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The solution to the problems Cairo faces

The solution to the problems Cairo faces

A plethora of investments ranging from the expansion of the Suez Canal to the construction of a new city might not be the solution to the problems Cairo faces wondered a certain Eleonora Vio a year ago, in her articled query titled: Can Sissi turn around Egypt’s economy with mega projects?

Apart from its hopes for a democratic future, could this article of Trade Arabia be an answer?

Megaprojects ‘driving Cairo office space demand’

The real estate market in Egypt’s capital Cairo continues its rapid growth with the construction of large-scale projects stimulating economic expansion and driving demand for Grade A office projects, according to Savills, a leading real estate services provider in the Middle East.

There is a systematic shift of tenants towards newer developments away from the erstwhile central business hubs in Central Cairo, towards modern speculative and purpose-built developments across New Cairo in the East and Sheikh Zayed City in the West, stated Savills in its latest report that analyses the Cairo Metropolitan Area (CMA) office market for the first half.

Demand is also driven by new market entrants – both domestic and global – along with expansion and consolidation exercise, it stated.

The city’s strong demographic vantage in terms of young, educated and comparatively low-cost workforce and a further improvement in global investor confidence towards the economy in the medium-to-long term will continue to drive demand for office real estate in the city, it added.        

Head of Egypt Catesby Langer-Paget said: “As Egypt’s macro-economic situation continues to improve on account of prudent policy measures, our recent research shows that the demand for office space in Cairo has increased, driven by a mix of relocation, expansion and expansion led consolidation exercise.”

The sustained demand for office space has led to a spurt in project launches and completions over the past few quarters. This increase in the availability of Grade A options has created a short-to-medium term pressure on rental values across most markets.

However, headline rental values continue to remain stable but we have noticed enhanced flexibility among landlords with regards to incentives and lease terms. During H1 2019, rents for Grade A stock across Heliopolis ranged between E£300 – E£350 / sqm / month while in New Cairo and Sheikh Zayed City it ranged between E£350 – 400 / sqm / month.

“We noticed strong interest from the pharmaceutical sector, technology, banking and financial services and media firms to occupy Grade A space within the city,” stated Langer-Paget.
 
“In terms of new supply, no new projects were completed during the current review period. However, to meet this growing demand, we anticipate approximatively 155,500 sqm of Grade A space to be handed over across key areas such as New Cairo and Nasr City over the next six months,” he added.

TradeArabia News Service

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Babylon designated UNESCO World Heritage Site

Babylon designated UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Ancient Iraqi city of Babylon designated UNESCO World Heritage Site by Raya Jalabi took rather a long time to arrive. But better later than never, here it is with however a warning that the site is in an “extremely vulnerable condition” and great need of urgent conservation.

RUINS OF BABYLON, Iraq (Reuters) – The ancient city of Babylon, first referenced in a clay tablet from the 23rd century B.C., was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site on Friday, after a vote that followed decades of lobbying by Iraq.

A view of a replica of Ishtar gate at the ancient city of Babylon near Hilla, Iraq July 5, 2019. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

The vote, at a UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku, made the ancient Mesopotamian city on the Euphrates River the sixth world heritage site within the borders of a country known as a cradle of civilization.

Iraqi President Barham Salih said the city, now an archaeological ruin, was returned to its “rightful place” in history after years of neglect by previous leaders.

Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi also welcomed the news.

“Mesopotamia is truly the pillar of humanity’s memory and the cradle of civilization in recorded history,” he said.

The government said it would allocate funds to maintain and boost conservation efforts.

Babylon, about 85 kilometers (55 miles) south of Baghdad, was once the center of a sprawling empire, renowned for its towers and mudbrick temples. Its hanging gardens were one of the seven ancient wonders of the world, commissioned by King Nebuchadnezzar II.

Visitors can stroll through the remnants of the brick and clay structures which stretch across 10 square kilometers, and see the famed Lion of Babylon statue, as well as large portions of the original Ishtar Gate.

As the sun began to set on the crumbling ruins, activists and residents flocked to the replica Ishtar gate at the site’s entrance to celebrate what they called a historic moment.

“This is very important, because Babylon will now be a protected site,” said Marina al-Khafaji, a local who was hopeful the designation would boost tourism and the local economy.

