Miss Mabrouk of Egypt

Check the archives too - a lot of good stuff to enjoy. Me myself? Off to new adventures in the blogosphere, if time permits.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Shaking the World on a Hot Summer Day

Dear Suzi, I have no doubt you are enjoying the Med’s breeze in Alexandria while the rest of us fear our lives. That’s right. My desk was shaking, well the whole house was shaking and I didn’t know if I should risk my life by getting dressed or escape in my negligee. Your guess is right; I’d rather die whit my nightdress halfway over my head than exposing myself to ordinary people on the street. I changed to the better and then it was over.

The earthquake measured a 4.3 magnitude. It doesn’t sound much but on the other hand side its center was only 55 km from Cairo, SSW.

London too has been shaking today. News about how the police are chasing another cell of terrorists and arresting seven suspects have kept my fantasy going: imagine if we could do the same! The good news is that the mass-arrests in Sinai we feared never happened; I guessed the roughnecks understood they wouldn’t get away with it, or there are not many bedus left to take in.

Nothing new about Sharm is coming through and it is not only because it is hot in the Sinai desert. Instead, world-media representatives on paid overtime at a posh hotel in Sharm are passing the “Bedouin Connection” story around for recycling. You can find it here and here and here and here. At least it provides exotic summer reading for those who know less about the area.

Politically, Cairo is still shaking, somewhat, from yesterdays demonstration; the whole package of beatings and arrests included. Had I known it would take place I had stayed at home. Instead I was visiting a poor relative in that less fortunate part of the city and, without knowing how, I found myself in the middle of the well-policed chaos. Today, supporters of the instigators gathered to demand their release. In principle yes, I do agree we need a change but by what means and by whom is a different story. I will tell you more tomorrow. I bet you want your husband to retire as well but given the alternatives…

Tourists are still buying trips to Sharm El-Sheik – and not. That’s the British. Let’s look more at what the French and Italians are up to in the morning. But do we really want any of them to come back? The Russians are of course still pleased by cheaper trips. I think our industry will suffer, yes, but perhaps not as much as expected. Let us take the opportunity to restructure the economy: I don’t know what nationalities we would invite instead but, yani, all package tourists can’t be like that, can they?

Ta Ta. Time for a nightcap. But what happened to the ‘cleared’ Chemist, Magdi Al-Nashar? Still in chains, of course. I’ll sleep on that. Love/ XXX / ritzy

Mortals Pays Visit to God-Pharaoh

Howard Carter is opening Tutankhamon's tomb, 1922. The boy-king earned his fame from the thousands of treasures that were found in his grave, intact during 3.300 years. An exhibition with artefacts is currently touring the USA. Half a million tickets were sold in the first month.

This picture can be purchased from the NYT.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Oh Marriages is What Makes Terrorists

The Terrorist-Breeding X-factor

Hey guys you can come home now, the war does not need to be fought any longer. It was just a phase; there will soon be no more terrorists anyway. See, we found the X-factor that explains where they are all coming from: it is POLYGAMY!

Oh, you say that sound strange? Let me explain from scratch:

Four years of fighting and we’re still kind of clueless about why we haven’t won. It’s like the more we kill, the more they breed. It has to be a root-difference between us and them. For example, why are they so, quote, “in love with death” and “so willing to commit suicide and take the whole earth with them in pursuit of their cause.”?

It all started with the first people on earth, several millions years ago. They were monogamous. Where people are not, there are wars. Like, in West Africa where young men claim the bush as revolutionaries. These guys were robbed of the chance to marry because the richer dudes married all women. Now they’re fighting back by raiding villages to get boobs.

Where you are, there are no monogamy either, not even when Mohamed lived. Polygamy was a Bedouin tradition; men could support several wives. When men died in wars, women could be provided for anyway and families would have a breadwinning father. Of course, the tribes fought a lot. They said it was because other tribes were not religious in a good way, but mostly they tried to steal each others women. Jihad and Conquest is their tradition. In the end, rich guys got too much sex, poor dudes got nada.

(Why is it always like that, anyway?)

You see where I am getting. Already we have three points: 1) they have a cause, are not afraid to die and are prepared to ruin the world to get their way; 2) They have multiple wives or no wives; 3) conquest is their history. They are totally not like us.

I learned this from Mr. Tucker who writes for The American Enterprise. He has evidence: Polygamy is mostly practiced in Saudi Arabia. What do we know about them? They are “best at producing roving jihadists who roam the world in search of conflict.” And why do they do that? Because they have: “A different male psychology … because they will not have the chance to reproduce.”

Notice ‘chance to reproduce’ because that is important and also kind of universal: I bet you guys miss your wives and therefore you can sympathize with the Arab guys who never get laid. Mr. Tucker says polygamy is unfair and it makes societies dysfunctional which in turn breeds terrorists. You see the X-factor clear now, I believe.

Then Mr. Tucker really has a smart suggestion for how to make peace in the world. He wants the United Nations to do their Human Rights Declaration Thing about the Right to Reproduce. All the countries in the world would together say (in different words) ‘hey man, you have the right to fuck a wife.

Of course that would mean that the richer guys couldn’t marry more than one any longer since there might be a shortcut of skirts in the world and we have to be fair, one man – one woman; that is all. And we can be proud that America once more is exporting Justice to all less fortunate people in the world.

Back to my first point: The war is over. At most, ten percent of marriages in any society are polygamous. And that is mostly old people. It is not really popular with the young generation. When they grow up and when Mr. Tucker and the UN (with the help of Mr. Bolton I’d guess) made this cross-country law, the production of terrorists have stopped long time ago anyway. Statistically, related to y-number of polygamous marriages and z-number of boy-children born some twenty years ago plus q-those already married and engaged - and so on, there can’t be many of them left in the hill caves anyway.

Under these conditions it would not be good to stay since we would kill people, real people, for dubious reasons, you know what I mean? Let’s go home to your sweethearts guys, the war is over!

But before you go, let me just ask you: When you signed up, did you ever imagine that all this fuzz was about getting laid?

You Might Want to See This

Demonstrator lying on the ground. It can be our reminder that sometimes, it is for real.

