the U.S. had minimal dealings with Egypt when it was controlled by the Ottoman Empire (before 1882) and Britain
President G A Nasser (1956–70) antagonized the U.S. by his pro-Soviet policies and anti-Israeli rhetoric, but the U.S. helped keep him in power by forcing Britain and France to immediately end their invasion in 1956. American policy has been to provide strong support to governments that supported U.S. and Israeli interests in the region, especially presidents Anwar Sadat (1970–81) and Hosni Mubarak (1981–2011).
Fast forward to Tuesday, March 5, 2019, and to this story of Egypt Today.
CAIRO – 5 March 2019: Egypt and the United States
‘governments unveiled Sunday finalizing the new groundwater lowering system at
of Kom El-Shuqafa, Alexandria.
In a Monday statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, it was stated that
in support of Egypt’s vital tourism industry, U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Thomas
Goldberger joined Minister of Antiquities Khaledal-Anany and Alexandria
Governor Abdul Aziz Qansua to celebrate the completion of a groundwater lowering
system at the Catacombs of Kom El-Shuqafa on Sunday, March 3.
“This site has rich cultural significance and has the potential to attract
tourists and generate revenue,” Goldberger said, adding that the United States
is committed to continuing the partnership with the Government of Egypt to
conserve Egypt’s cultural heritage and increase tourism.
The U.S. Government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development
(USAID), contributed $5.7 million for a system to lower the groundwater level
in partnership with the Ministry of Antiquities and the National Organization
for Potable Water and Sanitary Drainage. The system preserves the site from
erosion and enables tourists to access the lowest level of the Catacombs.
Since 1995, the American people, through USAID, have provided $100 million in
assistance to conserve monuments and masterpieces spanning over the full range
of Egypt’s long cultural heritage – from Pharaonic times to the late Ottoman
period. USAID-financed restoration and training programs helped ensure that
Egypt can capitalize on the sector’s traditional role as an engine of economic
growth and employment.
Since 1978, the American people have invested $30 billion to further Egypt’s
human and economic development.
How climate change caused the world’s first ever empire to collapse by Vasile Ersek, Northumbria University, Newcastle is another story of scientists saying yet again that in the past, shifts in climate impacted one way or another life on earth.
The picture above is that of the author while researching data from a cave in Romania to document the effects of climate change on humankind evolution.
Gol-e-Zard Cave lies in the shadow of Mount Damavand, which at more than 5,000 metres dominates the landscape of northern Iran. In this cave, stalagmites and stalactites are growing slowly over millennia and preserve in them clues about past climate events. Changes in stalagmite chemistry from this cave have now linked the collapse of the Akkadian Empire to climate changes more than 4,000 years ago.
Akkadia was the world’s first empire. It was established in Mesopotamia around 4,300 years ago after its ruler, Sargon of Akkad, united a series of independent city states. Akkadian influence spanned along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers from what is now southern Iraq, through to Syria and Turkey. The north-south extent of the empire meant that it covered regions with different climates, ranging from fertile lands in the north which were highly dependent on rainfall (one of Asia’s “bread baskets”), to the irrigation-fed alluvial plains to the south.
It appears that the empire became increasingly dependent on the productivity of the northern lands and used the grains sourced from this region to feed the army and redistribute the food supplies to key supporters. Then, about a century after its formation, the Akkadian Empire suddenly collapsed, followed by mass migration and conflicts. The anguish of the era is perfectly captured in the ancient Curse of Akkad text, which describes a period of turmoil with water and food shortages:
… the large arable tracts yielded no grain, the inundated fields yielded no fish, the irrigated orchards yielded no syrup or wine, the thick clouds did not rain.
Drought and dust
The reason for this collapse is still debated by historians, archaeologists and scientists. One of the most prominent views, championed by Yale archaeologist Harvey Weiss (who built on earlier ideas by Ellsworth Huntington), is that it was caused by an abrupt onset of drought conditions which severely affected the productive northern regions of the empire.
Weiss and his colleagues discovered evidence in northern Syria that this once prosperous region was suddenly abandoned around 4,200 years ago, as indicated by a lack of pottery and other archaeological remains. Instead, the rich soils of earlier periods were replaced by large amounts of wind-blown dust and sand, suggesting the onset of drought conditions. Subsequently, marine cores from the Gulf of Oman and the Red Sea which linked the input of dust into the sea to distant sources in Mesopotamia, provided further evidence of a regional drought at the time.
