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Cairo’s main souk in the crowded Islamic district, shop owners seek out Indian Tourists with friendly hails of Amitabh Bachchan

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A pyramid in Egypt, VOA

– by Tarun Basu

April 19, 2017: At Khan el Khalili, Cairo’s main souk in the crowded Islamic district, shopowners seek out Indian tourists with friendly hails of Amitabh Bachchan! Shah Rukh Khan! Welcome!! These two actors are by far the most popular Indians in Egypt, a testament to the enormous soft power of Bollywood.

When Bachchan came to Cairo in April 2015 for the Indian Culture Festival, he was mobbed like a rockstar wherever he went. And when he met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, he reportedly remarked in jest that he was so overwhelmed by his fan following in the country he might even think of contesting a presidential election — and perhaps win it!

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With so much goodwill in Egypt for Indians one often wonders why the two countries are not closer partners and why friendship with Egypt is not talked about in India in the same vein as other countries with which New Delhi shares close political, economic and cultural ties.

With the ascent in both countries of two strong leaders, Narendra Modi and Sisi, came a change in the strategic calculus through a series of quick meetings between them — in New York and New Delhi.

The New York meeting, where something evidently clicked between Modi and Sisi, acknowledged historical bonds, found common ground in counter-terrorism cooperation and investment opportunities, and set the ground for future meetings. It was quickly followed by a visit by Sisi to New Delhi for the India Africa Forum Summit and then, within a year, with a state visit where the two leaders talked of working towards robust security cooperation following a major convergence of views on regional and global issues.

India and Egypt shared strong chemistry in the 1950s and 1960s, with close personal and political ties between their independence leaders Jawaharlal Nehru and Gamal Abdel Nasser, founders of the Non-Aligned Movement. But after their deaths, ties slumped with President Hosni Mubarak, who ruled for 40 years, not having the same comfort level with the Indian leadership. Although Mubarak did make a visit to New Delhi in his later years, the turning point in perceptions in many ways came during the short-lived rule of the democratically-elected Muslim Brotherhood and the visit to New Delhi in May 2013 by President Mohammed Morsi.

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Although Morsi was ousted — and arrested — within a month of his return to Cairo, and the visit was criticised by many as ill-timed with New Delhi seen as being a little out of touch with the region’s political realities, the growing importance of India for Egypt was beginning to be realised by its policymakers.

With the Middle East in upheaval and relations with the US looking uncertain, Cairo, that was used to putting all its strategic and economic eggs in the Western and Arab baskets, is looking, like other regional powers, at Asia and, more particularly, China and India. While China is a source of expanding investment in the region, India’s salience as a major economic and geopolitical power has increased in Egyptian eyes after the recent high-level visits and close strategic ties forged by New Delhi with key powers like the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

India has been holding a major multi-city cultural exposition in Egypt, called imaginatively ‘India by the Nile’, bringing in musicians, dancers, artists, street performers, not to mention Bollywood stars, that enhanced significantly the image of India in the Egyptian consciousness.

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Indian companies have found Egypt a good destination for business. Over 50 Indian companies are present in Egypt with an investment of $3 billion, providing employment to about 35,000 Egyptians. And Egypt’s recent discovery of gas, its upward looking economy following a currency float and growing foreign investment have added impetus to growing ties.

Companies like Kirloskar with their water pumps and Dabur and Monginis with their personal care and confectionery products are household names in Egypt, and many firms recognise the Suez Canal area as a potential hub of future expansion because of the country’s economic arrangements in the Arab world, Africa and the European Union. Even though there are only three Egyptian companies in India, bilateral trade has grown 60 percent over the last five years to touch almost $5 billion.

The current thinking in New Delhi is that if Cairo plays its cards right, a stronger Egypt could play a more moderating role and help in restoring regional stability and security. India is therefore investing a lot more in Egypt not only to shore up its profile but also to use the goodwill it builds up in projecting a larger role for itself in North Africa and the Arab world.

With a political foundation of friendship from the sixties India has the ability to tap into popular sentiment and cultural affinity, an advantage that few countries enjoy in Egypt, remarks Sanjay Bhattacharyya, India’s Ambassador in Cairo.