It would allow for further exploration and research, said Makki Mohammad Farhoud, 53, a tour guide at the site for more than 25 years, noting that only 18% of it had been excavated.

“Babylon is the blood that runs through my veins, I love it more than I love my children,” he said.

DECADES OF NEGLECT

Excavations of what was once the largest city in the world, began in the early 19th century by European archaeologists, who removed many artifacts.

In the 1970s, under President Saddam Hussein’s restoration project, the southern palace’s walls and arches were shoddily rebuilt on top of the existing ruins, causing widespread damage.

This was exacerbated during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, when U.S. and Polish troops stationed nearby built their military base on top of the Babylonian ruins.

Many inscriptions written by soldiers can still be seen on the ancient bricks.

The site is in dire need of conservation, Farhoud said. Unlike three other World Heritage sites in Iraq, UNESCO did not designate Babylon as one in “in danger” after objections from the Iraqi delegation.

Iraq is replete with thousands of archaeological sites, many of which were heavily damaged or pillaged by Islamic State during its barbaric three-year-rule which ended in 2017.

The other five World Heritage Sites are the southern marshlands, Hatra, Samarra, Ashur and the citadel in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan Region.

Reporting by Raya Jalabi; Editing by Richard ChangOur Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Tutankhamen head fetches millions at UK auction

Tutankhamen head fetches millions at UK auction despite Egypt’s protests written by Marie-Louise GumuchianNavdeep Yadav gives us a good reading of the difference between nations in terms of space and time.

LONDON (Reuters) – A brown quartzite head of young king Tutankhamen sold at auction in London for more than 4.7 million pounds on Thursday, in the face of Egyptian demands for its return.

The more than 3,000-year-old sculpture, displayed at Christie’s London auction house, shows the boy king taking the form of the ancient Egyptian god Amen.

An unnamed buyer bought the head for 4,746,250 pounds ($5.97 million), including commission and in line with the estimated price before the sale, Christie’s said.

Outside, around 20 protesters stood silently and held placards that said “Egyptian history is not for sale”.

Egypt has long demanded the return of artefacts taken by archaeologists and imperial adventurers, including the Rosetta Stone kept in the British Museum – campaigns paralleled by Greece’s demands for the Parthenon sculptures, Nigeria’s for the Benin Bronzes and Ethiopia’s for the Magdala treasures.

“We are against our heritage and valuable items (being) sold like vegetables and fruit,” said Ibrahim Radi, a 69-year-old Egyptian graphic designer protesting outside Christie’s.

The 28.5 centimetres (11.22 inches) high piece, with damage only to the ears and nose, was sold from the private Resandro collection of Egyptian art.

Christie’s said it was acquired from Munich dealer Heinz Herzer in 1985. Before that, Austrian dealer Joseph Messina bought it in 1973-1974, and Germany’s Prinz Wilhelm Von Thurn und Taxis “reputedly” had it in his collection by the 1960s.

Hailing the piece as a “rare” and “beautiful” work, a Christie’s statement acknowledged controversy over its home.

“We recognise that historic objects can raise complex discussions about the past, yet our role today is to work to continue to provide a transparent, legitimate marketplace upholding the highest standards for the transfer of objects.”

Before the auction, Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, said he was disappointed the sale was going ahead, despite requests for information and protests from government officials and Egypt’s embassy.

“I believe that it was taken out of Egypt illegally … They have not presented any documents to prove otherwise,” he told Reuters, saying that Egypt would continue to press the buyer and others for the work to be returned.

Staff at Christie’s said they had taken the necessary steps to prove its provenance and the sale was legitimate. “It’s a very well known piece … and it has never been the subject of a claim,” antiquities department head Laetitia Delaloye told Reuters.

Christie’s had been in touch with Egyptian authorities in Cairo and the London embassy, she added.

Military dominating Civilian life and Society in Egypt

The MENA region countries, notably the republics amongst them, have undergone upheaval of vital importance lately. The latest but not least would be the military dominating civilian life and society in Egypt. This country being at the forefront of all the republics in all domain of governance could be an indicator of the trend for the other governments. Algeria and Sudan come literally on the brink of following, such as their own military dominating the country’s civilian and societal life.

Amgad Hamdi in his 20 May 2019 article elaborates thus on the Egyptian Institute for Studies.

