Why Egypt is keen to bolster its navy

Egyptian Navy officers stand aboard the deck of S42, a German-made Type-209/1400 submarine, during a handover ceremony in the German Baltic city of Kiel. (AFP)
Updated 10 August 2017
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Why Egypt is keen to bolster its navy

CAIRO: Egypt this week received the second of four submarines ordered from Germany, a step Egyptians say is essential to bolster national security amid regional turmoil.
In recent years, Egypt has signed multibillion-dollar arms deals with European countries to boost its military capabilities.
Egypt’s leadership said the new submarines are a significant addition to the armed forces, particularly the navy, due to their combat capabilities.
Khalid Okasha, a Cairo-based security analyst, said political turbulence in the region has been the major trigger for Egypt to modernize its army.
“Egypt is keen to have a deterrent power to thwart any imminent threats,” he told Arab News. “The regional scene requires that the armed forces be ready for any confrontation, and this submarine deal with Germany is part of several others with European countries, such as Mistral warships from France.”
He added: “Such submarines are of great importance when it comes to maneuvering in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea to protect vital marine interests, including newly discovered oil and gas fields, and to secure routes leading to the Suez Canal.”
In 2011, Egypt signed a contract to receive the German-made submarine. It has a range of 11,000 nautical miles, a top speed of 21.5 knots, and is equipped with missiles and torpedoes.
The first submarine was handed over in Germany last December, and officially joined Egypt’s navy in April.
Political analyst Sameh Rashed told Arab News that Egypt should have started receiving the submarines in 2012, “but Berlin preferred to wait as the Muslim Brotherhood was in power at the time, and Israel repeatedly contacted Germany in protest over the deal.”

Public opinion
Rashed said that when trying to analyze where Egyptians stand on the matter, their social and educational backgrounds should be considered.
The educated elites vary between those who think the military’s purchases of such modern technologies are necessary to bolster national security, and those who think it is important to consider the economic costs, he added.
To ordinary Egyptians, modernizing the military and adding to its capabilities is a necessity, and an achievement for the state and its leadership, Rashed said.
“The Egyptian collective conscience is convinced that the country is constantly under threat and must continue to modernize its defense capabilities,” he said.
“The Egyptian mindset rejects that any crises or economic difficulties act as a hindrance to the army’s readiness to engage in an armed conflict or confrontation at any time,” he added.
“There’s a correlation that suggests that any positive addition to Egypt’s defense capabilities tends to increase the popularity of the leadership and the president in particular.”


The incredible story of Egypt’s Museum of Islamic Art

Updated 6 min 9 sec ago
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The incredible story of Egypt’s Museum of Islamic Art

  • The museum has a library that contains collections of rare books and manuscripts in ancient and modern languages
  • The Museum of Islamic Art is one of the largest museums of Islamic archaeology in the world

CAIRO: With more than 100,000 antiquities from India, China, Iran, Arabia, Syria, Egypt, North Africa and Andalusia, the Museum of Islamic Art in Egypt is the largest institution of its kind in world.

The museum, located in the Bab Al-Khalk area in the heart of Cairo, is also the largest educational institute in the world in the fields of Islamic archaeology and Islamic art. It is renowned for its diverse collection, which includes works in metals, wood and textiles, among other mediums.

The idea of a museum in Egypt dedicated to Islamic art and archaeology began during the rule of Ismail Pasha (the grandson of Mohammed Ali Pasha), who was khedive of Egypt and Sudan from 1863 to 1879. In 1869, court
architect Julius Franz Pasha installed a collection of Islamic archaeological artifacts in the courtyard of the then-abandoned Al-Hakem Mosque.

The collection grew when the Committee for the Preservation of Arab Antiquities was established in 1881 and was adopted by the Governor’s Mosque. Space was limited however, and a decision was made to construct the current purpose-built museum building in Bab Al-Khalq, which was initially named the House of Arab Antiquities. The foundation stone was laid in 1899, construction was completed in 1902 and the museum opened on Dec. 28, 1903. The number of items in the collection had grown by them from about 111 in 1882 to about 3,000.

The name was changed to the Museum of Islamic Art in 1952 at the start of the July 23 Revolution. The artifacts were displayed in 25 halls, divided up according to their age and materials. On Aug. 14, 2010, former President Hosni Mubarak officially reopened the museum following an eight-year project to develop and renovate it. The work was supported by the Aga Khan Foundation and carried out with the assistance of specialists from France.

On the morning of Jan. 24, 2014, the residents of Cairo felt the shock waves from a large explosion. A car bomb had exploded close to the city’s Security Directorate. Four people were killed and many buildings were badly damaged, including the Museum of Islamic Art. Many of the exhibits were damaged or destroyed, especially fragile glass pieces.

On Jan. 18, 2017, President Abdul Fattah El-Sisi and former Egyptian Minister of Antiquities Khalid Al-Anani reopened the museum after three years of repairs and restoration work. New exhibits were added to replace those damaged or destroyed.

“The Museum of Islamic Art is one of the largest museums of Islamic archaeology in the world thanks to its rare archaeological artifacts related to Egypt’s Islamic heritage,” said Elham Salah, head of the museum department at the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.

A tour of the museum is a hugely rewarding experience. The right side of the museum is dedicated to artifacts from the Umayyad era through to the end of the Ottoman era. The left side includes galleries dedicated to Islamic art from Turkey and Iran (Persia). It also includes halls devoted to science and engineering, along with tombstones from different eras and countries.

There are halls containing coins and weapons, and another section devoted to items used by Egyptians in their daily lived throughout history. There is also a displays of artifacts from the era of Mohammed Ali Pasha, which marked time of major transformation for the country.

Museum tour guide Aya Ahmed said that the museum also has a library on the upper floor that contains collections of rare books and manuscripts in ancient and modern languages, as well as a collection of books about Islamic and historical monuments. She added that there are also calligraphic works, including copies of the Holy Qur’an from the Ottoman era, which were written in a very precise way using brushes made of hair from a horse’s tail.