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  • Originally published 09/04/2013

    The Long Arm of the October War

    The 1973 War wasn't just a turning point in Middle East affairs -- it was also a critical battlefield of the Cold War.

  • Originally published 08/20/2013

    Egypt's Malawi Museum looted

    CAIRO — As violent clashes roiled Egypt, looters made away with a prized 3,500-year-old limestone statue, ancient beaded jewelry and more than 1,000 other artifacts in the biggest theft to hit an Egyptian museum in living memory.The scale of the looting of the Malawi Museum in the southern Nile River city of Minya laid bare the security vacuum that has taken hold in cities outside Cairo, where police have all but disappeared from the streets. It also exposed how bruised and battered the violence has left Egypt.For days after vandals ransacked the building Wednesday, there were no police or soldiers in sight as groups of teenage boys burned mummies and broke limestone sculptures too heavy for the thieves to carry away. The security situation remained precarious Monday as gunmen atop nearby buildings fired on a police station near the museum....

  • Originally published 08/19/2013

    Egypt boils over: Harvard prof. E. Roger Owen explains how unrest rolled out, and where it may lead

    The tension and unrest that arose in Egypt last month after the army ousted democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi exploded this week, with hundreds of people killed as security forces broke up camps of protesters demanding Morsi's return.The widening violence raised questions about the democratic future of a key American ally and an important partner in Middle East peace efforts, and also cast a shadow over the durability of changes wrought in the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.To better understand what's going on in Egypt, Gazette staff writer Alvin Powell spoke with Harvard's E. Roger Owen, A. J. Meyer Professor of Middle East History Emeritus, about the fighting and about what Egypt's future might hold.GAZETTE: What is at the roots of the clashes going on in Egypt today?OWEN: Well, I think there are two roots. One is a very long antipathy—or fight to the death—between the army and the Muslim Brothers. Most of the time since the [Gamal Abdel] Nasser revolution of 1952, the army has been involved in putting Muslim Brothers in jail. So there's no love lost between them.

  • Originally published 08/16/2013

    The Egyptian Revolution Goes Napoleon

    The same disillusionment set in as the French Revolution progressed. In fact, in a superb article in the Chronicle of Higher Education published in 2006, Howard Brown of the University of Binghamton described how events of the Revolution presaged events of 2006. It seems to me that Brown's article actually does even better to foreshadow what has happened in Egypt the last month and especially this week. His article concentrates on the trajectory from constitutionalism to repression under Napoleon. The biggest difference is the incredible speed of the current transformation compared to two centuries ago. It took a month in Egypt for what transpired in France over a decade.  This, of course, relates to the same acceleration in the revolutionary process that Alyssa Sepinwall described elsewhere in this blog.

  • Originally published 08/15/2013

    Why Egypt Fell Apart

    Resorting to violence is a long-term, deeply-ingrained habit in human history, and is not easily discarded.

  • Originally published 08/15/2013

    Christian Donath: Egypt -- Making Sense of the Senseless

    After weeks of pro-Morsi demonstrations, the Egyptian military has now chosen to use force to end the sit-ins. With fatigue and anger toward the demonstrators high in Cairo, General al-Sisi and his allies believe that they have another 'popular mandate' to reassert control. Appalling and unnecessary violence has been the predictable result.

  • Originally published 07/31/2013

    Daniel Pipes: Will Turkey's Military Emulate Egypt's?

    Daniel Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2013 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.That is the important question asked today by Steve Coll:Will Egypt's counter-revolution inspire Turkey's fragmented, avowedly secular military—which once dominated the country's politics, via coup-making—to reorganize and reassert itself? Could the military do so if it tried? … recent events in Egypt will surely stir and tempt Atatürk's heirs in the opposition.My take: It is hard to imagine, given how the top Turkish brass submitted so meekly to AKP control and permitted the imprisonment of so many of its members that, at this late date, it will find the gumption to challenge Erdoğan & Co.If there were to be a revolt, therefore, it would more likely come not from the ranks of the generals – who carried out all of Turkey's prior coups d'état – but from some disgruntled colonel fed up with his superiors' supine responses to Islamist domination and inspired by Sisi's bold action in Egypt.

  • Originally published 07/31/2013

    Revolutionary Situations are Inherently Messy

    Social scientists who study revolutions and other historical processes generally look for patterns and similarities. Historians, by contrast, have traditionally focused on factors that are specific to each situation, in each time and in each place. They seek to understand the particularities of each situation, rather than generalize about commonalities.Like most historians, I tend to analyze events based on particular historical contexts. And yet, after twenty-five years of studying eighteenth- and nineteenth-century revolutions (and watching new ones erupt in the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries), I cannot help but notice certain patterns that recur in almost all revolutionary situations.