AP: Police Attacks Demonstrators

Not surprisingly, the wires has better picture than I {smile}. There are still pockets of demonstrators, let's say mingling with the surrounding police who are just waiting for them to go home. Here's a report saying about 15 people were beaten. Naughty cops!

Demonstration Now, Picture

Sometimes it doesn't matter how many officers are chasing you down the street, you still want to come back. The police is very good at crowd control.

Another Demo Pix

shaky action and the guys challenging the forces most didn't get away

Cairo Demo Now

First picture, just a few minutes ago. Gotta go. Bye.

The Roots of Islamic Terrorism

Here’s someone writing in IHT who ought to read a book – or write one. There are more quotes like this here and here is the full article.

“… the oft-quoted remark that Islam is a religion of peace is false. It is historically illiterate to claim that war is foreign to Islam and it is theologically uninformed to argue that jihad is merely a personal inner struggle with no external military correlate.”
I'm confident they have their points too, but we also need to go to the Bible and highlight all sections that call for war and death. Having said that, the authors are litterate and I'm sure we'll hear more from them.

Manners before Morals

She dances like dancing and only dancing is her life (and is not that how Egypt used to be?) and she dresses to invite attention, to challenge views of what a proper appearance for women in public shall be. Ruby is a singer and a rising star. She is commercial and aware that sexy videos sell, but she is also a window where aspirations of a new generation are breezing trough; attitudes that are taking on the older generation’s efforts to craft a counterculture to the West. Not everybody is pleased:
“They have no dreams except feeding these kinds of instincts or living like their fellows in the West," a university lecturer tells the BBC. "They gain the bad things from the Western culture - like free relationships between men and women," he says.

On the surface his statement sounds true. Underneath, no, it is a reaction to their society’s way of living; an attack not on religious beliefs but on bottled up feelings and hypocritical pretence. It is a modest protest by way of fashion that in words would have read: “We know you have lovers and are more often than not betraying your spouses, it is as common as dates in a palm tree garden. This is not the future society we desire. We are starting from a different point; we are showing more and hiding less.”

Two articles from Cairo by the BBC in a series about young people in the Middle East are here and here.

Friday, July 29, 2005

In Sharm, Arab Leaders Last Meeting

Suzi dear, it just sound so macabre to suggest that the leaders of the Arab nations should meet in Sharm El-Sheik at this particular time. Almost like asking for a final solution to the region's problems.

Tech Note: Comments and Track Back

Suzi love, playing with the blog settings is just getting funnier for every day – I wish you’d launch your own blog soon. You can name it after Hatshepsut, Nefertari or why not Cleopatra VII? Anyway, Thanks to the great advice posted by Improbolus, ‘comments’ and ‘track back’ has been added to this blog. I guess previous posts will always stand on zero but by all means, if you yourself would like to express your feelings about the content, past or coming, you’d be more than welcome.

PS: What do you think about the Technorati tags at the bottom of each post? Useful or unnecessary?

My God is Not Your God

Food for thought from the intellectual department: Do We All Worship the Same God? It depends on where you are standing when you are asking the question. With the help of sociology and philosophy, Lee Harriss' analysis takes off with the rational thinking of non-believers and ends with an example that … well, you’ll see yourself. Here is the end of his challenging exposé.
The Aztecs worshipped cruel and ruthless gods who demanded mounds of freshly ripped out human hearts; the Zoroastrians worshipped a god of light who spent day and night watching over men, struggling against evil and working always for the good. Both forms of worship were based, from our point of view, on pure illusion -- and yet what a profound difference it makes to a society which illusion it chooses to go with.

Few things matter more than how men chose to deceive themselves.

Kefaya – a Backgrounder to the Future

An interview with George Ishak, founding member of the Egyptian Movement for Change – Kefaya (Enough) who is putting all his faith in the people but have no ambitions to rush them on.

Political Sound & Light Show

"In short, Iraq is not the only country in this neighborhood struggling to write a new social contract and develop new parties. The same thing is going on in Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Gaza. If you like comparative politics, you may want to pull up a chair and pop some popcorn, because this sort of political sound and light show comes along only every 30 or 40 years."
- Thomas Friedman, NYT, on regional political development.

Tech Note: RSS/Atom Syndication

Suzi, I’m such a fool and have underestimated Blogger once again… After a good hour of searching and crying, I found the answer right under my nose: to configure the Atom feed to only show descriptions instead of pushing the whole blog into your reader at once, all it takes is to push a button on the feed set-up page. I’ve set Feedburner to do the same. Both feeds are now less heavy but it mean you’ll have to click a few times more to read the individual messages. I hope that is all right with you. Peace.

To Alexandria it Once Belonged...

The obelisk when it was still standing in Alexandria, Egypt, before being moved to New York in 1879 where it was placed in Central Park two years later. The 21 meter, 200 ton monument was cut in granite quarries in Aswan in the south of Egypt more than one thousand years before Alexandria was founded in 331 BC. This obelisk, and another one now standing on the bank of the river Thames in London, is known as Cleopatra's Needles. They were first erected by Pharaoh Tuthmosis III in front of the Temple of the Sun in Heliopolis. In 13 BC, Roman emperor Augustus moved both obelisks to Alexandria. Egypt’s Khedive Ismail gave permission to move the obelisk to New York. Railway millionaire William Vanderbilt provided funding. To ward off any eventual local protests, the American flag were placed on the pyramid-shaped top of the obelisk.

Sources: Alexandria Rediscovered by Jean-Yves Empereur. British Museum Press 1998. Egyptian Mirage, Studio Photograph database © by Griffith Institute, Oxford.

Weekly Eye: Al-Qaeda the Bogey Man

Ritzy turn the pages of Al-Ahram Weekly’s current issue: Intellectual Cairo offers a variety of theories on who is responsible for Sharm El-Sheikh attack. Diaa Rashwan is not sure Al-Qaeda was responsible and warns that it can become a bogeyman concealing the real culprits. Al-Qaeda would have chosen a softer target to maximize the media effect (a larger number of dead I assume he means). In addition, the group claiming responsibility has named themselves after a Palestinian with no connections to Al-Qaeda, when micro-logic suggest they should have used a hero from Egypt.

