Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Google Plus Connect on Flickr

Tag: Egypt

Yemen: Arabia Felix

Thursday, 13 September, 2018

On a winter morning in 1761 six men boarded a ship in Copenhagen. They were the members of a Danish expedition to Arabia Felix, as Yemen was then known. The adventures of the group, which comprised a botanist, a philologist, an astronomer, a doctor, an artist and their manservant, are recounted in Arabia Felix: The Danish Expedition 1761-1767 by Thorkild Hansen. Translated from the Danish by James McFarlane and Kathleen McFarlane, the book features an introduction by Colin Thubron, and it’s a joy to read.

It took about six months for the Danes to reach modern-day Turkey, and on 8 September, 1761, with all the preparations for the journey complete, the expedition officially began. Snippet:

Dressed in their new Oriental clothes, the learned gentlemen took leave of their host von Gähler and went aboard the boat which was to take them to Alexandria. On this ship, a little Turkish vessel from the Adriatic port of Dulcigno, the expedition encountered quite another world from the one they had been accustomed to on the Greenland. The purpose of the ship’s journey was quite simply to take a cargo of young slave girls to the Egyptian markets. It is apparent right from the start how this curious cargo captured the interest of our travellers.

Peter Forsskål forgot his jelly-fish and marine plants for a while and noted in his diary: “We find ourselves in the company of a merchant who is going to Cairo with a cargo that would be highly unusual in European ports, namely women. He has taken all the safeguards of jealousy: a special cabin, which lies above our own, has been reserved for the young women, and he alone takes them their food. In addition, he has fastened a blanket inside the door so that the women cannot be seen when he lets himself in and out.” It would appear from this description that Forsskål had lost nothing of his power of exact scholarly observation; and Niebuhr too seems to have made a conscientious study. The young women, he says in his diary, “are generally very well treated, because when they are to be sold in Egypt it is very important for their owners that they should arrive at the market healthy and cheerful.”

Felix Arabia


Egypt: atrocity terrorism

Saturday, 25 November, 2017 0 Comments

The carnage in the Sinai yesterday elevated atrocity terrorism to a new plane. So far, the death toll from the mosque attack is 305 and it could go even higher.

We’ve become accustomed to Islamist terrorism since the begging of this century but we’re not anesthetized to it, yet. The savage spectacle of murder and maiming inflicted upon the innocent since 9/11 by these jackals continues to shock and it’s important for the leaders of civilized nations to grasp that Islamism is different to previous forms of terror. It is morphing into something that’s nihilistic and sadistic and totalitarian. Yesterday’s slaughter, on the eve of Advent, brings to mind those fearful lines of Yeats from The Second Coming: “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

Atrocity terrorism out of Egypt heralds the arrival of a very modern monster with very ancient features, red in tooth and claw and a dragging in its wake a cruel dogma that’s drenched with the blood of innocents.


A human head in bronze

Sunday, 20 March, 2016 0 Comments

The poet Edwin Morgan was born in Glasgow in 1920 and studied English at Glasgow University. During the Second World War he became as a conscientious objector, to the horror of his loyal Presbyterian parents, but he compromised by serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps in Egypt, the Lebanon and Palestine. A true original, he lived on his own all his life and when he won the Soros Translation Award in 1985, he spent the prize money on a day trip to Lapland on the Concorde.

This poem brings back memories of a trip to Holy Cross Abbey, a restored Cistercian monastery near Thurles, County Tipperary, Ireland.

A human head

A human head would never do
under the mists and rains or tugged
by ruthless winds or whipped with leaves
from raving trees. But who is he
in bronze, who is the moveless one?
The poet laughed, It isn’t me.
It’s nearly me, but I am free
to dodge the showers or revel in them,
to walk the alleys under the stars
or waken where the blackbirds are.
Some day my veins will turn to bronze
and I won’t hear, or make, a song.
Then indeed I shall be my head
staring ahead, or so it seems,
but you may find me watching you,
dear traveller, or wheeling round
into your dreams.

Edwin Morgan (1920 – 2010)

Holy Cross Abbey, Tipperary


The Persecution of Egypt’s Christians

Wednesday, 21 August, 2013 1 Comment

“Violent aggression by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists, including those sympathetic to al-Qaeda, continues to be directed at one of the world’s oldest Christian communities, following the military’s break up last week of Brotherhood sit-ins. The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party has been inciting the anti-Christian pogroms on its web and Facebook pages. One such page, posted on August 14, lists a bill of particulars against the Christian Coptic minority, blaming it, and only it, for the military’s crackdown against the Brotherhood, alleging that the Church has declared a ‘war against Islam and Muslims.'”

That’s Nina Shea of The Hudson Institute in a National Review article titled “Egypt’s Christians Are Facing a Jihad.” Mark Movsesian of the Center For Law And Religion Forum at St. John’s University School of Law references Shea’s piece in “The Persecution of Egypt’s Christians,” and he offers three reasons as to why the Muslim Brotherhood and its followers are adopting this strategy of oppression:

First, Islamists attack Christians because they can. Christian churches, monasteries, and schools are soft targets, especially when the security forces are occupied elsewhere.

Second, the Coptic Church has taken an uncharacteristically strong stand in support of the military. Coptic Pope Tawadros appeared in the video announcing the overthrow of the Morsi regime in July — as did the Sheikh of Al-Azhar, it should be noted — and last week, he endorsed the military’s crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.

Third, one must recognize the perception Islamists have of Christians. Although not all Islamists advocate a return to dhimma restrictions, most have a nostalgia for classical Islamic law, which tolerates Christians as long as they accept a subservient status in society. Equality is out of the question. For Christians to assert equality with Muslims, or cooperate with Muslims’ enemies, is, in classical thought, a grave affront to the community which must be punished.