Many other researchers viewed Weiss’s interpretation with scepticism, however. Some argued, for example, that the archaeological and marine evidence was not accurate enough to demonstrate a robust correlation between drought and societal change in Mesopotamia.
A new detailed climate record
Now, stalagmite data from Iran sheds new light on the controversy. In a study published in the journal PNAS, led by Oxford palaeoclimatologist Stacy Carolin, colleagues and I provide a very well dated and high resolution record of dust activity between 5,200 and 3,700 years ago. And cave dust from Iran can tell us a surprising amount about climate history elsewhere.
Gol-e-Zard Cave might be several hundred miles to the east of the former Akkadian Empire, but it is directly downwind. As a result, around 90% of the region’s dust originates in the deserts of Syria and Iraq.
That desert dust has a higher concentration of magnesium than the local limestone which forms most of Gol-e-Zard’s stalagmites (the ones which grow upwards from the cave floor). Therefore, the amount of magnesium in the Gol-e-Zard stalagmites can be used as an indicator of dustiness at the surface, with higher magnesium concentrations indicating dustier periods, and by extension drier conditions.
The stalagmites have the additional advantage that they can be dated very precisely using uranium-thorium chronology. Combining these methods, our new study provides a detailed history of dustiness in the area, and identifies two major drought periods which started 4,510 and 4,260 years ago, and lasted 110 and 290 years respectively. The latter event occurs precisely at the time of the Akkadian Empire’s collapse and provides a strong argument that climate change was at least in part responsible.
The collapse was followed by mass migration from north to south which was met with resistance by the local populations. A 180km wall – the “Repeller of the Amorites” – was even built between the Tigris and Euphrates in an effort to control immigration, not unlike some strategies proposed today. The stories of abrupt climate change in the Middle East therefore echo over millennia to the present day.
Rima Al Sammarae wrote on November 4th, 2018 about how life carries on in the Palestinian territories, notably for a certain Nadia Habash, co-owner and director of Habash Consulting Engineers and adjunct lecturer at Birzeit University. Here is, courtesy to Middle East Architect how:
“The most important and difficult competition that I have ever won was the archaeological park at Hisham’s Palace,” said Nadia Habash, co-owner and director of Habash Consulting Engineers and adjunct lecturer at Birzeit University. “It was launched by UNESCO in partnership with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, and the jury was led by Peter Zumthor.”
The project, which was awarded to Habash’s office, called for a masterplan of one of Palestine’s most significant sites — the archaeological park of Hisham’s Palace in Jericho, and included the protective sheltering of the mosaic floors of the Grand Bath Hall, as well as other sensitive areas. During the three-part judging process, Zumthor led the participants around the site, questioning their thinking, allowing them to defend their proposals and engaging in discussions.
Habash with Peter Zumthor, as they worked together on the renovation of the archaeological park at Hisham’s Palace
“It was a great opportunity to work with him,” Habash said. “I liked his way of thinking — he’s a genius. Later on, when we worked together to deliver the project, I realised we think alike in many ways. And the same thing happened when I met Rifat Chadirji and Rasem Badran, who both judged my graduation project. They really read between the lines and realised my intentions. They didn’t only judge what was on the paper. There was a connection between us, and I think that connection deals with the way we approach context.”
A purveyor of critical regionalism, a term originally coined in 1981 to counter the placelessness and lack of identity of international style, as well as whimsical individualism and the ornamentation of Postmodern architecture, Habash is committed to preserving context and the use of architecture as a political, cultural and social tool.
In a paper she recently published, ‘Architecture as Resistance’, which explores the use of architecture in Palestine as a form of opposition against the Israeli occupation, she wrote, “As architects, we have a social responsibility towards our community as we should be serving them rather than serving capitalist interests. I believe that architecture serves as a catalyst for social processes, at least in the limited context of local communities, and as expressed in the early twentieth century by Hannes Meyer, director of the Bauhaus School of Architecture, who stressed that as designers, we are servants to the community. Our task is a service to the people.”
Habash sitting with Iraqi architect Mohamed Makiya
Propagating her beliefs has not come without consequence. Having suffered a 29-year ban on traveling outside of Palestine by the Israeli government for being an “influence on public opinion”, which has spanned most of her career and was only just lifted in July 2017, Habash has proved to be a local hero of sorts. While she was stripped of regional and international opportunities, she persevered in propelling the field of architecture forward in Palestine.
