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Samir Raafat
Jordan Star , November 20, 1997

IT was with a stiff upper lip that a grim President Mubarak greeted Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands as she stepped off her plane at Cairo International Airport last Monday. Egypt's president had just been informed that an undisclosed number of tourists were massacred at the hands of extremist militants at the temple site of the legendary Ancient Egyptian monarch, Queen Hatshepsut.

It must have crossed Mubarak's mind that the last time he hosted a European queen things had also gone sour. This was in February 1986 when Denmark's monarch, Queen Margarethe, had to cut short her state visit making an unscheduled stop at Cairo's Gezira Sporting Club where she and her prince consort were bundled into a military helicopter and ferried across town to Cairo International airport for their precipitated return trip to Copenhagen. Cairo had been put under curfew the day before following the impromptu rampage of soldiers from al-Amn al-Markazi (State Security) who, reportedly, in protest of their dismal conditions, burnt several Pyramid-side hotels leading to the loss of lives with untold consequences on Egypt's tourist industry.

At the time of Queen Margarethe's visit, the Egyptian government went to pains stating that although a tiny isolated section within the ministry of interior had been infiltrated by fundamentalist elements, the situation had been taken care of and the subversive cells successfully weeded out. An almost replay of what had been mouthed after President Anwar al-Sadat's October 1981 assassination at the hands of Muslim extremist army officers which was promptly followed by a purge within top echelons of the Armed Forces.

Henceforth, and unless mental insanity is invoked, the prognosis by a paternalistic semi-official media following each subsequent attempt by fundamentalists to destabilize President Mubarak's regime, has consistently been classified as 'outside' intervention. These included sinister foreign forces seeking to corrupt Egypt's morals and defame its faith as well as those agents whose objective it is to undermine the country's budding economy. The origin of the foreign forces of obstruction varied meanwhile. At first they came from Iran and Afghanistan. Now and then they originated in Libya, Saudi Arabia and the Sudan. Not surprisingly, some of the more seditious conspiracies came from Israel!

Rather than a comprehensive check-up of the underlying state of internal affairs -- raging poverty, poor education, lack of accountability, corruption, the government's remedy remains tediously consistent: Liquidation, military trials, torture, purges and micro-surgery.

Although it's hard to blame the Egyptian government for what happened in Luxor and while every possible precaution to protect tourism has seemingly been taken, these preventive measures were not enough as shown by the horrific number of casualties and the length of the encounter between police an assailants last Monday. The end result was that more than 100 tourists from various nationalities were fatally shot or wounded while touring the temple of Queen Hatshepsut.

The question has been raised again and again. Is the Egyptian government fighting at the wrong front? Forgetting the Kalashnikovs, police squads and leveling of sugar cane fields, why isn't the state fighting those proponents of JAHILIYYA intellectually, on TV, radio and in newspapers and magazines? "The government's double strategy of 'divide et impera' is obviously not working with the uncompromising extremists" explains an American University in Cairo professor of political science, "so where are the sensible rhetoric-free public debates? When are the so-called cerebral elite and political class going to displace the plethora of rectal navigators whose editorials and columns are choc full of sycophantic nonsense?"

Ever since Sadat's assassination extremists have been active in Egypt alternately shifting their targets from foreign tourists to Copts and state officials including the speaker of the house, ministers and police officers. Even the well guarded president of the republic was not immune to their machinations when it was his turn to cut short a 1995 trip to Ethiopia following a failed assassination attempt outside Adis Ababa airport.

To be sure, as evidenced over the years, any regime has become vulnerable. The spread of fundamentalism and the increasing extremist violence in our region can no longer be tackled with purges and microsurgery or by burning sugar cane fields. Today, extremists are using stolen rifles and police issue firearms. Tomorrow, when it is the Treasury's turn to be infiltrated, they might buy missiles and technology. Now, more than ever, the time has come for a comprehensive curative check-up of an aging direction trying desperately to survive. Otherwise, we are living on borrowed time.

Reader Comments

Subject: regarding luxor article
Date: Tue, 20 Aug 2002 15:32:01 -0400
From: John Guerra

I read with great interest your article on the Luxor massacre by the Islamist radicals. To this day it remains burned in my memory.
Your article is even more poignant now, in the aftermath of Al Queda's attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
It's like you were telling the future. The fact is, militant Islam is after secular governments everywhere. This is not a religious struggle, it is purely political. The goal: depose secular governments (even those of Arab nations) and replace them with 7th Century law. Because this is the 21st Century, we're not likely to turn to Sharia in the West.
In fact, we may have to use 21st Century weaponry to solve the problem. That is, the use of the most destructive weapons ever created on those who want to slay us for being "infidels."
No one deserves to live in a world of violence and repression, especially the Palestinians. I know the West hasn't played a fair game, and in fact created and armed the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan. We turned this Osama character loose upon the world.
But I don't want my way of life affected, so a huge flash of hydrogen fission over any one of our enemies is preferred before they try to attack our country again.
For the first time in my life, I am for the wholesale use of nuclear weapons for the smallest provocation. My heart has been turned.
And for that you can thank the clerics for radicalizing the displaced, uneducated Muslim poor who are brainwashed into becoming weapons of mass destruction.
So, I say to Islamist radicals, keep it up. You will see death rained upon you like white hot sulphur. That's the American way.
Date: Tue, 18 Nov 1997 22:08:02 -0500 (EST)

Your article made sense. Do you mean to tell me that it was published in the gazette ?. I wonder if articles like it get published in arabic newspapers. It is time the government started tolerating political dissension and allowed power sharing and introduced political reforms.

