 as a replacement for the 43rd Cairo International Bookfair, which had been canceled due to the social unrest that had gripped the country in the months prior. Since then, the Tahrir fair has been held every year presenting a range of interesting AUC Press and non-AUC Press titles.

Do you want to attend the event? Click here for more information.

egypt parliament

Only 35 percent of Egypt’s citizens have shown approval of the parliament’s performance, while 31 percent have shown disapproval and 33 percent were undecided, according to a poll.

Baseera, the Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research, said in a poll released on Saturday that 39 percent approved of the performance of the representatives of their own districts, while 27 percent did not approve and 33 per cent said they did not know.

Baseera’s director and former cabinet minister of communications and information technology Maged Othman said that among those who approved of the parliament’s performance, 43 percent were holders of lower to intermediate education, but the ratio goes down to 20 percent in the case of those holding higher degrees.

Respondents aged between 30 and 49 years old recorded a 30 percent approval rate, compared to 36 percent for those aged 18-29 and 42 percent for those above 50 years old.

The poll also showed that the approval rate is higher in the countryside (49 percent) compared to the cities (29 percent), due to the fact that people in the countryside usually know their representatives on a personal level which helps them better evaluate their performance, Othman added.

The poll was conducted using both mobile phones and landlines on a sample of 1,541 citizens aged 18 years and above, and covering all provinces, according to Baseera’s statement.

Egypt’s unicameral parliament first convened in January of this year after elections that lasted for three months in late 2015.

The parliament’s election marked the last step in the “roadmap to democracy” that was announced by then-defense minister Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in 2013 after he led the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood following mass protests against Morsi’s rule.

Sisi became president in 2014 after he made a sweeping victory in the presidential election. He possessed both executive and legislative powers before the current parliament was elected.

The inauguration of the House of Representatives came after a gap that lasted more than three years. The previous parliament was dissolved in 2012 by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which ruled the country at the time during a transitional period that followed the 2011 ouster of long-serving president Hosni Mubarak amid a popular uprising.

This content is from: Aswat Masriya

Treasures of the Diamond Shipwreck to be Revealed for First Time

The Bom Jesus, a ship which seemingly vanished without a trace, was unearthed in a surprising location in 2008. The ship, its crew, and its cargo of gold went missing in 1533. Known also as the ‘Diamond Shipwreck’, the location of the Bom Jesus has been heavily guarded at its site in the Namibia desert due to its proximity to diamond mines (which influenced its nickname.)

Now, talks have begun regarding the possibility of lifting the veil on the site and opening it to the public as a museum that will feature the shipwreck that was buried in the desert sands for almost 500 years.

Miniature of the Bom Jesus ship.

Miniature of the Bom Jesus ship. (Dieter Noli)

Pensioner finds 2,300-Year-Old Pure Gold Crown Under Bed

An elderly man was stunned when he discovered that a box of trinkets he inherited from his grandfather contained an ancient Greek crown made of pure gold that an auctioneer says is worth at least £100,000. 

Mail Online reports that the pensioner had seen the crown nearly a decade ago but did not realize its’ worth or importance and put it aside in a tatty cardboard box beneath his bed. It was only when he finally decided get a box of items valued by Dukes of Dorchester, that he came to discover the crown is an authentic Greek myrtle wreath dating back to around 300 BC.

“Stylistically it belongs to a rarefied group of wreaths dateable to the Hellenistic period and the form may indicate that it was made in Northern Greece,” Guy Schwinge, a valuer from Duke’s of Dorchester, told Mail Online. “It is eight inches across and weighs about 100 grams. It`s pure gold and handmade, it would have been hammered out by a goldsmith.”

Ancient Greeks wore wreaths on special ceremonial occasions and received them as athletic prizes and honors. The myrtle wreath was a symbol of love as the myrtle plant was believed to be sacred to the goddess Aphrodite. Many such wreaths that survive today had been found in important burials, and although the provenance of the pensioner’s wreath is unknown, it is likely that it too was buried at some point as it still has dirt embedded in it.

More Than 70 Engravings and Paintings from 14,000 Years Ago Discovered in a Spanish Cave

A scientific team of archaeologists from the Provincial Council of Bizkaia (Biscay), Basque Country (Spain), has discovered fourteen panels with at least 70 engravings of animals dated to the Upper Paleolithic period. The discovery was made in the cave of Atxurra.

Specifically, the images have been dated to the middle/upper Magdalenian period (12,500 / 14,500 years ago). They were not detected before because they are located on dangerous ledges, about four meters (13.12 ft.) up, in a gallery located nearly 300 meters (984.25 ft.) from the entrance. The location can only be accessed after crawling through a small space. The drawings are also difficult to see because their black lines (possibly from coal) have almost completely disappeared – only scrapings on the stone are visible today.

As reported in the Spanish newspaper El País, the Atxurra cave is located about three kilometers (1.86 miles) from the coastal town of Lekeitio. It was excavated by Jose Miguel de Barandiaran between 1934 and 1935. Since then, the site has been well known to local speleologists (people who study caves and other karst features). However, the fact that the images are located on high and dangerous ledges has prevented the vast majority of cavers from setting foot in the area. This has made it possible to find important archaeological remains beneath the paintings as well, including a piece of flint and a piece of coal – which were almost certainly used to make the drawings.

Deep in a Cave in France Neanderthals Constructed Mysterious Ring Structures 176,000 Years Ago

Not a lot is known about the Neanderthals, but researchers say circular arrangements of 176,000-year-old stalagmites in a cave in France shows they were carrying out some kind of cultural or geometric representations tens of thousands of years before modern Homo sapiens entered Europe.  These structures are unlike anything found previously by archaeologists or anything known from history.

A team of researchers analyzed stalagmites and burnt bones from Bruniquel Cave in France’s Averyron region and found they dated to about 140,000 years before their cousins (we modern humans) arrived on the scene.

Rock Shelter, Bruniquel. Antique wood engraved print. Date of printing 1890.

Rock Shelter, Bruniquel. Antique wood engraved print. Date of printing 1890. From `Peoples of the world` by Robert Brown, published by Cassel & Co.

Led by Jacques Jaubert of the University of Bordeaux, the large group of researchers reported their findings in the journal Nature.

2,500-Year-Old Phoenician DNA Linked to Rare and Ancient European Ancestry

Researchers have sequenced the first complete mitochondrial genome of an ancient Phoenician. The results of the studies of the remains of a man called the "Young Man of Byrsa" and "Ariche” has linked him to a very early and rare haplogroup found in Europe.

GenomeWeb reports that the Young Man of Byrsa had a mitochondrial genome “from the haplogroup U5b2c1, considered to be one of the most ancient haplogroups in Europe, and associated with hunter-gatherer populations. The U5b haplogroup is thought to have arisen in Europe between 20,000 and 24,000 years ago.”

Lisa Matisoo-Smith of the University of Otago in New Zealand and co-leader of the study said in a statement "While a wave of farming peoples from the Near East replaced these hunter-gatherers, some of their lineages may have persisted longer in the far south of the Iberian peninsula and on off-shore islands and were then transported to the melting pot of Carthage in North Africa via Phoenician and Punic trade networks,".

Ancient Peruvian Queen Mummy and her Sacrifice Victims to Undergo DNA Analysis

A research delegation from Harvard University is making a visit this week to Peru to take DNA samples from the mummified remains of the famous Señora de Cao (‘Lady of Cao’), a powerful queen of the ancient Moche civilization. Her DNA will be compared to that of the other people buried with her—apparent sacrifice victims. The researchers aim to determine if the other people buried with the Lady of Cao were related to her, and if so, how.

Jeffrey Quilter, head of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard, will lead the research. He said the results of the DNA analysis of the queen and the funeral cortege buried with her, five people in all, will be released by late 2016 or early 2017, according to Peru This Week.

A replica of the Lady of Cao based on the items she was buried with

A replica of the Lady of Cao based on the items she was buried with (public domain)

One of the people buried with the Lady of Cao was a child. The grave goods buried with her suggest that she was a ruler of her people. In the tomb were robes, nose rings, ceremonial batons and headdresses and other signs of wealth and status.


Candlelight vigil held to inaugurate the opening of the Pyramid of Unas

Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities reopened the Pyramid of Unas after more than 20 years of closure, reported state media Al-Ahram

Located in Saqqara, the Pyramid was built for Pharaoh Unas, the ninth and final King of the Fifth Dynasty in around 2360 BC. The Pyramid was first entered by Gaston Maspero, a French Egyptologist, in 1881.

At a height of 43 metres, the Pyramid was once named Nefer Isut Unas, which translates to ‘Beautiful are the places of Unas.’


Photograph from King Unas Pyramid

While it is dwarfed by the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Pyramid of Unas is of significant importance because of texts on its walls first discovered in 1881. These texts and others found in nearby pyramids of other rulers are known as the Pyramid Texts and are a collection of ancient Egyptian religious texts written in Old Egyptian.

Pharaoh Unas was the first Pharaoh to include ‘Pyramid Texts’, which had great significance for Ancient Egyptian beliefs of resurrection.

The inauguration on Thursday evening saw the attendance of Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany and a number of archaeologists. The opening ceremony also attracted a number of foreign Egyptologists and saw the holding of a candlelight vigil at the Pyramid.

Photograph from King Unas Pyramid

Photograph from King Unas Pyramid

Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities announced that the Ministry would open more ancient Egyptian sites to attract tourists to Egypt.

Egypt’s tourism revenues declined by 66 percent in the first quarter of 2016 compared to last year, with total earnings amounting to just USD 500 million, down from last year’s USD 1.5 billion.

Around four million Egyptians work in the tourism sector, which accounts for 12.6 percent of the country’s total employment and about 12 percent of the economy.

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Google marked the 85th birthday of the late ‘Lady of Arab Cinema’ Faten Hamama through a Google Doodle.

The Google Doodle, which appeared for users across North Africa and the Middle East, celebrated what Google called the “Star of the Century” and Egypt’s “National Treasure.”

According to Google, it is the impact of her success that makes her legacy as a film producer and actress so important.

“From her 1964 film, The Open Door which highlighted the need for women’s rights to I Want a Solution in 1975 which paved the way for changes to Egyptian marriage and divorce laws, hers was a career of influence,” explained Google.

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“In keeping with her legacy, today’s doodle memorializes her role as Layla, the strong, unwavering lead in the film AlBab Al Maftouh (The Open Door),” added an explanation by Google of the Doodle.

“But on this what would be her 85th birthday, we salute her brilliant ability to transcend time to inspire us again and again.”

Faten Hamama, one of Egypt’s and the Arab world’s most prominent producers and actresses, has passed away at the age of 83 on 17 January 2015.