Political scientist Heba Raouf Ezzat says the mass incarcerations that followed the Taaba bombings when up to 3,000 people where held (some allegedly tortured) could have set the scene for revenge:
"The security forces treated these people so badly I wouldn't be surprised if any one of them had decided to blow himself up," Ezzat told Al-Ahram Weekly.

While others have suggested that this attack might be linked to Iraq where Egypt’s ambassador were kidnapped and killed recently, Hala Mustafa of the ‘Democracy’ journal dismissed such claims:
“… governments would be unable to pursue the foreign policies they think best preserve their interests without forever worrying about a terrorist riposte.”

Tarek Atia has discovered that the principles of Magna Carta are rooted in the Quran, which is one way to illustrate how – in his worldview – the two bad boys who are fighting in the ring can stop and instead learn from each other.

Love. Peace. Ritzy.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Earning Brownie Points With the US

This piece only caught my attention because of the last part of this quote:
"His tough stance against Islamists following a wave of terror attacks in the mid-nineties and his choice to continue his predecessor's policy of peace with Israel have earned him brownie points with Washington."

I googled it: Girl scouts were rewarded for doing small, helpful, things. Like a star in the book - fine for children but embarrassing for an adult; this is why “The phrase seems to have been a sarcastic, backhanded compliment.”

But what about what I thought it might mean? Well, it means that too:

“The experts are agreed that the sense was given greater strength and impetus through scatological undertones, being intimately (and I use that word advisedly) associated with the older term brown-nose, for a sycophant or toady, a person who curries favor to such an extent that his nose seems to be up his superior’s backside.”

Beggar’s Belief

He actually used those words. Here is a quote from AP:
"I announce in front of you from here, the province of Menoufia, that I have decided to nominate myself for the presidential elections," said Mubarak, whose speech was immediately interrupted by wild applause from hundreds of supporters, including his wife, Suzanne, and son, Gamal.

Mubarak: I Nominate Myself for President

That is JP’s slant on today’s news. I think they put it on the internet half an hour before the televised event, but I’m not sure. {smile} Here is AFP’s story, too.

Child Violence Hotline Receives 25,000 Calls

Heartbreaking news, Suzi: An emergency telephone hotline set up in Egypt to tackle violence against children received 25,000 calls in its first 24 days of operation. But only 1,200 of these calls were “real complaints” that were acted upon. The remaining calls were related to street-children, legal and psychological concerns regarding children. Among the calls that triggered action was that from a little girl who were afraid she would be circumcised. Another call was about a teacher hitting pupils.

Pakistani’s Never in Sharm El-Sheikh

Official Al-Ahram daily says the Pakistani men entered Egypt July 5, checked into a hotel in my neighborhood Maadi (too bad I didn’t get to meet the fellas), and went missing July 9. It is said they never went to Sharm El-Sheikh. They weren’t illegal workers in Egypt: they are believed to have crossed into Israel, to seek work, with the help of Beduouin trackers.

Ok, it’s easier to believe this, although it is conflicting with previous versions. Whatever, end of story, I think.

5,000 Sumo Wrestlers in Egypt

Egyptian Sumo’s that is. Unlikely but apparently true. Is there a feather weight class in Sumo? Karim doesn’t need it; he weighs in at 142 kg. Or perhaps that is feather?

Oh, We Kind of Did It Ourselves

AP did it first. Money quotes by opinion makers who see the root of the problem in a new cultural climate:
“There is no use denying. ... We incited the crime of Sharm el-Sheik. … The bombers didn't just conjure up in our midst suddenly, they are a product of a society that produces extremist fossilized minds that are easy to be controlled. …Regrettably, the incitement is coming from mosque pulpits, newspapers, and TV screens, and radio microphones, which are all state-run.”
- Al-Musawwar's editor in chief.

“After December's tsunami in the Indian Ocean, he went on Arab television and called the devastation God's revenge on Westerners engaged in vice.”
- Columnist in Al-Ahram daily pointing to a famous religious scholar.

“Islamic leaders need to do a lot of work to enlighten clerics and preachers and educate them about the true religious ideas ... and teach them about the realities of the age we're living in.”
- Theology professor at Al-Azhar University, a leading Sunni Muslim institution.

Odd Dismissal - Pakistani Track

Dismissing the Pakistani track, [previous post] the authorities have to explain why they hunted Bedouins and Pakistanis with gunfire in the mountains. Also, if they were ‘illegal workers,’ presumably with no previous relations to Bedouin tribes, why were they hiding in a village? And since when are Pakistanis entering Egypt illegally to work? If that happens, I have missed it completely. I thought there were about a million Egyptians competing for the jobs. I fail to see how anyone can enter Sharm illegally when even Egyptians with valid ID-card often are blocked by guards on the road. Security officials are now quoted saying the Pakistanis, who left their passports at a hotel, fled to Israel. How, exactly, would they do that if they are illegal workers with no previous knowledge of the area?

Amid So Called Links and Connections

We are in the middle of an intensive media hunt for pointers to who is behind the Sharm El-Sheik terror attack. Among the stronger tracks is the identification of a body believed to be one of the bombers. Also interesting is the force-testing of four families for their DNA. It will eventually enable identification of other suspected corpses.

Other ‘links’ and ‘connections’ are near to no-sensers, e.g. "the strategy and planning are similar to last year’s attack" and, "the choice of target is similar" (e.g. locations in Sinai popular with Israelis). That two groups made identical conclusions in two different years, or that the 2005 attackers learned from the 2004 attack means nothing more than what is said. Keep tracking these tracks, yes; suspects from 2004 or persons connected with them might be found. But at this point, we know nothing more. By reading too much into these ‘links,’ we are – perhaps willingly – downplaying other possibilities. More valuable is the similarity of explosive materials in the 2004-2005 attacks, if that claim is true.

Expert opinions on Al-Qaeda’s involvement are also sketchy, largely due to confusion about what kind of animal Al-Qaeda is today. As for what role this organization might have played in Sharm, I believe this quote will prove to be on the spot:
"Al Qaeda is finished. But there is Al Qaedaism. This is a powerful ideology that drives local groups to do what they think Osama bin Laden wants."

Assisted by each other, various cells will find contacts and supporters who can provide them with what they do not have themselves. It is a web of people who feel alike. This excludes direct control by a leader on the top, but not the distribution of know-how, finances and intelligence.

