Egypt and Greece: It’s time to cement our bonds

Via Ekathimerimi

Listening to music by Vasilis Papakonstantinou while eating a halva panini were the kind of simple pleasures I enjoyed while walking around Athens. The Greek capital is the only European city where I can hang out alone, but never feels lonely. Strolling along the streets and alleyways of Athens always evokes memories of my bygone days in Cairo and serves as a strong reminder of the similar history and culture the two cities share. 

For me, Athens is a bigger version of my native Cairo neighbourhood, Heliopolis. The beautiful Greek Orthodox Church, which is still one of Heliopolis’s landmarks, is located on the route I used to take to my primary school every day. On summer weekends, my mother would treat me to a dessert and lemonade in a Greek café, Charinos, nearby. 

Egypt and Greece have solid historical bonds. A quick visit to the British Museum can help explain that simple fact. The giant granite Rosetta Stone, which stands three feet tall and two feet wide, is a centrepiece in the British Museum, and is inscribed with three hieroglyphs as well as demotic and Greek scripts. These clearly evidence our long history dating back to Alexander the Great. In fact, a bust of Alexander the Great, which is also displayed in the British Museum, was found not in Greece, but in Alexandria, Egypt. The Temple of Dendera near Luxor

 shows how Queen Cleopatra VII, the last active ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt, embraced Egypt and won the hearts and minds of the locals.

The bonds between Egypt and Greece, however, run deeper than just ancient links.  In modern times, a little-known fact about Egypt’s Suez Canal is that Greek workers participated in its construction, which began in 1859. Out of 7,000 foreign workers, 5,000 were Greek. In 1956, most of the Suez Canal Company’s Greek employees stayed after its nationalization. Navigation pilots, especially, contributed decisively to Gamal Abdel Nasser’s diplomatic victory during the Suez Crisis. His rule helped Egypt’s Greek community survive Nasser’s era of nationalism and hostility towards “Egyptianized foreigners,” and is still honoured by Egypt today.

Nonetheless, if Egypt’s post-monarchy nationalism in the 50s and 60s, contributed heavily to the dwindling of the country’s population diversity, the rise of Islamism has made matters worse. With its civic activism and provision of social services within Egyptian society, Islamism has effectively, albeit quietly, implanted a sense of contempt among its followers towards modernity and diversity, eroding Egypt’s social bonds with its non-Muslim neighbours – countries such as Greece and Cyprus.

The fall of the Mubarak regime, however, triggered a chain of events that helped many Egyptians finally see the negative impacts of Islamism in their society and reignited their yearning for the golden age of diversity and tolerance.  This yearning is not just from the Egyptian side; I read many testimonies from Greek Egyptians who left the country but are still nostalgic about their good old days in Egypt, with “its many different religions and nationalities who lived in harmony and had great respect for each other.” 

Currently, relations between Egypt and Greece are growing increasingly stronger, with strategic collaboration on various fronts, including military, naval, economic, electricity, and energy. “Egypt and Greece are indispensable allies in the Mediterranean, and their national interests coincide in many fields,” wrote Ioannis Kotoulas, a lecturer in geopolitics at the University of Athens.

This alliance, however, needs deeper social and culture bonds to cement it and make it a true model for the rest of Eastern Mediterranean countries and to further entrench relations between Europe and its southern neighbours. In a region mired in deep instabilities, weak states, and violent Islamist groups, Egypt and Greece can work together to fight regional polarisation, shake off past colonial baggage, counter the project of Islamism that aims to divide us into Muslims and non-Muslims, and forge relations that are not based on religion, ethnicity, or mere strategic interests. 

Besides the endless opportunities in joint projects related to sustainability, environment, and organic farming, there are real opportunities for building cultural bridges in art, music, and even culinary experiences. 

It is time for the Greeks to look south and return to Egypt. Their old neighbourhoods in Cairo and Alexandria may have completely changed, but there are new cities emerging in Egypt, from the new administrative capital to the city of Alamein on the North coast, among many others. More importantly, more and more Egyptians yearn for a cosmopolitan life style that can fit their naturally tolerant religious values which welcome, not discourage, others from being part of their society.   

Our similarities can bring us together, and our differences can enrich our alliance. Together, we can turn nostalgia into a reality that stands firm against the forces of isolation and regression.