Lady of the Arab Cinema, Faten Hamama

Lady of the Arab Cinema, Faten Hamama

Hamama, who was once married to the late Golden Globe winner Omar Sharif, had been chosen as ‘Star of the Century’ by the Egyptian Writers and Critics organization at the 2001 Alexandria International Film Festival. Sharif, born a Christian, had converted to Islam to marry Hamama and always described her as the only love of his life after their divorce in 1974.

The influential actress first made her  silver screen debut in 1939 when she was only seven years old, and from there, she was on a path to shatter the common depiction of Egyptian women in film as objects – secondary to their male counterparts.

Today, she remains to be regarded as one of the most important and inspiring actresses in the history of Arabic cinema and is commonly known as ‘The Lady of the Arab Cinema.’

Faten Hamama was chosen by Egyptian Streets as the Editor’s Choice for its article ‘23 Egyptian Women Who Made History.’

Archaeologists search for the last Dead Sea Scrolls in the Cave of the Skulls

The Israel Antiquities Authority have initiated comprehensive archaeological excavations in the Judean Desert caves, in order to find the last Dead Sea Scrolls, which are among the earliest texts written in the Hebrew language.

The Israel Antiquities Authority and the Heritage Project have initiated excavations in the Judean Desert Caves to save the scrolls from being robbed.

“For years now our most important heritage and cultural assets have been excavated illicitly and plundered in the Judean Desert caves for reasons of greed. The goal of the national plan that we are advancing is to excavate and find all of the scrolls that remain in the caves, once and for all, so that they will be rescued and preserved by the state”, said Israel Hasson director-general of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The Cave of Skulls, where the excavation is taking place, is located about 80 meters from the top of the cliff, and c. 250 m above the base of the wadi.

Because of the difficulty in reaching the site, the Israel Antiquities Authority obtained a special permit from the Nature and Parks Authority to construct an access trail, which requires the use of rappelling equipment for the safety of the participants in the excavation.

An official at the Cave of Skulls

An official at the Cave of Skulls (photo credit: courtesy IAA)

More than 500 volunteers and field personnel from Israel and abroad were required for the undertaking, and they are sleeping and living in a camp in desert field conditions.

The excavated tomb in Stagira that archaeologists say belongs to Aristotle

Archaeologists in Greece made a surprising announcement today at the International Conference ‘Aristotle 2400 Years’ – the discovery of his long lost tomb. Following a 20-year excavation at the ancient Macedonian city of Stagira, researchers have now concluded that the important tomb belonged to the famous Greek philosopher, who was born in the same city in 384 BC. 

Archaeologists Kostas Sismanidis said that, based on the architecture and location of the tomb, as well as other supporting evidence, he can now say with “almost certainty” that the 2,400-year-old tomb belonged to Aristotle. Literary sources also suggest that Aristotle’s ashes were transferred to Stagira, his birthplace.

Village of Olymbiada, Chalkidiki, Greece. View from the northwest including site of ancient Stagira.

Village of Olymbiada, Chalkidiki, Greece. View from the northwest including site of ancient Stagira. (public domain)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi speaking at a press conference. (i24 News)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi speaking at a press conference in 2015. (i24 News)

Egypt’s President ordered state institutions on Thursday to take the necessary measures to maintain order and restore properties after attacks on Christians in Minya, Upper Egypt, and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s Prime Minister said that no criminals would “escape without punishment”, adding that the violence was “regrettable.”

Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II said on Thursday he is following up closely on the events that took place in Minya where a group of Muslims attacked Christians and stripped a Coptic woman naked.

The attacks occurred on May 20 following rumours that the woman’s  son had an affair with a Muslim woman, according to the local church and witnesses.

The Christian man fled the Karam village with his wife and children after he received threats, while his parents filed a complaint on May 19 to security officials reporting those threats, according to the local Coptic Orthodox church’s statement on Wednesday.

One day later, a group of 300 armed individuals attacked seven houses where Christians reside, looting them and setting them ablaze, causing an estimated loss of EGP 350,000, and stripped the mother naked out on the street, the local church said.

President Sisi directed Minya’s governor to coordinate with the armed forces to repair and restore damaged properties within a month.

In a statement issued on Thursday, Pope Tawadros II called for calm and restraint to keep the peace and avoid sedition and said he was closely following up on the issue with political authorities and security officials.

Security forces arrested five men in connection with the attacks on May 20. The Coptic families’ Defence lawyer Ehab Ramzy said that arrest warrants were issued for 18 others. The prosecution has commenced its investigation with the suspects.

The Christian woman, Soaad, accused three men of attacking her and stripping her naked in front of her home.

Researcher Ishak Ibrahim of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) told Aswat Masriya that sexually assaulting women in the context of sectarian incidents is “not new” in Egyptian society, adding that similar incidents have occurred before in Minya.

Ibrahim criticised state institutions for failing to come up with a strategy to counter sectarian tensions in addition to the continued reliance on customary practices rather than the enforcement of the law.

Members of Egypt’s House of Representatives put forward a motion to cross examine Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar over the incident.

Minya’s governor Tarek Nasr asserted that state authorities would not accept “infractions or irresponsible actions” on the part of some Muslims against “their Christian brothers.”

While there are no official figures, Pope Tawadros II said earlier this month that Coptic Christians make up approximately 16 percent of Egypt’s population, with 15 million Copts in Egypt.

This content is by Aswat Masriya and is edited by Egyptian Streets.

Photo: Khaled Mostafa

Photo: Khaled Mostafa

There is no doubt that the past five years have dramatically changed the lives of Syrians; this time has also changed how they see themselves in a milieu that is, according to many of them, quite different from the homeland. In fact, not all families fled the war­-ravaged Syria concurrently; each family and individual’s reasons differ but it all comes down to the moment of coming face-to-face with death. Life is harsh when innocents have to leave, and tiring in their attempts to readapt.

With the diaspora of the Syrian people, women are facing sociological and psychological conflicts as widows, displaced, and refugees. According to the latest figures from The United Nation’s Refugee Agency, 21.2 percent of Turkey’s 2.7 million registered Syrian refugees are women aged between 18-­59. Some are placed in border camps and get intermittent humanitarian aid from NGOs, while others look luckier for being able to settle in towns with alleged better conditions.

For refugees, it’s not easy to get a job in Turkey, even with a university degree and years of experience. Turkey enacted new legislation to regulate refugees’ labor conditions, but still lacks realistic access to work legally.

Besides being known as skilled, they also proved that they can be responsible and share family burdens in exile. From home­-cooked food to handmade crafts and event planning, formerly­ employed Syrian housewives tried to find themselves again by integrating into Turkish society, securing a source of income and investing in their leisure time.

In Turkey’s southeastern border town of Gaziantep, a modest handmade crafts bazaar was held as the first of its kind in the town, with twelve Syrian housewives enthusiastically participating to showcase their products.

“[Although] I don’t know all of them, I didn’t face any difficulties to gather them, they were on standby for my call,” said Dina, one of the bazaar organizers. “I’ve had to apologize to eight more women as space isn’t enough. Over 250 guests came and bought stuff yesterday. All this made us decide to re­organize another event in a bigger place so more women can participate.”

The bazaar’s venue is a kindergarten run by Dina’s partner, Reem, who chose her place due to the very limited budget of the event. “Although the participation fee to rent a table is 75 Turkish lira (USD 25.6) which isn’t that much, but still many women can’t afford to pay it,” said Reem. “If the event is financially supported we would definitely have hosted more.”

I met some participants at the bazaar who openly spoke from the heart.

Photo: Khaled Mostafa

Photo: Khaled Mostafa

Dina: “Any project needs capital, and we the Syrians can’t risk a lot of money in a foreign country, but with little money you can show the people how your work is fantastic. Many girls and women do amazing stuff at home but they don’t dare to take a step forward establishing a business. I helped a girl to show herself to the Syrian community here – I even made business cards for her.”

Photo: Khaled Mostafa

Photo: Khaled Mostafa

Amany: “I’m a pharmacy graduate, I had a pharmacy in Aleppo. I came to Antep four years ago, wanted to work as a pharmacist but no one allowed me to, so I thought of my minor profession in Syria. Our financial status in Aleppo was better. I would show my customers my handmade mattresses and dresses, I would sell on a larger scale. A month ago, I opened a small shop for makeup and wedding accessories [and] my mom helps me. I have Turkish customers and they adore my work.”

Photo: Khaled Mostafa

Photo: Khaled Mostafa

Raneem: “I recently attended a course on making cakes and desserts, after that I did something that amazed my relatives, I couldn’t imagine that it’s going to work. Qet’aat Hob (A Piece of Love) is the name of my kitchen. I like the meaning in Arabic; I also believe that doing something from your heart makes it prettier. We, the women of Aleppo, always feel the pride of our cuisine. I wish to have my own cakes shop and to have Turks buying my products.”

Photo: Khaled Mostafa

Photo: Khaled Mostafa

Raghad: “I recycle and decorate used glass bottles and cardboard to vases [and] I also work with etamin (cross stitch). I brought many of my work in Syria with me. When the war erupted, there weren’t raw materials like yarns, even here, I face difficulties to find materials, I buy from Ankara and it’s too expensive for me. Working with etamin is hard, expensive and time­-consuming, It’s originally a Turkish craft not Syrian, but I like it.”

Photo: Khaled Mostafa

Photo: Khaled Mostafa

Dina: “This wasn’t my profession in Syria, but I’ve had the passion for it since ages, it was a hobby and I worked it well for me and my relatives before. I’ve been here for 3 years, I see when Syrians have a wedding party or any occasion they get lost in what to do and from where to buy their stuff; the language barrier is another problem. A month and a half ago I decided to turn the old event planning hobby to a profession and show that to people. Next month I have a client, an opening of electronics shop.”

Photo: Khaled Mostafa

Photo: Khaled Mostafa

Ghidaa: “I came here a year ago. In Damascus, I was an administrative officer and all that was like a pastime activity that I decided to take seriously just four months ago. I work from home, no ability to start a business at all, but I wish one day to have my own custom jewelry business. You know, to tell me that you like a piece of my jewelry means a lot to me than just buying it. I have 1,000 fans on my Facebook page, I share my work with them. When a girl wants to buy my stuff we meet in front of Sanko Mall, everyone knows it. I still can’t count on this as a real source of income; sometimes I don’t sell anything for 10 days.”