Hi, I am a News Jockey

Good morning Suzi dear. I wanted to coin the term ‘news jockey’ because I figured that is what I am. I googled it since if it isn’t on Google it isn’t at all. I found ‘newsjockey’ without a space but not my new term; even Wikipedia is in the blue. News Jockey; it can’t be googled and it can’t be wikifound, yet it is precisely what I am.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Best on the Net

Suzi love, I can’t imagine anything funnier on the net right now so you have to check it out: Tagzania.com. Again, Ritzy is a pioneer into the unknown lands. This time it was easy though, Tagzania gave me wings. I even tagged my place: if you find the tags ‘ritzy” or ‘missmabrouk,’ you’ll know where to stop for a G&T. Ta-ta for now!

When the Police Receives a Call…

-Salam Alikum. Is this the Sharm Police?
-What do you want?
- The city’s casinos will explode because they are the work of Satan and Hussein’s uncle lost all his money there so now Hussein is pissed because he cannot marry the pink English girl he’s been sleeping with and buying coca colas, in the name of God the almighty the infidels will be punished and those who love these symbols of the Americans and the Jews as well because Hussein is really mad and he’s got some friends who are always angry too and now they will shave their long beards and all hair but first they will try to find some Russian girls one more time and also pray many times today and tomorrow.
- Casinos you say. I better move some cars over there. I believe we have a few extra around the Ghazala Garden Hotel. Who are you?
- beep beep, beep beep

WTO: Red Sea Tourism to Suffer Acutely

It is not the first time Egypt is hit by terrorism and unfortunately, it seems like targeting the tourism industry will remain fashionable among those who either just seek to topple the government or also has a larger Islamist agenda. The attack in Sharm El-Sheikh was the deadliest ever in Egypt. How bad is the damage to the tourism industry?
“The Red Sea area targeted by the attacks is set to suffer acutely.” …“The impact on the region concerned will be strong, it will be medium for the rest of Egyptian tourism and barely noticeable on worldwide tourism,” said the head of the WTO yesterday.

Another analyst is predicting Egypt will loose $2 billion this fiscal year. That would be almost one third of the annual foreign income from tourism. Egypt’s government finds that ridiculous:
“Of course the attacks will have an impact, but I feel the industry will rebuild very quickly because of the recent pattern of bombings around the world,” the minister of tourism told AP. "People are no longer shocked by these things."

Is that a spin or wishful thinking? I am not sure of either. Egypt knows very well that in most instances, tourists will arrive almost whatever happens. It is the oldest and most famous holiday destination, after all. It was not that easy though, in the years following the Luxor attack: after 1997, the market was dead. But as the minister of tourism says, we are not in 1997, the world has moved on. Even if it sounds brutal, travelers know that it is not only Egypt any more that is targeted by radical Islamists.

In fact, it was only in the past two years that the market fully recovered. That is largely due to a strategy to cater for a new breed of tourists. The country has successfully built up leisure destinations that is complementing Egypt’s traditional portfolio of history- and adventure travel. Package tourism is seeking the sun and the beach as well as value for the money, if not the cheapest prices period. Egypt has all this in resorts that are often brand new. Europe is only a few hours away. It might just be that Egypt’s new leisure-tourism market has grown so fast in the past two years that it takes much more than this attack to stop it.

Naked Men on Camels

Suzi love, how embarrassing for our nation: there is a man doing something - unspeakable - printed on Camel cigarette boxes. Next to our pyramids, by Cheops holy grave!

President Comfortable in Palace Throne

Yes Suzi, now even I have it in print in front of me. You succeeded! Your husband is seeking a new term in office. Mabrouk! You will not have to move out from your lovely palace or abandon your rose garden or worry that whoever comes after will find young Gamal’s cemetery with all departed hamsters (what were they for?). So, what is next? Will there be a dynamic campaign with you posing by his side? Anyway, the actual election is just a detail anyway, but I suppose participation (whatever) pleases the common people.

Hatshepsut a Witch?

This is new to me. Turns out I should have been in Belgium yesterday.

Wanna Be A Martyr?

So you really are in to this jihad martyrdom thing but feel you’re too blue to manage it on your own even with the Jihad Travel Guide. Do not despair: Ritzy is here. Look, some Iranian fellows are advertising their services to you. Fill in the form, attach a photo and birth certificate and –done! Before you know it, your brains will be scattered around a public square. Allah Akbar!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Egypt Warned About Attack

AP is breaking this now. Authorities had been warned. Increased security days before the attack. But at wrong locations -- or I guess, the attackers changed their plans.

Sharm Suicide Bomber Identified

DNA test revealed he is from the Sinai area. Ties to Islamic militant group. Responsible for explosion in Ghazala hotel. Dozens questioned, 140 now arrested.

BP Meets Bigger Pharaoh II

Here is another funny yes-this-is-so-Egypt part of the story:
“The police officer in charge of permits turned out to be at a football match with his mobile phone switched off, so they decided to go ahead regardless.”
To be fair, even in democracies, permissions for demonstrations are often required, even if the participators are not more than five. Also, how would the police have handled the demonstrators if they had been farmers from the Delta or Upper Egypt demonstrating about prices and land-reforms?

King Tut Still Holds Power Over Crowds

In just one month, 500.000 tickets have been sold to the King Tutankhamen exhibition in Los Angeles. Half a million people in one month! 26 months to go…

Big Pharaoh Met Bigger Pharaoh

Bloggers Big Pharaoh, Sandmonkey and a few other kids :-) in the “Arab and Muslims against Terrorism” circle attempted a silent demonstration – against terrorism – in Cairo the other day.
“Two of our team went to speak with the big guy, the officer. After failing to convince him to allow us to carry out our silent demonstration, he disclosed a top secret. "We received info that the bridge will get bombed" he said.”

International news-report here.

Jihad Travel Guide

Ever wanted to go on Jihad to Iraq but couldn’t figure out how to get there? Your Jihad Travel Companion is finally here! Among suggestions of which roads to take – Turkey seems fine – you will also receive practical tips. “Do not give money to any impostor claiming he is collecting cash for the Jihad.” Oh, thanks for telling me. Finally, are you really prepared to go? “In Iraq, follow order and never say you don’t want to go on a suicide mission.” Oh, is that what it is all about…

Oh, it was Just Global Paki-Bashing

"We deny categorically any links between Pakistani nationals and Sharm el-Sheikh blasts," says Egypt’s ambassador to Pakistan Hussein Haridy – echoing the Pakistani president earlier today.

