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Increasing Egypt’s limited area of farm land

Increasing Egypt’s limited area of farm land

Egypt Today.com posted an article dated August 7, 2019, that brings to light an unusual construction project concept. It combines building towers with an agricultural development project. The project concept if multiplied in numbers will certainly be increasing Egypt’s limited area of farm land that is confined to the Nile Valley and Delta, with a few oases and some arable land in the Sinai peninsula.

Asil Rashid in his Green Buildings: The Solution To Cairo’s Unmanageable Urban Sprawl back in 2016, said that “One way we can make our cities more sustainable and therefore, more livable is through the application of green building design principles – a subject that is near and dear to my heart.”

Would Stefano Boeri’s idea be an answer?

Increasing Egypt’s limited area of farm land
The first ever vertical forest designed by Italian Architect Stefano Boeri in his home city of Milan – Stefano Boeri

Construction of Africa’s 1st vertical forest blocks to begin in 2020

CAIRO – 7 August 2019: Italian Architect Stefano Boeri spoke to CNN about Africa’s first vertical forests that will be built in Egypt’s New Administrative Capital (NAC), which is still under construction and is 30 miles east of Cairo. 

Each of the three cube-shaped blocks will be 30 meters high and will house seven floors, 350 trees, and 14,000 shrubs of over 100 species. “Each tower of trees aims to provide its human residents with an average of two trees, eight shrubs and 40 bushes each,” as reported by CNN. 

Boeri has been designing the blocks in collaboration with Egyptian designer Shimaa Shalash and Italian landscape architect Laura Gatti. Shalash told CNN that execution of the project is set to start in 2020 and finish in 2 years. One of the three buildings will be an energy self-sufficient hotel, while the other two will contain residential apartments. 

“Each apartment will have its own balcony with a range of plant species suited to the local climate, planted at various heights and to bloom at different times to provide a lush appearance year round. Plants at every level will provide natural shading and improve the surrounding air quality by absorbing an estimated 7 tons of carbon dioxide and producing 8 tons of oxygen per year,” CNN reported. 

Shalash and colleagues explained to CNN that the project – owned by a private real estate developer – is part of a bigger plan to introduce “thousands of green flat roofs and a system of “green corridors” in the city.” 

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Quarter of Humanity Faces ‘Extremely High Water Stress’

Quarter of Humanity Faces ‘Extremely High Water Stress’

Published on Tuesday, August 06, 2019 by Common Dreams is this story on the ‘Biggest Crisis No One Is Talking About’: Quarter of Humanity Faces ‘Extremely High Water Stress’ Intensified by Climate Emergency.

It is by Jessica Corbett, staff writer who adds that “A new generation of solutions is emerging, but nowhere near fast enough.” Much has been written about water scarcity in certain countries of the MENA region and this article would certainly not be the last.

A child sits in an area affected by a drought
A child sits in an area affected by a drought in the southern outskirts of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, in 2016. In the same area this September, the Honduran government declared a state of emergency because of drought as 290 municipalities are on the verge of running out of food. (Photo: Orlando Sierra/Stringer/Getty Images)

An analysis released Tuesday warns that 17 countries which are collectively home to a quarter of the global population face “extremely high water stress” that is on track to get worse—particularly because of the human-caused climate emergency.

The data is part of the World Resources Institute’s (WRI) Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, a publicly available database and interactive tool designed to enhance global understanding of water scarcity, which WRI calls “one of the defining issues of the 21st century.” 

“The newly updated Aqueduct tools allow users to better see and understand water risks and make smart decisions to manage them,” WRI president and CEO Andrew Steer said in a statement. “A new generation of solutions is emerging, but nowhere near fast enough. Failure to act will be massively expensive in human lives and livelihoods.”

“Water stress is the biggest crisis no one is talking about,” said Steer. “Its consequences are in plain sight in the form of food insecurity, conflict and migration, and financial instability.”

The WRI statement noted that “the world has seen a string of water crises in recent years, as what’s now known as ‘Day Zero’—the day when the taps run dry—has threatened major cities from Cape Town to São Paolo to Chennai.”

Betsy Otto, who directs WRI’s global water program, told The New York Times that “we’re likely to see more of these Day Zeros in the future.”