And the ‘India by the Nile’ show is by far the largest such exposition in Egypt by any country here in recent times.

Despite recent terror attacks, India is demonstrating a major vote of confidence in the Egyptian government’s ability to deal with Islamist extremism by not cancelling music and dance shows as part of the festival in Alexandria, one of the two cities where minority Coptic Christian churches were targets last week.

The future of bilateral ties look promising and there is much expectation in Prime Minister Modi, who has shown personal interest in shoring up ties, making a visit there later this year. (IANS)

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Two ancient Tombs discovered at Luxor, Egypt

Egypt's antiquated history now has two more tombs to boast of

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Two ancient tombs discovered at Luxor, Egypt
Two ancient tombs have been discovered at Luxor, Egypt, Image Source: VOA News

Egypt is extremely popular for its sanctuaries and tombs traversing diverse traditions of antiquated Egyptian history and now the tombs in Luxor adds one more feather to Egypt’s beauty. The popularity of the Egyptian pyramids dates back to the three massive tombs of the Fourth Dynasty. Tombs and pyramids have always appeared fascinating in movies and stories with some intriguing facts and discoveries.

Egypt’s latest discovery to boost tourism, Image Source: VOA News
  • Located on the east bank of the Nile River, Luxor is a city in Southern Egypt. Recently, two small ancient tombs have been discovered in this city dating back to some 3,500 years. Situated on the west bank of the river Nile, the tombs are the freshest disclosure in the city.
  • Since the beginning of 2017, the Antiquities Ministry has made a series of disclosures in a few areas crosswise over Egypt including Luxor city — including the tomb of a regal goldsmith, in a similar territory and having a place with a similar line, whose work was devoted to the old Egyptian God Amun.
  • According to the ministry, one of the tombs has a courtyard lined with mud-brick and stone walls containing a six-meter yard prompting four side chambers. They further said the artefacts found inside were mostly fragments of wooden coffins. The paintings and wall inscriptions further advocate the origin of the tombs to the era between the reigns of King Amenhotep II and King Thutmose IV, the two monarchs of the 18th dynasty.
  • The other tomb consists of five entrances prompting a rectangular corridor containing two burial shafts situated in the southern and northern sides of the tomb.
Archaeologist works on repairing masks discovered in the tombs, Image Source: Quartz

The ministry further stated, among the relics found inside are funerary cones, painted wooden funerary covers, dirt vessels, a gathering of approximately 450 statues and a mummy wrapped in material who was likely the best. A cartouche cut on the roof bears the name of King Thutmose I of the mid-eighteenth line.

Antiques Minister, Khaled al-Anani said, it is truly an exceptional day as the private tombs from the 18th dynasty are quite familiar but this is the first time to enter inside these tombs.

Al-Anani said the revelations are a piece of the service’s endeavours to advance Egypt’s essential tourism industry, somewhat determined by artefacts touring, that was hit hard by fanatic assaults and political turmoil following the 2011 uprising.

Al-Anani then headed to an adjacent site where the renowned Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut is situated to open out of the blue the sanctuary’s primary asylum known as the “Holy of Holies.”

This news is sure to evoke a range of excitement among people worldwide. It would be right to say that Egypt has excavated two more sites for onlookers to explore and experience!

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Mosque Attacked in Egypt: 235 People Killed by Islamic Terrorists

Islamic militants fired on people both inside and outside the Rawda mosque in the volatile northern Sinai Peninsula of Egypt

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Egyptian security officials, quoted by state-run media, say 235 people have been killed by suspected militants in an attack on a packed mosque Friday in the volatile northern Sinai Peninsula.

Frightened residents fled the center of the town of Bir al Abed, after Islamic militants fired on people both inside and outside the Rawda mosque. Scores of bodies were strewn across the mosque’s carpeted floor.

A man claiming to have been inside the mosque during the attack told Arab media that militants in four-wheel drive vehicles opened fire inside the house of worship following an explosion.

