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APRIL 4, 1994


By Ashali Varma

Donkey carts and TV. Driving through Upper Egypt is like living through the pages of Natioal Geograhic.  Villages from a past century dot the landscape interspersed with sugarcane fields and banana groves.  Local transportation is by donkey carts, an occasional camel and the life-giving Nile. No one can forget the presence of this majestic and timeless river or the fact that just a few miles away on either side of its banks is the desert stretching for miles.

The only reminder of the present day are the television antennas that one sees even in the remotest villages.  When the Aswan Dam was built electricity came into the lives of people and with it television and ratio.

Giza at night. Giza at night is a spectacular experience when the pyramids and Sphinx come alive at the Son et Lumiere. The Sphinx looks lifelike and imposing, the pyramids glow in the darkness as one is transported back in time through several centuries to the days when the Pharaohs reigned supreme.

There is a strange sense of being caught in a timeless web, where history is relived as promised in an Egyptian proverb, “To speak of the dead is to make them live again.”

Silver and brocade. The Khan El-Khalili bazaar in Cairo is a treat for tourists.  Silver and gold earrings, necklaces, frames and tea sets with beautiful workmanship can be bought at bargain prices.  Low brocaded sofas, gleaming brass vases and delicately carved camel bone chess sets make excellent gifts but you have to negotiate a good price.

The critical link.  Egypt is not only about the pyramids, the sphinx and the magnificent treasures of the tomb of Tutankhamun, it is a country with strong Islamic traditions going back hundreds of years.  It plays a significant political role in the Middle East.

Egypt was the first country in the region to recognize the critical link between population stabilization and development. President Mubarak has given family planning programs the highest priority on his agenda.  The 26 Gvernorates headed by governors are committed to promoting literacy, health and family planning.  Dr.  Mahran, Egypt’s Minister for Population and Family Welfare said that to succeed in their efforts the government provides overall health and counseling services to Egyptian women.  In just 10 years the use of contraceptives has increased from 24.2 percent in 1980 to 47.6 percent in 1990.  It proves that political will is a major factor toward achieving progress.