  • Originally published 07/31/2013

    Tomb raiders exploit chaos in Egypt

    Egypt's cultural heritage is in danger. Grave robbers, sometimes heavily armed, are taking advantage of political chaos to plunder its poorly guarded archaeological sites. Authorities feel powerless to stop them and fear that ancient treasures might be lost forever....In January 2011, the world-famous Egyptian Museum in Cairo was looted. Rioters destroyed priceless treasures. But valuable ancient relics went missing far from the capital, as well, due to a lack of supervision at historical sites. After the uprising, the repressive security apparatus withdrew everywhere, and the guarding of historical sites was neglected.Two-and-a-half years later, the police are slowly venturing into the streets. But they are mainly concerned with ongoing protests. Elsewhere, some Egyptians are behaving as if the state and its laws have ceased to exist.The army has placed two armored vehicles at the pyramids in Dahshur to deter grave robbers. But, so far, the thieves are undaunted. "We wanted to catch them," says a guard in Dahshur who asked to remain anonymous. "But then they opened fire on us with automatic weapons." He and his fellow guards were only armed with pistols. They jumped for cover, and the grave robbers carried on with their plundering....

  • Originally published 07/29/2013

    Daniel Pipes: What to Want in Egypt

    Daniel Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2013 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.In the aftermath of the coup d'état in Egypt, a consensus has emerged, to cite an anonymous Obama administration official, that "Trying to break the neck of the [Muslim] Brotherhood is not going to be good for Egypt or for the region."The thinking behind this view is that (1) it's better to have Islamists in the political process than violently rebelling and (2) participating in civil society has the potential to tame Islamists, making them see the benefits of democracy and turning them into just another interest group.May I vociferously disagree?Yes, we do indeed want to break the brotherhood's neck because that is good for Egypt, the region, and (not least) ourselves. Both the above assumptions are wrong. (1) Islamists can do more damage within the political process than outside it. To put it graphically, I worry more about a Turkey, with elected Islamists in charge, than Syria, where they are engaged in a civil war to attain power. (2) Islamists have a history of using the political process for their own ends, and not of being tamed by it: see Mohamed Morsi's year in power for one clear example.

  • Originally published 07/25/2013

    4,500 year old settlement uncovered in Egypt

    Remains of a settlement from the period of the builders of the great pyramids (Dynasty III-VI) have been uncovered at Tell el-Murra in the Nile Delta by archaeologists from the Institute of Archaeology of the Jagiellonian University. Polish archaeologists have been working at Tell el-Murra since 2008. The settlement is located in the north-eastern part of the Nile Delta, in the vicinity of another site from the same period - Tell el-Farkha, studied by archaeologists from Poznań and Kraków....

  • Originally published 07/22/2013

    Q+A: Professor Joel Beinin on Egypt’s recent unrest

    Joel Beinin is the Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History and a former Director of Middle East Studies at the American University in Cairo. As Egypt continues to grapple with the aftermath of a military-assisted popular uprising against the incumbent president, Beinin talked with The Daily about the recent events in Egypt, the role of the military in bringing about a change of government and how the transition may affect American foreign policy towards the African nation.The Stanford Daily (TSD): What do you make of the recent events in Egypt?

  • Originally published 07/12/2013

    The Military Played a Smaller Role in France and the U.S. than in Egypt

    The political independence that the military often displays in the midst of revolutionary situations was strikingly absent in both the American and French revolutions. Both depended on militias composed of citizen soldiers. Even as an army was constituted, this remained the case at least for a good while.Let me consider the French case as I know it much better. In fact, the revolutionary uprising (July 12-14, 1789) that led to the capture of the Bastille already revealed that some of the royal army had, in fact, absorbed the rising tide of revolutionary spirit. The troops called up largely refused to intervene. The effective fighting force that actively favored the revolution proved to be poorly armed citizenry, but taking the Bastille was accomplished less by armed assault than persuasion. When the revolutionaries got around in succeeding months to organizing the army, they installed elections by the troops as a way of peopling the officer rank.