Between 1986 and 1987, she helped establish the architecture department at Birzeit University, where she continues to teach today. While the university previously only had an engineering department, where architecture-related courses were taught, Habash and her colleagues organised a new curriculum that would, and continues to, bridge architectural philosophies with realistic practice.
“Teaching and my relationship with my students are very important to me,” she said. “And till today, my students tell me that I not only teach them the alphabet of architecture, but also how architecture is a tool for resistance and resilience to achieve sustainable development.”
In addition to co-establishing the architecture department at Birzeit University, Habash also helped launch the Union of Arab Architects, became the first women to head a regional branch of the Engineers Association, which spans Jordan and Palestine, and served as city councilor in Ramallah.
Before and after images of Bdelqader Abdelhadi Palace, rehabilitated by Habash Consulting Engineers
Her time with the Ramallah Municipality occurred between 2013 and 2017, and she led the committee of cultural heritage with the mission to protect the city from rapid development and international franchising.
“The urban expansion of Ramallah has been fast and vicious,” she said. “The city is very appealing for developers because it has always been known as a tourist destination within the region. They started affecting the scenery of the town with their international franchises and branding, and for me, this is horrifying. It is not authentic at all.
“The city was beginning to lose its character. While it’s not possible to stop them — they are big international companies, after all — we led the conversation on the importance of preserving our cultural heritage, which is a treasure for us. It is our essence. We need to protect it and base our development around it.”
Habash’s political engagement has always been managed in parallel with the work that comes in through her architecture office. Her extensive number of projects across Palestine include the rehabilitation of Arraba Palaces and the Old Road, the rehabilitation and addition to St. Nicolas Elderly Bait Jala, the rehabilitation of Mar Afram Children’s Library, the revitalisation of Bethlehem Old Market, Al-Istiqlal Park and the water reservoirs at Deir Istya and Kufur Abboush.
“The challenge of the water reservoirs was that they are located on the highest point of the village, in the middle of the historic centre, and I didn’t want to harm the traditional architecture there,” said Habash. “I designed new buildings to serve new functions, but with the vernacular architectural style so that they harmonise with the surrounding environment. And this is how I deal with all of my projects — I study the context very well and I specify what elements of architecture are used in the specific village.”
Habash working on the model of the Grand Bath Hall of Hisham Palace
Intending to rescue the built heritage of As-Samou’ and revive its weaving-based economy, the project consists of a number of interventions that will enhance the local vernacular architecture, such as the consolidation of 12 traditional ahwash located in the historic centre, and the rehabilitation of a hosh that will create a Cultural and Youth Centre. The rehabilitation of the hosh supports the training and capacity building of young craftsmen in the town and surrounding areas.
“We have renovated many places in Palestine,” she said, “and there are many other institutions here who do similar work. But this project was particularly special for us — the people in the area are very happy and due to their training, they are distinguished from other craftsmen. We gave them this chance, and that feeling is very special.”
MENA-Forum is proud to reproduce Five ways ancient India changed the world – with maths with our compliments to the author as well thanks to the publishers because of its obvious interest for its readers of the MENA region.
It should come as no surprise that the first recorded use of the number zero, recently discovered to be made as early as the 3rd or 4th century, happened in India. Mathematics on the Indian subcontinent has a rich history going back over 3,000 years and thrived for centuries before similar advances were made in Europe, with its influence meanwhile spreading to China and the Middle East.
As far back as 1200 BC, mathematical knowledge was being written down as part of a large body of knowledge known as the Vedas. In these texts, numbers were commonly expressed as combinations of powers of ten. For example, 365 might be expressed as three hundreds (3×10²), six tens (6×10¹) and five units (5×10⁰), though each power of ten was represented with a name rather than a set of symbols. It is reasonable to believe that this representation using powers of ten played a crucial role in the development of the decimal-place value system in India.
From the third century BC, we also have written evidence of the Brahmi numerals, the precursors to the modern, Indian or Hindu-Arabic numeral system that most of the world uses today. Once zero was introduced, almost all of the mathematical mechanics would be in place to enable ancient Indians to study higher mathematics.
But only in India did the placeholder symbol for nothing progress to become a number in its own right. The advent of the concept of zero allowed numbers to be written efficiently and reliably. In turn, this allowed for effective record-keeping that meant important financial calculations could be checked retroactively, ensuring the honest actions of all involved. Zero was a significant step on the route to the democratisation of mathematics.