Militarization of Egyptian Ministry of Health

It is no longer a secret that the military dominates civilian life and society as a whole in Egypt. The present cabinet with all its civil ministries is no longer the only civilian front for the military rule. In fact, the military has tightened its grip on all aspects of civil life through employing military officers, both retired or in office.

On 22 December 2018, Hala Zayed, the current Minister of Health, announced that directors of 48 model hospitals (29 of which belong to the Ministry of Health and 19 to the Ministry of Higher Education) will be chosen from among the military. This decision violates all legal and constitutional values ​​of ensuring that all citizens have equal opportunities when applying for a job based on objective evaluation criteria, not due to belonging to any State body or party, whether civilian or military. This move comes after founding the Faculty of Military Medicine, a critical development in the course of military dominance over the civilian sphere, and within the framework of seeking to tighten control over service sectors that are directly related to citizens, such as the health sector.

Militarization of leading positions in the Ministry of Health

As the Egyptian government that came after the military coup sought to exclude all components of the civil society, the phenomenon of controlling the vital sectors in the Ministry of Health, including the security, finance and administrative sectors, in addition to dozens of jobs in the middle administration at the level of director-general, which is difficult to monitor because of lack of transparency in the announcement of mechanisms of military personnel appointment in those positions.

The prevalence of the presence of the military in various sectors of the Ministry of Health contributed to increasing anger among employees, in light of the huge salaries that those military commanders receive added to the huge salaries they receive from the army starting from 15 thousand pounds to officers with the rank of Colonel and up to 25 thousand pounds for officers with the rank of Maj. General, which increases the psychological burden on civil servants in those sectors, whose salary may not exceed 1500 pounds per month.

A- The military in the Ministry of Health

Among the most important military figures that were appointed in leading positions at the Ministry of Health after the July 2013 coup:

1- Major General Mohamed Fathallah, an anesthesiologist in the Armed Forces, was appointed to the position of spokesman for the Ministry of Health, from 29 July 2013 to 25 November 2013, and was then promoted to the Head of the Health Minister’s Office.

Fathallah only made one statement on the number of deaths during the dispersal of the Rabaa and Nahda sit-ins as well as subsequent events all over the country, during his tenure as an official spokesman of the Ministry of Health. On 15 August 2013, one day after the massacre, the Egyptian Ministry of Health officially announced that the incidents left 578 dead and 4201 injured all over the country, including 288 deaths in Rabaa only.

Meanwhile, the Anti-Coup Alliance, known as the National Alliance Supporting Legitimacy, announced that the number of victims after the dispersal of anti-coup sit-ins reached 2,600 in Rabaa Adawiya alone; and some Brotherhood leaders, such as Mohamed El-Beltagy and Essam El-Erian, said 3000 protesters were killed by the army and security forces on 14 August, while the number jumped to 4000 or 5000, including those viewed as “coup victims” in general. However, the Human Rights Watch said the death toll reached one thousand.

Commenting on this:

– The Ministry of Health was supposed to issue several consecutive statements on the situation following the initial statement. However, only three statements were issued between 14 and 17 August.

– The total number of victims announced by Major General Mohammad Fathallah, the official spokesman of the Ministry of Health, (578 people), after only one day of the Rabaa sit-in dispersal cannot be accurate due to the state of liquidity and severe disintegration of the State institutions at the time.

– No subsequent data were issued to indicate the status of the injured and the hospitals to which they were transferred, and whether there were subsequent deaths among the injured.

– The Ministry of Health did not play its role in preserving the rights of the dead and injured through issuance of official death certificates showing the real causes of death or injury, which could support the legal position of the families of those affected in the course of criminal prosecution of army and police forces involved in killing demonstrators.

– So far, the Ministry of Health has not released any new data or statistics regarding the massacre of dispersal of Rabaa and Nahda sit-ins, especially causes of death.

– The Ministry of Health did not respond to the complaints raised by the Egyptian or international press about discrepancies in statements about the numbers of victims and remained silent.

The appointment of a military doctor in this position as spokesman of the Ministry of Health, at this specific stage, begs a question about the accuracy and transparency of information regarding the incident, where the victims were civilians and the convicts were army and police forces, amid silence of the official spokesman of the ministry.