Date: Tue, 18 Nov 1997 22:22:59 -0800
From: Royce T. Milaskey

I would like to know how safe teachers are in Cairo. American University or City University based in Seattle, Washington with a branch campus in Cairo. regards,

Date: Wed, 19 Nov 1997 14:09:27 +0000
From: Mark

As a twice previous visitor to Egypt, past 18 months, I was booked to stay in Cairo January 78. Following this latest incident, my wife decided it is too much of a risk. We are now looking to change our plans for the present. Reading through your article, I sympathize with Egyptian people. Having seen the country at first hand and welcomed by those I met. I am somewhat disappointed that our plans have changed. I was looking forward to visiting Egypt again. Feeling's here in the UK are the same, too much of a risk, people are changing their plans to visit Egypt. We in the UK welcome other religions, which have the same freedom of speech for all and protection of our laws. Islamic is part of a culture that thrives in the UK and other European countries, along side other cultures. Isolated Islamic groups must look to the future, not the past 1000 years. The world is getting smaller and the population is growing fast. It is only through education, understanding and equality for everyone, regardless of faith that progress is made. This is progress, Me sending you email. Reading the latest events and news worldwide. Next will be interactive videos through the email. Technology is moving so fast, I can see why some people are feeling that they are being left to one side. I for one have trouble programming the video machine. There will always be some radical group, using the system as an excuse for change. Change is always difficult, whether going forward or trying to go back as it once was, but it is change nonetheless. Regards
Barry Bellinger

Date: Wed, 19 Nov 1997 23:46:43 +0200
From: Burak Tok

I'm a 26 year old research executive from Istanbul/Turkey. I'm very upset for the attack to the tourists. You know that PKK is making attacks to the tourists in the south cost of Turkey in order to frighten them and make them not to come to Turkey again and the new tourists who think to pass their hollidays in Turkey in the future. I don't want the world to know Muslims like that. A really muslim person can't behave like this, I believe, he/she can't kill another man. Because Muslim is love and respect religion. Sincerely,
Burak TOK

Date: Wed, 19 Nov 1997 18:01:48 -0600
From: Library User
Organization: The University of Calgary Library

I write in response to your excellent article entitled "The Luxor Massacre". Although I have a limited background in the current events of Egypt, I do know that Islamic Fundamentalism plays a major role in Egyptian politics. I wonder if you might be able to help me: I am a Canadian university student researching child labour from the perspective of an Islamic fundamentalist. I apologize if you are not currently in Egypt, but I was told that writers of the Egyptian Gazette were europeans studying in egypt. If you have experienced living in Egypt, and gained any knowledge about Islamic Fundamentalism, I wonder if you could offer any insight as to what, if any, policy or ideals regarding human rights or children's rights are outlined in the Koran or Shari'a? I realize that this is a bit off topic in regard to your article, but I have experienced little more than propaganda and lies when I ask for information from Islamic groups. Anyways, I would sincerely appreciate any response, and I can guarentee you credit in my paper if you have any information. Thanks for your time! Scott Hames
University of Calgary
Political Science
Please do not hit "Reply"!! as I write from the university library, and not my PC.
Thanks Again!

Date: Wed, 19 Nov 1997 16:56:38 -0800
From: lee payette

I read your interesting article of the latesr massacre in Egypt.I am writing you hoping maybe you tell me wgo I can contact in Egypy.My aunt is a Belgian citizen vacationing in Egypt with a church group from the Netherlands and I am trying to find out if she was involved there as i can not get hold of her or find out where she is staying.Is there a place in Egypt they keep track of visitors? sincerely
Lee Payette

Date: Thu, 20 Nov 1997 12:53:18 -0500
Howard MacArthur Romaine

samir: read your article on Luxor massacre with interest, but the headline promise was not delivered. Is there any substantial evidence to indicate what seems intuitively obvious: that the murder of tourists on the site of the only historic old egyptian female pharoah is the work of militants violently opposed to elevation and dignity of women; also, I enjoyed your broader comments on the need to look at underlying problems. I am journalist and lawyer also; best of luck to you;

Date: Thu, 20 Nov 1997 23:02:08 +0100
From: tlp

Checked your article on already, do like it a lot!! More like that!! On EgyptNet mailing list I found an article entitled: "Egypt's Enemies Responsible for Luxour Massacre! Where were the American and Israeli Tourists?" The usual loony theories of conspiracy. Couldn't help replying to that guy named Ali Baghdadi who is writing for a certain 'Arab Journal'. Wonder if I will be posted. Was allowed to leave base today as the only one of our company. So happy!