Eyewitnesses also say the militants fired on ambulances as emergency personnel tried to evacuate the wounded to hospitals in nearby Arish. Egyptian media reported that several government targets also were attacked inside the town.

In Egypt, a Mosque attacked.
Egyptians gather outside the Rawda mosque, roughly 40 kilometers west of the North Sinai capital of El-Arish, following a gun and bombing attack, on Nov. 24, 2017. VOA

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Paradise Papers: The “loot” of Nation’s Wealth by the “ultra-rich” of the Country

India ranks 19th out of 180 countries in Paradise Papers.

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One of the largest belongs to Mukesh Ambani.
One of the largest belongs to Mukesh Ambani. Wikimedia Commons

By Salil Gewali

India boasts of having one of the largest and expensive modern mansions in the world – second only to the palace built by Sultan of Brunei. That belongs none other than a filthy rich Mukesh Ambani. But very contrastingly, India has also often been disgraced for its maximum number of citizens who spend their nights, their weeks, their months and years in the open pavement even in the cutting cold of the winter. Yes, the country bears the burden of the largest number of poor people in the world – approximately 276 million people live below poverty line. What a vast difference between the haves – the super-rich, and the have-nots.

The “loot” of nation’s wealth by the “ultra-rich” of the country had been going on quietly until the German newspaper brought out to the open the details of Paradise Papers from Appleby, the Bermuda-based legal service provider. Needless to say, for the ultra-rich, the name of the game is “tax planning”, offshore finance, the creation of off-shore entities, et al. In the eyes of our authorities, it is about “deemed lapses in corporate governance, alleged fund diversion, irregularities in disclosure norms,” and so on. One wonders, in this scenario, what is at stake for the common man?

  As for the common man, his humble “paradise” is being looted; his God-given right to share his due is throttled. His children’s chances to come up in life, if at all there are any, are choked. His right to a “fair living” is gradually drifting apart. Because the very means of his life is plundered by a few ultra-rich. On a wider outlook, at the national level, the country’s wealth is burgled and robbed. Then who are these plunderers?

There are more than 700 of them from our country in the disclosed list of having Paradise Papers– the disclosure is still incomplete – of Paradise Papers. Very funnily, these names include persons, who the common man relies on, worship, holds in high esteem and vows to give his life for. Film star Amitabh Bachchan, who is often worshipped, Union Minister of State  Jayant Sinha, BJP Rajya Sabha M.P., R.K. Sinha, Corporate tycoon Vijay Mallya, Corporate lobbyist Niira Radia, Harsha Moily, son of former UPA Minister Veerappa Moily, Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt’s wife Dilnashin, son of former UPA powerhouse and Central Minister P. Chidambaram, former Union Minister Sachin Pilot, and several others who is who of India’s Corporate world, politics, and other fields. Interestingly, What more? Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain, Lord Ashcroft, the most prominent British politician, U.S. Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, Shakira, Madonna and notoriously disgraced Harvey Weinstein, for his sexual wrongdoings and so on and so forth.

In spite of strict regulations in every country, it would be interesting to know, how these celebrities, politicians, multinationals, and the ultra-rich individuals are hiding Paradise Papers. I’m not wrong that rules in every country have built-in loopholes. In other words, rules of every country have provided loopholes to the cunning and crafty to circumvent them. And we have got them in abundance. The very fact that our country ranks 19th out of 180 countries in Paradise Papers is certainly not something that we can cheer about.

 The wealthy form shell companies, “foundations”, and “trusts” as a cover to hide their money from tax authorities. They form “offshore” accounts that are handled by law firms specializing in these “offshore’ expertise. To the world, their forceful argument is “offshore” banking which is legal. But, this is practiced by only the ultra-rich to evade tax. They take advantage of the legal loop-hole by taking shelter under the tax treaties by our Government.

  But frankly speaking, will they ever be able to “use” that wealth? I don’t think it’s possible in the practical world. They can’t even see, touch and feel their wealth they have once dispatched. Not even after 500 years, they can use it if they ever could live.  Because these super-rich people already have countless wealth which is in their various kind of treasury vaults.  Is it not the paradise of illusion then?

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter @SGewali.