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This Week in Egypt: Week 2-2022 ( January 10-16)

Top Headlines

  • Egypt arrests member of Hasm terrorist group after Istanbul-bound plane made emergency landing in Luxor 
  • Ethiopia clears forests at GERD site in preparation for 3rd filling
  • Egypt to rejoin JPMorgan EM bond index in January 2022
  • Egyptian, Algerian FMs urge backing internal solution to Libyan crisis, stopping foreign interference 
  • 4th World Youth Forum is launched in Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheikh 
  • Pope Tawadros: for Copts there is no longer any “ban” on visiting Jerusalem
  • Greece and Egypt place liaison naval officers in corresponding navy general staff HQs 

Main Headlines

Monday

  • Egypt to re-join JPMorgan EM bond index in January 2022
  • Egyptian right group, cites government persecution 
  • Egypt’s Central Bank approves conditions to grant emergency liquidity to local banks
  • Oldest depiction of Jesus and the crucifixion is found in Greek Orthodox St. Catherine Monastery, Egypt

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

  • Egyptian and Algerian FMs urge backing internal solution to Libyan crisis, stopping foreign interference
  • Egypt and UK ministers talk climate change agenda ahead of COP27
  • Egypt approves AstraZeneca’s ‘Evusheld’ for emergency use for pre-exposure prevention of COVID-19
  • Egypt prosecutors launch medical malpractice investigation into( anti-Islamist)  TV host Wael El Ebrashy’s death

Reports

  • Sacked belly-dancing teacher sparks Egypt debate over women rights. Yolande Knell
  • Egypt weighs role as mediator in Sudan crisis. Mohamed Saied
  • Egyptian archaeologists unwrap Amenhotep I mummy, rewrite history. Mohamed Saied
  • Joint Egypt-UK statement following the visit of COP26 President to Egypt.

Video

From Twitter

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Djokovic’s Toxic Victory

Via BBC

Ladies and gentlemen, this is BBC Radio, welcome from rainy Wimbledon.”

 I loved tennis even before I had a chance to watch any of its games. In 1980s Cairo, before the era of satellites and Internet, I first heard about tennis from the late BBC Arabic sports correspondence of Adel Sherif.  The legendary Egyptian commentator with his charming voice and enticing commentary helped me understand tennis without even watching the game; he made me love a game that I couldn’t afford to play. Minutes before the 3:00 pm BBC World News and during the Grand Slam seasons, Sherif’s reports were like an after-school treat for a girl deprived of the luxury of playing sports. 

Luckily, a few years later, Adel Sherif’s wife Samia Sadeq became the head of Egypt’s national television, and thanks to his influence, she approved the broadcasting of the Wimbledon and French Open semifinals and finals. The few minutes’ radio treat had been upgraded to a full 8 days every year of tennis feasts. I finally could watch my beloved sport and make sense of everything Adel Sherif had said in his reports.  

Moving to England gave me the opportunity to learn and practice my beloved sport. I finally could afford to buy a racket, join a tennis club____ luxuries I couldn’t afford in Egypt. Like many, I believe that tennis is the best sport to maintain health, fitness, strength, and agility. A game that honours science rather than deny it, a game that inspires grace and not hooliganism and conspiracies—and, most importantly, a game that respects rules instead of trying to bypass them through exploiting legal loopholes. 

 I was particularly excited to first see Novak Djokovic winning his first Grand Slam in 2008, despite his defeating my all-time favourite, Roger Federer, because he came from a country less known in the tennis arena. I saw him as an underdog who prevailed, which is a quality I admire, and despite the huge gap in success rank, I can relate too.  For years, I ignored his provocative nationalistic political rhetoric, especially his controversial stance on Kosovo. I convinced myself that his politics wouldn’t affect his game.    

But the latest fiasco of the tennis world number one, Novak Djokovic, and his request for an Australian visa despite his refusal to vaccinate against COVID-19 has not just put me off, but made me furious. Djokovic has become a hero to anti-vaxxers and COVID-sceptics around the globe, and a negative influencer who is encouraging conspiracies that threaten the fight against the most vicious pandemic in our lifetime.   