Otto, speaking to The Guardian, added that “our populations and economies are growing and demanding more water. But our supply is threatened by climate change, water waste, and pollution.”

In a blog post announcing the new data, WRI outlined three ways that communities and countries around the world can reduce water stress, regardless of where they rank on the group’s list:

  • Increase agricultural efficiency by using seeds and irrigation techniques that require less water, investing in developing technology that improves farming, and cutting back on food loss and waste;
  • Invest in “grey”and “green” infrasturcture, improving everything from pipes and treatment plants to wetlands and watersheds.
  • Treat, reuse, and recycle “wastewater.”

The blog explained that countries rank at WRI’s highest level for water stress if their “irrigated agriculture, industries, and municipalities withdraw more than 80 percent of their available supply on average every year.”

A dozen of the top-ranked countries are located in the Middle East and North Africa. “The region is hot and dry, so water supply is low to begin with,” wrote WRI, “but growing demands have pushed countries further into extreme stress.”

India, which has a population exceeding 1.3 billion, also ranks among the most water-stressed nations.

Shashi Shekhar—former secretary of India’s Ministry of Water Resources and a senior fellow at WRI India—noted that “the recent water crisis in Chennai gained global attention, but various areas in India are experiencing chronic water stress as well.”

“India can manage its water risk with the help of reliable and robust data pertaining to rainfall, surface, and groundwater to develop strategies that strengthen resilience,” Shekhar said. “Aqueduct can help identify and prioritize water risks in India and around the world.”

Behind the 17 nations at WRI’s top level are 44 countries—collectively home to another third of the world’s population—that face “high” water stress, withdrawing on average more than 40 percent of their available supply annually.

However, as WRI’s blog post pointed out, “pockets of extreme water stress exist even in countries with low overall water stress.”

“For example, South Africa and the United States rank #48 and #71 on WRI’s list, respectively, yet the Western Cape (the state home to Cape Town) and New Mexico experience extremely high stress levels,” the group explained. “The populations in these two states rival those of entire nations on the list of most water-stressed countries.”

US water stress

“The data is clear: There are undeniably worrying trends in water,” WRI concluded. “But by taking action now and investing in better management, we can solve water issues for the good of people, economies and the planet.”

See the group’s full ranking—which is based on United Nations member countries and does not include some small island nations due to model limitations—below:

WRI water stress rankings
Qatar is the most open country in the Middle East

Qatar is the most open country in the Middle East

Posted on July 29, 2019, and written by Whitney, an American traveller, is the following article titled Doha, Qatar… Epitome of Opulence. Having personally stayed in the country the 90’s through to early 2000, I can confirm every single detail of the author’s story. The difference would perhaps be that I was leading a quasi-normal resident life whilst making a living through practising my skills of Architect. Indeed, Qatar is the most open country in the Middle East but it was not exactly as enthralling as you might imagine in my early years but at least I had the privilege to see before my very eyes, the making of this city. I must say, I did contribute however modestly into the shaping of its skyline. But enough of me here is Whitney’s.

A tidbit of information – Qatar is the most open country in the Middle East, allowing Transit Visas upon arrival for free, given you have a valid passport and return ticket. These Visas are valid for stays from 5 hours and up to 96. Additionally, Discover Qatar offers one-night free hotel stay in a variety of 5-star accommodations, or two to three nights for a fee of $100 in the same hotels. Given that the layover in Doha is a whopping nine hours, this was absolutely worth the extra money for a good nights sleep in luxury lodging.

Impressive Skyline

Unfortunately, I did not know that Qatar Airlines offered a stopover through Discover Qatar in Doha when Hubs and I initially booked our Maldives flights through Qatar Airlines (ranked the #1 airline in the world). We made this delightful discovery after we had already departed the States. However, the airline (for a fee, of course) altered our flights, and we made a two day pit stop in the incredibly wealthy, insanely hot, and bustling country.

The money flowing through Qatar is obvious before you even land at the airport. From the sky, you can see the intricate, man-made island. The skyscrapers litter the cityscape. Upon landing at the airport, a sparkling air-conditioned building greets you. We were met by a smiling gentleman driving a black luxury sedan. He ferried us the 25 minutes through Doha to our accommodations for the next couple of nights. He deposited us at our five-star hotel in the ‘City Center’, the Marriott Marquis.

