TEN FACTS ABOUT EGYPT and THE MIDDLE EAST that you might not know

Hope they’re useful—and, yeah, I know, I’m one of those geeks making lists.

Okay, you may know the first one:

1. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Although considered a Middle Eastern country, Egypt is largely situated geographically in North Africa. The portion of Egypt known as the Sinai peninsula borders Israel and the Gaza strip (see map below).

2. OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS

Egypt was a colony of the British Empire, occupied from 1882 to 1922, and was a British client state until 1954.

3. CHANGING OF THE GUARD

Egypt has been run by a military dictatorship since 1953, with only four different leaders since that time. The first leader, General Muhammad Naguib was forced out by Gamel Abdel-Nasser, considered the real force behind the overthrow of the monarchy. Upon Nasser’s death in 1970, power passed to his Vice-President, Anwar Sadat. Sadat was assassinated in 1981 by extremists opposing, among other things, his brokering peace deals with Israel. Power passed to his Vice-President and Egypt’s current military leader, Hosni Mubarak.

4. ALTERED STATES

Egypt is one of only a few Middle Eastern countries that has what are called ‘full diplomatic relations’ with the state of Israel. Another is Jordan, which is a monarchy, its leader King Abdullah II. Both countries are currently experiencing serious inner protests and turmoil. Turkey also has full diplomatic relations with the state of Israel, although those were recently damaged by the Israel-Gaza attacks.

5. VIRUS

Former American Presidential candidate John McCain recently called what is happening across the Arab world and the Middle East right now ‘a virus’—seemingly in the negative sense of the term. The term is unfortunate, because on at least one important and massive level, the protests are pro-democracy and seeking liberty and civil law—ostensibly American goals for the world. McCain’s concern is that Israel could end up completely surrounded by countries led by ‘radical groups’ that are against its very existence.

For the record, these movements across the Middle East and North Africa—Algeria, Yemen, Tunisia, Egypt—have to do with ‘freedom,’ of course, but some of the urgency is certainly a protest for freedom from exorbitant food prices, unemployment, economic strife, dictatorship and other forces that make life unbearable.

6. LAW AND ORDER

The fear of many (and hope of some) is that Islamic states with Sharia law and theocracy (rather than democratic institutions) will replace current crumbling dictatorships in the Middle East. Sharia is the sacred law of Islam, or God’s law. It is, unsurprisingly, interpreted differently even within Islam.

7. THE HYPOCRITIC OATH

Ironically, Saudi Arabia is a staunch and long-term American ally yet is ruled under classical Sharia Law. Classical Sharia Law basically means no blending with secular institutions or secular constitutions. Saudi Arabia in this way is thus more extreme than Pakistan, Afghanistan and even Iran.

8. ARABIAN NIGHTS

Saudi Arabia also has a significant stake in the American economy, big ties to the Bush family, fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers were Saudi and Saudi Arabia is well-documented as funding madrassas or militant islamic schools.

9. FUNDAMENTAL FUNDING

Excluding present day war funding, the United States government gives more assistance to the dictatorship in Egypt than any other country except Israel. The US sends US $1.3 billion in military assistance to Egypt every year, and has sent some US $28 billion in economic and development assistance since 1975.

10. THE SECOND SEX

Egypt has one of the world’s highest percentages of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (female circumcision). According to an Egyptian Demographic and Health Survey conducted in 2005, over 95% of Egyptian women have been circumcised. The practice of Female Genital Cutting is illegal in most Western countries and supposedly banned in Egypt.

MAP OF THE MIDDLE EAST AND BEYOND

Any corrections appreciated.

Here’s to more peace, more love, more understanding, more truth. Heck, more of all the best human qualities.

Pete

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One Response to “TEN FACTS ABOUT EGYPT and THE MIDDLE EAST that you might not know”

  1. Linda Naughton says:

    Interesting…I enjoyed reading your list of facts that most people would not know. I have become more interested in the Middle East with all the controversy. I research myself and find what I hope is the truth. Thank you for sharing, Linda Naughton

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