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May 14, 2008

Can Ug99 Speak?—هل تقدر أوغندا٩٩ على الكلام؟

Filed under: Masr —مصر — Tags: , , — admin @ 7:01 pm
This article was originally commissioned for Is Greater Than. It follows a wheat plant disease, Ug99, through the constellation of human and non-human actors that have turned a decades-old and once-regional fungus into a major threat to global wheat production.

The place that most people in the West think of when they think of Egypt—the Egypt of the Pharaohs and the builders of the pyramids and the grand temples—was a place of great mystery and even greater power, both political and spiritual. Much of its political power owed to the agricultural wealth produced on the banks of the Nile and in its Delta, and much of its mystery and spiritual power came from that same source: a fickle river whose catastrophic floods could destroy tens of villages or entire cities and whose inadequate flow could spell years of famine. And Ancient Egyptian mythology was always a line of communication between those two axes of power, a constantly-evolving method of translating the whims of the natural world into political certainties, and vice versa, the whims of political rulers into natural expressions of divine will. (more…)

May 5, 2008

May Day, May Day—This is Egypt—عيد العمال في مصر

Filed under: Masr —مصر — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 5:21 pm

This article was commissioned for Is Greater Than

In this year’s May Day address to the nation, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak promised government workers a 30% salary increase. This came a day after the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest parliamentary opposition group, unexpectedly called upon its members to participate in a May 4th general strike initiated by Facebook members in protest against rising prices and a lack of political avenues for a solution to the country’s problems. Among those problems is the bread crisis I wrote about last week in Is Greater Than. (more…)

April 28, 2008

The Egyptian Bread Crisis—أزمة الخبز المصرية

Filed under: Masr —مصر — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 5:13 pm

This article was commissioned for Is Greater Than

Speakers of Egyptian colloquial Arabic use the same word, عيش (‘aish), for both “bread” and “life”. Indeed, bread represents on average around 50–60% of Egyptians’ caloric intake and is the perennial complement to every meal. Cairo streets in the mornings are awash in the stuff, with the smell of bread wafting out of bakeries and mingling with the ever-present car exhaust, men and boys criss-crossing through traffic on bikes, balancing as many as a hundred of the flat loaves in wooden racks on their heads, vendors distributing the loaves from special racks on their backs or on blankets or sheets of plastic on street corners, carts and hole-in-the-wall shops doling out small sandwiches filled with فول (fuul, cooked fava beans) and تعمية (ta’maya, an Egyptian variation on falafel). (more…)

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