Unlike US hotels, security has a much larger presence. We had to go through a metal detector upon returning to the hotel each time we left. They scanned our bags before allowing us access to the enormous lobby. The friendly, multi-lingual front desk checked us in, and we took the elevator up to our room.

Downside to vacationing in a conservative Muslim country… twin beds in hotel rooms.

We are actually married (at least in Slovenia), does that entitle us to at least a queen-sized bed?

Negatory!

However, we were at least provided a decent view through the floor-to-ceiling windows of the city center on the 11th floor.

Tiny little admission… I may have slept brilliantly while buried beneath the blankets in my personal feathery, comfy haven in the starkly cold room thanks to the wonderfully chilly air conditioning.

Snapshot from the harbor

We began our Doha exploration with a City Tour provided by Discover Qatar for a minimal cost of $24 a person. We were ferried around the city by a local gentleman, who regaled us with Doha facts throughout the jaunt. Doha is the capital of Qatar and boasts a population of about 2.4 million. It is located along the Persian Gulf. He informed us, water is more expensive than fuel in the wealthy country. And if we happened upon any green spaces (grass is a novelty there), it was likely watered every 30 minutes in order to survive in the extreme heat of the desert.

We cruised through the city in air-conditioned comfort in a van, just the two of us and our insightful guide. A few highlights and/or stops:

PEARL-QATAR

The Pearl-Qatar, an artificial island jutting into the Gulf, is a $15 billion (so far) project. It will be a stunning residential estate made up of luxury villas and commercial amenities. The project was originally to cost $2.5 Million, but clearly, that budget was a tad off.

A colossal to-scale model of the not yet finished island takes up the first floor of a building, displaying a life-like representation of the what the man-made archipelago will look like upon completion.

The imitation even has people, boats, greenery, and lighting!

And it was so enormous that I could not even get a photo of the entire model in a single photo.

Moral of the story: Sorry for the disjointed photographs that do not portray the full enormity of this undertaking.

Yet another displaying of probably the most financially stable country I have ever travelled to. They successfully made the desert desirable.

MOSQUE (Unfortunately, I don’t recall the name)

We also crept into a mosque. Thankfully, I had smartly packed a shawl and light sweaters to cover my provocative shoulders. I was also clad in baggy, white linen pants (thanks, Athleta for selling breathable and comfortable pants perfect for the occasion).

Anywho… the lower floor, only suitable for men, was basically an open floor for praying. The upper balcony was where the women were relegated to. I was escorted outside to the separate entrance they were banished to. The much smaller space overlooked the men’s sanctuary below. After collecting our footwear, we returned to our Discover Qatar chariot.

MUSEUM OF ISLAMIC ART

Borrowed from the Museum’s website. My photos were nothing compared to this.

Our guide dumped us at the entrance to the Museum of Islamic Art. This free museum sports an unusual exterior facade. It is geometric and quite unique, looking vaguely similar to a stack of building blocks. Our chaperone challenged us to guess the significance. Stumped, he enlightened us that it is meant to resemble a woman in a hijab with only her eyes visible. If you decide to visit the museum, abide by the conservative dress code, otherwise, you may be refused entrance. Little update: My recent perusal of the museum’s website showed there is now a fee in order to gain entry to the museum. You now… because Qatar is a poor country…

The collection was fascinating, with pieces ranging from the 7th to 19th centuries, and included scrolls, textiles, ceramics, and metalwork, along with items of early mathematical importance. There is also a cafe, a gift shop, and an exterior park. Don’t forget both male and female private pray rooms. The glass windows at the rear of the building provide an uninterrupted view of the water beyond.

SOUQ WAQIF

We were given 45 minutes to peruse the sprawling Souq Waqif by our chauffeur. The Souq is a maze of vendors selling everything from spices to jewelry to daily goods to birds to furniture. We could have spent hours wandering the alleys, and made a mental note to return later with more time to spare.

Fast forward several hours, and we returned by cab to the Souq. Unlike when we were roving the passageways earlier, most of the merchants were open for business at the later afternoon hour. The bazaar is organized into areas by means of the goods the shopkeep was bartering. Spice hucksters were in one section, while rug peddlers were off in another. I must admit, the souqs have become one of my favorite places to visit common in many Middle Eastern countries. We walked out of there is color footwear, mugs, spices, tea (cinnamon was my poison, but should one have consumed a few too many beans that day, flatulence tea was also an option), kitchen wares, and a chess set. Bartering is welcomed!

