Soaring prices hurt Egypt’s Ramadan lantern sales but traders hopeful

Special Soaring prices hurt Egypt’s Ramadan lantern sales but traders hopeful
Egyptians shop for Ramadan lanterns in the suburb of Shubra, Cairo. (AFP)
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Updated 04 March 2024
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Soaring prices hurt Egypt’s Ramadan lantern sales but traders hopeful

Soaring prices hurt Egypt’s Ramadan lantern sales but traders hopeful
  • Only for ‘wealthy families’ now, says resident of Mansoura, Cairo
  • Rising inflation, import costs affecting manufacturing, claims commerce official

CAIRO: Soaring prices have reportedly affected lantern sales in Egypt as Ramadan approaches, but traders are hopeful business will pick up and that buyers will return to the market.

Faraj Al-Gamal, a lantern merchant in Cairo, said although prices had increased this year, there were still buyers seeking the product.

“In the market now, lanterns are starting from EGP50 ($1.60), but some reach up to EGP3,000, depending on the type, size and design,” he told Arab News.

But Hanan Abdelmonem, a 30-year-old resident of Mansoura, north of Cairo, told Arab News: “It has become difficult to buy lanterns this year as they are now only affordable for wealthy families.”

“Last year, I liked a lantern (on Facebook) and asked about its price, finding it to be EGP450. I thought it was expensive and decided against it.

“This year, in 2024, I inquired about the same lantern and was told the price was EGP900. The seller confirmed it was not a joke.

Abdelmonem added: “I chose not to buy the same lantern, possibly because it resembles a star more than a lantern. When I inquired about regular lanterns, he quoted EGP3,200 for them.”

She said some merchants importing goods from abroad were raising prices but this should not be the case for lanterns.

“The lanterns are made in Egyptian factories with Egyptian materials and by Egyptian hands. Why then this price increase?” Abdelmonem said.

But Cairo merchant Faraj Al-Gamal told Arab News: “It’s wrong to say that Ramadan lanterns have become exclusive to the wealthy class. They are for all classes.

“We make lanterns for all classes. The poor who want a lantern will find one with us, and the rich have their lanterns, too. What matters is the joy of children with the lanterns.

“It’s natural that prices were a bit higher this year, having increased by about 20 percent, but they are still within reach for all classes.”

He added: “Ramadan lanterns made of tent fabric range from EGP50 to EGP200 depending on the size. There are also Chinese lanterns that play Ramadan songs, with prices ranging between EGP120 and EGP200.

“There are plastic illuminated lanterns priced between EGP10 and EGP145, while wooden lanterns range from EGP90 to EGP300, depending on the size.”

He said that small- and medium-sized metal Ramadan lanterns cost between EGP130 and EGP250, while large ones made from metal or brass trade for between EGP550 and EGP3,000.

Al-Gamal said lanterns in new designs have been introduced this year by manufacturers.

This year’s latest trend is the introduction of lanterns made of crystal and acrylic, with prices ranging from EGP200 to EGP390.

Barakat Safa, head of the toys and gifts division at the Cairo Chamber of Commerce, told Arab News: “The price increase is not only due to the rising cost of goods and the foreign currency crisis.”

Safa explained that the shortage of lanterns was due to a gradual decline in production that began during Ramadan 2022. The factories were impacted by rising production costs, especially for imported supplies.

These costs were further exacerbated by the Russia-Ukraine war and increasing inflation.

Safa said: “In Ramadan 2023 and 2024, Egyptian lantern traders and manufacturers faced losses due to decreased purchasing activities caused by inflation, leading to lower interest in lanterns.”

Safa said 60 to 70 percent of manufacturers skipped production this year and used the previous year’s stock to avoid losses.


