Monday, June 05, 2006

The Gift of the Nile: "Having experienced a Cairo summer the first time I was in Egypt, I really can't imagine how life goes on in Baghdad now that the power is down to an unreliable hour or two a day. It's closer to hell than any human being who isn't Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld should ever have to go."

"In both the old and the new villages, however, many of the houses appeared only half built, with bouquets of steel rebar sprouting from their top-most, unfinished stories. Later I was told this look is a byproduct of the intersection of Egyptian-style family planning and tax planning.... – buildings under construction paying a much lower rate of property tax than finished homes."

"Egypt once had huge landed estates, originally owned by the Khedive (the Turkish governor – nominally loyal to the Ottoman Sultan but in practice an independent, hereditary ruler) and his cronies. These were later seized and sold by the Khedive’s European creditors when he was unable to service his debts, creating a cotton-growing aristocracy of foreigners and their native collaborators – what Trotsky called the comprador class.... One of Nasser’s early reforms – and one of the sources of his enormous popularity – was to expropriate the estates and parcel the land out to the fellaheen – the Egyptian peasantry."

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