We opted to walk the 5.5 km from the Souq back to our hotel. We strolled along the pathway ringing the water front. Due to the requirements of my gender covering up, it was quite the toasty saunter. Regardless of my clamminess, the walk provided quite the view of the very colorful skyline.

And a handstand of course. I made sure to wait until there were no other onlookers, so that I did not offend anyone when my shirt dropped to my shoulders, revealing my stomach. GASP! I’m such a heathen.

IPANEMA

During our exploration of the hotel, and the attached mall, we discovered several restaurants that were housed in the same building as the hotel. After perusing the options, Hubs decided we were going to splurge on our meal that evening. He settled upon Ipanema, a Brazilian-style steak house. Because… when in Rome??? I suppose we spent the previous couple weeks dining on Indian food, for the most part, we can branch out on our final night overseas.

The food did not disappoint. I could not tell you everything I ate that night since I felt like a whale upon departing. After getting a smallish sampling from the buffet (I had to save room for the immense amounts of meat to come), we purchased a bottle of wine, and awaited the first round of meats to be whisked by our table. For anyone unfamiliar with Brazilian steakhouses, you are given what amounts to a coaster – one side RED and the other GREEN. When you’re ready to gorge on whatever tasty hunk of meat the waiters are strolling by with, you flip your coaster over to the green side, prompting the servers to cut you a fresh slice off the slab they are toting.

I swore I was not going to give into every delicious smell that wafted passed me, but alas, I was defenseless against the succulent fare, acquiescing to my cravings. I felt like I gained 30 pounds when we waddled out of there. Totally worth it, and I slept like a baby. Another note… I discovered grilled pineapple. The delectable fruit was blanketed in cinnamon. I was incapable of dismissing the servers when they came by with it.

Meat, meat and more meat. Brought to your table on skewers and chopped off with large knives.
Grilled pineapple… dessert, appetizer or main course… that shit made me happy.
Quite the scrumptious wine. A+

Random side note… Arby’s in Arabic present in the busy food court in one of the many malls. Along with the longest, flattest escalator, I have ever ridden.

Yes, us lame Americans dined here for lunch one day.

Alas, it is time to depart the warmth of Qatar and return to the cold, snowy climate of Virginia in November.

وداعا … Apparently, that is “goodbye” in Arabic. Back to reality (and winter).

Saudi Arabia struggles to end oil addiction

Saudi Arabia struggles to end oil addiction

Reuters’ BUSINESS NEWS on July 25, 2019, posted this article titled Old habits die hard: Saudi Arabia struggles to end oil addiction written by Rania El Gamal and Saeed Azhar to clearly show us how things of fossil fuels nature tend not to change a bit if not at all and despite all efforts to the contrary.

DUBAI (Reuters) – When Saudi Aramco was on the verge of a deal last year to buy a stake in an Indian oil refinery, its boss quickly boarded a company jet in Paris and flew to New Delhi.

FILE PHOTO: Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih addresses the media flanked by India’s Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan (L) and Saudi Aramco Chief Executive Officer Amin Nasser (R) during International Energy Forum (IEF) to announce Saudi Aramco’s participation in a planned refinery project in the western state of Maharashtra, in New Delhi, India, April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Altaf Hussain/File Photo

Chief executive Amin Nasser arrived unannounced early on April 11, 2018, finalised the agreement and signed it later that day. Negotiators had just finished hammering out the details.

His last-minute flight, after a business trip to France with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, underlined the importance of the deal both to Saudi Arabia and its huge state oil firm.

The planned investment in the $44-billion (£35 billion) refinery and petrochemical project on India’s west coast is a prime example of how Aramco is trying to squeeze value out of each barrel of oil it produces by snapping up refining capacity, mainly in fast-growing Asia.

But it also underlines the challenge Saudi Arabia faces in reducing its heavy economic reliance on oil. The results of its programme to diversify have been mixed, some projects are moving slowly and others are too ambitious, economic and energy analysts say.

Prince Mohammed’s stated goal of being able to “live without oil” by as early as 2020 looks set to be missed.