Yesterday, the police were exchanging gun-fire with four Bedouins whom they said were hiding two of the Pakistani’s suspected for involvement in the Sharm El-Sheik terrorist attack. Today, Haridy said the six Pakistanis were being sought for their own security. "This is a routine security check that happens anywhere in the world."

Pakistan also denied any Pakistani link to the London attacks earlier this month. Three of the four London bombers were Britons of Pakistani descent. Visits by at least two of the bombers to the country are under investigation.

We Did It! Yeah, So What?

A third Islamic group, also previously unknown, is now claiming responsibility for the attack in Sharm El-Sheik. Really: and so what? I am not saying they did not do it. Let us just not be fooled into believing they are something they want to be - but is not.

The new claim from “The Tawhid and Jihad Group in Egypt” could “be more credible as it was posted on an Islamist Web site often used by the Al-Qaeda group in Iraq.” Previous claims were made on the Internet by the "Abdullah Azzam Brigades of Al-Qaeda" and by the “Holy Warriors of Egypt.” After last year’s attack similar claims were made by Islamist groups. It turned out to be an ‘unaffiliated’ group that blew up Taaba Hilton and two beaches.

The Sharm El-Sheik attacks were carried out by Egyptians. Money to buy the two trucks and 500 kg of explosives - apparently from Serbia - as well bombing expertise probably came from abroad – the Pakistani track is relevant. Such hints of an Egyptian-Foreigner constellation has produced theories about where precisely these groups fit in a global Al-Qaeda franchise, often presuming in the end that the attacks were directed from Osama Bin Laden’s virtual control room. But we only know there is a foreign connection; its scope and size remains unclear. Says NYT: "The preparation and execution were local," the security official said. "But perhaps the planning had foreign elements."

That is, I think, where in this case the international cooperation between twisted jihadist’s begins and ends. Boxing them in a structured organization makes them larger than they are and, gives them the credit they do not deserve. Going one step further and assume a hierarchy that put foreign leaders in control lead us to the wrong questions:

“But then why would al-Qaeda or some other international terror group concentrate its most spectacular attacks on this rather peripheral chunk of Egyptian territory when there are plenty of vulnerable tourist and other foreign targets in the country’s heartland?”
(An objection: at any given moment there are more foreigners in Egypt’s two major seaside destinations than anywhere else in the country. To target Cairo, Luxor and Aswan are different animals; among other things, more difficult to get to and certainly policed in a different way).

The answer to the question is: Because that was what was on the table: local hot-heads, fanatics, militants, and suicides - whatever they really are – either came up with an idea and asked around for support. Or, the idea were put to them and crafted together until they reached a consensus on what could be achieved. They did what they were capable of. They were not implementing orders. I do not doubt Al-Qaeda or other organizations are capable of even worse evil-doing than this month’s attacks. But accomplishing another well-crafted operation like 9/11 is just not that easy any more. This is what we will get. I am not even sure the attackers accomplished their goals: police says an ambush-road block after the first explosion probably blocked the second attacker from reaching the Iberotel Hotel. In the blogsphere, many are convinced the president’s holiday palace was the target.

So when we hear that some people somewhere in Egypt are claiming responsibility of mass-murdering between 64 and 88 people, mostly Egyptians, and they do so under a collective name that is tagged with that of a larger network of like-minded people around the world, let us acknowledge the connections and treat the threat for what it is. But let us not project our fear upon them and make them larger than they most likely are. Let’s listen to Musharraf, Pakistan’s president:

"So in this situation, is it possible that an Al-Qaeda man sitting here is controlling events in London or Sharm el-Sheikh or other parts of the world?"... "This is absolutely wrong."
"The world must understand that this Al-Qaeda has become a phenomenon" … "a state of mind" that could not be defeated by military means alone. … "It is a phenomenon where everyone has started calling himself Al-Qaeda, whether he has done it in London or Sharm el-Sheikh."
“It has no command structure originating from Pakistan and conveying messages to the whole world to do this act and do that act under total coordination of some commander."
His comments were prompted in a press conference where he categorically denied Pakistani involvement in the attacks. He might be right or wrong. In either case, his analysis of the ‘phenomenon’ stands on its own. I think we ought to listen.

UK: Muslim Exodus

Two thirds of Muslims consider leaving the UK. That is about half a million of the British Muslim population that is estimated to 1.6 million. In the past three weeks, police has recorded 1,200 incidents of Islamophobic incidents across the country. Three in ten are pessimistic about their children’s future in the UK, but 56 percent are optimistic. Read more about the depressing results of the poll here.

Louis Armstrong Tunes in Giza

Louis Armstrong plays for his wife in front of the Sphinx by the pyramids in Giza, 1961.

"Armstrong, one of the most influential jazz musicians in history, was married to Lucille from 1942 until his death in 1971." (You can buy this picture here).

On another note: Welcome, readers from Mostafa Hussein. Among other things, Mostafa is linking to photo-feeds about Sharm.

Not So Ritzy News

Suzi dear, good morning to you as well; I am terrible sorry I haven’t been able to write more personally to you in the past days. All new facts about the attacks in Sharm El-Sheik have been blogged within minutes. Traffic to the site has jumped – welcome all! To make even more friends, I’ve added some tools; most significantly all posts are now being [tagged!]. The link takes you to Technorati where you can see all other blogposts with the same tags. That’s in theory. I’ve been testing Technorati in the past days and their claim that all tags are recognized by their crawl within maximum an hour is simply not true. They also say it is possible to use multiple tags in one post – I do not see that working either, neither is it possible to search for combination tags, like cairo+bomb. Yet, Ritzy is stubborn and dedicated to go along, let’s give it a try since it is such a marvelous idea and the most intelligent way to see what is going on at millions of blogs.