Photo: Khaled Mostafa

Photo: Khaled Mostafa

Bushra and Hala: “We lived in Sanaa, Yemen for 18 years and came [to Turkey] last year when the war broke out there. We’re very interested in home­-cooked food, our friends encouraged us saying we cook pretty delicious food. There is a barrier between women and the market, and now we’ve got free time that we didn’t feel before in Syria. Also, the living expenses are getting expensive here by the time, the thing that makes us sometimes feel the need to work and do something.”


The French Institute in Egypt will be hosting world renowned economist and leading expert on global income inequality Thomas Piketty on the occasion of the publication of the Arabic edition of his international best-seller, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century.”

Piketty, professor of economy in Paris, will give two separate lectures at Cairo University and the American University in Cairo on June 2.

The lectures will focus on the theme “Capital in the Twenty-First Century: A Middle East Perspective,” where he will introduce some of the findings of his research on income inequality and present a Middle East perspective on the global inequality debate.

Called a “rock-star economist” by the Financial Times and “a modern Marx” by the Economist, Piketty took the world by storm when his book was published in English in 2014, prompting a lively debate on the book’s subject: The history and future of global inequality.

“Capital,” originally released in French, is based on over a decade of research by Piketty and a small team of fellow economists. It traces the evolution of wealth and income distribution since the beginning of the industrial revolution at the end of the 18th century. Based on his detailed analysis of the historical development of inequality, he formulates a grand theory of capital and inequality: When the rate of return of property and investments (capital) is greater than the rate of economic growth, the outcome is a concentration of wealth in the top layers of society, which leads to social and economic instability in the long term.

His central thesis in his 577-page tract is then that unregulated free-market capitalism has a natural tendency to increase economic inequality by the continual concentration of wealth in the hands of a few.

His book has rather unexpectedly caused widespread debate and enthusiasm both in the academic community as well as among the public. When the book was released, it quickly jumped to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list and sold out in many bookstores.

Critics say that his policy recommendations of imposing progressive taxation and “punitive” taxes on the rich are ideologically, rather than scientifically, driven. Nevertheless, his book has reinvented the debate about global inequality and continues to spur on the discussion across the world.

The lectures Piketty will be giving in Cairo next week will be followed by discussion with the audience and the official launch of the Arabic-language edition of “Capital in the Twenty First Century” with an accompanying book signing.

Do you want to attend the events? Click here for more details.

Archive photograph of military deployment in Egypt released by Military spokesperson.

Egypt’s Armed Forces have killed 88 militants in central and North Sinai during military operations spanning four days, army spokesman Mohamed Samir said in a statement.

The attacks are part of the third phase of the latest military operation, dubbed ”Martyr’s Right,” which was launched in September 2015 in response to the killing of 33 security personnel the previous year.

President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi declared a state of emergency in the restive region as a result of the attack. The state of emergency has been extended several times since then.

On Tuesday, the Egyptian parliament voted to renew the state of emergency in the Sinai for an additional three months.

The army statement further noted that 73 hideouts, 57 homes and 15 vehicles were destroyed, in addition to three suspected militants being arrested in the towns of Sheikh Zuweid, Rafah and Halal Mountain.

The spokesman also said the army increased its control over Egyptian coastal areas to prevent illegal immigration, infiltration and smuggling.

This latest development comes just two days after the army announced that it had killed 13 other militants and destroyed or confiscated equipment intended to be used in attacks against security forces.

Egypt’s North Sinai has witnessed a surge in violence since the 2011 uprising that toppled then-president Hosni Mubarak, leaving a security vacuum in several parts of the country. Militants in Sinai exploited the instability and intensified their attacks against Egyptian interests in the region.

The attacks increased following the ouster of Egypt’s first elected president Mohamed Morsi in 2013. The most dominant group in the area, Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in November 2014 and rebranded itself as Wilayat Sinai, or the Sinai Province.

Archaeologists discover a prehistoric brewery in China dating back 5,000 years

New research has revealed that prehistoric people of China were beer drinkers. Tests have just confirmed residue on vessels that indicate the presence of beer 5,000 years ago in Shaanxi Province in northern China, making it the earliest known beer brewing operation in China.

In 2004, researchers found indications of an alcoholic concoction made from honey, some type of fruit and rice that dated back at least 8,600 years.

This week, the University of Stanford’s Jiajing Wang and colleagues published an article saying they had examined the remnants of amphorae, pots and funnels from the Mijaiya site in Shaanxi that they think were used to brew beer and filter and store it.

At the Mijaiya archaeological site, an early society of semi-nomadic farmers called the Yangshao people likely lived.

A model of Jiangzhai, a Yangshao village

A model of Jiangzhai, a Yangshao village (public domain)

The researchers found a yellow coating on the vessels that included microscopic starch fragments and silica particles called phytoliths that occur in the husks of cereals, including barley, Job’s tears, broomcorn millet and tubers, reports New Scientist in an article this week.

Radiocarbon dating placed the age of the pits in which the vessels and small stoves were found at 4,900 to 5,000 years old.

pablo (90)

A Coptic Christian woman was stripped and dragged along the streets of the Egyptian city of Minya as hundreds of people watched, announced Bishop Makarios of Minya.

The woman, who was identified as a senior citizen above the age of 60, was attacked amid clashes over a love affair involving a Christian man and a Muslim woman from the Karam village in Minya. It remains unclear whether the woman was sexually assaulted. However, reports indicate she was injured during the attack. Egyptian Streets has chosen not to name the victim to protect her privacy.

The incident occurred a few days ago but only came to light in a statement released by the Bishop, reported Tahrir News.

According to the Bishop, the violence first started on 19 May after rumors of the romantic affair between the Muslim and the Christian. The violence saw the torching of a number of houses belonging to Coptic Christians, resulting in EGP 350,000 in damages, said the Bishop.

Earlier this week, Aswat Masriya reported that two people were injured and seven homes torched during sectarian clashes. The report revealed that a group of Muslim residents first set the house of the Coptic Christian man reportedly involved with the Muslim woman on fire, resulting in clashes.

In response, Aswat Masriya reports that a group of Christian residents gathered and set fire to houses and a storage room belonging to Muslim residents in the village. In total, four houses belonging to Coptic Christians and three belonging to Muslims were torched.

While police managed to intervene, arresting 25 individuals involved in the stripping and dragging of the Coptic Christian woman, Egyptian social media have been outraged. In the past few hours since Bishop Makarios’ statement, ‘Egypt was stripped’ started trending on Twitter in Egypt.

Sectarian tension between Muslims and Christians has been rife in the past decade, with clashes often taking part in rural Egyptian cities. In late 2015, a 26-year-old woman was killed by her family after converting to Christianity and marrying a man from Fayoum.

Egypt’s current President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has stressed the importance of unity, promising greater support for Coptic Christians.

During a speech marking Coptic Orthodox Christmas in January 2016, President Sisi, who was the first Egyptian President to make an appearance at Christmas mass in 2015, apologized for the burning of churches in 2013 and vowed to restore all torched churches and houses by the end of the year.

While there are no official figures, Pope Tawadros II said earlier this month that Coptic Christians make up approximately 16 percent of Egypt’s population, with 15 million Copts in Egypt.

Tomb of 12th Dynasty Noblewoman Unearthed in Egypt

The tomb of a prominent lady called Sattjeni, who lived during the reign of the 12h Dynasty, was discovered by Spanish Egyptologists in the necropolis of Qubbet el-Hawa (West Aswan), Egypt.

The team of researchers from the Jaén University in Spain has been working on West Aswan since 2008 and, since that year, has discovered several intact burials from different time periods. However, the most recent discovery appears as one of the most impressive.

The group led by Alejandro Jimémez-Serrano discovered the tomb of Sattjeni, who appears as one of the most important women of her times. According to El Confidencial, inside the tomb the researchers discovered the remains of a woman, who was buried in two wooden coffins. The inscription allowed the identification of her name.

The inscription identifying the name of the woman.

The inscription identifying the name of the woman. Credit: Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities

Sattjeni was known as mother, daughter and wife of great governors. Her family worked mostly in the service of pharaoh Amenemhat III (1800-1775 BC). She was the daughter of Prince Sarnbhut II, and a mother to Heqa-Ib III and Amaeny-Senb, two of the highest authorities of Elephantine under the reign of this pharaoh.

Photo: Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities

Photo: Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities

At a site on the western bank of Nile River in Aswan, Spanish archaeologists have discovered a sarcophagus containing the remains of an ancient noblewoman by the name of Sattjani dating back to the Middle Kingdom’s 12th dynasty (1991 BCE – 1802 BCE), Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities announced.

Sattjiani had been a distinguished figure in ancient Egyptian society. Her family was just below pharaoh Amenemhat III (1800-1775 BCE) in the hierarchy of Elephantine, an island in the Nile River that has been the site of a number of archaeological discoveries.

According to Mahmoud Afify, head of the Ancient Egyptian Archaeology Section at the Ministry of Antiquities, the findings are of historic importance because the noblewoman was one of the most prominent figures in the Middle Kindgom. She was the mother of the local governor in Elephantine, Heqaib III, who also held the title of Overseer of Priests of Khnum, Lord of the Cataracts. She was also the daughter of Sarenput II, a nomarch during the reign of pharaohs Senusret II and Senusret III of the 12th dynasty.

Alejandro Jimémez-Serrano, who led the excavation, said that, following the death of all of her male relatives, she became the “unique holder of dynastic rights in the government of Elephantine.”

The woman, whose body had originally been wrapped in linen, was buried inside two coffins made of cedar wood from Lebanon. The condition of the inner coffin was “extremely good,” making it possible to further analyze the year the tree was cut down.

The site of the discovery was Qubbet El-Hawa, the site of an elite pharaonic cemetery associated with the ancient town of Aswan.

Interviewed by Spanish newspaper El Mundo, Jimémez said, “Since the beginning of our project in Qubbet El-Hawa, we have focused on a dynasty of local governors who had power in the border zone between Egypt and Nubia … These leaders lived at a time when Egypt was grandiose and powerful. The kingdom conquered part of Nubia, and Aswan and the Elephantine became strategic regions to maintain control. It was crucial that Elephantine’s governors got along well with the king because they had the power to allow the army to come back safely from a military campaign, through their territory.”

The Spanish archaeology team from the University of Jaén has been working on the site since 2008 and has since then discovered a number of intact burials from different time periods.

pablo (89)

French journalist Remy Pigaglio was detained at Cairo International Airport for up to 30 hours before being deported back to France, reported French newspaper La Croix.

Pigaglio, who worked for La Croix as its Egypt correspondent since August 2014, reportedly had all his papers in order. In statements to La Croix, the journalist said that he was not interrogated nor mistreated. Instead, he was simply held until he was notified that he was banned from entering Egypt.