“Saudi Arabia’s oil addiction is as strong as ever…economically, of course, the Saudi economy runs on oil. Oil still dominates GDP, exports and government revenues,” said Jim Krane, energy fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute.

“That said, Saudi Arabia is changing its relationship with oil. The dependence remains. But the kingdom is squeezing more value out of its oil,” he said.

The slow progress means the Saudi economy is likely to remain hostage to oil prices for longer than planned. Any delay in implementing change also risks denting Prince Mohammed’s image as a reformer.

SECURING THE FUTURE

Announcing his plan three years ago, the Crown Prince said Saudi Arabia must end its “oil addiction” to ensure the world’s biggest oil exporter and second largest producer cannot be “at the mercy of commodity price volatility or external markets.”

He spoke after a fall in crude oil prices boosted the Saudi fiscal deficit to about 15% of gross domestic product in 2015, slowing government spending and economic growth.

This year the deficit could hit 7% of GDP, according to the International Monetary Fund, as oil-related growth slows following production cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Aramco is central to the Crown Prince’s reform plan in several ways, not least because its planned partial privatisation will generate income for the reforms.

The company has also been involved in most of the kingdom’s high-profile deals in the last two years as it increased investment in refining and petrochemicals.

In that time, Aramco has announced at least $50 billion worth of investments in Saudi Arabia, Asia and the United States. It aims to almost triple its chemicals production to 34 million metric tons per year by 2030 and raise its global refining capacity to 8-10 million barrels per day (bpd) from more than 5 million bpd.

In March last year, Aramco finalised a deal to buy a $7 billion stake in a refinery and petrochemicals project with Malaysia’s Petronas. A month later, Nasser and a consortium of Indian companies signed the initial deal that would give Aramco a stake in the planned 1.2 million bpd refinery in India’s western Maharashtra state.

In February of this year, Aramco signed a $10 billion deal for a refining and petrochemical complex in China. Last month it signed 12 deals with South Korea worth billions of dollars, ranging from ship building to an expansion of a refinery owned by Aramco.

“This is what I call the back to basics approach to economic diversification in the Gulf,” said Robin Mills, chief executive of energy consultancy Qamar Energy in Dubai. “The energy industry has the assets, capital and skills, so it’s the engine of new projects – refining, petrochemicals, gas and so on.”

MR UPSTREAM LOOKS DOWNSTREAM

In March, Aramco said it was acquiring a 70 percent stake in petrochemicals firm Saudi Basic Industries (SABIC) (2010.SE) for $69.1 billion from the national wealth fund, known as the Public Investment Fund (PIF).

Aramco is gaining new markets for its crude and building a global downstream presence – the refining, processing and purifying end of the production line. Its aim is to become a global leader in chemicals.

“We are not investing left and right, we are investing in the right markets, we are investing in the right refining assets, we are investing where we create value from fuels to chemicals,” Abdulaziz al-Judaimi, Aramco’s Senior Vice President for Downstream, told Reuters in May.

Nasser, previously known by Aramco employees as Mr Upstream, is leading the downstream expansion. He wants to bring Aramco’s refining capacity closer to its oil production potential, which is now at 12 million bpd.

Aramco wants gradually to match the downstream presence of its big competitors and, like Saudi Arabia as a whole, to reduce its vulnerability to any downturn in demand for crude oil or oil price volatility.

“You want to secure your demand in key markets,” said an industry source familiar with Saudi Arabia’s oil plans. “You have to become more dynamic, to become more adaptable, you have to make sure that you secure your future. Malaysia was one example, India was another.”

For years, Aramco has been a regular crude supplier to Indian refiners via long-term crude contracts.

Yet while it has stakes in refineries or storage assets in other important Asia markets such as China, Japan and South Korea – and owns the largest refinery in the United States – it has not secured that same access in India, a fast-growing market for fuel and petrochemicals.Slideshow (2 Images)

“India is a market that you just can’t ignore anymore,” an industry source said.

Aramco has also shifted its marketing strategy in China. It is now more oriented towards independent refiners to boost Saudi crude sales after years of dealing almost exclusively with state-owned Chinese firms.

SLOW PROGRESS

But overall, plans to wean Saudi Arabia of oil have advanced slowly.

Few details have emerged of a $200-billion solar power-generation project announced by the PIF and Japan’s SoftBank in March 2018. It is unclear how or when the project will be executed, and Saudi’s Arabia’s energy ministry is moving ahead with its own solar projects.

