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Egypt is Facing a Curse of Pharaohs or an Islamist Conspiracy?
Dalia Ziada

The last ten days of March saw Egypt suffering a series of serious accidents that caused loss in lives, triggered sentiments of disappointment and pessimism among the Egyptian people, and left a heavy burden on the shoulders of the Egyptian state to handle.


It started on Tuesday, March the 23rd, when the Suez Canal, eastern Egypt, got blocked by a giant container ship that deviated out of its route and got aground at both banks of the canal. The accident caused a maritime traffic jam that kept more than 300 cargo ships unable to pass from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. The blockage of the Suez Canal, which is the fastest and safest shipping route between Asia and Europe, is disastrous to the whole world. About 30% of world trade volume, transported by container ships, passes through the Suez Canal, every year. Petroleum and crude oil transports represent about 16% of total goods transported via the Suez Canal. On the third day of the blockade, the oil prices worldwide rose by 4%. Some experts, also, expected that if the blockade continues for longer than one month, this may raise the prices of other commodities.


While the Egyptian government got pre-occupied by re-floating the stuck ship and allowing the flow of world trade to resume, a horrible accident took place in Sohag governorate southern Egypt. On Friday, March 26th, two trains collided outside a small village in Sohag causing severe damages to the trains that left 19 people dead and 185 injured. Before the government gets enough time to deal with the consequences of the Sohag train accident, a ten-storey building, inhabited by more than 100 people, in Gesr Suez neighborhood eastern Cairo collapsed on the morning of Saturday, March 27th. The Civil Protection forces have been searching for dead bodies under the wreckage, since then.


The shocked and confused Egyptians attempted to explain the reason for the series of tragedies that hit Egypt, last week, by adopting one of two theories. The first theory is based on the ancient belief that the dead pharaohs can curse the living humans who mess with them. The theory assumes that Egypt is cursed by the pharaoh kings, whose bodies are scheduled to be transported from the old museum in Tahrir Square, Downtown Cairo, to the new National Museum close to the Pyramids, in Giza, in early April. If you believe in pharaoh’s mystical capabilities, you may adopt this theory, too.   


The other theory, surprisingly adopted by some prominent Egyptian writers, assumes that the latest accidents are perpetually committed by violent members of the Muslim Brotherhood, in an attempt to distract the state and upsurge public rage, in avenge to Egypt’s reconciliation with Turkey, which threatened the Muslim Brotherhood leaders living abroad. This theory is enhanced by the fact that the talking heads of the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters launched a huge campaign on social media and other news platforms against the Egyptian state and President El-Sisi, on the background of these accidents.


However, on the positive side, Egypt received messages of support and condolences from all over the world, including from Qatar and Turkey, which Egypt is in the process of diplomatically reconciling with after years of political conflicts and diplomatic boycott. Also, some countries with maritime experience offered to help Egypt with moving the stuck ship, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the United States.


Whether it is a curse of pharaohs or an Islamist conspiracy, the problems will be solved and Egypt will recover and become stronger, with the expertise it acquired through the tough challenge it has gone through. A lot of interesting lessons have been derived and a lot of Egypt’s relations with the world have been put to test. As the Arab saying goes: hard times are the perfect times to learn about yourself and re-evaluate your relations with others.

Dalia Ziada

Dalia Ziada