Israel army unit facing US sanctions has history of abuses

Israel army unit facing US sanctions has history of abuses
Updated 13 min 54 sec ago
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Israel army unit facing US sanctions has history of abuses

Israel army unit facing US sanctions has history of abuses

JERUSALEM: An Israeli battalion which US media say Washington is likely to sanction over alleged rights violations against Palestinians, has a long history of transgressions and impunity, according to analysts and Israeli media.

The military’s Netzah Yehuda unit was founded in 1999 to encourage ultra-Orthodox Jewish men to enlist but has since accepted other religious recruits including residents of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, where Netzah Yehuda was deployed until 2022.

The unit has mainly attracted marginalized ultra-Orthodox youths “who see the army as a means of integrating into Israeli society and earning a living,” said David Khalfa of Jean-Jaures Foundation, a French think tank.

But it has also drawn “rather radical religious nationalists having strong hostility toward Arabs,” he said. “Marked by a strong ideological and sociological leaning, the battalion has acquired a scandal-prone reputation.”

Marwa Maziad, a visiting lecturer of Israel studies at the US University of Maryland, told the Middle East Eye website that unlike most army units, Netzah Yehuda relies on volunteers.

She said: “The battalion attracts religious Zionists, who combine Jewish religious interpretations with nationalist militarism” and are closely associated with the extreme fringes of the Israeli settler movement.

The West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967, is home to 3 million Palestinians alongside some 490,000 Israelis living in settlements considered illegal under international law.

“A large part of the unit’s soldiers were born and raised in the West Bank,” Khalfa said, noting Netzah Yehuda was often tasked with policing and “counter-insurgency” operations in the Palestinian territory.

“A significant number of them — not all — committed abuses and the army hardly imposed any sanctions,” Khalfa said.

The January 2022 death of Palestinian American Omar Assad, 78, at the hands of Netzah Yehuda soldiers in the West Bank drew attention to the unit, with the US State Department later that year ordering embassy staff in Israel to investigate the case.

Handcuffed, gagged and blindfolded, Assad was left lying on the ground on his stomach for more than an hour in a freezing winter night.

Following Assad’s death, several Israeli media outlets published reports detailing incidents linked to the battalion that had gone largely unpunished, including beatings of Palestinians and attacks on Bedouin citizens of Israel.

The Jerusalem Post newspaper said Netzah Yehuda troops effectively allowed settlers to attack Palestinians, while Haaretz, a left-leaning daily, denounced the “clear ideological connection between the residents of the settlements and the unauthorized outposts and the soldiers” in the unit.

According to Khalfa, “within the army there are lively debates” over Netzah Yehuda, with some military officials considering it “dangerous for the army to bring together so many young people sharing the same nationalist ideology.”


Emir of Kuwait arrives in Jordan for state visit

Emir of Kuwait arrives in Jordan for state visit
Updated 18 min 29 sec ago
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Emir of Kuwait arrives in Jordan for state visit

Emir of Kuwait arrives in Jordan for state visit
  • Aircraft escorted by Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16 fighter jets

AMMAN: The Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah arrived in Amman on Tuesday for a two-day state visit to Jordan, the Kuwait News Agency reported.

The emir’s aircraft was escorted by Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16 fighter jets as it entered Jordan’s airspace. Upon arrival at Marka Airport, he was warmly received by Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah.

An official welcoming ceremony took place, according to a statement by the royal court. The day continued with Sheikh Mishal and King Abdullah engaging in formal discussions at Basman Palace which focused on strengthening long-standing bilateral relations and enhancing cooperation to meet the aspirations of their countries.

Sheikh Mishal congratulated King Abdullah on the 25th anniversary of his coronation and spoke of Jordan’s progress under his leadership. The session was attended by top officials from both countries.

Sheikh Mishal was awarded the Al-Hussein Necklace, the highest civilian medal in Jordan, by King Abdullah.

The meeting concluded with a banquet hosted by King Abdullah in honor of Sheikh Mishal and his delegation, which celebrated the deep ties between Kuwait and Jordan.
 