The news? There is light by the end of the tunnel… Stay with me, I’ll have the latest from Sharm and a few odd pieces along the way. For now, applause the police in Sharm that so far seems to have been handling this very well. They too are working lads with private lives, although they won’t see much of that the weeks ahead.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Cairo's Exploding Vintage Toasters

An official statement today claim that the man who by accident set of an explosive device yesterday is suffering from internal hemorrhaging and is wounded on the left side of his face. According to the Ministry of Interior, it was not a bomb. The man is a collector of vintage items and one of these exploded when he was going through his collection. That is a similar line to what was coming through the official channels yesterday. Contradicting this was reports that quoted security officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. These reports claimed it was a nail-bomb and that he was carrying it in a bag when it exploded outside his house. Further, the police suspected he was on his way to a tourist bazaar.

The question is: What kind of ‘vintage’ do people collect that are exploding in their faces? Toasters? Radios? I can only think of WWII mines or grenades. Indeed, these can still be found in the desert. Until we know (the police is said to be investigating), I think I rather believe in the unofficial version of the story.

Sharm: Bedouin Shoot-Out

The police were exchanging fire with Bedouin gun-men some 30 km from Sharm El-Sheik where the two Pakistani bomb-suspects are believed to be hiding in a village surrounded by security forces.

In Sharm, the police have been handing out wanted-pictures of six Pakistani men that left their passports in the hotel before the attacks and have been missing since the fatal explosions. Another set of pictures, with some 130 images has also circulated, showing suspected Egyptians and some international terrorists.

The security chief in Sharm El Sheik has left his position. Israel has complained that Egypt’s security has not improved since the attacks in Sinai last October.

Meanwhile in the US, George and Barbara Bush have been to the Egyptian Embassy to sign a book of condolences.

Troop Movements, Serbian Explosives, Photos

Egypt has asked Israel for permission to deploy thousands of troops at selected locations in Sinai in the hunt for terror emergencies.
The explosives used in the Sharm El-Sheik attacks originates from Serbia.
Pictures of the Pakistani men that the police currently are searching for published.
All this breaking news are coming from here. Read and judge.

Police Surround Two Villages Near Sharm

Just in. Two of the wanted Pakistani's are thought to be hiding out in the village.

Al-Q Link Doubted, Not Doubted

I blogged yesterday that WP was making a strong case for Al-Qaeda connections. NYT does the opposite today. I think they will have to eat their hat.

Sharm: Six Pakistani Men Wanted

Just out from AP: The police is searching for six Pakistani nationals who are at large since the explosions in Sharm El-Sheik. They had left their passports in the reception. Direct role in attack suspected. One probably killed at Ghazala Hotel.

Cairo Blaster Targeted Bazaar?

The man who is in hospital after he yesterday accidentally triggered what was then described as an ‘old device’ was not a clueless collector of junk. Sami Hegazi, 33, has a law degree and is working in the hospital administration. A crucial quote from AP:

"… he was carrying a bomb in a bag that detonated accidentally, … police were examining whether he was taking the bomb to a tourist bazaar at the foot of the Pyramids in Giza."

Culprits Entered Sharm in Trucks

The bombers entered Sharm El-Sheik in two pick-up trucks loaded with explosives underneath vegetables. The serial numbers were wiped. The police is likely to sweep Sinai like they did last year when up to 3,000 arrests were made. The theory then, and now, is that Bedouins are responsible. Parents to suspects at large since that attack were tested for DNA that will be matched with the dead attackers in Sharm.

Question: Who is financing the attacks? Without someone providing the money, local hot-heads wouldn’t be able to carry out their lethal dreams.

“Who the f*ck is Shayk Sai id?”

From my heroes at the Phat Phree who also made this piece with its innovative language.

Battle, Not Seminar

Newsweek’s Fareed Zakaria is throwing the ball back to western governments. Quote:

“…for years Britain has granted asylum to noxious preachers
and scholars who praise suicide bombings, argue for the overthrow of Western regimes and celebrate Al Qaeda's victories."

“…Recall that bin Laden's original declaration of war against the West was published in only one venue, a London-based newspaper. Next time, let him publish it in Saudi Arabia if he can.”

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Chemist. Weekly Eye Part III

Ritzy Sherlock crawls the net, reveals facts that challenges official claims that Dr. Magdi Al-Nashar is cleared of links to the 7/7 London attacks.

- The Keys. The 33 year Dr. did not only help his new found 18 year old friend Husain (who blew the bus on Tavistock Square) to find a lease, he has also “admitted owning the keys of the Leeds flat used as a suspected bomb factory but claims he did not know it was to be used by terrorists.” [The Age]

- Terror Arrest. “Egyptian police said that al-Nashar was arrested and held briefly in 1992 while in the company of a man later associated with the massacre of 58 tourists in Luxor five years later.” [The Age] The police caught on to Nashar when he visited “a problematic mosque.”

- The Radical College. This top Islamic college in Wales draws on the teachings of (Egyptian exile) Yusuf al-Qaradawi . He is advocating ‘children suicide bombers against real bombs.’ [previous post here] He is banned from entering the US and UK’s Home Secretary is considering blocking him as well. The principal of the college, Kadhem Al-Rawi has declared British troop legitimate targets in Iraq. He is an acquaintance of Dr. Nashar and last week praised his “great personality.” [IC Wales]

- Religiously Devoted. Nashar is described as pious but not extreme. Now, bring in the theory of relativism: "I even work as a musician in the evening and he was never angry at me for doing that," says his 28 year brother Mohammed. [MET] Just bringing up the issue shows which cultural setting he is from. How did his religious philosophy ‘develop’ in Leeds?

- Remain in Custody Until Investigations are Complete. The official Al-Ahram (Arabic) is quoting a senior security official saying Nashar will remain in custody "for the time being.” He will be freed after all investigations are complete. The Egyptian authorities have to “define the legal position.” “It was important to vindicate him in front of everyone.” If there is evidence “Egypt has laws to punish him accordingly.” [WP Herald]

My previous posts on The Chemist are here and here and here.

Sharm: Explosion Today No Bomb

Poor bloke too. Today’s perceived sound of an explosion in Sharm El-Sheikh was not a detonating bomb but the sound of a construction worker who fell 12 meter into a shaft or ditch with stones and wood. The police chief says that is “normal,” (I can’t imagine what his job is like, dealing with thousands of young sayiidi blokes away from home). The situation in Sharm is also normal today he says, with tourists going to the beach and markets as they are supposed to.