Meanwhile, in Ireland, the fate of four jailed Morsi supporters dominates media coverage of Egypt. In the Washington Post, the front-page story is, “Ravaged churches reveal sectarian split feeding Egypt’s violence.”


The Saudis and the Brotherhood: love turns to hate

Tuesday, 20 August, 2013

“On Monday, Saudi Arabia promised to compensate Egypt for any aid that Western countries might withdraw in response to the harsh tactics employed by Egypt’s leaders to quell protests by supporters of the country’s deposed president, in which nearly 1,000 people and more than 100 police officers are reported to have been killed.” — Backing Egypt’s generals, Saudi Arabia promises financial support

Later in her Washington Post report, Liz Sly writes, “That Saudi Arabia is prepared to confront Washington over the crisis is an indicator of how deeply Saudi leaders were unsettled by the prospect of the Muslim Brotherhood consolidating its hold over the Arab world’s most populous nation, analysts say.”

Muslim Brotherhood Times have changed, especially in the relationship between the Saudis and the Muslim Brotherhood.

In 1952, Gamel Abdel Nasser and a group of fellow military officers overthrew King Farouk and turned to Sayyid Qutb and the Muslim Brotherhood for popular support. However, the Brotherhood wanted to outlaw alcohol and introduce the religious law of Islam, sharia, in the new, post-monarchical Egypt, a price that was too high for Nasser and his Revolutionary Council. It banned the Brotherhood in 1954, then undid the ban, but after an attempt on Nasser’s life, reinstated the ban.

In Terror and Liberalism, Paul Berman notes what happened next:

“Leading figures from the Muslim Brotherhood fled from Egypt to Saudi Arabia, and the Saudi rulers welcomed them, and put them to good use. The Saudi princes were determined to keep their own country on a path of pure adherence to Saudi Arabia’s antique and rigid version of Islam; and Egypt’s Islamist intellectuals, with their stores of Koranic knowledge, had much to offer. The Egyptian exiles took over professorial chairs in Saudi universities. And their impact was large. Qutb’s younger brother, Muhammad Qutb, a distinguished religious scholar in his own right, fled to Saudi Arabia and became a professor of Islamic Studies. One of his students was Osama bin Laden.”

Sayyid Qutb, however, stayed in Egypt and Nasser hanged him in 1966. By then, though, the damage was done and the religious fascism represented by Qutb and the Muslim Brotherhood has since left a trail of death and suffering that stretches from the banks of the Nile to lower Manhattan. It has also steered Saudi Arabia towards barbarism and although it’s a bit late in the day for the princely descendants of the princes who imported Qutb’s toxic ideology to acknowledge their capital mistakes, it is better that it’s done late rather than never. Unless they wish to be devoured by the radicals, the Saudis and the Egyptians know that the Muslim Brotherhood must be smashed.


The evil legacy of the evil Sayyid Qutb

Monday, 19 August, 2013 1 Comment

In his book Terror and Liberalism, Paul Berman examines the role that Sayyid Qutb played in the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Qutb enrolled in the Brotherhood in 1951 and duly became “the Arab world’s first important theoretician of the Islamist cause.” But what did Qutb write? Well, there is his 1964 manifesto, Milestones, a short work in which he calls for recreating the Muslim world on strictly Qur’anic grounds, but, says Berman, “his true masterwork is something else entirely, a gargantuan thirty-volume exegesis called In the shade of the Qur’an, which consists of commentaries on the various chapters or Surahs of the Koran.”

Sayyid Qutb The writing is “wise, broad, indignant, sometimes demented, bristly with hatred, medieval, modern, tolerant, intolerant, cruel, urgent, cranky, tranquil, grave, poetic, learned, analytic, moving in some passages — a work large and solid enough to create its own shade, where his readers could repose and turn his pages, as he advised the students of the Koran to do, in the earnest spirit of loyal soldiers reading their daily bulletin.” As an example, Berman offers Qutb’s commentary on Surah 2, from the section “Martyrdom and Jihad”. A snippet:

“The Surah tells the Muslims that, in the fight to uphold God’s universal Truth, lives will have to be sacrificed. Those who risk their lives and go out to fight, and who are prepared to lay down their lives for the cause of God are honorable people, pure of heart and blessed of soul. But the great surprise is that those among them who are killed in the struggle must not be considered or described as dead. They continue to live, as God Himself clearly states.”

And so it was with Sayyid Qutb, who was hanged by Nasser in 1966. His evil ideas flourish and his writings should be studied closely by those now offering themselves as experts on Egyptian affairs, and they should be mandatory reading for those journalists who display a remarkable “understanding” for the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood. Among those who come to mind here are Patrick Cockburn, Robert Fisk, Hubert Wetzel and Mary Fitzgerald.


Parked at the knitwear shop

Sunday, 14 October, 2012

The word knit is derived from knot and ultimately from the Old English cnyttan, to knot. One of the earliest known examples of knitting was cotton socks with color patterns, found in Egypt at the end of the first millennium AD. Originally a male-only occupation, the first knitting trade guild was started in Paris in […]

Continue Reading »

Events are unpredictable until, quite suddenly, they occur

Thursday, 13 September, 2012

Tuesday, 9/11/12, was the day the roof fell in says Walter Russel Mead in a great post about the unpredictable nature of events. Snippet: “As the dust settles, there will be more to say — about the politics of Egypt, the chaos in Libya, the President’s leadership, the strike in Chicago, the nature of blasphemy, […]

Continue Reading »