Many supporters of Djokovic argue on the basis of a technicality, blaming the Australian authorities for issuing him a visa then detaining him. The Australian judge who ordered his release seems to agree, basing his verdict on the fact that the tennis superstar was not given enough time to respond to the notification of his visa’s cancellation. But such an argument, albeit logical and valid, misses two important points: First, soon after his detention, there were photos of him posing for photographs with children at an award ceremony the day after his December positive PCR test was confirmed. Second, would Djokovic have taken the vaccine and complied with the rules if he had not tested positive last December? 

A player going out and about after a positive COVID test, maskless and mixing with others, relying on the virus rather than the vaccine for his visa application raises a lot of questions about his integrity and suitability as a role model. 

The World Health Organization has recognized vaccine hesitancy as a top threat to global health. Anti-vaccine aggression means that more people will die and the pandemic will be prolonged with perilous impacts on the economy and health care, especially among the unprivileged and vulnerable. But anti-vaxxers don’t seem to care. They are happy to reject the vaccine, but when infected, they have no problem rushing to hospitals to fill precious ICU beds. Various reports confirm how unvaccinated people are more likely to be admitted to intensive care with COVID, up to 60 times more in some reports. 

One would think that a smart superstar would stand for science that clearly states how vaccination reduces the risk of hospitalisation and intensive care admission.   A superstar from a country that emerged from the ashes of civil war and dictatorship should logically be a champion for equality and fair distribution of the vaccine, which can save millions of unprivileged in the poorest nations around the globe.  

But Djokovic has chosen the opposite and opted to be a champion for conspiracies and a hero for those who spin the concept of freedom to put the lives of others at risk. 

If Djokovic wins this Australian Open, he will become the most successful men’s tennis player in history. But his victory will not just be a pyrrhic victory, but a toxic one too—a victory of bureaucratic logic over fairness, a victory of conspiracy over science, and above all a victory of anti-vaccine recklessness above health and safety. That is, in my book, an insult to the millions of victims of the pandemic around the globe and the healthcare professionals who are still fighting daily to save lives from this vicious virus. 

As a fan and admirer of the great game, I urge Novak Djokovic to visit an intensive care unit in Melbourne or Belgrade and hear from victims of COVID and those who have lost loved ones to COVID. Perhaps then he might change his mind and channel his success and fame into being a force for good and restore the faith of many, including myself, in the beautiful game. 

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This Week in Egypt: Week 1-2022 ( January 3-9)

Apology for not posting the last week of 2021, due to travel commitment. But back to normal now with the start of 2022. Wishing all my followers a great New Year

Top Headlines

  • Ethiopia to generate electricity from GERD amid negotiations deadlock
  • Egypt and Saudi Arabia start joint military drills Tabuk 5
  • Record cargo shipped through Egypt’s Suez Canal last year
  • Activist Ramy Shaath arrives in France after release from Egyptian detention
  • Egypt urges all Sudanese parties to select a new transitional PM 
  • Egypt awards BP, ENI, others eight oil exploration blocks
  • Egyptian media tycoon arrested over sexual assault on girls at orphanage
  • Egyptians celebrate Orthodox Christmas, Egypt’s Sisi attends Christmas mass

Main Headlines

Monday

Tuesday

  • Egypt’s Suez Canal to offer incentives for eco friendly ships
  • France says Egypt informed it of pending release of activist Ramy Shaath
  • Egypt’s Purchasing Managers’ Index PMI improves to 49.0 in December from 48.7 in November
  • Al-Azhar grand imam, Awqaf minister visit Coptic Cathedral to offer greetings on Christmas

Wednesday

Thursday

  • Egypt’s Sisi attends Christmas mass at the New Administrative Capital’s Cathedral
  • Thursday paid day off for public sector in Egypt to celebrate Coptic Christmas
  • Egypt’s external debt declines by $439m for the first time in 18 months
  • Arrests in Egypt as schoolgirl commits suicide over internet shaming
  • Egypt will introduce high capacity bus-based public transport system (BRT) on Cairo’s Ring Road in mid-2022

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

  • Egypt and Saudi Arabia start joint military drills Tabuk 5
  • Cairo court lifts travel ban on political activist Esraa Abdel-Fattah in foreign funding case
  • Egypt’s first woman judge Tahany El-Gebaly passes away due to coronavirus complications