Cairo: Junk Dealer Brought Home Old Device

Poor bloke. Aged 33, Samir works at Qasr El-Ayni Hospital. He is also collecting junk. He brought home an explosive device and it blew up on him. He probably had no clue what was in the can he was trying to open. Or however it happened.

Question is: Are there more 'old devices' (police) lying around in public areas or even in the waste baskets at our hospitals?

Last Hour: Cairo Explosion

He carried a nailbomb that exploded outside his house in "SW" suburb, seriously injuring him but apparantly no other. Freak. Now you don't even get 72 raisins.

Sharm: 70 Arrested

So, the arrests have started. The first reports in the morning suggested about 35 people had been taken to the slam, including members of local Bedouin tribes. The number has doubled and there will be even more. An article I linked to earlier, here, portrays the system (savvy surfers might recover the article from KCS’s archive). Following last year’s attack in Sinai, about 3,000 people were arrested. Many complained about torture. Some 200 are believed to still be in prison. Frankly, had there not been a new attack, most Egyptians would have forgotten about them, more or less, at least thanking God that the heavy-handed security forces managed to keep the problems away.

Charmed – No Longer. 90 Dead, 240 Wounded

NYT’s latest take on the Sharm El-Sheik attack.

Charmed - Always and Forever

What will happen now? In the past 24 hours, President Mubarak has confirmed to the world that this only make him more determined to crush terrorism. World leaders have been queuing to express condolences and support. Embassies have dealt with traumatized tourist who wants a flight home a.s.a.p., but few extra flights are available at this charter destination.

Hardly anything is said in the foreign press about the Egyptian families who are suffering most of all. The large majority of the dead and wounded were Egyptians, either working in Sharm or at holiday. It is with them our thoughts should be at the moment. Not only have they lost beloved members of their families, many have also been robbed of their only chance to make a living. European tour operators announce one after the other, that they are canceling their operations. Egyptians have suffered hard from terrorist attacks before. The economy, dependent on tourism as its largest source of income (USD 6.6 billion annually) had only fully recovered this year from the effects of previous attacks almost ten years ago.

Really, if anyone is prepared to travel to London or New York or Madrid, all cities that have been targeted even harder in the near or recent past, they should also feel they can come to Egypt. So why will they not think twice about it? Because Egypt is a different world that they cannot fully comprehend. It is language and it is culture, but above all the feeling of standing out and being dependent.

But maybe some will feel that this is a country that loves them (it really does in a way few will ever understand) and be prepared to endure some minor problems – Africa is still in the third world, remember. When things go bad their seems to be no salvation, but there is, ongoing, but in a different system, difficult to grasp but the best in these conditions. The reward in return is a travel experience they will always remember.

I should not say it myself because I am partial, but the ancient people of this country took it for granted they were blessed. Their main God, and of course, Pharaoh, was associated with the sun. Of course this is true. This is still a blessed people in a sun-burnt nation. The Egyptians cannot be portrayed more accurately than in either of these terms: sunshine or sunray. What more evidence does one need? Egypt is where the sun is always shining.

Al-Qaeda Behind Sharm El-Sheik Attack

WP makes a strong case for theory that yesterdays attack in Egypt and earlier attacks in the UK were directed by Al-Qaeda.

UN to Redefine Terrorism

Apologists and heard-headers are again to pretend they can reach a compromise they can sign and then forget about when they are back in real life.

Arab Wrestler Kicked from Show

Appeared in ski-mask and camouflage on show aired 7/7.

For Your Orientation

BBC put out a little map of Sharm.

Morning After: Sun All Over Sharm

Good Morning Suzi. It is a good morning - much better than yesterday, at least. What a horrible day that was. In an instant, our lovely Sharm was turned into a scene of deadly disaster. It hurts, because we are accustomed to a life where what happens in Sharm matters in Sharm only; it is a place for joyful relaxation. The many meetings between world leaders that Sharm has hosted contributed to this atmosphere in this very soothing setting. Where else would be better to negotiate peace? The presence of world leaders increased our sense of safety. Sure, check-points and armed vehicles could be a bump on our way, but we always knew that soon along the way we would enjoy a peaceful holiday. Madrid, Bali, New York – those places were as far away from Sharm El-Sheik as they could get. Not any more. I cannot get accustomed to the idea. Even last year’s attacks in Taaba and Nuweiba did not rock the solid ground on which we were standing. Where did you say that happened? Yes, on the way to Palestine. Do not worry, it cannot happen again. Well, it did. And it will happen again, and again and again. Not because we have done anything wrong, but because the world never learned how to get along. This is yet another war; although so different in kind from what we expect that sometimes we feel we do not know where we are or what we ought to do. Still, things do not have to get worse but can become better. Egypt, if any, has proven before that she can – so to say – settle the score. As usual, we will not always agree on how to move ahead. In the heated discussions and vicious accusations that will follow this day, we are better off if we can remember that in the end, what we wish is really, in its very essence, the same.

Looks Like Egypt to Me

Sites I Like: Webdonkey.com

Al-Q Claim Sharm El-Sheik Blast

AP/SFC link here.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Weekly Eye Part II

Cleared + Not Released = Not Quite Cleared. Ritzy Sherlock is back on the Al-Nashar track. “Egypt clears chemist of terrorist links.” - The Weekly’s headline ticked me off. Nashar is in custody. Until freed he is anything but cleared. Why is he hot? Because the same bomb-making substances that were used in the 7/7 attacks where also found in a flat that Al-Nashar helped Husain-the-bomber to lease. Incidentally, the flat belongs to an Iraqi doctor. Unless the doctor left some nasty chemicals used in his work that also makes good bombs, Al-Nashar is in trouble. In cases of terrorism, guilt by association is often defaulted to a verdict, even without a court or judges. That is why Egypt’s prisons are bulging. Fortunately, the extradition-door to Gitmo is officially closed, ever since nasty images of hooded Arab combaters on top of each other surfaced.