In a blow to potential investment, the image of Saudi Arabia and the reputation of the Crown Prince have been damaged by the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year.

Leading businessmen and politicians boycotted an investment forum meant to showcase the kingdom’s new future away from oil, and it was only big deals with Aramco that saved it.

Also, the partial privatisation of Aramco has been delayed since it set out its plans to acquire the stake in SABIC, though senior Saudi officials including Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih have said it could now happen in 2020-2021.

The PIF, chaired by Prince Mohammed, was meant to receive around $100 billion from the flotation. Instead it will get around $70 billion from the sale of its SABIC stake.

The PIF made its mark on the global stage three years ago by taking a $3.5- billion stake in Uber Technologies. But since 2016, the PIF’s direct investments overseas stand at just $10.5 billion, according to Refinitiv data, and many of the fund’s announced commitments have yet to materialise.

The funds’ main investments over the past two years were inequity shares in companies such as electric car makers Tesla (TSLA.O) and Lucid Motors and Gulf e-commerce platform Noon.com.

Such deals would not necessarily attract inward foreign investment, help develop industries or create jobs.

Additional reporting by Marwa Rashad and Hadeel Al Sayegh; writing by Rania El Gamal; editing by Ghaida Ghantous and Timothy Heritage

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Tracing Humankind’s Footsteps out of Africa

Tracing Humankind’s Footsteps out of Africa

Paul Salopek is tracing humankind’s footsteps out of Africa, giving voice on the way to migrants who are part of history’s largest diaspora.

A storyteller chronicles the mass migrations that define our age

By Paul Salopek, Photographs by John Stanmeyer


This story appears in the August 2019 issue of National Geographic magazine.


Tracing Humankind’s Footsteps out of Africa
ETHIOPIA 2013, FOLLOWING OUR FOREBEARS Paul Salopek (at left) and his guide Ahmed Elema begin day two of the author’s global odyssey at the village of Herto Bouri, where the . . . Read More Magazine Out of Eden Walk

For nearly seven years I have been walking with migrants.

In the winter of 2013 I set out from an ancient Homo sapiens fossil site called Herto Bouri, in the north of Ethiopia, and began retracing, on foot, the defining journey of humankind: our first colonization of the Earth during the Stone Age.

My long walk is about storytelling. I report what I see at boot level along the pathways of our original discovery of the planet. From the start, I knew my route would be vague. Anthropologists suggest that our species first stepped out of Africa 600 centuries ago and eventually wandered, more or less aimlessly, to the tip of South America—the last unknown edge of the continents and my own journey’s finish line. We were roving hunters and foragers. We lacked writing, the wheel, domesticated animals, and agriculture. Advancing along empty beaches, we sampled shellfish. We took our bearings off the rippling arrows of migrating cranes. Destinations had yet to be invented. I have trailed these forgotten adventurers for more than 10,000 miles so far. Today I am traversing India.

Our modern lives, housebound as they are, have changed almost beyond recognition since that golden age of footloose exploration.

Or have they?

The United Nations estimates that more than a billion people—one in seven humans alive today—are voting with their feet, migrating within their countries or across international borders. Millions are fleeing violence: war, persecution, criminality, political chaos. Many more, suffocated by poverty, are seeking economic relief beyond their horizons. The roots of this colossal new exodus include a globalized market system that tears apart social safety nets, a pollutant-warped climate, and human yearnings supercharged by instant media. In sheer numbers, this is the largest diaspora in the long history of our species.

I pace off the world at 15 miles a day. I mingle often among the uprooted.

In Djibouti I have sipped chai with migrants in bleak truck stops. I have slept alongside them in dusty UN refugee tents in Jordan. I have accepted their stories of pain. I have repaid their laughter. I am not one of them, of course: I am a privileged walker. I carry inside my rucksack an ATM card and a passport. But I have shared the misery of dysentery with them and have been detained many times by their nemesis—police. (Eritrea, Sudan, Iran, and Turkmenistan have denied me visas; Pakistan ejected me, then allowed me back in.)

What can be said about these exiled brothers and sisters? About the immense shadowlands they inhabit, paradoxically, in plain sight?

