16 April, 2011

The fourth pyramid الهرم الرابع

Each of the great pharaohs of Egypt had monuments constructed in the form of temples, pyramids or tombs that can be identified with his reign, the most famous of these being the three pyramids of Geeza. With end of the era of the great pharaohs and their dynasties the building of these monuments died out and the sands of time turned the once great edifices into the archeological wonders we see today. From the time of Cleopatra there were no rulers who left an enduring mark on Egypt until the great Mohamed Ali Pasha, some two centuries ago. The Pasha’s goal was to establish Egypt as a powerful European-Style state and he nationalized Egypt leaving his finger print on many beneficial developments, especially in agriculture, and under his rule the country’s water and irrigation system was developed.

In the 1950’s, under the rule of President Jamal Abdul Nasser, the Aswan dam was constructed across the Nile changing the agriculture and improving the way of life of  Egyptians forever thereby making Nasser’s legacy to his country. Then President Sadat paved the way for three decades of peace with Israel and the peace treaty between the two countries is always linked to Sadat’s name.

President Mubarak announced that he would build ‘a fourth pyramid’ in Egypt, and by doing so his ambition of becoming one of the great leaders of the Nile valley. This outstanding construction was to be the Toshka project by which water from Lake Nasser would be pumped through a 30 Km channel to irrigate the great desert to the south west of the Nile. This development was hailed as the savior of Egypt, the means of ensuring that the food baskets food of Egypt, and the Arab world, would be filled, and provide the job opportunities for the great numbers of Egypt’s young unemployed. Instead Arab landgrabbers bought hundreds of thousands acres of the land targeted by the project at the cheap price of 10$ an acre and the establishment of a research station near the Aswan dam. I saw this posh research station and many others like it in other Arab countries, each supposed to help with improving food production, yet achieving little if anything.

The cost of food in the Middle East is always rising and the countries of the region are heavily dependent on imported food. The cost of the Toshka project was astronomical and the media hype for this ‘fourth pyramid’, the great achievement of President Mubarak, was beyond tolerance. Now, the Attorney General of Egypt is taking a particular interest in the mismanagement of the Toshka land and one wonders what mark in Egypt’s history will eventually be attributed to Mubarak.

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