“I never did, and still do not know why this decision barring entry to [Egypt] was taken,” said Pigaglio.

Director of La Croix Guillaume Goubert said he was completely dumbfounded by the decision to ban Pigaglio from entering Egypt, reported La Croix.

The French Embassy was notified of Pigaglio’s detention but failed to secure the journalist’s entrance to Egypt.

According to Mada Masr, a statement released by French journalists in Egypt condemned Pigaglio’s detention and deportation.

“We extend our deepest solidarity to our colleague Rémy Pigaglio, who has been unjustly forbidden from doing his job. We demand that the Egyptian authorities provide an explanation as to why this decision was taken,” read the statement, according to Mada Masr who did not identify the journalists.

Press freedom in Egypt has been under the spotlight, particularly in the past few months when protests broke out against an Egyptian decision to declare two islands as Saudi Arabian territory.

Photo: Khaled Desouki, AFP

Photo: Khaled Desouki, AFP

International watchdog Amnesty International called on the European Union and its member states to impose an embargo on Egypt regarding the transfer of arms and security and policing equipment that can be used for committing human rights violations

In a statement released Wednesday, the organization said that “the types of arms used to commit or facilitate serious violations of human rights” should be banned for transfer to Egypt.

If such an embargo failed to be implemented, it would risk breaching the EU’s Common Position on arms exports, as well as the human rights provisions of the global Arms Trade Treaty, the statement read.

Further, Amnesty called on the EU to impose a ”presumption of denial” policy on arms transfers intended for use by the Egyptian army and air force. Such a policy would mean that weapons exports would be unauthorized unless a thorough human rights risk assessment is carried out and demonstrates the lawful use of such equipment.

“The EU should immediately impose an embargo on all transfers of the types of arms and equipment being used by Egypt to commit serious human rights violations. The EU and its members must stop rewarding bad behaviour by Egypt’s police and military with a bonanza of arms supplies,” said Brian Wood, Head of Arms Control and Human Rights at Amnesty International.

The statement pointed to the ongoing wave of human rights violations carried out by Egyptian authorities and the absence of accountability for the perpetrators.

“Internal repression by the security forces remains rife and there has been virtually no accountability. Excessive use of force, mass arbitrary arrests, torture and enforced disappearances having become a part of the security forces’ modus operandi,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, interim Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

“Almost three years on from the mass killings that led the EU to call on its member states to halt arms transfers to Egypt, the human rights situation has actually deteriorated.”

She went on to say that “EU states transferring arms and policing equipment to Egyptian forces carrying out enforced disappearances, torture and arbitrary arrests on a mass scale are acting recklessly and are risking complicity in these serious violations.”

EU member states who have been supplying Egypt with arms since 2013 are Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and the United Kingdom, according to Amnesty.

In addition, Privacy International, a UK-based human rights-promoting charity, has documented the transfer by several EU countries, including the UK, Italy and Germany, of advanced equipment intended for use by Egyptian state surveillance agencies.

Amnesty stressed that the continuing arms transfers by EU member states to Egypt is driving repression in the country.

“Supplying arms that are likely to fuel such internal repression in Egypt is contrary to the Arms Trade Treaty, to which all EU states are party, and flouts the EU’s Common Position on arms exports,” said Brian Wood.

Amnesty has, in numerous reports, documented breaches of human rights in Egypt and called on authorities to halt repression against Egyptian citizens carried out by police, army and security and intelligence agencies.

French President François Hollande and Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayyeb meet in Paris on Tuesday, May 24, 2016. Photo: French Presidency

French President François Hollande and Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayyeb meet in Paris on Tuesday, May 24, 2016. Photo: French Presidency

Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayyeb met French President François Hollande in Paris on Tuesday to discuss public perceptions of Islam and ways to combat religious radicalization, state-run Ahram Online reports.

With recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Europe in fresh memory, the two leaders agreed to establish official mechanisms of cooperation between Islamic institutions in France and Al-Azhar as a way to communicate an accurate version of Islam to the next generation of Islamic scholars, Al-Tayyeb said in media statements.

The Grand Imam also condemned the recent terror attacks in France and Belgium.

In a statement released by the Elysée palace, Hollande said that France welcomes the efforts made by Al-Azhar to fight against extremism, as well as the commitment on the part of Islamic leaders in France to prevent radicalization.

The meeting was attended by the French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.

The Grand Imam also attended a forum for eastern and western dialogue, where he held a speech stressing the importance of co-existence and cooperation between religions and cultures across the world. He also urged Muslims in Europe to seek greater integration in their communities.

“I call on all Muslim citizens in Europe that they must know they are native citizens in their communities, and that full citizenship will never contradict the idea of coexistence,” said Al-Tayyeb.

Al-Tayyeb’s trip to France comes after a visit to the Vatican on Monday, during which he met Pope Francis in what was described as a historic encounter between the two religious authorities. The meeting, the first of its kind between the heads of the Catholic Church and the top authority in Sunni Islam, ended with a hug and kisses, seen as symbolizing the strengthening of relations between Islam and Christianity.

In March, Al-Azhar condemned the terror attacks in Belgium, describing them as going “against Islamic teachings and principles.”

Last year, the Grand Imam met with French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who heads the Front National party and has warned against the “radical islamization” of France. Al-Azhar questioned the party’s “hostile opinions towards Islam and Muslims” and urged it to review and correct such opinions.

The Loa Giants: Impressive and Enigmatic Geoglyphs in Northern Chile

Alberto Nadgar Rojas, researcher, visual artist, and photographer, defends the existence in northern Chile of an ancient civilization of giants as a hypothesis to explain what may be the biggest geoglyphs in the world. He explained to Ancient Origins that some geoglyphs are atypical because they contain many designs and predominantly geometric forms, in comparison to the classical anthropomorphic geoglyphs of the Inca culture.

The researcher discovered the geoglyphs himself four years ago and says that they are evidence of the existence of a civilization that preceded the Incas by many years. In his opinion, proof of this is found in a kind of writing that is present on one of them: the largest one - which measures 480 meters (1574.8 feet). According to his hypothesis, the writing also suggests that ancient Sumerians or Egyptians could have visited northern Chile thousands of years ago.

eft: a satellite image of the supposed giant geoglyph discovered by the Chilean researcher. It measures 480 meters long. Right: a graphical representation of the same.

Left: a satellite image of the supposed giant geoglyph discovered by the Chilean researcher. It measures 480 meters long. Right: a graphical representation of the same. (Credit: Alberto Nadgar R.)

Historians Draw Closer to the Tomb of the Legendary King Arthur

For many decades, researchers have tried to confirm the existence of King Arthur of Camelot, the legendary ruler that was said to have led the defense of Britain against the Saxons in the 5th century AD, and to find his final resting place. After years of speculations, the British researcher and writer Graham Philips believes he is closer than ever before.

According to the legend, King Arthur, after the battle with his enemy Mordred, was transported to the Isle of Avalon. Now, new research suggests that location may lie in a field in Shropshire, England.

Graham Phillips has been researching the life of King Arthur for many years. According to the Daily Mail, Phillips believes he has discovered evidence confirming that the medieval ruler was buried outside the village of Baschurch in Shropshire. In his latest book The Lost Tomb of King Arthur, he suggests that the most probable location of the tomb is outside the village in the old fort, dubbed ``The Berth`` or at the site of the former chapel.

The deceased King Arthur before being taken to the Isle of Avalon

The deceased King Arthur before being taken to the Isle of Avalon (public domain)

The second annual There Island Games was a blast! Thank you to everyone who participated as a competitor.  Special thanks goes out to all of the coordinators and event hosts who dedicated their time and efforts into making this such a fun and successful event.

Congratulations to Team Cangrejo for taking first place during the Spring 2016 Island Games events! Check the official scores for the remaining team positions.


Photo Credit: Island Games Facebook Page, Finding Finster Entry

We’d like to invite everyone to the Island Games After Party on Tuesday night to celebrate good sportsmanship and community in There!


By Nada Nader

Egyptians are well-known for their great sense of humor, but that humor is under threat due to the mass detention of people – most of whom are youths – who created satirical political videos or comics posted on social media.

Earlier this month, five young Egyptian men aged 19-25 from the Atfal Al-Shawarea (Street Children) satirical group were arrested. Four of them are likely to face charges of inciting protests and insulting state institutions.

A day after their arrest, the prosecution extended the detention of four performers of the six-member group by 15 days, pending investigation. Their detention was renewed yet again for an additional 15 days on Tuesday.

A fifth member of the group, Ezzedeen Khaled, 19, was detained a few days after the first four were arrested and faces the same charges. Khaled was later released and ordered to pay a fine of EGP 10,000, Mahmoud Othman, the group’s lawyer told the Associated Press.

The sixth member of the group, Mohamed Zain, has not been detained, Othman added.

The group was arrested over of a video clip entitled “We Chickened Out” in which they criticized the unfruitful Egypt Economic Development Conference that was held in Sharm El Sheikh last year and was aimed at bolstering the Egyptian economy by attracting a large amount of investment.

The video then contained criticism of the “New Suez Canal” megaproject, as well as mockery of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s trademark of ending his speeches with the phrase “Long Live Egypt.”

With their unique style of shooting videos in selfie form, Atfal Al-Shawarea also posted several other videos mocking and criticizing recent events and the political situation in Egypt, ranging from the mass detention of youth, activists and journalists, to the controversial announcement that Egypt is ceding control of the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir.

While Atfal Al-Shawarea may have hit a nerve with their satirical videos’ heavy political content, their detention was not the first incident of Egyptian youth being punished over satire, sarcasm or humor.

The arrest of the satirical group is the third such incident in 2016 alone – the year dubbed by Egypt’s president as the “year of the youth.”

Ahmed Malek and Shady Abu-Zaid Video

On the fifth anniversary of January 25 uprising, which coincides with Police Day in Egypt, 20-year-old actor Ahmed Malek and reporter Shady Abu-Zaid posted a video that showed them handing condom balloons to unwitting police conscripts in Tahrir Square during celebrations.

The two Egyptian TV personalities were supposed to get arrested for the video prank, which was meant as a response to police brutality. Garnering over two million views and 150,000 shares on Facebook, the video could have resulted in the two young men being slapped with a minimum jail sentence of six months and an EGP 10,000 fine for “insulting the police.”

“What, why are you all worked up? I was joking,” Hussein wrote on Facebook in response to the ensuing uproar over the video. He argued that the prank, however offensive, paled in comparison to the police abuses he said he witnessed firsthand during the 2011 uprising.

Malek, meanwhile, took to Facebook to apologize, saying, “I sincerely apologize to anyone insulted by the video, especially the police.” Malek was referred to a disciplinary committee by the Actors’ Syndicate.