2- The position of assistant to the Minister of Health for Financial and Administrative Affairs was mostly occupied by the military except for the period from January to October 2015, where the current Minister of Finance, Mohamed Maeit, held the post: Major General Ahmed Farag took over from 2006 until the January Revolution (2011), then Major General Ashraf Khairi, and after that Dr. Maeit as we mentioned earlier, and finally Major General Sayed Al Shahid, who has been in this position until today.

3- The Central Department of Administrative Affairs: Dr. Ahmed Emad Eddin, former Minister of Health in March 2017 appointed Major General Ahmed Baligh Al Hadidi as Head of the Health Ministry’s Central Department of Administrative Affairs. The Administrative Affairs Sector is responsible for all types of maintenance within the ministry office including plumbing, carpentry, electricity, as well as sending and receiving the office correspondence.

4- General Security Department: Dr. Ahmed Emad Eddin, the former Minister of Health, appointed Major General Ahmed Zaghloul as Assistant to the Minister of Health for Political Communication and Security Affairs, replacing Major General Ahmad Said, former Director of the Ministry of Health’s Security Department. Also, the former minister of health appointed Major General Hisham Abdel Raouf as assistant to the minister for basic care.

As we have seen, the military control all sectors of the Ministry of Health as well as the overall policy-making within the Ministry and the Ministry’s resources, logistics, personnel files, communication systems, facilities and services, in addition to the operating system and internal regulations.

B- Management of model hospitals

The decision of Hala Zayed, the current Minister of Health, to appoint the directors of the model hospitals (48) from among those who have a military background is the most dangerous decision in the context of development of the course of military dominance on the health sector in Egypt, for the following reasons:

– The decision is the first of its kind that restricts applying for a civil position to the military.

– The decision allows the military to systematically invade the Ministry of Health’s middle administration, as directors of hospitals, which enables them to control the joints of the health sector as a whole, not only the top administration and policy-making, but also extends to the executive.

– The decision represents a qualitative leap in the path of imposing military hegemony on society, through the appointment of soldiers in service or retired in civil service sites where there is direct interaction with citizens on a daily basis.

– The appointment of the military as directors of government-owned hospitals, this time not as military doctors, but as professional soldiers assigned to work in administrative not technical positions. Therefore, the decision represents a quantitative and qualitative transformation in this regard.

– The decision will increase the drop-out and emigration of doctors due to deprivation of the possibility of promotion and holding administrative positions in the ministry.

– This military move is an encroachment on the civil rights and social structure of the Egyptian working environment. It is also a negative indicator of the tendency towards a full militarization of society.

– The aim of such decision is to appease the military, who were fired from their positions in the armed forces, especially after the coup of 2013.

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Egypt and the U.S. unveil new groundwater system

Egypt and the U.S. unveil new groundwater system

Per Wikipedia, the U.S. had minimal dealings with Egypt when it was controlled by the Ottoman Empire (before 1882) and Britain (1882–1945).

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.

President Donald Trump and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi In White House (FNN) – photo from Youtube

Egypt, U.S. unveil new groundwater system in Alexandria

CAIRO – 5 March 2019: Egypt and the United States ‘governments unveiled Sunday finalizing the new groundwater lowering system at the Catacombs 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. 

Bahrain’s non-oil economy expanded in 2018

Bahrain’s non-oil economy expanded in 2018

Non-oil growth is on the up in Bahrain, where economic diversification efforts are under way.

The picture above is that of Manama sea front © Shutterstock

Construction, infrastructure fuel Bahrain’s 2.4% non-oil growth

by Oscar Rousseau 06 Feb 2019

Both sectors led the kingdom’s economy to diversified growth in Q3 2018, new government data shows

Bahrain’s non-oil economy expanded by 2.4% during Q3 2018, according to data from Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB).

Construction and infrastructure expansion played a prominent role in driving growth for the smallest economy in the GCC.

Bahrain is in the midst of a modernisation and economic diversification drive, as Gulf nations wean their economies off oil. The latest statistics from government agency EDB indicate efforts to create a diversified economy are showing signs of promise.

New project infrastructure spending increased by 16.3% year-on-year during the quarter, while exports surged 9% during the first nine months of 2018. Bahrain’s construction sector expanded by 6.2% between January and November 2018, with manufacturing up by 3.8%, and real estate and business deals rising by 3.2%.