Hunger, ambition, fear, political defiance—the reasons for movement are not truly the question. More important is knowing how the journey itself shapes a different class of human being: people whose ideas of “home” now incorporate an open road—a vast and risky tangent of possibility that begins somewhere far away and ends at your doorsill. How you accept this tiding, with open arms or crouched behind high walls, isn’t at issue either. Because however you react, with compassion or fear, humankind’s reawakened mobility has changed you already.

The first migrants I encountered were dead. They lay under small piles of stones in the Great Rift Valley of Africa.

Who were these unfortunates?

It was difficult to know. The world’s poorest people travel from many distant lands to perish in the Afar Triangle of Ethiopia, one of the hottest deserts on Earth. They walk into these terrible barrens in order to reach the Gulf of Aden. There the sea is the doorway to a new (though not always better) life beyond Africa: slave-wage jobs in the cities and date plantations of the Arabian Peninsula. Some of the migrants’ graves doubtless contained Somalis: war refugees. Others likely held deserters from Eritrea. Or drought-weakened Oromos from Ethiopia. All had hoped to sneak across the unmarked borders of Djibouti. They became lost. They collapsed under a molten sun. Sometimes they dropped from thirst within sight of the sea. The columns of exhausted travelers walking behind hastily buried the bodies.

How long have we been depositing our bones like this on the desolate trails of the African Horn? For a long time. From the very beginning. After all, this is the same corridor used by the first modern humans to exit Africa during the Pleistocene.

One day I stumbled across a group of scarecrows hiding in the scant shade of some boulders—15 lean Ethiopian men who seemed to pretend that if they didn’t move a muscle, they would be invisible. Some were manual laborers. Most were farmers from the Ethiopian highlands. The annual rains, the farmers said, had become impossibly erratic. Sticking it out on their sun-cracked fields meant slow starvation. Better to chance the ocean of white light that is the Afar Triangle, even if you never returned. They were pioneers of sorts, new climate change refugees.

A recent World Bank study calculates that by 2050 more than 140 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America could be tumbled into motion by the catastrophic effects of climate change. Ten million climate refugees could swell the trails of East Africa alone. In Ethiopia the tide may reach 1.5 million people—more than 15 times the emigrants now straggling annually through the Afar Triangle to reach the Middle East.

Inching north up the Rift, I was forced to consider the urge to leave a familiar world that was falling apart, a home where the sky itself was against you. All around me snaked the invisible battle lines of an intensifying range war between the Afar and Issa pastoralists—two competing herder groups whose shallow wells were drying up, whose pastures were thinning from a relentless cycle of droughts. They shot at each other over the ownership of a papery blade of grass, over a cup of sandy water. In other words, over survival. Here was the source of our oldest travel story. Drastic climate change and murderous famines, experts say, likely helped drive the first pulses of humans out of Africa.

How strong is the push to leave? To abandon what you love? To walk into the unknown with all your possessions stuffed into a pocket? It is more powerful than fear of death.

In the Afar Triangle I stumbled across seven unburied bodies. They were women and men clustered together. They lay faceup, mummified atop a dark lava field. The heat was devastating. The little wild dogs of the desert, the jackals, had taken these travelers’ hands and feet. My walking partner, Houssain Mohamed Houssain, shook his head in wonder, in disgust. He was an ethnic Afar, a descendant of camel herders, the old kings of the desert. His people called the recent waves of transients hahai—“people of the wind”—ghosts who blew across the land. He snapped a picture.

“You show them this,” Houssain said angrily, “and they say, ‘Oh, that won’t happen to me!’ ”

One of the unlucky migrants had squeezed under a ledge. Doubtless he was crazed for shade. He had placed his shoes next to his naked body, just so, with one sock rolled carefully inside each shoe. He knew: His walking days were over.

Walking the continents teaches you to look down. You appreciate the importance of feet. You take an interest in footwear. This is natural.

Human character, of course, is mirrored in the face. The eyes reveal sincerity, lying, curiosity, love, hate. But one’s choice of shoes (or even lack of it) speaks to personal geography: wealth or poverty, age, type of work, education, gender, urban versus rural. Among the world’s legions of migrants, a certain pedal taxonomy holds. Economic migrants—the destitute millions with time to plan ahead—seem to favor the shoe of the 21st century’s poor: the cheap, unisex, multipurpose Chinese sneaker. War refugees escaping violence, by contrast, must trudge their wretched roads in rubber flip-flops, dress loafers, dusty sandals, high-heeled pumps, booties improvised from rags, etc. They flee burning cities, abandon villages and farms. They pull on whatever shoes lie within reach at a moment’s notice. I first began to see such eclectic piles of footwear appearing outside refugee tents in the highlands of Jordan.