The company that produces the satirical show Abu-Zaid reports for issued a statement saying it totally opposes his actions, while Abu-Zaid expressed that there was no need for Malek’s apology and refused to follow suit and apologize for the video.

Islam Gawish (Al-Waraqa)

Less than a week after Malek and Abu-Zaid’s prank, security forces arrested Islam Gawish, a cartoonist and the admin of Facebook page Al-Waraqa (The Paper), where he posts satirical comics discussing social and political issues.

Gawish’s illustrations attracted nearly two million followers on his Facebook page, which he created in 2013. He had begun using his drawings as a vehicle for criticism of the Egyptian president and government policies.

Gawish was arrested by 10 security personnel who stormed the social media company where he works and confiscated his laptop and other computers owned by the organization.

According to a statement by the Interior Ministry, Gawish was arrested during an inspection by the artistic products police department after they received information that one of the company’s founders was broadcasting news with no license. The Interior Ministry spokesperson said Gawish was arrested because he’s in charge of the graphics department.

Gawish was released after 24 hours in custody without being charged or having to pay a fine.

Mahmoud Othman, the same lawyer defending the members of Atfal Al-Shawarea, was Gawish’s lawyer at the time and said that he was informed verbally that Gawish was arrested for his anti-regime comics.

Al-Sisi later said during a telephone interview in a program on a national TV channel that the way security dealt with Gawish was wrong, referring to the failure of security in connection and understanding youth.

As the year plowed on and more incidents of youth and activist arrests took place in Egypt, the so-called “year of the youth” turned into a paradox and many began voicing their outrage.

Doctor-turned-comedian Bassem Youssef recently uploaded a video shot in the same style as Atfal Al-Shawarea to voice his dissatisfaction with the plethora of arrests and stand in solidarity with the arrested group members and other political detainees.

“If you’re not afraid, release those youth from custody. They didn’t make anything they should be imprisoned for,” he said in the video, directing his words to President Sisi.

Youssef garnered widespread fame after the 2011 uprising, when he began posting satirical political videos on YouTube, despite the general lack of space for freedom of expression at the time. He succeeded in amassing millions of viewers and eventually began hosting a television program, Al-Bernameg.

In the one-year-rule of the former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, Youssef mimicked and mocked Morsi’s actions in a variety of national and international events, causing Morsi supporters to sue the comedian several times.

Although Youssef managed to keep his show on air in the midst of several lawsuits under Morsi’s short tenure as president, Al-Bernameg suddenly came to a halt by the time Sisi came to power in June 2014.

Youssef refused to explain the reasons for Al-Barnameg’s cancellation, but expressed that the decision to suspend the program is a message in and of itself.

This continuing crackdown has not, however, been limited to the once-flourishing scene of satirical art in Egypt.

More than 150 people have been sentenced to between two and five years in prison for participating in protests last month against a secret maritime border demarcation deal between Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Some students were also arrested for participating in on-campus protests against the demarcation deal.

Others still were arbitrarily arrested from cafés, streets and their homes in the days leading up to these protests as security forces attempted to discourage youths from participating in the demonstrations.

All in the “year of the youth.”


Crowds of mourners flocked on Monday to the Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi mosque in Cairo’s Fifth Settlement for an absentee funeral for the perished crew members onboard the EgyptAir MS804 plane that crashed in the Mediterranean Sea.

The hundreds of people attending the event offered their condolences to the relatives of the lost crew members, some wearing the EgyptAir uniform in solidarity with the national airliner and the victims’ families, privately-owned Egypt Independent reported.

“Although staff have been psychologically shaken by the accident, we are trying to carry out our duty to support the airline,” pilot Saher Hassan said.

“We could have been in the shoes of the victims,” another pilot said, adding that the crash has prompted a wave of support and solidarity with those most affected.

In the days since the Airbus 320 went missing en route from Paris to Cairo on Thursday, funerals and memorial services have been held for the victims at various locations.

On Friday, hundreds of people flocked to the Abu Bakr El Seddik Mosque in Cairo to mourn the 66 passengers and crew who died in the disaster.

“I lost my brother, he is married, he has a boy and a girl,” Ayman Ishak Michael Dawood, who lost his older brother Wifqi told the BBC. “He was the backbone of our family, he was loved by everyone.”

There were also emotional scenes in the Boutrossiya Church, located inside the St. Mark Cathedral in the Cairo district of Abbasiya on Sunday, as several hundred mourners attended a memorial service to offer their condolences to the families of the deceased and to pray for the departed.

“The church, the pope, the state and its representatives are very moved by this painful incident and are all standing together in offering their condolences to these families,” Bishop Daniel, who led the service, told the Associated Press.

Flight MS804 vanished at 2:30AM Cairo time on Thursday. The passenger plane was carrying 66 people from Paris to Cairo and ‘vanished’ moments after entering Egyptian airspace. Search and rescue teams consisted of Egyptian and Greek military forces with assistance from French surveillance jets.

Egyptian investigators have asked their French and Greek counterparts to hand over documents and audio and video records on the crashed EgyptAir plane, to determine the causes of disaster.

Want to know more about EgyptAir flight MS804? Click here for all you need to know.

Egypt`s parliamentary speaker, Ali Abdel Aal

Egypt’s parliamentary speaker, Ali Abdel Aal

Egypt’s speaker of parliament Ali Abdel Aal has warned lawmakers against speaking to the media about the government’s monetary policy or the dollar exchange rate, threatening to take disciplinary action against those who do.

“Constructive criticism is accepted but not when it is in the context of destruction,” he said, according to Parlmany.

He added that there is “a systematic campaign abroad to destroy the country’s constitutional institutions,” saying that some members of parliament have received training in how to criticize the country’s fiscal policies.

“Some may say that this is a breach of freedom of expression but freedom of expression should be responsible and harming the interests of the state is not seen as freedom of expression,” he continued.

“Some have been keen to appear on television shows to discuss the state’s monetary policy, an issue which leads to harmful consequences,” speaker Abdel Aal said. “Therefore all parliament members must refrain from speaking about the state’s monetary policy as it could expose it [the country] to harmful ramifications.”

He warned that parliamentarians who violate his instructions would be referred to the parliament’s ethics committee.

Abdel Aal’s comments have stirred controversy, with some calling into question the independence of Egypt’s parliament, which was opened in January for the first time in four years after being elected with a low voter turnout of 28.3 percent.

In 2012, the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated legislature was dissolved by the Supreme Constitutional Court. The ruling by Egypt’s top legislative authority came less than a year after it was elected in what was been described as the country’s first democratic parliamentary elections.

The current House of Representatives is considered by analysts as largely loyal to President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, with no real power to oppose the laws he wants to implement. As the parliament is dominated by the loyalist Support Egypt coalition, the country’s legislative procedures have been under scrutiny for not upholding the independence of the legislature.

Unnamed parliamentarians speaking to privately-owned Al-Masry Al-Youm also pointed to Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) governor Tarek Amer as the reason behind Abdel Aal’s threats against MPs.

Amer and President Sisi have been under fire for several months over the ongoing dollar crisis, which has driven up prices on basic goods, including medicines and food products despite efforts to solve the issue. In March, the Central Bank devalued the pound from 7.83 to 8.95 against the dollar, marking the first devaluation during Amer’s tenure as CBE governor. The move aimed to combat the black market sale of foreign currencies, which has seen the dollar being sold at much higher prices.

Speaking to AFP, MP Ahmed al-Tantawi criticized Abdel Aal’s comments, saying, “We are dealing with members of parliament, not high school students.”

Other parliamentarians played down the speaker’s remarks. “He said it in the form of advice, not as a threat and this is very acceptable,” said New Wafd party member Magdy Bayoumi.

“I read that one organization held more than one workshop for some members at which they discussed this topic. There seems to be some suspicion of incitement against the state,” Ashram Iskander, another Wafd party member, said.

Egypt’s parliament, with 448 independent seats, 120 party-based seats and 28 presidential appointees, is the country’s largest parliament to date. This is Egypt’s third parliament to be elected since the January 25 revolution in 2011 and marks the final stage of the “June 30 road map to democracy, » which was implemented after the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.

United Nations Security Council meets in Cairo, Egypt, with League of Arab States. Photo: UNIC Cairo

United Nations Security Council meets in Cairo, Egypt, with League of Arab States. Photo: UNIC Cairo

Member states of the Arab League and the United Nations Security Council held talks in Cairo on Saturday on a range of regional and global issues in what was described in a UN statement as an “unprecedented” consultative meeting.

The representatives discussed an array of issues, ranging from developments in Palestine, Libya and Somalia to the Middle East peace process. They also tackled the challenges posed by the increasingly volatile refugee situation in the region and the problem with illegal immigrants and displaced persons.

The meeting opened with Arab League Secretary General Nabil Al-Araby delivering a keynote address in which he underscored the importance of deepening cooperation and coordination between the Arab League and the UN on an array of issues. In particular, he stressed that cooperation between the organizations should be enhanced regarding matters relating to international peace and security, and stability in the Arab region and around the world.

A number of representatives from both sides called for holding talks on a regular basis, with some expressing a willingness to establish a permanent mechanism for discussions between the organizations.

Al-Araby, a veteran Egyptian diplomat, added that it is necessary to reconsider the way in which the Security Council operates in order for it to be able to better deal with crises threatening international peace and security, as well as resolving conflicts peacefully. He indicated the role that regional organizations can play in this regard.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said in a separate statement that the visit by the Security Council delegation “comes as part of an Egyptian initiative through Egypt’s current presidency of the Security Council.” A meeting was held between Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and the Security Council delegation in which they discussed the situation in Palestine, Syria, Libya, Somalia and South Sudan.

Egypt officially locked a two-year, non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council after 179 of the 193 UN member states voted in favor of its membership in October last year. The country is heading the Security Council’s meetings during the month of May and has vowed to promote Arab and African issues, in addition to leading discussions on the ideological discourse of extremist organizations.

US troops chaining a statue of Saddam Hussein before pulling it down. Credit: Ramzi Haidar/AFP

US troops chaining a statue of Saddam Hussein before pulling it down. Credit: Ramzi Haidar/AFP

What is the dominant power in today’s world? 20 years ago this question could have been answered with ease: The collapse of the Soviet Union left Russia in tatters while China still struggled with its economic development and Europe – as I might add with a slice of sarcasm – was now and then busy enough with itself. The US, on the other hand, had just emerged victorious from the Cold War and was able to establish control over many key countries of the Middle East, including Egypt, by means of military and financial aid.