EDB’s research was published in Bahrain Economic Quarterly, which stated that modest GDP growth was underpinned by construction, infrastructure, and manufacturing in the kingdom.

Megaprojects have played a major role as well in the last 12 months, with one such prominent scheme being Aluminium Bahrain’s (Alba) Line 6 Smelter, which was fired up in December 2018.

Alba has become the world’s largest aluminium smelter as a result of the Line 6 expansion.

Alba’s Line 6 expansion is one of Bahrain’s megaprojects.

Bahrain Petroleum Company’s modernisation drive, which includes expansion of Bahrain Refinery, is another scheme hailed for its positive impact.

These projects are known to create jobs and drive up investment during construction, and are expected to lead to long-term social and economic benefits. Bahrain is also seeing greater investment in technological modernisation and innovation, which is supporting productivity in the kingdom, according to the government agency’s research. 

Chief economist at EDB, Dr Jarmo Kotilaine, said fiscal rebalancing would boost investor confidence and continue to support the growth of Bahrain’s economy in the future.

“With increased economic uncertainty around the world and lower growth trends in the Middle East overall, Bahrain can expect to see resilient growth thanks to its commitment to diversification and sustainability,” he said.

“As the gateway to the Gulf region, it is unsurprising that investment is flowing into sectors such as construction, [information communications tech], and fintech, thanks to Bahrain’s strategically important location, its economic benefits, and ease of doing business.”

A seemingly endless resource like Sand

A seemingly endless resource like Sand

The search for sustainable sand extraction is beginning

While most of us are not aware of it, sand is – after air and water – the third most used resource on the planet. Every house, dam, road, wine glass and cell phone contains it. Even a seemingly endless resource like sand cannot keep up with current demand.

“Sand is not infinite,” says Kiran Pereira, founder and chief storyteller at SandStories.org and one of the experts participating in the very first round-table focusing on sand, organized by UN Environment, GRID (Global Resources Information Database )-Geneva and the University of Geneva in mid-October.

Various stakeholders from the industrial, environmental and academic sector came together in Geneva on 11 October 2018 to discuss the emerging issue of sand extraction and solutions to address potential environmental impact. “It is extraordinary that so little attention has been given to this problem,” says Bart Geenen, head of the freshwater programme at the World Wildlife Fund – Netherlands.

Fifty billion tons of sand and gravel are used around the world every year. This is the equivalent to a 35-metre-high by 35-metre-wide wall around the equator. Most sand goes into the production of cement for concrete (which is made of cement, water, sand and gravel). Cement, a key input into concrete, the most widely used construction material in the world, is a major source of greenhouse gases, and accounts for about eight per cent of carbon dioxide emissions, according to a recent Chatham House report.

Sand is, essentially tiny grains of rock, is also used to replenish retreating beaches and extending territories through, for example, constructing artificial islands (think Palm Islands and The World, in Dubai) or infilling on the coast (Singapore). It is taken from rivers, beaches and the ocean floor. Desert sand, due to its smoothness, cannot be used for concrete.

If not managed correctly, sand extraction from places with fragile ecosystems can have a huge environmental impact. Extraction on a beach may, for example, not only lead to the destruction of local biodiversity but can also reduce the scope for tourism.

Furthermore, huge demand for sand may lead to illegal sand extraction, which is becoming an issue in many places. “Sand mafias” in India, for example, threaten local communities and their livelihoods as well as the environment.

“Sand is used by everybody. We are not here to halt the sector, but work together with all stakeholders on sustainable solutions,” notes Pascal Peduzzi, director of GRID-Geneva at UN Environment, who first raised the sand issue in a 2014 report titled Sand, rarer than one thinks.

Innovative solutions being tested

However, innovative solutions are being tested to replace sand in the construction of roads and buildings. Recycled plastic, earth, bamboo, wood, straw and other materials can be used as alternative building materials. The key seems to be to blend other materials with the all-encompassing concrete to give the mixture the necessary stability for a building.

Several countries have already been experimenting with plastic composite roads. The first ever cycle path made completely out of recycled plastic was opened in Zwolle, Netherlands, in September 2018.

Recycled plastic has the potential to become a serious alternative to sand in road-building. Plastic roads are estimated to be three times more durable than traditional asphalt roads. However, they are still in their testing phase as their longevity as well as their environmental impact need to be studied further: small particles of the plastic could eventually find their way into the soil and water through heat, wear and tear, and run-off.