  • Originally published 07/11/2013

    Abdullah Al-Arian: Frankenstein's Constitution in Egypt

    Abdullah Al-Arian received his PhD from Georgetown University and is currently an Assistant Professor of history at Wayne State University, where he specialises in the modern Middle East.If the vacuous civilian leadership and the military’s recent brutality were not enough to demonstrate the shortsighted nature of the “people’s coup” in Egypt, the constitutional declaration issued by army-backed interim president Adly Mansour certainly does. From the moment the Egyptian military deposed Mohamed Morsi and announced its roadmap for yet another transition, major questions emerged concerning the imposition of a new political process and how inclusive that process would be.The resulting declaration incorporates a patchwork of various elements of the previous transition, including some of the most troubling aspects of the Morsi presidency that prompted the mass protest movement that led to his removal in the first place. With the Egyptian opposition’s disparate parts already voicing strong objections to its content, the declaration also promises to be as divisive as any decree issued over the last thirty months.

  • Originally published 07/06/2013

    The Danger in Egypt is Real

    Egypt’s future stability and prosperity now depends on whether the officer corps and youth are mature enough to return to pluralist principals and cease persecuting the Muslim Brotherhood just because Morsi was high-handed.

  • Originally published 07/05/2013

    Mark LeVine: Who Will Control the Egyptian State?

    Mark LeVine is professor of Middle Eastern history at UC Irvine, and distinguished visiting professor at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University in Sweden and the author of the forthcoming book about the revolutions in the Arab world, The Five Year Old Who Toppled a Pharaoh.After 887 days of protests, tear gas, tanks, camels, horses, tent cities, marches, birdshot, live ammunition, ultras, great music, torture, rape, disappointments, spears, knives, Facebook campaigns, undercover thugs, military detentions, men with scimitars, show trials, elections, referendums, annulments, arson, police brutality, negotiations, machinations, committees, strikes, street battles, foreign bailouts, extreme theatre, revolutionary graffiti, television drama, Leninist study circles, and Salafi sit-ins, Egypt's young revolutionaries have managed to do the near impossible: force the “nizzam” - the system - to restart a deeply flawed transition process in a manner which, at least at the surface, puts civilians in charge of a fraught transition process that was likely doomed the first time around the moment SCAF took control....

  • Originally published 07/05/2013

    Abdullah Al-Arian: Egypt's Democratic Outlaws

    Abdullah Al-Arian is an Assistant Professor of History at Wayne State University, where he specialises in the modern Middle East. The Muslim Brotherhood has been here before.In the fall of 1954, the Muslim Brotherhood put its faith in the revolutionary transition in place after the 1952 military coup, backing the wrong horse in General Muhammad Naguib, and was ultimately outmaneuvered by Nasser. In one fell swoop, the organisation was outlawed, its offices burned down by angry mobs, its newspapers shut down, and its leaders imprisoned, executed, or exiled....But if Mohamed Morsi’s rise to the presidency was a remarkable achievement for a once outlawed opposition movement, his sudden fall at the hands of a military coup backed by a mass revolt in some ways signifies an unprecedented low point in the history of the Muslim Brotherhood. Not only does it face the prospect of enduring banishment at the hands of a cold and calculating military regime yet again, it will do so to the thunderous applause of millions of Egyptians.

  • Originally published 05/30/2013

    Ancient iron beads linked to meteorite

    Since it was found in 1911, an Egyptian iron bead has sparked wonder and debate over how it was produced — made around 3,300 BC, it predates the region's first known iron smelting by thousands of years. Now, researchers say the iron was made in space and delivered to Earth via meteorite."Tube-shaped beads excavated from grave pits at the prehistoric Gerzeh cemetery, approximately 3300 BCE, represent the earliest known use of iron in Egypt," the scientists write in the May 20 issue of .Early studies of the beads found their iron to be rich in nickel, a key indicator that the metal originated from a meteorite. But researchers contested that idea in the 1980s, suggesting the metal was instead the result of early attempts at smelting....

  • Originally published 04/18/2013

    Egyptian Jewish leader buried in rundown cemetery she sought to preserve

    CAIRO — The late leader of Egypt’s dwindling and aging Jewish community was buried Thursday in one the oldest cemeteries in Egypt, the once-sprawling burial ground she tirelessly worked to restore but which has now suffered looting and is drenched in sewage water and strewn with trash.Because of the sewage water that recently seeped up from underground, Carmen Weinstein, who died at the age of 82 in her Cairo home Saturday, was not buried near her mother Esther, but at the other end of the Jewish cemetery in the Bassatine district of Cairo....

  • Originally published 04/05/2013

    The curse of Tutankhamen? Pure invention

    When George Herbert, the fifth Earl of Carnarvon, died 90 years ago this week he was one of the most famous men on Earth. He occupied the family seat at Highclere Castle, but wintered in Egypt every year. By 1923, Carnarvon had spent an estimated £35,000 on excavation, hunting for glory.Finally he got it. His man in the field, Howard Carter, had discovered the steps down to the unbroken seals on the tomb of Tutankhamen in the Valley of Kings. Carnarvon dashed from England, and together they broke in a small portion of the door. “Well, can you see anything?” the Earl asked. “Yes,” came the famous reply, as Carter waved his candle and caught the glint of gold, “wonderful things.”The story was a press sensation in a gloomy post-war world still mourning the dead of that terrible conflict and the influenza pandemic that had followed shortly afterwards. The tomb was formally opened in February 1923, with visiting royalty, dignitaries and the world’s press in attendance....