“I wake up to these mountains,” cried Zaeleh al Khaled al Hamdu, a Syrian grandmother shod in beaded house slippers. Tiny blue flowers were tattooed on her wrinkled chin and cheeks. She waved a bony hand at the alien peaks around her. “It feels like these mountains, I am carrying them on my back.”

Heaviness. Weight. The crush of despair. The mountainous burden of helplessness.

This is the badge of the war refugee. Or so our televisions, newspapers, and mobile phones would inform us. The stock media photo of the war-displaced: columns of traumatized souls marching with heavy steps, with slumped shoulders, along a burning road. Or families jammed into leaky boats on the Mediterranean, their gazes sagging with anguish, sunk in vulnerability. But these snapshots of refugee life—seen through the lens of the rich world—are limited, misleading, even self-serving.

For weeks I walked from tent to dusty tent in Jordan. At least half a million Syrians languished there—just one aching shard of some 12 million civilians scattered by the bloodiest civil war in the Middle East. War steals your past and future. The Syrians could not go back to the contested rubble of their homes—to Idlib, Hamah, or Damascus. Nobody else wanted them. They were stuck. All they owned was their miserable present.

Tracing Humankind’s Footsteps out of Africa

Many toiled illegally on farms.

They eked out another breath of life by picking tomatoes for $11 a day. When I plodded past, they waved me over. They jauntily fed me their employers’ crops. (Residents of a poor nation, Jordanians spared little affection for their even poorer Syrian guests.) They poured gallons of tea with wild thyme down my throat. They shook out their filthy blankets and bade me sit and rest.

“Here, we only dream of chicken,” one man joked. He’d eaten grass to survive in Syria. In one tent a young woman stepped behind a hanging bedsheet and reemerged in her finest dress—pink with silver stripes. She was dazzlingly pregnant, and her beauty passed in a clean hush through my chest, into the moldering tent, before blowing unstoppably out into the desert.

What I’m trying to say is this: Whatever else refugees may be, they aren’t powerless.

They aren’t the infantilized victims usually featured in the political left’s suffering porn. They resemble even less the cartoon invaders feared by right-wing populists and bigots—the barbarian hordes coming to take jobs, housing, social services, racial identity, religion, sex partners, and everything else vital and good in wealthy host countries. (Since Neolithic times, the earliest populations of Europe have been overrun and utterly transformed by waves of immigrants from Central Asia and the eastern Mediterranean. Without such interbreeding, modern “Europeans” wouldn’t exist.)

No. The refugees I have walked among are bearded pharmacists and girl goatherds. Shopkeepers and intellectuals. That is, supremely ordinary beings grappling with meager options. Remembering their dead, they cup their hands to their faces and weep. But often they are incredibly strong. And generous.

“Please come, mister,” a Syrian teacher whispered in Turkey, guiding me from a refugee camp classroom out into the open air. Her students had been drawing decapitations and hangings as part of their art therapy. She noticed I had fallen silent. She was worried about my emotions.

A thousand walked miles to the east, in the Caucasus, a family of ethnic Armenian refugees from Syria hollered, “Don’t come in please!”—making me wait outside their dilapidated home while they hastily set a table they couldn’t afford. They recently moved into a house that once belonged to ethnic Azerbaijanis, a local population ejected during the decades-old Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. I found the Azerbaijanis 120 miles later. They refused my money in a refugee camp café.

“We have been waiting for peace so long,” Nemat Huseynov, the café owner, said. He had owned many sheep when the conflict began in 1988. It goes on, despite a cease-fire in 1994.

Huseynov stared at his big, work-swollen shepherd’s hands splayed palm down on the worn tablecloth.

Home.

You cannot always choose your shoes on a long walk.

The world’s refugees and migrants don’t demand our pity. They just ask for our attention. Me they pitied because I walked on.

But before you do, refer to the original document for more with lots of pictures and related texts.

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