While there is no magic bullet, the Geneva meeting agreed that it is important to raise awareness of the fact that sand is not a limitless resource and that there are possible negative effects of sand extraction. Good practices must be shared and the communication gap between policymakers and consumers overcome.

UNEP-GRID (United Nations Environment Programme-Global Resources Information Database) is working with the University of Geneva to raise awareness. “We are working on finding innovative solutions for sustainable resource consumption and connecting them to impactful awareness-raising at multiple levels,” says Anna Cinelli from the University of Geneva. Her fellow student Rebecca Jimenez adds: “At the end of the day it’s about finding sustainable solutions that are workable and are accepted by society at large.”


Brainstorming session at the University of Geneva: Working with the leaders of tomorrow on searching for innovative solutions. Photo by Davide Fornacca.

The Geneva meeting concluded that the way forward is to collect more data, and to work on implementing policies and standards to protect delicate ecosystems from illegal and environmentally harmful sand extraction. The search for sustainable solutions should start now, the meeting concluded.

For further information, please contact Janyl Moldalieva: zhanyl.moldalieva[at]un.org

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How climate change caused the world’s first ever empire to collapse

How climate change caused the world’s first ever empire to collapse

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.

File 20190102 32121 1d7jyfa.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
King Naram-Sin of Akkad, grandson of Sargon, leading his army to victory.
Rama / Louvre, CC BY-SA

 

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.

 

 

The Akkad empire during the reign of Narâm-Sîn (2254-2218 BC). Mount Damavand is labelled in blue.
Zunkir / Semhir / wiki, CC BY-SA

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.

 

 

Sargon of Akkad – or maybe his son, Naram-Sin.
Iraqi Directorate General of Antiquities / wiki

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.

 

 

Mount Damavand is a ‘potentially active’ volcano, and the highest peak in Iran. Gol-e-Zard Cave is nearby.
Vasile Ersek, Author provided

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.The Conversation

Vasile Ersek, Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography, Northumbria University, Newcastle

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Expatriate workers continue increasing in the Arabian Gulf

Expatriate workers continue increasing in the Arabian Gulf

Migrant or expatriate workers continue adding to the labour force of oil-rich Gulf due to mega-construction projects, UN data shows.  Al Jazeera posted this article dated 20 Dec 2018 elaborating on a situation known to all since the advent of oil.

Gulf Arab blue-collar workforce continues to grow: UN

by James Reinl

Blue-collar migrant workers continue adding to the labour force of the oil-rich Gulf, skewing long-standing efforts by its leaders to increase the percentage of its own citizens in the workforce, data of the UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO) shows.

Figures released this month in a 78-page study, ILO Global Estimates on National Migrant Workers, showed that the proportion of migrants in the eastern Arab region’s workforce ballooned by 5.2 percent from 2013 to 2017, mostly in the construction sector.

Migrants now make up 40.8 percent of the workforce across a 12-nation region that includes the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) bloc of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman.

This is a much higher proportion than other rich regions that attract some of the world’s estimated 164 million migrant workers. In comparison, migrants make up only 20.6 percent of the labour force in North America, and 17.8 percent in Europe.

In Dubai, Doha and other Gulf boomtowns, foreigners make up as much as 90 percent of workers, according to older figures. The ILO did not have data on separate countries for this month’s report; Ryszard Cholewinski, the ILO’s Beirut-based expert on migrant workers, said that figures provided by Gulf governments are often incomplete.

Blue collar jobs

The increase in labour flows to Gulf states these past five years was driven mainly by mega-construction projects, including pavilions for Expo 2020 Dubai and the FIFA World Cup 2022 stadiums being built across Qatar, said Cholewinski.

Demand has also grown for maids, gardeners, drivers and other domestic staff, he added. In particular, more foreign carers are being hired to look after a growing number of elderly folks in their homes, as the Gulf population ages.

“The demand for male workers in the Arab states explains the sharp increase in the share of migrant workers in this region. Many of these workers are manual labourers, located mostly in the construction sector,” Natalia Popova, an ILO labour economist, told Al Jazeera.

