In August, former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s first appearance in court was televised. The world was shocked to see the long-time ruler of Egypt lying on a stretcher in the cage in which defendants in Egyptian courts are held while on trial. A judge has since banned TV cameras from the courtroom and Egypt has held its first democratic elections, with a strong showing for the Muslim Brotherhood. Mubarak’s trial continues this week with his lawyers seeking to prove that he is “neither a tyrant or a bloodthirsty man” but a “clean man” who did not give orders to shoot protesters. Mubarak, they say, did not intervene to stop the killings because he was “unaware” they were occurring. To contradict such claims, prosecutors have offered evidence in the form of autopsy reports with details of protesters who died from bullet wounds.
Meanwhile, the country’s economy is struggling. Tourism revenue in Egypt was $8.8 billion last year, a marked decline from $12.5 billion in 2010. Those who wish to travel to Egypt, where political unrest has been ongoing since the uprising a year ago, had best be “resilient,” says the Financial Times. The top visitors to Egypt in 2011 were Russians who are “far less daunted than others by the upheavals in the country” and have been filling beach resorts. British and German tourists have also still been traveling to Egypt. Tourism in the capital of Cairo and the Upper Egyptian towns of Luxor and Aswan has, though, been “a pathetic 10-15 per cent.”
Burned Books and Protesters Shot By Security Forces
With many still protesting against the interim military government, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) — and with riot police cracking down with beatings and live ammunition — tourists have shied away from Egypt. In late December, 16 Egyptians died and hundreds were injured in clashes, and the historical archive of the Egyptian Scientific Institute was destroyed when the building caught fire. Twelve out of twenty volumes of the original Description d’Egypte — a multi-volumed, encyclopedic work with maps and illustrations assembled over 20 years by scholars accompanying Napoleon Bonaparte during his Egyptian campaign — have been lost. Abdel Wahed El Nabawy, chairman of the National Archives, estimates that it could take ten years and $7 million to restore the charred remains of the collection.
But even as an international outcry arose over the burning of the books, activists pointed out that, in some cases, more attention was cast on the loss of the Scientific Institute than those killed, injured and arrested. This conflict between preserving Egypt’s past (the country is home to about a third of the world’s antiquities) and focusing on the very pressing needs for education and work for its 80 million inhabitants can be seen as one of archaeology and politics.
Photo of the Tomb of Panehsy in Amarna by kairoinfo4u
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