The intriguing question is what the Dr. in bio-chemistry had in common with the terrorist. Perhaps Al-Nashar’s only crime was to mix with the bad guys. But what a story: The expert and the executer, two Arabs found each other in London. One blew himself up and is currently counting 72 raisins in the martyrs’ heaven. The other is risking a life in prison, picking scorpions from his back until God is calling for his return. Would this story receive a happy ending, El-Nashar’s bad luck-turned-good luck would be a modern day 1001 Nighter.

When London rocked, Al-Nashar was already in Cairo. He did not hide. His flat in Leeds is awaiting his return. If Nashar is a terrorist, he is also the coolest cat on the block. Or: perhaps he was just outsmarted by the Scotland Yard who rapidly retrieved his contact details from Husain’s PDA and put one and one together. The doctor obviously has brains, but intelligence doesn’t make anyone smart. To the contrary, the most intelligent folks are often outrageously stupid, but in an intelligent and sometimes treacherous way. Perhaps Al-Nashar was outwitted, lofty, overly exited, convinced, encouraged, persuaded, converted, manipulated, or controlled. Maybe he really thought he had a great plan and would get away with it. Is it possible that his worst case scenario was to be interrogated and then set free?

If wishes can help Magdi Al-Nashar, I will wish him free every day. Walking free is when his name is cleared. Not before. Not at all.

Fancy Those Wheels!

Suzi, did you know Tony Blair received one of these last year as a gift from King Abdullah II of Jordan?

Sorry Folks!

I know you'll hate me for uploading this but I thought it was funny and cute. And why not if indeed most of the foreigners killed today were Israelis? Love. Peace.

Other Bad News

The Russians are not giving up their jumbled grip on Sharm. They are asking for discount tickets. Grrh!

The figures: at least 83 dead, some 200 wounded. Please, pray.

Al-Qaida Sharm El Sheik Anti-Israel Chapter?

It is more than 12 hours since I blogged the first reports of today’s explosions and I guess I am not the only one with a hot phone today. “Yes love, I am all right. No dear, me in Sharm in July? Not a chance.”

Now what about the reports about Al-Qaida involvement? [BBC] Or links to last October’s blast in Taba – also Sinai -that killed 34? [CNN] The interior minister Habib al-Adli said "It is likely that they have some relationship to the Taba operation." That is the same as saying: We believe those attacks were targeting Israelis. There are plenty of Israelis in this area this week. We see a connection.

Suzi, your husband did a find job visiting the area today. Praise also to Habib Al-Adli for his patience with the CNN reporters “Is this Islam” question. Check the bewildered face of the soldier – to be or not to be in the picture that is the question, regulations vs. wish.

Al-Qaida WW Stats

The indigestible facts: Since 1992, they are accountable for 3.883 dead and 8.140+ wounded in 17 attacks in 15 countries. Here is a break-down.

I said it the other day: I pray they would just go away. Can't someone invent a micro-nuke and blow their testicles away?

Weekly Eye Part I

This Time Not Our Terrorist Our nation’s most famous bio-chemist is innocent: “Thirty-three-year-old Magdi El-Nashar has been cleared by Egyptian authorities of having any links with the 7 July London bombings that killed 56 people,” (my italics) are the opening words of the lead article in the home affairs section of Al-Ahram Weekly. Good for Egypt but the police in charge of bringing the perpetrators to court are actually in England. To what extent the UK police so far have been involved in hearing El-Nashar are unclear, also to the Weekly. But a quote by the prosecutor-general’s office saying that Egypt and the UK does not have an extradition treaty anyway, makes it obvious who is making the calls. (And with Gitmo and Gharib, the ‘coalition’ lost a large chunk of any moral imperative for putting Arabs in chains abroad). So what is the problem? Egyptian authorities have been spinning the ‘clear-Nashar’ position from day one but so far it has not been supported by any similar statements from the UK, who is largely quiet on the subject. To my eye, this means disagreement. With more bombs exploding in London, and Sharm El-Sheik, I hope that is not the case. The Weekly says it is not; the UK/Egypt security cooperation is described in terms of excellence. And now the final word is here: “Egypt clear chemist of terrorist links.” The official English language mouthpiece is driving home this point in bold print on lead space. To my eye, that means they have a message to convey. That message is either justified pride – 9/11 alright but this time we did not export the terrorist - or a cloud over something they want to hide.

Proudly Presenting the Weekly Eye

Suzi love, you have little time to read all the papers so I will do it for you. Miss Mabrouk is Proudly Presenting: The Weekly Eye, my humble take on the English language weekly press in Cairo. First part in the next post.

The History of Mechanical Pleasure

From massage therapy to cure hysteria recommended by Hippocrates to modern teledildonics; Slate has the history of the vibrator, responsible for mechanically inducing billions of orgasms. Quote: “By 1917 there were more vibrators than toasters in American homes.” At one point, such sexual enhancers were even marketed to housewives as attachments to vacuum-cleaners.

(Suzi dear, I will file this under ‘miscellaneous,’ not as a letter addressed to you).

Sharm Bombs: 49 Dead, 136 Wounded

Sharm El Sheik’s governor has said 49 were killed. A rescue worker says at least 136 were wounded. [Reuters]

(Pray also for the culprits who right now are likely to conspire to blow up heaven after they found out that the reward was 72 raisins, not virgins).

Sharm El Sheik: 43 Killed, 130 Wounded

The first bomb apparently set off in the Old Market about 1 AM today. About 15 minutes after, [BBC] other explosions followed in Naama Bay, nearby the Ghazala Garden and Movenpick Hotels. Four bombs are thought to have exploded in Ghazala’s car park [Times]. A second blast at the Old Market was heard after the hotel bombs, soon followed by yet another blast that some reports initially says caused parts of a shopping center to fall.

Earlier this morning a doctor at the Sharm El Sheik International Hospital was quoted [Reuters] confirming 30 dead and more than a hundred wounded. He said many are seriously injured and in a critical condition.

Happy Revolution Day Everybody...

It is our ‘national day’! It’s only 4am here, just before Morning Prayer time, so it is too early to see the crowds celebrating on the streets. {smile}

52 years ago the Free Officers Movement (middle-class nationalists) staged a coup, threw out the Royalty and forgot about their promises to create a democracy, thus setting the stage for an authoritarian system that prevail to this day. Or as the state-run Al-Ahram Weekly explains:
“…yet to complete what many view as a long delayed process of transition to full democracy.”