Date: Sat, 22 Nov 1997 22:05:18 +0100
From: Alfred Moser

It is with great interest that I read your article on the Luxor massacre. In general I can follow your reasonning. We still do not know the names of the victims although I saw in todays newspaper two mortary announcements. I am also very sorry for the many egyptians who live from tourism and will lose there income. I wonder why you published your article in Jordan and not in the gazette? Regards

Date: Thu, 27 Nov 1997 19:53:28 +0000
From: Amr al-Zant

...brilliant article. I am currently in Scotland, if you give me a mailing address I will send you one of the beautiful poscards I collected of Highlands, tundra, castles and lakes... Beautiful countiside ,a mazing contrasts and colours.... very cold and gloomy though....

Date: Fri, 28 Nov 1997 08:14:57 -0500
From: Francis Assaf

No matter how much the political, social and economic climate in Eypt improves, the violent Islamist terrorists will continue to target innocents, whether Egyptian or foreign. In fact, the more things improve, the greater the likelihood that attacks will intensify. The purpose of the Gama3a Ilamiyya is not to improve what is wrong in present-day Egyptian society, but to make it so much worse that --in their diseased minds-- the people of Egypt will welcome, out of sheer exhaustion, a strict Islamic regime, the way the Afghan people gave in and let the Taliban rule. Actually, the opposite seems to be happening: the people, especially the one Egyptian out of seven who makes his/her living directly or indirectly from tourism, are fed up, furious and disgusted. That does not mean of course that the Mubarak government should rest on its laurels. Quite the contrary: terrorism, no matter its motives, must be thoroughly eradicated. On the other hand, the government must undertake no matter how painful a major reorganization effort to make the lives of the Egyptian people better and the political, social and economic climate healthier: greater democratization, equal opportunity, and greater possibilities for material well-being. In the aftermath of the latest outrage in Luxor, I think the people are squarely behind the government, who seems at last seriously resolved to eradicte terrorism from our country. Francis Assaf
170 Pendleton Dr.
Athens, GA 30606, USA

Date: 05 Jan 1998 12:42:31 +0000
From: Jaromir.Malek at Oxford

I am glad that you have located additional pictures going back to the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb. We have a very large collection of the Burton photographs but do not (at least not for the time being) buy other pictures, so many thanks for the offer. I have enjoyed what you have written on I hope we shall be able to help you in the future. If it is likely, please do not hesitate to ask. With best wishes for the New Year, Yours sincerely,
Jaromir Malek

Date: Wed, 14 Jan 1998 09:58:47 +1100
From: Ivan Tarlton

Hello--My name is Ivan Tarlton, I live in Auckland, New Zealand. I spent a week in Egypt in late 1997 on an organised tour, (Spring Tours,) and missed being involved in the attack at the Cairo Museum by several days, and the Luxor attack by several weeks. I saw an article on the Internet which you had written in relation to the latter attack. I was wondering - is there anywhere that you know of on the Internet (or elsewhere) where a full list of the names of the victims of the Luxor attack can be found? For one thing, I would be interested in knowing if the guide who showed my tour party around Egypt was involved... Many thanks in any case.

Subject: Your article
Date: Mon, 13 Dec 1999 22:49:56 -0500
From: Daniel M. Kolos

My name is Daniel Kolos, and, together with my colleague, Hany Assaad, we co-authored a translation of the 1976-82 Tutankhamun exhibit which toured North America and Europe. Our book, "The Name of the Dead, Tutankhamun Translated," is still available, among others, from As a writer (my second profession), I found your article refreshing. As an Egyptologist, I found it mostly factual. References to the Luxor massacre seem a bit facile, but connecting it to King Tut's anniversary is brilliant. Your history and assessment of King Tut's Curse is right on! More important to many lay people is the reporting you included on Alain Zivie's excavation of the Wet Nurse Maya. The Amarna period has a very large following all over the world, and, since Tut is so famous (as you have well noted), any new discoveries about him will inevitably help the entire period. I am in the process of writing a historical novel about Horemhab. Therefore, I, also, am interested in even the tiniest fragment of new knowledge that comes from this interesting period of history. Keep on writing.

articles posted on were published in the following books by Samir W Raafat: THE EGYPTIAN BOURSE, Zeitouna, Cairo -- CAIRO THE GLORY YEARS, Harpocrates, Alexandria -- HISTORY & SOCIETY IN A CAIRO SUBURB; MAADI 1904-1962, Palm Press, Cairo -- PRIVILEGED FOR THREE CENTURIES, printed digitally and bound by Elias Printing, Egypt

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