Protests heating up near Qurna-2 oil field

Updated 17 April 2013

Protests heating up near Qurna-2 oil field

BASRA: Hundreds of local protesters blocked a main entrance of Iraq’s giant southern West Qurna-2 oilfield, operated by Russia’s LUKOIL, demanding jobs in a sign of the growing challenges facing foreign firms operating in the south.
Local communities and tribes in Iraq, where foreign oil companies are developing the OPEC nation’s vast energy reserves, periodically protest to squeeze companies for jobs and other work benefits.
Around 500 angry protesters gathered at the main entrance, demanding Lukoil supply jobs and compensation for land where it operates. Police said the situation was under control and demonstrators did not try to break into the field.
“We are protesting to get our rights. We have decided to block the entrance until field officials address our demands,” said Mizhir Al-Rwemi, a spokesman for protesters.
An official at the state-run South Oil Company said it was not the first such protest. “We are trying to deal discretely with them,” the official said.
Iraqi oil police officials said security measures were tightened around the oilfield to prevent protesters from getting inside where employees, including from Russia’s Lukoil were working on developments operations.
Hundreds of protesters broke into West Qurna-2 oilfield early last month, smashing offices of an Iraqi company hired by Samsung Engineering before trying to break into the South Korean builder’s headquarters.
More than 1,000 employees from the South Oil Co. also demonstrated to demand higher salaries and permanent contracts with the company, officials and protesters said.
Ten years after the invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s energy installations are still struggle with various challenges, including attacks on oil pipelines and facilities.
Earlier this month, Gunmen attacked a contracting company in Iraq’s Akkas gasfield, killing at least three local workers and kidnapping two more before burning their camp in the remote western desert.


A Sinai desert community in Egypt leads the way in agritourism

Updated 29 February 2020

A Sinai desert community in Egypt leads the way in agritourism

  • A Sinai desert community in Egypt leads the way in agritourism
  • It hosts a learning center that has partnered with universities to promote a new form of educational tourism

CAIRO: “Community is everything, surround yourself with beautiful souls and watch what happens. So much love, I feel it bubbling out of my chest,” writes Madison Cooper.

The experienced yoga instructor and assistant manager at The Kings Arms pub and music venue in Salford, UK, said this when describing her experience in the Habiba village, a remote beach community in the middle of Egypt’s South Sinai desert.

It was this feeling of peace and tranquility that brought Cairo-born Maged El-Said and his Italian wife Lorena to the Egyptian port city of Nuweiba to settle and eventually start the Habiba community in 1994.

The community is a village that hosts an eco-friendly beach lodge, an organic farm, the Sinai Palm Date foundation and a learning center partnered with universities and organizations around the globe to promote a new form of educational tourism by hosting professional certification courses in permaculture and agriculture ecosystems.

More than 90 percent of Egypt’s land is covered by deserts, Sinai being part of the Eastern desert that occupies more than 20 percent of the country’s surface area, with very few populated villages and cities along the Red Sea coastal strip.

“I am sure there is enormous potential to invest in our huge deserts. The hidden value is in the people if we learn from each other the best way of integrating management of resources,” El-Said said.

This, however, is easier said than done: El-Said, who is now in his sixties, spent almost 20 years taking “agritourism” from a concept to a meaningful business.

He succeeded in 2009, when tourists started coming to volunteer at the organic farm merely to enjoy the experience of isolated serene living.

Before that, El-Said spent several years doing a series of seminars and workshops and inviting local and international experts in organic farming to discuss the agritourism model.

His first introduction to the field was in Italy, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Italian language and literature in the 1970s.

Italian agritourism gained traction around the time when the agricultural business became less profitable.

Farmers in Italy were giving up, transforming their farms and farmhouses into vacation homes where tourists could stay and experience farming.

“People come to enjoy the beautiful nature and the serene surroundings, eat clean food and leave with fresh ideas and a new perspective on life,” said El-Said when explaining the concept of agritourism.

While the idea is widespread in the US and many European countries, it remains nascent in MENA. Sporadic trials around the region are currently under way, including a licensing program launched by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities for farms willing to explore the concept and offer agritourism services.

Expanding the scope of its target community, the Habiba learning center has been working toward hosting a series of certificate program.

Among them are an internationally recognized Permaculture Design Certificate course that provides an introduction to sustainable living systems for a wide variety of landscapes and climates.

The move is intended to attract a more professional interna- tional audience and establish a new breed of educational tourism. El-Said has an ambitious plan for the future, hoping he can establish a desert research hub within his community and start replicating the model in other Egyptian resort cities by the year 2025.

“It is challenging but beautifully rewarding; people are resistant to change, but when they see a working model, it becomes easy for them to follow,” he said.

• This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.