Now which term fits this position best? My thesis shall be that this state of omnipresence and great control makes – or at least made – the US an empire like the Roman, British and Chinese empires that came before it.

What defines an empire?

To determine whether we can talk about the USA as an empire by definition depends of course of the definition applied, but these inevitably vary greatly. For German historian Herfried Münkler, an empire involves uncontested control over the largest share of the known world. Thus, for centuries, empires could exist alongside each other, like the Chinese and the Roman empires during the 4th century AD, being divided by large swathes of land and sea, making dominance over the other’s realm virtually impossible. This has changed in the globalized world: In a world so interlinked like ours the entire globe has literally become a village. Whether that started with the industrial revolution, the dominance of the British Empire or, more recently, with the emergence of the US Empire is arguable but in any case the situation we are facing remains the same.

An empire seeks to extend and maintain its control over its dominion by all available means, including diplomatic and military ones. Therefore, empires always spend a great deal of their resources on maintaining power infrastructure.

A history of executing influence – the basics of US policy

Now that we are equipped with a working definition, let us take a look at historic and contemporary aspects of US policy.

US policy nowadays is inevitably linked with wars and conflicts, especially the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001 and 2003, respectively. In retrospect though, violent intervention had always been the last resort in US foreign policy. As was mentioned earlier, its classic means of establishing control consisted of a somewhat mafia-like tradeoff: Guaranteed security in exchange for handing over a certain degree of sovereignty to the US. As much as this kind of US policy is widely condemned nowadays, it was – and still is – very much welcomed by many of its partners. This tradeoff allowed European nations in particular to keep military spending relatively low during the entirety of the Cold War and way beyond that, allowing them to build the modern European social state that nowadays seems so attractive to many.

The situation in the Middle East slightly differed from that, especially because of the much broader variety of political, cultural and economic systems in the region compared to the relatively homogeneous Europe. While early US foreign policy could be described as anti-imperialistic – like during the Suez crisis where it crippled British and French imperial ambitions via the United Nations – it quickly changed into a political approach reflecting the reality of the US constituting an empire on its own.


The greatest profiteer of US policy in Egypt, obviously, was the army: More than a billion dollars annually in military aid and modern equipment surely helped to cement the central position it had already held in the Egyptian state ever since the foundation of the Arab Republic.

Egypt, as the link between Asia and Africa and with the strategically significant importance of the Suez Canal, always played a vital part in the political considerations of the superpowers of the 20th and 21st century.

The United States, despite its often negative image in Egyptian public perception, mostly took a neutral to friendly stance towards Egypt. This stance notably began with the Suez crisis and culminating in the US-brokered peace treaty with Israel in 1978, which might be perceived by some as a move to cement the Israeli position in the region but nonetheless also brought great advantages to Egypt, both economically and militarily.

US foreign policy towards the Nile country has only recently been put to the test, when the US froze military aid for Egypt as a consequence of the toppling of Mohamed Morsi in 2013. Interestingly enough that didn’t lead to the Egyptian government giving in to the superpower’s demands but rather to it acquiring weapons from sources other than the US, like France and more noticeably Russia.

In 2015 the US unfroze the weapon deliveries to Egypt without its demands for a democratic restructuring being met, thus giving in to Al-Sisi and his government.

Rising Rivals

Another focus point in the decline of the US’ global ambitions is the rise of China, already one of the largest shareholders of US debt obligations globally, as an economical superpower, and the resurgence of Russia as a regional power, at the least.

Russia already successfully challenged US hegemony during the Ukraine crisis and the Syrian civil war, reestablishing its role as a global or at least regional power. Despite the worrying implications for the Russian economy that a large share of its GDP stems from the export of its natural ressources and not from technical innovation and industrial production, it nonetheless managed to reduce its debt/GDP ratio dramatically over the past two decades, activating resources for a more active foreign policy. The mutual visits between Egyptian and Russian representatives, up to the presidential level, give a nice hint towards the strategical importance of Egypt on the geopolitical level.

China, on the other hand, doesn’t catch as much attention on the politcal level as it does in the economical world, where it achieved a state of permanent growth, buying up large swathes of land in Africa to satisfy its growing demand for food. It so far hasn’t really challenged US authority directly and politically except for in its own regional power zone but its growing influence and self-confidence are draining valuable resources from other regions under predominantly American control.

The Downfall

There can be no doubt that the USA is still the dominant power of the contemporary world but signs of erosion on all corners of the empire are becoming too large to ignore: The ever-rising US debt, the emergence of new rivals and a world becoming more turbulent translate into increasing difficulty for the US to maintain control over its sphere of influence. The end of the empire, assuming it has ever been one, has probably not come yet but its control is fading as it becomes more and more occupied with internal struggles in the face of rising external threats to its hegemony.

And even though an empire has rarely ever won a competition for popularity and its downfall would be greeted with cheers by many, history has taught us that such a downfall usually comes at a great price for everyone.

Interestingly enough, the global situation mirrors the Egyptian situation in some ways here: The downfall of the old order can be desirable but the ensuing chaos and its consequences often are not.

Sword Guards Confirm Samurai Warriors Secretly followed Christianity

At least 48 sword guards used by samurai warriors during the feudal era belonged to hidden Christians. The artifacts are related to the early history of 16th and 17th century Japan, which saw the persecution of Christians and the Shimabara Rebellion, an uprising of Catholic Christian peasants.

According to The Asahi Shimbun, the Sawada Miki Kinenkan museum in Kanagawa Prefecture, owns 367 sword guards, which were examined by Yuhiko Nakanishi, chairman of nonprofit group Nihon Token Hozon Kai (Japan Sword Preservation Association), and other researchers, and 48 were identified as belonging to Christians. The research took six months, and the results were recently presented.

The Sawada Miki Kinenkan Museum claimed that the items, which went back on display at the museum on May 10, were suspected as belonging to Christians, but the discovery by the team of Nakanishi provided important evidence confirming the legends about Christian samurais.

Samurai warriors with various types of armor and weapons, 1880s

Samurai warriors with various types of armor and weapons, 1880s (public domain)


By Eman Omar

Mortal Designs is a beautiful translation of Reem Bassiouney’s Arabic novel (Ashiaa Raae’a). It is a love story born in the midst of all kinds of struggle; from social class and cultural differences, generation and gender clashes, power struggles and finally the dilemma of an internal struggle.

The novel was translated by Melanie Magidow and was published in January of 2016 by The American University Press. On such a recent release, Mortal Designs has received one critic review by Library Bookwatch, which said, “Mortal Designs is a deftly written and truly memorable novel that showcases author Reem Bassiouney’s truly impressive storytelling talent. Very highly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Literary Fiction collections.”

Reem Bassiouney is an award-winning Egyptian novelist. She is a professor of sociolinguistics at the American University in Cairo, having taught at Cambridge, Oxford, and Utah. She writes widely on gender and linguistics. She has written several novels and a number of short stories and won the 2009 Sawiris Foundation Literary Prize for Young Writers for her novel Dr. Hanaa.

The story is set in pre-revolution Egypt with plenty of reflections on previous eras in Egypt’s modern history. The two main characters, Asma and Hazim, though coming from completely different worlds, both claim to defy the norm and despise corruption, only to realize that they are contributors to it in their own way.

Asma is a widow who has vowed to raise her three children on her own. She refuses to give in to the boundaries and low expectations set for her by her community in Benha. She fights to change her reality, determined to rise above her current status, no matter what it takes. She plans a detailed future for each of her children, and a place in history for her name, because she had changed the way people see women of her social class. Then she sets off to execute her plans, enduring all kinds of blows along the way.

In the process meets Dr Hazim, an elite architect from a higher social strata who seeks immortality through his creations. Initialy, Hazim alienates Asma and merely feels pity for her situation. The architect has lived a luxurious life, keeping himself at a distance from everything and everyone around him. He believes in an Egypt he had created in his own head from the memory of his ‘good old days,’ and refuses to mingle with the public. But eventually his ivory tower crumbles as he faces his own demons.

The worlds of those two polar characters collide in what they believe is mutual benefit, which turns out as much more than that. They find themselves changing daily, fighting with themselves, with their society, and with corruption.

The other characters in the story are allegorical; representing different aspects of our society through vivid personas we meet every day. They play essential roles in shaping the destinies of Asma and Hazim, whether through directly impacting them or being the driver that makes them act one way or the other.

The story open-ends in, what I believe, is a very realistic style. It is full of monologues, scenes and imagery that makes your mind wander and reflect on the world we live in.


The Egypt-led investigative team probing the crash of EgyptAir flight MS804 is expected to release a preliminary report on the crash in one month, state-owned Al-Ahram reported.

According to Ayman Al-Mokadem, the head of Egypt’s Air Accidents Investigation department, the report will include all the information the investigative team manages to gather by the time the report is published.

The EgyptAir flight was traveling from Paris to Cairo when it crashed in the Mediterranean Sea on Thursday. The airplane remained missing for more than 24 hours before the Egyptian military discovered parts of its wreckage around 290 kilometers off the coast of Alexandria.

The 66 people onboard the plane, including 30 Egyptian and 15 French nationals, are believed to have perished in the crash.

While the cause of the crash remains unclear, Egyptian officials have said that they are not ruling out any scenarios in the investigation.

Speaking at an event in Damietta on Sunday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi urged Egyptian and international media to refrain from considering one scenario more likely than others regarding the cause of the plane crash.

Al-Sisi also said that an Egyptian submarine has been dispatched to aid in the search mission, particularly as the mission is currently focused on locating the aircraft’s black boxes, which investigators hope will shed further light on the details of the flight and what caused it to crash.

Leaked data, which was later confirmed by French investigative officials, revealed smoke alarms went off in one of the aircraft’s lavatories minutes before it disappeared.

According to data published by air industry website Aviation Herald, the information shows that smoke was first reported in the aircraft’s lavatory before the aircraft’s system shut down, preventing the pilots from sending any distress signals.

However, Egypt’s Minister of Civil Aviation warned that while the alarms may have gone off, they cannot confirm whether there was any smoke. Al-Mokadem also declined to comment on these reports.

Want to know more about EgyptAir flight MS804? Click here for all you need to know.

Sheik Ahmed el-Tayyib, left, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque, exchange gifts with Pope Francis during a private audience in the Apostolic Palace, at the Vatican (Max Rossi/Pool photo via AP)

Sheik Ahmed el-Tayyib, left, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque, exchange gifts with Pope Francis during a private audience in the Apostolic Palace, at the Vatican (Max Rossi/Pool photo via AP)

Egypt’s Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayyeb met Pope Francis in the Vatican on Monday in what has been described as a historic encounter between the two religious leaders, AFP reported.

