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Is the Nile still king in Egypt?

16 1 3

In the 5th century BC, the great historian and traveller Herodotus said that Egypt is the gift of the River Nile. Four hundred years later the Roman poet Tibullus venerated the Nile, saying: "Along thy bank, not any prayer is made to Jove for fruitful showers. On thee, they call!"

In the twentieth century, Egypt's "Prince of Poets", Ahmed Shawqi, wrote: "The Nile is negus, nice and brownish. Its colour is a wonder, gold, and marble. Its arghul within its hand, lauding its lord. The life of our country, O God increase it."

When Mohammed Abdel Wahhab chanted the poem in the movie The White Rose in 1933, the Egyptians were angry and objected to Shawqi's attempt to attribute the great River Nile to the negus, a title of the King of Abyssinia, modern Ethiopia. Shawqi reassured the Egyptian people by explaining that the word negus is from the Amharic language, and he used it to convey the meaning that the Nile is king because of the great and glorious role it plays in the life of Egypt.

A lot of Nile water has flowed by since then, and today the ruler is ruled by Ethiopia. When Shawqi described the Nile as king Egypt was powerful, with geographic dominance extending into Africa. This was especially so during the era of President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who supported revolutions across the continent with weapons and funds. Under Nasser, Cairo was an incubator of African revolutions.

READ: Former presidential candidate calls for war plan over Ethiopian dam

The famed Al-Azhar University sent educational and religious missions across Africa, as well as cultural delegations. The African-Asian Peoples' Solidarity Organisation (AAPSO) was established in 1957 to become one of the branches of the Bandung Conference, which is a Cairo-based international NGO promoting national liberation and solidarity between Third World peoples. The organisation was headed by prominent and culturally significant Egyptian personalities, who played an important role in strengthening the friendship between Egypt and African countries, such as the former Minister of Culture, writer Youssef El Sebai, the great writer Abdel Rahman El-Sharkawy and Ahmed Hamroush.

This all happened during the Cold War when the world was divided into two camps: the Eastern Bloc led by the Soviet Union; and the West led by the United States. Egypt was closer to the Soviets. Nevertheless, as Egypt moved gradually towards the US, its role in the Horn of Africa started to decline. It has disappeared totally for the past 30 years, while Cairo's active participation in African summits also diminished slowly, especially after the 1995 assassination attempt against former President Hosni Mubarak in Addis Ababa.

Thirty years of arrogance and maintaining its distance from Africa have had consequences for Egypt, the........

© Middle East Monitor

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