US to begin Gaza aid pier construction ‘very soon’

US to begin Gaza aid pier construction ‘very soon’
Updated 26 min 14 sec ago
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US to begin Gaza aid pier construction ‘very soon’

US to begin Gaza aid pier construction ‘very soon’
  • Facility will consist of an offshore platform for the transfer of aid from vessels, and a pier to bring it ashore

WASHINGTON: The United States will begin construction “very soon” on a pier to boost deliveries of desperately needed aid to Gaza, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
Gaza — a small coastal territory — has been devastated by more than six months of Israeli bombardment and ground operations against Hamas militants, leaving the civilian population in need of humanitarian assistance to survive.
“All the necessary vessels are within the Mediterranean region and standing by,” Pentagon spokesman Major General Pat Ryder told journalists, referring to the watercraft carrying equipment for the pier project.
“We are positioned to begin construction very soon,” Ryder added.
The facility will consist of an offshore platform for the transfer of aid from larger to smaller vessels, and a pier to bring it ashore.
Plans were first announced by US President Joe Biden in early March as Israel held up deliveries of assistance by ground.
US officials have said the effort will not involve “boots on the ground” in Gaza, but American troops will come close to the beleaguered territory as they construct the pier, for which Israeli forces are to provide security on the ground.


Services at Dubai Airport back to normal after disruptions caused by storm

Services at Dubai Airport back to normal after disruptions caused by storm
Updated 23 April 2024
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Services at Dubai Airport back to normal after disruptions caused by storm

Services at Dubai Airport back to normal after disruptions caused by storm
  • DXB CEO Paul Griffiths says challenges remain, including baggage backlog
  • Regular flight schedules have resumed, with 1,400 flights operating each day

DUBAI: Regular flight schedules at Dubai International Airport had resumed by Monday following the storm early last week that caused the highest rainfall the UAE has experienced in 75 years, Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths said on Tuesday. About 1,400 flights are now operating each day.

“With roads in and around the airport 100 percent clear of water accumulation, our manpower, logistics and facilities are operating as usual again,” he added.

“To have the airport back up and running is no small feat. Also, 2,155 flights were canceled and 115 were diverted. We had to work closely with our airline partners and service providers to rework schedules, boost manpower and look after all those who had been disrupted.

“I’m continuously amazed by the unwavering dedication of our Dubai Airports employees, airline partners, government agencies, commercial partners and service partners. It has been the most challenging adverse weather event we’ve had to navigate, and our people and partners worked tirelessly to keep the operation running and to assist our guests.”

Griffiths said the welfare of passengers remained a central focus throughout the disruptions over the past week. After some initial difficulties in delivering supplies as a result of flooded roads around Dubai International and Dubai World Central airports, more than 75,000 food packs were successfully provided for passengers stranded at the two locations.

“While certain challenges remain, including processing the baggage backlog, we’re working closely with our service partners but know there’s still more work to be done and, once again, thank guests for their patience while we work through this,” said Griffiths.

“We’re deeply saddened by the ongoing impact of the heavy rainfall on affected communities and businesses across the UAE. We’re also supporting our own people who were badly affected by the weather and will continue to support wherever we can.”


US calls on Iraq to safeguard US troops after new attacks

US calls on Iraq to safeguard US troops after new attacks
Updated 23 April 2024
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US calls on Iraq to safeguard US troops after new attacks

US calls on Iraq to safeguard US troops after new attacks
  • “These attacks put coalition and Iraqi personnel at risk,” Air Force Major General Patrick Ryder told a news briefing

WASHINGTON: The US military called on Iraq’s government on Tuesday to take steps to safeguard American troops in both Iraq and Syria after failed attacks on Monday by Iran-aligned militia.
“These attacks put coalition and Iraqi personnel at risk. We call on the government of Iraq to take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of US forces in Iraq and Syria against attacks from these groups,” Air Force Major General Patrick Ryder told a news briefing.
“If these attacks continue, we will not hesitate to defend our forces, as we have done in the past.”