These accessible mechanical tools for working with mathematical concepts, in combination with a strong and open scholastic and scientific culture, meant that, by around 600AD, all the ingredients were in place for an explosion of mathematical discoveries in India. In comparison, these sorts of tools were not popularised in the West until the early 13th century, though Fibonnacci’s book liber abaci.
Solutions of quadratic equations
In the seventh century, the first written evidence of the rules for working with zero were formalised in the Brahmasputha Siddhanta. In his seminal text, the astronomer Brahmagupta introduced rules for solving quadratic equations (so beloved of secondary school mathematics students) and for computing square roots.
This latter statement is the same as the rule we learn in school, that if you subtract a negative number, it is the same as adding a positive number. Brahmagupta also knew that “The product of a debt and a fortune is a debt” – a positive number multiplied by a negative is a negative.
For the large part, European mathematicians were reluctant to accept negative numbers as meaningful. Many took the view that negative numbers were absurd. They reasoned that numbers were developed for counting and questioned what you could count with negative numbers. Indian and Chinese mathematicians recognised early on that one answer to this question was debts.
For example, in a primitive farming context, if one farmer owes another farmer 7 cows, then effectively the first farmer has -7 cows. If the first farmer goes out to buy some animals to repay his debt, he has to buy 7 cows and give them to the second farmer in order to bring his cow tally back to 0. From then on, every cow he buys goes to his positive total.
Basis for calculus
This reluctance to adopt negative numbers, and indeed zero, held European mathematics back for many years. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was one of the first Europeans to use zero and the negatives in a systematic way in his development of calculus in the late 17th century. Calculus is used to measure rates of changes and is important in almost every branch of science, notably underpinning many key discoveries in modern physics.
Per the US Library of Congress, the world’s first civilizations grew up in the fertile valley between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the region of the Middle East long known as Mesopotamia (from the Greek meaning ‘between two rivers’), that roughly corresponds to the territory of present-day Iraq. These ancient civilizations included Sumer, the Babylonian Empire, and the Assyrian Empire. This modern map produced by the Directorate General of Antiquities of Iraq shows the locations of archaeological sites and rock monuments in the country. The table at the lower left lists chronological periods from the Paleolithic to the Islamic. The table at the upper right lists ancient place names such as Ashur, Babylon, and Nineveh, and their equivalents in modern Arabic. Today’s Iraq eager to get back its antiquities is covered by this proposed article of AlMonitor written by Adnan Abu Zeed with translation by Sahar Ghoussoub was published on August 3, 2017. It shows that the Middle East upheavals have amongst many other things consequences that are at best of times unpredictable. These normally include all sorts of rights but also duties such as those described here.
Recovered artifacts are seen at the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad July 15, 2015. The U.S. handed back to Iraq on Wednesday antiquities it said it had seized in a raid on Islamic State fighters in Syria, saying the haul was proof the militants were funding their war by smuggling ancient treasures. The Iraqi relics were captured by U.S. special forces in an operation in May against an Islamic State commander known as Abu Sayyaf. They included ancient cylindrical stamps, pottery, metallic bracelets and other jewelry, and glass shards from what appeared to be a colored vase.[gallery ids="81735"]
BAGHDAD — Iraq is working to recover the thousands of ancient artifacts illegally imported into the United States by Oklahoma City-based arts-and-crafts retailer Hobby Lobby.
“Iraqi and US officials are in constant contact, and the smuggled artifacts are in safe hands now with the US Homeland Security and the US judiciary, which will issue a final verdict on the case,” Maysoon al-Damluji, a member of the Iraqi parliament’s Committee of Culture and Information, told Al-Monitor. “Meanwhile, the Iraqi Embassy is communicating with the US State Department to retrieve the artifacts.”
Hobby Lobby was fined $3 million in July for buying some 5,500 artifacts in 2010 that had been smuggled into the United States through a dealer based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), according to the US Justice Department. The company paid $1.6 million for the items, which were sent to three different addresses of the company in Oklahoma City. The antiquities include clay cuneiform tablets, cylinder seals and ancient clay bullae that were used to place authenticating seals on documents.
Damluji said, “The course of things is in favor of Iraq to recover its archaeological pieces. It is only a matter of the time needed for administrative and legal procedures in the United States.”
She was confident when she told Al-Monitor, “There is an atmosphere of optimism regarding positive responses from the United States to this effect, given the existent law … whereby the trade in Iraqi artifacts and antiquities is not allowed, unlike the Gulf countries, including the UAE. A UAE-based dealer was involved in the [latest] smuggling operation because the UAE is not among the list of countries acceding to the UNESCO convention on smuggling of antiquities.”
