Sunday, May 20, 2012

Finishing up the first week

Well.  Where to start.

Yesterday was such a long, fun day.  We started by visiting the step pyramids at Sakara.  These pyramids were build by the hollywood-made-famous engineer Imhotep for the King Djoser from the Old Kingdom.  Djoser did not build a regular pyramid, but rather a pyramid with six distinguished steps.  The seventh step signifies heaven.  After this we went to the bent pyramid and King Sinfru's pyramid.  We were able to go into a few, which meant climbing through a one meter high walkway for about 35 meters.  It was built one meter high so that anyone entering had to bow and show respect for the king.  I also rode a camel at Djoser's complex which was definitely interesting.

After this, we went to Memphis, the first capital city of Egypt.  We saw several statues of King Ramses II and the second largest Sphinx statue to be found.

The highlight of the day was that Dr. Hamad was able to bring in Dr. Amed, the president of the newly formed Egyptian Nor party.  His presence was a huge honor and such a great opportunity for us.  He began by explaining his history in being involved in the revolution.  He actually started in the 1970's by becoming involved in student unions that worked to represent Islamic views and traditions.  Dr. Amed served as a medical doctor and the groups overall purpose was to correct misunderstandings of Islam, and provide education and services for the poor.  This activism started under Sadat, and continued into Mubarak's rule.  While Mubarak was in office the Islamists were persecuted.  Even the schools and hospitals they built would be nationalized and then infiltrated and destroyed.

All of Egypt new that after the 2005 elections, Mubarak no longer represented Egyptian's views.  He won "96%" of the vote.  The two people who protested this were arrested and sent to jail.  Egyptians knew the election was rigged and stopped participating in the political process.

The entire political landscape of Egypt became geared towards preparing Mubarak's son to take over once his father became to old to continue.  The idea of the son-succession made Egyptians sick.  All the poverty and brutality they had endured for 30 years could not continue.

After the revolution, political parties began to form.  The first party was the Freedom and Justice party, followed by the Party of the Muslim Brotherhood.  The Nor party is the most recent.  Criticism that the party has taken over the fruits of the revolution, according to the Nors, is incorrect.  They claim the cause has run in Salafi Islam for several years, and there are even young revolutionaries in the Nor party.  The Nors have begun to gain international recognition.

The Nor party is not running a candidate in this election.  They believe the most important thing is for the elections to be free and fair, and for democracy to set in.  After the other parties began to back candidates, the Nor party extensively interviewed the 13, and decided to support Fotouh.  Fotouh, however, is not formally a member of the Nor party.

Dr. Amed was clearly a politician in answering questions.  He definitely spoke about a lot of important issues, but I don't believe all questions were properly answered.  Poverty, for example.  We all agree it must be addressed, but the matter of how was not addressed.  The younger spokesperson with him did make some very interesting proposals about entrepreneurship and inequality, similar to the theories of John Meynerd Keynes good inequality in a capitalist system.

There were also some major issues we, as a group, decided to not question about.  After the fact, I wish we would have but at the time no one wanted to offend.  For example, women's rights and Israel were not mentioned at all.

Our second speaker, a Professor at Cairo University, taught us about the local government system in Egypt.  He explained the problems with rural government systems and proposed a remedy.  Instead of appointments, he believes there should be a Leadership Academy for potential candidates, and appointments would then be chosen by the graduates of this academy.  He also recommended reforms for the Bureaucracy.

Today we went to the great pyramids, for King Qubes.  They were impressive.  Going into the great pyramid was even cooler.  It's one of the only pyramids to actually have burial chambers inside the pyramid.  It took over 100,000 people to build it.  Qubes also built three smaller pyramids behind his own for his queens.  His father's and grandfather's pyramids were in the same complex, along with the biggest Sphynx.

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