  • Originally published 03/27/2013

    Maritime trade thrived in Egypt, even before Alexandria

    New research into Thonis-Heracleion, a sunken port-city that served as the gateway to Egypt in the first millennium BC, is being examined at an international conference at the University of Oxford. The port city, situated 6.5 kilometres off today’s coastline, was one of the biggest commercial hubs in the Mediterranean before the founding of Alexandria.The Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology at the University of Oxford is collaborating on the project with the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology (IEASM) in cooperation with Egypt's Ministry of State for Antiquities...

  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    Encroachments on Egypt's archaeological sites continue

    Al-Hamam Antiquities Inspectorate has succeeded to remove encroachment on Al-Bordan archaeological site, located on Alexandria-Marsa Matrouh highway, in collaboration with Egypt’s tourism and antiquities police. The site includes remains of Graeco-Roman fortresses, roads, temples and cemeteries.The encroachment on the Al-Bordan archaeological site, located on kilometre 67 on Alexandria-Marsa Matrouh highway, started Friday when a large truck invaded the site with a construction bulldozer, which on its turn damaged a cluster of authentic structures that date back to the Graeco-Roman era, according to director of Marina Al-Alamein Antiquities Khaled Abul-Magd. Abul-Magd accused Yasser Khalil, owner of a contractor company, and truck driver Mohamed Abdel Sattar of violating and damaging the archaeological site. The tourism and antiquities police arrested both accused, but they denied all charges. Both are in custody until the completion of investigations....

  • Originally published 03/22/2013

    2,400-Year-Old Myths of Mummy-Making Busted

    Contrary to reports by famous Greek historian Herodotus, the ancient Egyptians probably didn't remove mummy guts using cedar oil enemas, new research on the reality of mummification suggests. The ancient embalmers also didn't always leave the mummy's heart in place, the researchers added. The findings, published in the February issue of HOMO – Journal of Comparative Human Biology, come from analyzing 150 mummies from the ancient world....

  • Originally published 03/18/2013

    One of world's oldest sun dials discovered in Egypt

    Researchers have unearthed one of the world's oldest Egyptian sun dials - possibly dating back to 13th century BC - used by the people to tell time with the position of the Sun.The discovery was made during archaeological excavations in the Kings' Valley in Upper Egypt by a team of researchers from the University of Basel.The team led by Professor Susanne Bickel made the significant discovery while clearing the entrance to one of the tombs.During this year's excavations the researchers found a flattened piece of limestone (so-called Ostracon) on which a semicircle in black colour had been drawn. The semicircle is divided into twelve sections of about 15 degrees each.... 

  • Originally published 03/11/2013

    Even mummies get clogged arteries

    Heart disease is often thought to be a malady of the modern era, the product of lifestyles heavy on eating and light on exercise.That includes conditions like atherosclerosis, when fat and cholesterol build-up along artery walls, making it difficult for blood to pass through the body to the heart and limbs.New research, presented Sunday night at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology, suggests the exact opposite: That heart disease is a malady with a history that stretches back over 4,000 years. How, exactly, did they figure this out? By putting mummies through CT scan machines, of course....

  • Originally published 02/28/2013

    Lost and Found: Ancient Shoes Turn Up in Egypt Temple

    More than 2,000 years ago, at a time when Egypt was ruled by a dynasty of kings of Greek descent, someone, perhaps a group of people, hid away some of the most valuable possessions they had — their shoes. Seven shoes were deposited in a jar in an Egyptian temple in Luxor, three pairs and a single one. Two pairs were originally worn by children and were only about 7 inches (18 centimeters) long. Using palm fiber string, the child shoes were tied together within the single shoe (it was larger and meant for an adult) and put in the jar. Another pair of shoes, more than 9 inches (24 cm) long that had been worn by a limping adult, was also inserted in the jar....

  • Originally published 09/04/2013

    Revolutionary Situations are Inherently Messy

    Social scientists who study revolutions and other historical processes generally look for patterns and similarities. Historians, by contrast, have traditionally focused on factors that are specific to each situation, in each time and in each place. They seek to understand the particularities of each situation, rather than generalize about commonalities.

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