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January 24, 2008

The High Dam & the “General Good”—السد العالى و المنافع العمومية

Filed under: Masr —مصر,Nile—النيل — Tags: , — admin @ 12:25 pm

The following is a slight modification of my in-class essay for Dr. Rick Tutwiler’s class on the Nile river. The question was quite simply, “Should the Aswan High Dam have been built?” (the “general good” in the title is a reference to Rifa’a Rifa’ al-Tahtawi’s equation of the notion of “the general good” with that of “industriousness”): (more…)

January 22, 2008

Mega-projects on the Nile—مشاريع هائلة في النيل

Filed under: Masr —مصر,Nile—النيل — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 10:37 pm


A post on “mega-projects on the Nile” can perhaps best be introduced by pointing out the differences between the English and the Arabic versions of the term “mega-project”. The English version is a strange neologism which, according to Merriam-Webster, arose in 1976. “Mega”, literally, is of course a simple multiplication of the unit which follows it by 1,000,000 (or 1,048,576 in the context of data storage). Colloquially, it simply means “enormous” or “gigantic”, but its literal multiplicative meaning should not be ignored. Similarly هائل (ha’il) can also mean “gigantic”, but there is no arithmetic involved, and its other meanings are instructive. According to Hans Wehr, the word comes from the verb هول (haul), to frighten, scare, terrify, appall, horrify, strike with terror. The entry for the adjectival form then reads thus:

هائل—ha’il: dreadful, frightful, terrible, horrible, appalling, ghastly, awful; huge, vast, formidable, gigantic, prodigious, tremendous, stupendous; extraordinary, enormous, fabulous, amazing, astonishing, surprising; grim, hard, fierce (battle, fight)

To blend the English and the Arabic, mega-projects can be seen as the public-works version of “shock and awe”, rendered terrible not by their incalculability, but, in fact, by the enormity of their numerical exactitude, the triumph of rational order over “silent nature.” (more…)

January 15, 2008

The Violence of the Nubian Museum—بطش المتحف النوبي

Filed under: Masr —مصر,Nile—النيل — Tags: , , , — admin @ 11:58 pm


How wonderful of Egypt and the International Community to come together to construct this museum to depict the lives of a disappeared culture as a monument in honor of…their own generosity. (more…)

Nile Cruise—رحلة النيل

Filed under: Masr —مصر,Nile—النيل — Tags: , , , , , , — admin @ 11:34 pm


Embarrassing as this fact is, this was my second cruise on the Nile in only a couple months. It’s shockingly easy to live a posh middle-class lifestyle in this country with the right connections and a modest (by US standards) income. But this is not what I wanted to talk about (hopefully I’ll get up the gumption to be that reflexive about my place in this country in a later post). This cruise was part of the class on the Nile River that I and Adrienne are in. I’ve written extensively about the Nile cruise previously, here, here and here, with pictures from the trip in four previous posts (1, 2, 3, 4) so I’ll be keeping this somewhat short and condensing the four-day trip into one entry. (more…)

January 8, 2008

Egyptian Agricultural Museum—متحف الزراعي المصري

Filed under: Masr —مصر,Nile—النيل — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 7:19 pm


Museums are interesting creatures in general, but they seem to become even more so with a constrained budget. The lack of polish tends to bring the building blocks and construction methods—material and ideological—into relief. It’s difficult to focus on the other world into which one is being transported when the vehicle is backfiring and the transmission sounds like it’s about to drop. (more…)

January 5, 2008

The River Nile—نهر النيل

Filed under: Masr —مصر,Nile—النيل — Tags: , — admin @ 10:24 pm


AUC has a long winter break, from mid-December until the beginning of February, and a short intermediate session between the semesters, so I decided to take one of the classes being offered, not having much opportunity to travel anyway. That class is a course through the Middle East Studies department on the River Nile. It is an interdisciplinary class, weaving together perspectives from anthropology, political science, Egyptology, history, geology, development studies and even a bit of engineering. One of the requirements of the course is keeping a daily journal related to the class and the various field trips we go on. I’ll be keeping that journal on this blog. I hope you all will indulge me. (more…)

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