The meeting, the first of its kind between the heads of the Catholic Church and the top authority in Sunni Islam, lasted for about 30 minutes and ended with a hug and kisses, seen as symbolizing the strengthening of relations between Islam and Christianity.

“Our meeting is the message,” the Pope told the Grand Imam, according to officials speaking to a small group of journalists covering the event.

On his part, Tayyeb said his trip to the Vatican aimed to “explore efforts to spread peace and co-existence.”

The warm-hearted meeting comes following a deterioration of relations between the two religious institutions after Pope Benedict XVI made controversial remarks on Islam. According to Al-Azhar, in a 2006 speech in Germany, he linked Islam to violence, prompting the initial freeze in relations and widespread protests in a number of countries.

Today’s meeting was nevertheless described by the vatican as “very cordial” and the embrace of the two religious leaders is seen as marking a considerable shift in the nature of relations.

Francis, who succeeded Benedict XVI in 2013, has sought to improve relations with other faiths. In March, he made headlines after he washed and kissed the feet of 12 young Muslim, Christian and Hindu refugees in an act aimed at bolstering international protection for refugees.

“All of us together, Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Copts, Evangelical [Protestants] brothers and sisters — children of the same God — we want to live in peace, integrated,” he said.


Israel returned two smuggled artifacts dating back to Pharaonic times to Egypt on Sunday, describing the move as reflecting the thawing relations between the two nations.

According to a statement by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the artifacts are two sarcophagus covers, one of which is from the period between the 10th and 8th centuries BCE while the other dates back to 16th and 14th centuries BCE.

The two items had been illegally brought into Israel through “a third country,” the statement read. A Reuters report quoted the foreign ministry as saying that it was a Gulf state.

After the Israel Antiquities Authority had confiscated the relics, they were stored under climate-controlled conditions in order to avoid exposing them to any damage.

The repatriation of the two objects had been put on hold as a result of the coming to power of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2012, who fostered close ties with Gaza-based Hamas and recalled Egypt’s ambassador to Israel.

The handing over of the artifacts by Israeli authorities to the Egyptian ambassador in Tel Aviv Hazem Khairat is considered a sign of warmer relations between the countries.


“The transfer was made possible in the framework of the longstanding peace treaty between the countries, and thanks to the strengthening dialogue between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of Egypt in Israel,” the ministry statement read.

Speaking to Reuters, Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold said, ”The return of the Egyptian [artifacts] is symbolic, more than anything, of the changing relations [between] Israel and Egypt.”

The Egyptian ambassador stated that his country appreciates the efforts made by Israel to repatriate the smuggled items and that Egypt looks forward to the return of a number of other items that have made their way to Israel.

Since 2015, Egypt has succeeded in repatriating almost 550 archeological objects from a number of countries, including Switzerland, England, USA, Germany and Belgium. In the past year, 240 artifacts have been returned from France alone.


After the crash of EgyptAir flight MS804 in the Mediterranean Sea last week, Egyptian Tourism Minister Yehia Rashed said Egypt needs to work ”ten times harder” to revitalize its increasingly struggling tourism industry.

However, the minister is not all that worried about the effect the crash will have on Egypt’s tourism, he said in an interview with Reuters.

“The efforts that we need to put are maybe 10 times what we planned to put in place but we need to focus on our ability to drive business back to Egypt to change the image of Egypt.

“What we need to understand is this is an incident that could have taken place anywhere. Aviation incidents happen, unfortunately,” he said.

Speaking to Bloomberg, he said that Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous nation, is maintaining its forecast that ten million tourists will visit it in 2017, generating USD 12 billion of income. “Nothing has changed in my view,” he said.

Egypt’s tourism industry, one of the main sectors of income for the Egyptian economy and a crucial foreign exchange earner for the country, has suffered since the outbreak of the 2011 uprising that toppled then-president Hosni Mubarak from power.

The sector has particularly struggled to revive itself following last year’s crash of a Russian passenger plane over the Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people onboard. An affiliate to the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the crash, stating that it had planted a bomb onboard the aircraft.

In March 2016, an EgyptAir plane en route from Alexandria to Cairo was hijacked by one of its passengers claiming to be wearing a bomb belt, which later was revealed to be fake. The hijacking was resolved peacefully and all of the 55 passengers were released without procuring any injuries, something the flight crew was later hailed for.

Tourism minister Rashed said that the way the incident was handled actually improved the confidence of EgyptAir.

“People want to travel more with EgyptAir because they know us. I mean, it’s one of the first airlines in the world you know so it does have a history of safety, it does have a history of hospitality.”

After the crash of the Russian aircraft in October 2015, a number of countries canceled flights to the popular South Sinai tourism resort of Sharm El Sheikh, including Russia and Britain. Russia has continually delayed the resumption of flights to Egypt as its aviation experts have deemed security at Egyptian airports as not up to the standards Russia requires.

Minister Rashed denied that the latest EgyptAir crash would further delay the resumption of flights. “On the contrary, it may be a good time for them to rethink their position,” he said. “I haven’t heard anything [about a resumption] but I wish it was yesterday.”

Egypt’s tourism revenues declined by 66 percent in the first quarter of 2016 compared to last year, with total earnings amounting to just USD 500 million, down from last year’s USD 1.5 billion.

Around four million Egyptians work in the tourism sector, which accounts for 12.6 percent of the country’s total employment and about 12 percent of the economy.

A New Lead in the Search for Elusive Norse Settlements

CODROY VALLEY, Canada – A story passed down in my family for generations may be the clue to finding a lost Norse settlement.

The only Norse settlement in the New World thus far confirmed by archaeologists is in L’Anse aux Meadows at the northern tip of Newfoundland, Canada. But the Norse sagas tell of other colonizing expeditions.


In the early hours of Thursday morning, EgyptAir flight MS804 crashed into the Mediterranean Sea for reasons that remain unclear.

The plane, which was on its way from Paris to Cairo, had 66 people onboard.

While EgyptAir held briefing sessions for the families of the passengers and crew members, some families began mourning their relatives and holding funerals for them after the Egyptian military announced its search-and-rescue missions found parts of the plane’s wreckage.

Egyptian Streets takes a look at some of the passengers and crew who were onboard the plane.


Mohamed Mamdouh Assem was a pilot on the missing EgyptAir flight MS804.

When asked by one news organization about his dreams, a friend said that Mohamed wanted to be a pilot from the age of five. Years later, he achieved that dream.


Mohamed Said Shoukair, the captain and pilot of EgyptAir flight MS804, was promoted just one week ago.

Mohamed, who had more than 6,000 hours of flight experience, invited his colleagues to celebrate his promotion to the rank of senior pilot, reported newspapers.

Describing Mohamed, EgyptAir’s Vice President said he was “very well trained” and “highly disciplined.” Meanwhile, friends remember Mohamed as fun and a great friend.

During his last flight, Greek air traffic controllers say he was in a good mood and thanked them in Greek.


Mervat Zakaria (R), once a successful television actress, joined EgyptAir in 1986.

Married with one daughter, Mervat was promoted to cabin manager just one month ago. On Thursday, Mervat was leading the crew members on EgyptAir flight MS804.

Friends have remembered Mervat on social media as a wonderful mother and a hard-working and caring co-worker.


Samar Ezz Eldin was a flight attendant on EgyptAir flight MS804.

Samar, a 27-year-old, graduated from Ain Shams University in Cairo with a degree in modern languages before joining EgyptAir as a flight attendant just one year ago.


Yara Hani Tawfik was a youthful flight attendant working with EgyptAir. On Thursday, Yara was part of the cabin crew on EgyptAir flight MS804.

At a funeral in Cairo that attracted hundreds, Yara was remembered as the “perfect daughter and grand-daughter” who was “full of life” and a great co-worker.


Ahmed Al-Ashry and Riham Mosaad traveled to Paris together, where Riham was seeking treatment for cancer.

The married couple, who were in their 30s, spent a month in Paris before deciding to return to Cairo on EgyptAir flight MS804.

Tragically, Ahmed and Riham leave behind one child and two infants as orphans. The children are currently staying with Ahmed’s parents.


Ahmed Helal was a 40-year-old manager at Procter & Gamble in France. Originally from Alexandria, Helal, who is married, was on EgyptAir flight MS804 to Cairo to visit his father who recently fell ill.

Employees of Procter & Gamble who worked at the Amiens site where Helal was the director, mourned Helal’s loss, describing him as a great, down to earth, and caring man.


Karim Swellam was born in Alexandria and was a business owner in Argenteuil, a Parisian suburb.

On Thursday, Karim was heading back to Cairo on the EgyptAir flight MS804 when it crashed over the Mediterranean Sea.

According to French newspapers, Karim was a volunteer firefighter in Argenteuil for six years. He would have celebrated his 33rd birthday in June.


Marwa Hamdy, a spiritual instructor, was in Paris to visit her sister and sister’s husband, who is Egypt’s Deputy Ambassador to Paris.

A month earlier, Marwa shared a quote by Rumi that read:

“My soul wants to fly away when your presence calls it so sweetly. My soul wants to take flight, when you whisper arise.”

Marwa was returning to Cairo on EgyptAir flight MS804 when it crashed. Marwa leaves behind three children.


Salah Abu Laban, Sahar Koweider, Ghassan Abu Laban, and Reem el-Sebaee, all members of the same family, were onboard EgyptAir flight MS804.

Salah and Sahar were the parents of Ghassan, who recently got married to Reem.

Writing on Facebook, Egyptian film Direcetor Othman Abu Laban, who is related to the four passengers, said that an absentee funeral prayer will be held on Friday in Heliopolis.


Pascal Hess, a huge volleyball fan and photographer from France, hadn’t slept for days because he lost his passport ahead of his trip to Egypt for a holiday.

Finally, according to his friends, Pascal found the passport and decided to fly out of Paris on flight MS804 for a holiday at an Egyptian resort along the Red Sea.

Tragically, Pascal, 51, never made it to Egypt. He is remembered as “charming” and “lovely to be around” by his friends.


Richard Osman (L) was “deliriously happy” after becoming a father for the second time just one month ago.

The British-Australian father worked for a gold mining company that regularly took him to Cairo for work and has been described by his brother as incredibly dedicated to his work and family.

“He was really happy about having the baby and was looking forward to enjoying a lovely family life with his two girls,” said Richard’s brother to The Telegraph.

Richard was one of the 66 passengers onboard EgyptAir flight MS804.


Mahamat Séïtchi Koukaye, a cadet at one of France’s leading military academies, was known by his friends as a quiet, but hardworking, man.

Mahamat had boarded the EgyptAir plane to make his way to Chad, where he was set to attend the funeral of his mother who had just died.