The Iraqi Embassy in London and a legal team will work with the US Justice Department, “which has the final decision on the issue of returning the stolen artifacts to their rightful owners,” Damluji said. Moreover, under a 2015 UN Security Council resolution, countries are required to return smuggled or looted antiquities to their countries of origin.
The Justice Department said the Hobby Lobby acquisition “was fraught with red flags” and Hobby Lobby even ignored the warning of an expert it had hired who said the items might have been looted from Iraq. The company never met with the dealer who claimed to own the artifacts. Rather, a different dealer had the company wire payment to the personal bank accounts of seven other people, the Justice Department said.
Iraq has a history of fighting to retrieve its stolen antiquities and has recovered 4,300 artifacts smuggled out of the country since 2014 after Islamic State (IS) militants seized control of vast areas of the country’s north, east and west.
A source at the US Embassy in Baghdad, who asked not to be named, said that “the embassy’s instructions regarding smuggling cases are very strict.”
Even before the Hobby Lobby case, government sources revealed that the Iraqi Embassy in Washington was following up on more than 5,000 antiquities smuggled from Iraq after 2003. The Iraqi Embassy in Cairo also has sought to restore manuscripts and other items smuggled to Cairo from Iraqi monasteries and churches in Mosul. In 2016, Iraq recovered the head of the King Sanatruq I statue, which is one the significant monuments registered in the Iraqi Museum of Antiquities. The statute was stolen in 2003.
Iyad al-Shammari, rapporteur of the parliamentary Committee of Antiquities, told Al-Monitor that the Public Authority for Antiquities in Iraq has contacted UNESCO “to urge the United States to hand over [any] stolen Iraqi artifacts,” and he expressed great hope of solving the issue soon. “Iraq has been preoccupied for years in trying to retrieve antiquities smuggled outside,” he said, adding that “some of the archaeological pieces were lost and sold on the black market.”
In 2016, artifacts smuggled from Syria and Iraq were being sold on eBay. Shammari stressed that the “Iraqi Ministry of Culture addressed the US Embassy in Baghdad to start the official and necessary procedures to recover the smuggled artifacts.”
Iraq also plans investigations to obtain the names of smugglers.
Quora requested me to answer this question of Mark L. Levinson and 3 others. How has Palestinian traditional clothing changed over time? My answer is here below and I would be happy to have all views and comments, experts in the subject included.
I am no expert in anthropology neither in sociology but I shall endeavour to give what I learned from the multitude of friends I encountered whilst staying and working in the Gulf countries.
The Palestinians like all other peoples around the Mediterranean basin, dressed throughout their history in a wide range of cloths, fabrics and designs. These had variations according to the specifics of the region or town and were of course under the influence of every power that ruled them to date.
There were times of rebellion and times of conciliation and / or reconciliation. For instance, during the times of the presence of the Jewish tribes loitering around well before the advent of nation states, one could not tell a Palestinian from a Jew; they had the same accoutrement. And we are told that they do share the same DNA characteristics.
This went on for some centuries but after the people of the latter as mesmerized by the power and wealth left for Europe in pursuit of the retreating Romans, the fashion had reverted back to that of that of the pre-Roman times.
The following Byzantine period shone little bit in the same way but in a much sterner extravagance. This was soon to be followed by the successive Arab Kalifates with a total departure from the above through a more oriental vista onto the world.
More recently, it is the Ottomans that left an indelible mark on the men and women of the region with their floating robes, headdresses, shoes, etc.
The British didn’t have time to bear any pronounced mark but they did influence the rich and the wealthy in opening the routes of emigration to Europe and later on to America.
The Israelis today being themselves from as diverse an origin cannot imprint a definite style. Could this be at the root of the on-going conflict? Europe is not that far off and its eastern and central regions from which most of these originate from come second to their western counterparts in terms of numbers. Hence a more adversarial attitude that is not conducive to a more effective influence.
Asia with all its ICTs is just around the corner. Social media carry the load in the latest fashion in investment ideas swaps.
America is on the other hand on the other side of the world, but Hollywood isn’t, with all those brave action films heroes in fatigues, baseball caps and all, lambasting each other mercilessly with oversized machines. Closer to us still, there is this multitude per the above, that is housed, looked after relatively well in all GCC countries, but that is another story that could be told on a different occasion.