Reports

  • Ethiopia to generate electricity from GERD amid negotiations deadlock. Mohamed Saied
  • Israel-Gulf railway and pipeline have Cairo worried.  Zvi Bar’el
  • Sinai tribes participate in military action against jihadi organizations. Al-Monitor
  • Critics in Egypt say Citroen advert promotes sexual harassment. Samy Magdy
  • Suez Canal to establish sovereign wealth fund. Amr Emam

From Twitter

Plus

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This Week In Egypt: week 50-2021 ( Dec 13-19)

Top Headlines

  • Prominent Egyptian opposition activist’s phone was hacked
  • Egypt arrests two people for impersonating high-ranking officials in fabricated leaked phone call
  • Egypt’s central bank keeps key interest rates unchanged 
  • Egypt reports first three Omicron cases in returning nationals
  • Canada lifts travel ban on Egypt, 9 other African countries
  • Acting Muslim Brotherhood leader Mahmoud Ezzat sentenced to life in prison for espionage
  • Egypt rejects German statement on an upcoming trial session as ‘blatant interference in its internal affairs

Main Headlines

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

  • Egypt’s central bank keeps key interest rates unchanged
  • Saudi and Egyptian FMs express full support on security issues
  • Egypt’s Sawiris to sell struggling broadcaster Euronews to Alpac Capital 

Friday

  • Prominent Egyptian opposition activist’s phone was hacked  – watchdog
  • Germany: Merkel government green lit arms deal with Egypt
  • Egypt, Saudi Arabia supports Libya polls, demand non-interference
  • Moscow bans import of vegetables from various countries including Egypt 

Saturday

Sunday

  • Egypt rejects German statement on an upcoming trial session as ‘blatant interference in its internal affairs
  • Acting Muslim Brotherhood leader Mahmoud Ezzat sentenced to life in prison for espionage
  • Egypt and Libya to launch electronic link system to allow entry of Egyptian labour
  • Egypt to build $20k electric vehicle in collaboration with a Chinese firm  

Reports

  • Egypt and Turkey compete for military foothold in Kenya.  Khalid Hassan
  • Egypt builds industrial city in Tanzania in Tanzania. Bahr al-Kady
  • Qatar’s presence in eastern Mediterranean. Mohamed Saied

From Twitter

Plus 

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This Week in Egypt: Week 49-2021 ( Dec 6-12)

Top Headlines

  • Israel FM Lapid visits Egypt to meet Sisi and discuss Hamas hostages
  • Israel returned looted antiquities to Egypt 
  • U.S. envoy to visit UAE, Turkey, Egypt to discuss conflict in Ethiopia
  • Lebanese PM says he asked Egypt for support to generate electricity
  • Egyptian rights researcher Patrick Zaki is freed pending trial
  • Egypt has emerged as a key supplier of LNG to the Turkish market
  • Egypt ‘ready’ to join JP Morgan index by end-January next year

Main Headlines

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

 Saturday

  • Egypt and Russia conclude ‘Friendship Bridge-4’ naval exercise
  • Ukrainian women is arrested for posing almost naked on balcony
  • Six Egyptians are arrested for ‘gang-raping TEN underage girls daily while they were quarantined for coronavirus at a migrant centre in Sicily’

Sunday

  • Egyptian FM: Egypt coordinates with the Gulf Cooperation Council on all issues
  • Egypt has emerged as a key supplier of LNG to the Turkish market, with seven cargoes already shipped so far in the fourth quarter of 2021
  •  Egypt is “ready” to join JP Morgan index by end-January next year

Reports

  • Turkey not yet ready to give up on Muslim Brotherhood. Pinar Tremblay
  • Hundreds of offerings to Egyptian fertility goddess uncovered in Luxor. Rasha Mahmoud

Worth Reading

From Twitter

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This Week in Egypt: Week 48-2021 ( Nov 29- Dec 5)

Top Headlines

  • Egypt introduces new indigenous drones at EDEX 2021
  • Switzerland removes Egypt, all countries on COVID-19 quarantine list
  • Egypt explores water cooperation with 4 African countries
  • Egypt raises prices of butane gas cylinders for first time in 2 years
  • No Omicron cases are detected in Egypt so far
  • Egypt’s LNG exports at full capacity after gas price surge

Main Headlines

Monday

  • Egypt’s EDEX defence exhibition  kicks off with participation of 400 international companies 
  • Erdogan says Turkey plans steps with Egypt, Israel after UAE visit  
  • Court fines activist Hossam Bahgat for insulting elections authority 