“Possible other reasons for the increase in the high share of migrant workers may include the increasing demand for domestic workers, both male and female, as well as for migrant workers in the hospitality sector.”

Nationalisation efforts

While data on nationalisation efforts is skewed due to the sheer amount of blue-collar migrants, Gulf leaders have long sought to boost the numbers of their working citizens, mainly in the white-collar workforce.

However, state-led hiring drives, with such names as Qatarisation, Emiratisation and Saudisation, have had only limited success, particularly in the private sector, according to the ILO.

“Many of these nationalisation policies are not really having any impact. It’s one of the region’s big challenges,” Cholewinski told Al Jazeera.

“There’s a lot of rhetoric on nationalisation in for example Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 agenda. But in practice, this is going extremely slowly.”

Al Jazeera contacted the UN missions of all six Gulf states by email and telephone over the course of several days, but was not able to get a comment on this issue.

While each Gulf nation faces different challenges when it comes to nationalisation, many Gulf citizens loathe taking jobs in private companies, which cannot compete with the pension plans, generous holidays and shorter working hours in the cushy jobs-for-life enjoyed by civil servants.

This can lead to odd distortions. A visitor to Dubai, the UAE’s tourism hub, can spend their whole week-long vacation being served by migrant workers in shops, taxis and eateries, and the only Emirati they meet is a passport-stamping immigration clerk at the airport.

Last month, the UAE launched it’s so-called Citizen Redistribution Policy to temporarily shift civil servants into private sector jobs. It also rolled out training schemes for Emiratis and online recruitment tools.

In recent months, Riyadh has introduced rules requiring shops to have Saudis in at least 70 percent of sales jobs. Expat workers pay monthly fees for their spouses and children, employers pay similar penalties for foreign employees.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious Vision 2030 agenda aims to overhaul the Saudi economy by massively expanding the healthcare, education, recreation and tourism sectors and slash the high unemployment rates for young Saudis.

John Shenton, chairman of the Chartered Institute of Building’s Novus initiative, which supports construction jobs in Dubai, told Al Jazeera that Gulf nationalisation schemes were bearing fruit.

In some state-regulated sectors, such as banking, legal and financial services, the number of local staff has grown, Shenton said. “If the goal is to get more Emiratis in the workforce then it’s having some effect,” said Shenton. “However there are other factors that will mean that those efforts may not be reflected in the data.”

These gains are dwarfed by the mass-recruitment of foreign construction workers to build the skyscrapers, malls and artificial islands for which the region is famous, he added.

“At a site level, the chaps in safety boots and hard hats will always be from the subcontinent or South Asia,” Shenton said.

“At the engineering and supervisory level, the skill set required can’t be satisfied by the number of local graduates. The volume of work being undertaken and the discreet programme dates associated with projects like Qatar 2022 necessitate our hosts resourcing from overseas.”

Melissa Roza, a headhunter at a Dubai-based recruitment firm, said nationalisation schemes had made gains in some white-collar jobs, but that state-set hiring quotas and penalty fees were also hurting these sectors.

Banks in the UAE often prefer to pay fines for hiring foreigners than to cover the recruitment costs involved in hiring an Emirati, training them up and meeting their high salary expectations, she said.

Executives have also found workarounds by hiring migrants via outsourcing firms, which do not affect the quota count, added Roza, whose name was changed so she could talk frankly on a hot-button issue. 

Follow James Reinl on Twitter: @jamesreinl

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Remarkable discovery about the Great Pyramid

Remarkable discovery about the Great Pyramid

What began as an expedition to record the inscriptions of ancient Egyptian quarry workers produced a remarkable discovery about the Great Pyramid at Giza. My colleagues and I in the Anglo-French joint archaeological mission to the ancient quarry site of Hatnub recently revealed the existence of a well-preserved haulage ramp dating to the time of the Great Pyramid, roughly 4,500 years ago.

The story is told by Roland Enmarch, University of Liverpool.

Great Pyramid: how my research on ancient Egyptian poetry led to an amazing discovery

File 20181107 74757 1nzaxpf.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Shutterstock

 

We think this could significantly change the theories about how the workers who built the monument were able to transport such large blocks of stone to great heights. It could even provide evidence that pulleys were invented hundreds of years earlier than previously documented.

