Hal Higdon and his wife Rose will be traveling through Egypt and Israel from March 7 through March 27. In addition to our regular Tuesday Q&A postings, we will be hosting Hal's updates from his travels on this blog, under the tag "Egypt".
It blooms like a flower in the desert. American University Cairo. An amazing campus in so many ways. Its campus once at Tahrir Square having been created anew less than three years ago. The home to 5500 students, 500 of them international.
One student named Clia was among several escorting arund the brightly colored campus, herr background intriguing, born of a Norwegian father and an Indian mother, growing up in New Hampshire and attrated to AUC to learn Arabic and study religion and international politics. Surely, the world will be a better place a generation from now if entrusted to people like her, or Nora with whom we had lunch. A Cairean, she hopes to spend a year in New York studing film making. We had an interesting talk of how the Oscar-winning The Artist was a black & white and silent clone of Singing in the Rain.
AUC, its president Lisa Anderson informed us was founded in 1919 at the same time politicians in Paris were carving the remnants of the Ottaman Empire into parcels of land so wrong that it affects the geopolitics today. Much of the early funding came from trade between the US and Egypt, its currency being non-convertibe, meaning the money had to be spent in Egypt. That arrangement no longer continues, but the University continues to prosper--its new campus having cost $410 million if I wrote down the numbers correctly. Tuition costs $20,000 a year, which is not out of line for American universities, but a strain for those Egyptian families who want their sons (and increasingly) daughters to help make this a better world. Rob Oden has been on the board of trustees and if he asks me to contribute, I am going to have a hard time saying no.
But the most incredible event of the morning was a lecture by John Swanson, who in 25 minutes gave us a summary of what is happening in Egypt today--and why--that I most spend more time on, but let me give you some of the hghlights. Egypt is not a poor country, and in fact ranks 26th in the world, only a few ticks behind Saudi Arabia, but ranks much, much lower if ranked in per-capita income. When Nasser and Sadat overthrew King Farouk, it was to improve the lot of ordinary Egyptians and one huge success was in health care, improving infant mortality, but one result is that the population--a very young population--has increased since the Nasser revolution in 1952 from 15 million to 80 million and even though food production has tripled after construction of the Aswan Dam allowed better management of the Nile floods, Egypt now must import more food than it grows.
That's too short a summary of what John Swanson said, and if I have time after our return, I will give you more details, but his summary of why the January 25th revolution happened, it was because (caps mine) "IT WASN'T HAPPENING FAST ENOUGH!!!"
That was yesterday and now we have flown tyo Luxor and are sailing south on the Nile toward the Upper Kingdom toward the Answan Dam, the waters of Lake Nasser b ehind it. I have so much to say, and I haven't even told you about Rose riding the camel.