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Reports

From Twitter

Plus:

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This Week in Egypt: Week 47-2021 ( Nov 22-28)

Top Headlines

  • Egypt reopens 3,000-year-old Avenue of Sphinxes in grand, glitzy Luxor ceremony
  • Egypt bans flights from seven African countries over new COVID-19 variant
  • Greece teams up with Egypt on gas supply, infrastructure
  • Egypt and Israel sign memorandum on gas supplies for re-export

Main Headlines

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

  • Greece teams up with Egypt on gas supply, infrastructure

Thursday

  • Egypt reopens 3,000-year-old Avenue of Sphinxes in grand, glitzy Luxor ceremony
  • Egypt sentences 22 radical militants from the notorious  “Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis” group, to death
  • Saudi Arabia to lift entry ban from six countries, including Egypt, Pakistan and India

 Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Reports

From Twitter

Plus

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This Week in Egypt: Week 46-2021 ( Nov 15-21)

Top Headlines

  • Prince Charles visits Egypt for the first time in 15 years
  • FMs of Egypt, Greece, Cyprus, France meet in Athens
  • Egypt welcomes new political agreement in Sudan
  • Israel in talks to build solar power plants in Egypt 
  • Egypt to reopen Luxor’s ancient Avenue of Sphinxes on 25 November in major ceremony
  • Egypt and Qatar sign agreements to supply Gaza with fuel, building materials 

Main Headlines

Monday

Tuesday

 Wednesday

  • Egyptian court sentences former MP for to five years on false news charge 
  • Egyptian bank boards to grant 2 seats for women

 Thursday

  • President Sisi and First Lady Entissar receive Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla
  • Royal Family:  Prince Charles and Duchess of Cornwall pictured visiting the Great Sphinx during Egypt trip
  • Britain’s Prince Charles calls for protection of planet in Cairo visit
  • Egypt and Qatar sign agreements to supply Gaza with fuel, building materials 

Friday

Saturday

  • FMs of Egypt, Greece, Cyprus, France meet in Athens
  • Rainfall drenches parts of Egypt; schools suspended in 8 governorates
  • Israel’s IDF foils attempt to smuggle 265 pounds of cocaine, marijuana into Israel from Egypt
  • Duchess of Cornwall visits Egyptian donkey hospital on final day of royal tour

Sunday

  • Egypt welcomes new political agreement in Sudan in Sudan
  • Rainfall to continue in northern Egypt amid wave of bad weather
  • Egypt sees noticeable decline in daily coronavirus cases, fatalities

Reports

Video

From Twitter

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This Week in Egypt: Week 45-2021 ( Nov 8-14)

Top headlines

  • US, Egypt conclude first ‘strategic dialogue’ under Biden
  • World powers press for Libya elections but disputes remain
  • Sisi calls for withdrawal of all foreign troops from Libya
  • Israel, Egypt to increase military presence along Egypt’s Rafah border
  • Egypt’s Shoukry lays out steps for Syria to re-enter Arab fold
  • Egypt to host COP27 international climate conference in 2022
  • Egypt bans import of Tuk-tuk components
  • Storms in south Egypt unleash scorpions, leave 3 dead and dozens hospitalized
  • Population of Egypt’s capital Cairo exceeds 10 million

Main Headlines

Monday

  • Israel’s IDF generals travel to Sinai for rare public meeting with Egyptian army
  • Egypt, Israel agree on more Egypt border forces in Sinai
  • Blinken says Egypt has more ‘issues of concern’ on human rights ahead of dialogue
  • Egyptian FM tells US Secretary Blinken that partnership with US indispensable for preservation of peace  
  • Egypt’s Sisi, and France’s Macron discuss preparations for Libya International Conference in Pari

Tuesday 

  • Blinken: US agrees with Egypt on mercenaries withdrawal from Libya
  • Egypt and France confirm support for political process in Libya leading to the elections
  • Egypt’s Shoukry lays out steps for Syria to re-enter Arab fold
  • New central bank regulations will allow customers to make digital bank transfers for the first time

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

  • Egypt to host COP27 international climate conference in 2022
  • Sisi calls for withdrawal of all foreign troops from Libya

Saturday

Sunday

 Reports

Statement

From Twitter

Plus

Mohamed Salah shows his class after being targeted by pitch invaders

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