“I lost a big brother and a friend. He was my confidant,” said Mahamat’s younger brother to a media outlet after the crash of flight MS804.

“He was a shining light wherever he went,” said an uncle about Mahamat.


Hala El-Bassel and her daughter Engy Selim travelled to Paris from Egypt together for a holiday.

Hala and Engy both worked in Cairo, with Hala working as a tour guide and Engy at Misr International University where she had also graduated.

Hala was also a mother of three children (including Engy) and a grandmother of a two-year-old girl.

Both mother and daughter were on Thursday’s EgyptAir flight after what we can only imagine was a great holiday in Paris. Hala was known in her family and amongst her friends to be a lover of life, always bringing the family together whenever possible. Engy, Hala’s middle child, was always referred to as an angel.

Photo courtesy of Factum Arte

Photo courtesy of Factum Arte

While the debate on the existence of a side-chamber in Tutankhamun’s tomb has been a hot topic in national and international news in recent months, few people realize that British artist Adam Lowe has created an exact facsimile of the young pharaoh’s burial chamber in the grounds of Howard Carter’s house on the West Bank in Luxor. Having visited the original many times, the precision of the replica is slightly unnerving. But perhaps more important than the discoveries made during the scanning of the original tomb are the aesthetic issues surrounding the reconstruction which are shifting our general perception of art history.

Adam Lowe is what is called a “copyist” and he has produced reproductions of some of the greatest masterpieces in the world. Lowe founded Factum Arte in 2000 with Spanish artist and engineer Manuel Franquelo. Its aim, Lowe told Egyptian Streets, is to bridge the “gap between new technologies and traditional crafts – it’s all about mediation and transformation.” Factum Arte has developed its own 3D scanners and printers, which Lowe says “allow us to to see the surface as the eye sees it, but also some of what lies beneath.” Only the Rijskmuseum in Amsterdam has equipment capable of revealing a similar degree of detail. It is this cutting-edge technology that has allowed one of his core projects – the replica of Tutankhamun’s burial chamber – to be opened to the public in April 2014 and since donated to the Egyptian government.

Tutankhamun tomb facsimile. Photo courtesy of Factum Arte

Tutankhamun tomb facsimile. Photo courtesy of Factum Arte

It is the results of Factum Arte’s original scans for the construction of the facsimile that revealed that one wall in the tomb was painted using a different technique from others as well as the vague outline of a doorway or opening. Drawing on these results, British Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves published an academic paper in which he claimed that Tutankhamun’s tomb usurped part of what was originally the burial place of Queen Nefertiti. The day after it ran, Factum Arte’s website had nearly two million hits. Reeves’ core argument was that the floor plan of the tomb shared no similarities with anything else in the Valley of the Kings. He drew further evidence to support his argument in the fact that much of the treasure found in Tutankhamun’s tomb originally carried the Queen’s name.

The hype surrounding the potential hidden chamber was only amplified by another radar scan performed by the Japanese specialist Hirokatsu Watanabe. His findings seemingly supported those of Reeves and the original Factum Arte scans. But Watanabe’s refusal to share his results has led to much skepticism as to the validity of his claims. He has been quoted as telling the National Geographic website that after nearly four decades in the field his equipment is so fine-tuned that only he can read the results. “I trust my data completely,” he said. “When someone says that they want to check the data, I am so sad.”

More recently, new advanced ground penetrating scans carried out by National Geographic seem to contradict these earlier theories. Dean Goodman, a geophysicist at GPR-Slice Software who analyzed the data from these scans, has been quoted saying that “if we had a void, we should have a strong reflection” but that in reality “it just doesn’t exist.” National Geographic claim to have sent the report to the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.

A conference on Tutankhamun at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo last week was supposed to shed some light on the debate. The National Geographic team were not, however, allowed to present their findings, leaving the limelight for Reeves and Watanabe to present their research in full. Egyptologist Zawi Hawass, Egypt’s former Minister for Antiquities Affairs, who has been outspoken for quite some time on the potential discovery, went so far as to criticize the debate at the conference. Speaking to National Geographic, Hawass said, “If there is masonry or [a] partition wall, the radar signal should show an image’ but that ‘we don’t have this, which means there is nothing there.” The Ministry however, has yet to provide a conclusive statement on the validity of their original claims.

Whether a new chamber is discovered behind the wall of Tutankhamun’s tomb or not, the controversy surrounding Reeves’ theory has been good for Lowe’s project. Firstly, he has been thrilled with the amount of attention afforded to his work as a consequence of it. Secondly, the potential discovery of the side-chamber was not the purpose of his work but a by-product of it.

“What we are doing is a form of archaeology” with the principal aim of conservation, he told Egyptian Streets, adding, “This and other things we are doing will overturn many accepted opinions and theories in art history.”

Tutankhamun printing. Photo courtesy of Factum Arte

Tutankhamun printing. Photo courtesy of Factum Arte

And he has a point: The tomb of Seti I is already so damaged by years of tourists’ visits that it is now closed to the general public and can only be seen by paying a USD 10,000 admittance fee. Are we really going to wait until the rest of the Valley of the Kings follows suit?

Lowe says the “critical thing now is to document. Later we can decide what to do with the material we collect. But if we lose the data these things contain then we lose something that could influence future generations.”

It is this obsession with perfect preservation that is central to his philosophy. Lowe hopes that the attention gained by the Tutankhamun debate will allow him to reproduce the three other main tombs in Luxor: Seti I, Tuthmosis III and Nefartari. He intends to place them next to the Tutankhamun replica at Howard Carter’s house and also hopes to train Egyptians to use his hi-tech scanners.

But the point is not just to save those tombs. It is also to challenge our assumptions of the originality and authenticity of works of art. The idea of visiting a “copied” Valley of the Kings rather than the original one will have many Egyptian and foreign visitors scratching their heads. And no doubt the Egyptian antiquities ministry is not keen on future tourists skipping the Valley of the Kings and instead flocking to Howard Carter’s house to visit the replicas. Is it really the same? Does it hold the same power, or magic, as walking into a tomb that is thousands of years old? In a “tomb or no tomb” scenario, it is definitely better to have these replicas commissioned for future generations than to leave them with absolutely destroyed original tombs.

In 2007, Italian art critic Dario Gamboni said of Factum Arte’s replica of Veronese’s masterpiece The Wedding at Cana, “I would like you to consider that originality is rooted in the trajectory or career of the object – it is not a fixed state of being but a process which changes and deepens with time.”

For Gamboni, the Factum Arte copy that lives in the Refectory in Italy was a more complete and authentic experience than the original painting taken out of its original context and now hanging in the Louvre. There are very important parallels to be drawn with the Valley of Kings. Although the idea of replicating the pharaohs’ tombs, in theory, means that they could be relocated to anywhere in the world, Egyptians can rest assured that although Factum Arte funded the project in Egypt, Adam Lowe has given the copyright to the work to the Egyptian state.

Lowe’s work is necessary because he is preserving Egypt’s heritage for generations of Egyptians. Tucked away beneath the ground of Howard Carter’s house, these replicas could one day represent the most accurate depiction of what these tombs were once like. And in this sense, the issue of whether or not there is another chamber in Tutankhamun’s tomb should not cloud the fact that Lowe should be hailed for his work.


Photo: Reuters

Egypt’s president called on Egyptian and international media on Sunday not to consider “a certain scenario” more likely than others regarding the cause of an EgyptAir plane crash that killed all 66 persons on board.

“All scenarios are possible,” Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi said in a speech he gave at the inauguration of expansions in a fertilizer factory in Egypt’s Damietta province.

Egypt’s flag-carrier airline, EgyptAir, announced early Thursday morning that its flight MS804 vanished off the radar 16 km (10 miles) into Egyptian airspace as it was crossing the Mediterranean at 2:45 AM Cairo time en route from Paris to Cairo.

The 12-year-old Airbus A320-232 jetliner had 56 passengers on board – 30 Egyptians, 15 French nationals, two Iraqi nationals, a British national, a Saudi national, a Portuguese national, a Belgian, a Kuwaiti, a Chadian, an Algerian and a Canadian. It also had a 10-member crew on board.

Sisi said that the Egyptian public prosecutor ordered an investigation into the cause behind the crash in coordination with the French government.

France, where the plane was manufactured, is taking part in the investigation because it is the country with the second largest number of passengers on board the flight. Three French investigators and a technical expert from Airbus arrived in Cairo Friday morning to join the investigation.

No one can hide information

“Things can take time, and these are things that no one can hide. Once the findings have been revealed, these findings will be made public to all people,” he said

Sisi also urged state institutions to “ensure the flow of information to the media” in a timely manner regarding the investigation into the crash.

Earlier today, an Egyptian official was quoted in the country’s leading state-run newspaper, Al-Ahram, as saying that the Egypt-led investigation committee will release a preliminary report in one month.

The Egyptian military said in statements on Friday that its naval forces discovered debris, personal belongings of passengers, luggage, aircraft seats, and body parts in the Mediterranean Sea, 290 km north of Egypt’s coastal city of Alexandria.

Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail had said on Thursday that he does not rule out terrorism or any other factor. But no militant group has claimed responsibility for the crash as of yet.

The French air accident investigation agency BEA said on Saturday that the EgyptAir flight had sent signals that smoke was detected on the plane before it disappeared. But Egyptian officials said they are uncertain about such reports.

The plane’s black boxes, pieces of equipment that record details about a flight and help pinpoint the cause of a crash, are yet to be retrieved.

This content is from: Aswat Masriya


French oil and gas company Total will be injecting EGP 500 million worth of investments into the Egyptian economy, which is expected to create 2500 new jobs, according to privately-owned Al-Mal.

Speaking at the inauguration of one of its new service stations along the Autostrad highway, Jérôme Déchamps, Total Marketing & Services’ Executive Vice President for North Africa and the Middle East, said that the new investments will be introduced during the next three to five years.

He added that they are intended to contribute to the strengthening of the Egyptian economy.

In his remarks, Déchamps stressed that, despite the political and economic turmoil that Egypt has experienced in the past few years, Total has maintained its commitment to investing in the country.

Total employs up to 1700 workers in Egypt at the moment, while approximately 7000 more are indirectly working for the company, he went on to say.

Total Egypt is a subsidiary of Total created in 1998. The company is active throughout the entire oil product distribution sector, “with general sales, lubricants, marine and aviation activities as well as a retail network,” according to its website.

In recent years, Total has sought to expand its operations in several countries in order to become the largest gasoline retailer in Africa. The company has exerted intensive efforts in oil and gas exploration, focusing on emerging markets where energy demands are on the rise.

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