A Tour of Egypt’s Half-Finished Revolution
February 17, 2012

I arrived in the Egyptian town of Edfu on a Friday in early February. The temple there, a wondrous reminder of the Egyptian pharaohs’ obsession with eternity and architectural monumentalism, was eerily quiet and empty of tourists. But the silence was more than filled by the blaring sound of the Friday sermon, broadcast over loudspeakers at unavoidably high volume.

Spring Break
December 14, 2011

December 2 was supposed to be “Heroes of Mohamed Mahmoud Friday” in Cairo. The previous week, around 40 people had been killed by security forces while demonstrating in Tahrir Square, with the worst violence occurring on adjacent Mohamed Mahmoud Street. To memorialize the dead, Egypt’s youth activists had called for a million-man march, complete with parachute-sized Egyptian flags to convey their spirit and mock coffins to convey their sadness. Yet, for the second time in five days, the call for a million protesters to show up in Tahrir Square yielded just hundreds.

A Visit With a Fundamentalist Member of Egypt’s New Parliament
December 10, 2011

Giza, Egypt—In this city’s lower-income neighborhood of Talbiya, situated just across the Nile from Cairo, women carry piles of pita on their heads through narrow, dirt-paved roads, squeezing past donkey-pulled carts. Amid the fuel fumes, and fly-swarmed food stands, there’s also a health clinic. It’s run by Hesham Abouel Nasr, a henna-bearded television preacher who also happens to be the local secretary-general for the Salafist—that is to say, Islamic fundamentalist—Nour Party.

Rapped Up
February 25, 2011

The month of February gave observers of African politics a curious case study in political geography. At one end of the Nile, protesters in Egypt were breaking the chains of autocracy through the revolution in Tahrir Square. At the other end of the Nile, voters in Uganda were preparing for an election that ultimately gave the country’s quasi-autocratic ruler, Yoweri Museveni, another five years in power.

The End of the Affair
June 22, 2010

On Twitter this afternoon we had some fun remembering French
embarrassments in Africa: the Battle of the Nile, Fashoda, Mers El Kebir, Suez, Bocassa, Rwanda and now, of course, South Africa 2010.

 Flippant, obviously, but France's meltdown this tournament has been 
richly entertaining (the shame of it is that Les Bleus cannot meet 
England. Now *that* would be a perversely amusing moment of anti-entertainment). Apart from the Irish, no one has enjoyed this tournament more than the 
French themselves. Few countries, after all, do self-mortification 
quite as well as the French.

The End of Hunger?
January 02, 2010

Famine: A Short History By Cormac Ó Gráda (Princeton University Press, 327 pp., $27.95) The earliest recorded famines, according to Cormac Ó Gráda in his brief but masterful book, are mentioned on Egyptian stelae from the third millennium B.C.E. In that time--and to an extent, even today, above the Aswan dam in Sudan--farmers along the Nile were dependent on the river flooding to irrigate their fields. But one flood out of five, Ó Gráda tells us, was either too high or too low. The result was often starvation.

Fast Times
October 30, 2006

Sitting among Madonna’s tassel-tipped corset, a jumpsuit worn by a member of ZZ Top, and other framed memorabilia, Egyptian families wait at their empty tables in silence. A 50-inch flat-screen television overhead plays music videos of the Killers and Nine Inch Nails, while waiters weave aimlessly around the booths. As the sun dips below the Nile, a Red Hot Chili Peppers video is unceremoniously interrupted—the guitar solo replaced by a solemn, baritone voice. “In the name of Allah, the most merciful,” it begins in Arabic.

Tablets to Books
May 14, 2001

Libraries in the Ancient World By Lionel Casson  (Yale University Press, 177 pp., $22.95) One of the inscribed clay tablets in the library of Ashurbanipal, who was the king of Assyria from 668 B.C.

Ethiopia: Lesson in War
July 17, 1935

This is a bad season for those who still believe that international agreements, among nations constituted as at present, can prevent war. Let us look for a moment at the Italian-Ethiopian situation as an example. Italy and Ethiopia are both members in good standing of the League of Nations. As such they have made a solemn covenant to settle their disputes peaceably and to join in sanctions against any nation that declines to submit to such peaceable adjustment.