The rock-cut ramp is flanked by two flights of rock-cut stairs, into which are cut post holes that would originally have held wooden posts, now long perished. The pattern of post holes is well enough preserved that we can begin to reconstruct a pulley system that would have been used to lift large blocks of alabaster out of the open-cast quarry.

The ancient ramp.
Roland Enmarch, Author provided

While some quarrymen would have been stationed above the blocks, hauling them upwards directly, others would have stood below the blocks, pulling downwards. Their ropes would have been lashed round the post holes and attached to the alabaster blocks, so that both groups were exerting force to pull the blocks up out of the quarry.

This stone haulage system makes efficient use of the limited available space on the ramp, and it is reasonable to speculate that this same pulley technology would also have been used in the construction of the Great Pyramid. While pulley systems are well known from Greek civilisation in the first millennium BC, the evidence from Hatnub pushes their use much further back in time, as it pre-dates the Greek evidence by some 2,000 years.

Steep incline.
Roland Enmarch, Author provided

The Hatnub haulage ramp is also much steeper than most previous reconstructions of Egyptian haulage ramps. This is significant because one of the long-standing objections to the theory that the Great Pyramid was build using a single large ramp was the enormous volume of such a ramp (which would have had a greater volume than the Great Pyramid itself). With a much steeper gradient, the length and volume of such a haulage ramp would be much smaller, suggesting that this old theory needs to be re-evaluated more seriously.

Many other theories have previously been proposed for how the Great Pyramid was constructed. For example, a ramp might have coiled around the sides of the pyramid. There are also many suggestions involving levers and similar mechanisms. (And, of course, there are always those lacking in imagination who cannot accept a human explanation, and instead groundlessly evoke aliens or Atlanteans). The merit of our recent discoveries is that they give us solid archaeological evidence we can use to test previous theories.

Ancient graffiti

These discoveries have emerged from the work of the University of Liverpool’s joint expedition with the French Institute for Oriental Archaeology in Cairo to Hatnub, which is some 20km from the Nile in the eastern desert of Middle Egypt. This quarry was the most prestigious ancient source of Egyptian alabaster, the milky white banded translucent stone that was used by the Egyptians to make vessels, statues, and architectural items.

Our original aim was purely to record the surviving inscriptions left by quarrymen 4,500 to 4,000 years ago. I began my career studying Egyptian poetry, but it turns out quarrymen could on occasion get quite poetic when writing their graffiti in the quarry. And so I now study these texts, written in a cursive version of the Egyptian script known as hieratic.

We have so far identified more than 100 previously unrecorded texts, offering a wealth of information about the organisation and logistics of the expeditions that came to the quarry to extract alabaster. They mention royal patronage, the hundreds (and, on occasion, thousands) of expedition personnel, the numbers of blocks mined, and the time taken to ferry them to their ultimate destinations.

Stone inscriptions.
Roland Enmarch, Author provided

Some of the inscriptions take a more long-term point of view, and seek to convince future visitors to the quarry that their predecessors were good people, and deserve to be treated with respect (and offerings) after their death. In the 21st century, we are accustomed to talk of “posting” to “walls”. But at Hatnub we have an actual Bronze Age wall whose texts speak across the years, and create a solidarity among those who came to work in the quarry, generation after generation.

More recently we have expanded our work (and our team) to record the wider archaeological features of the extremely well-preserved Bronze Age industrial landscape around the quarry. We are collecting and analysing the stone tools that litter the site, offering insights into the process of extracting blocks from the bedrock. Through experimental archaeology we are learning just how rapidly alabaster needed to be worked before it dried and hardened after extraction.

We are also studying the ancient road connecting the quarry to the Nile Valley, which is flanked by hundreds of simple dry-stone shelters used by workmen for accommodation and stoneworking. We have simple dry-stone religious cairns and other structures of possible ritual function. The recent clearance of debris from the haulage ramp leading out of the quarry has been part of our study of this wider context.

Our ultimate goal is to study all aspects of stone extraction and transport at Hatnub, integrating the rich textual and archaeological evidence to provide a more holistic understanding of quarrying in ancient Egypt. Few sites offer the range and diversity of evidence that survives at Hatnub. We have many years of work ahead of us; the potential for further exciting discoveries is huge.The Conversation

Roland Enmarch, Senior Lecturer in Egyptology, University of Liverpool

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.