ReflectionsResurrection of Pharaohs [Archives:2004/715/Opinion]

February 26 2004

By Yahya Al-Olfi
[email protected]

During the past few years I have been hearing and reading calls by some Egyptians for the Pharaonization of Egypt and to move away from Arabic and Islamic culture. But, entertainingly, a few days ago I heard about the intention of those zealots to found a party named “Mother Egypt”. Although there are so many Egyptian intellectuals who can better defend the Arab and Islamic character of Egypt, having watched, listened and read the Pharaonic Zealots, and include writers, TV announcers and thinkers, I find myself obliged to express my opinion about this significant affair.
Although, unfortunately I have not had the chance to visit Egypt, I know about its 7000 years old civilization and I know how people from around the world are enamored with Egyptian relics and its glorious past. The Egyptians should be proud of their civilization, yes, but to call for the eradication of the Arabic language and to get rid of the Arabic character of Egypt is to me an extravagance and illogic due to the fact that prior to the advent of the Arabs, Egypt was occupied recurrently by ancient tribes coming from Asia, then came the Greeks, the Ancient Arab Tribes known as Berbers, the Romans and the Persians. I mean by this that all those invasions had for sure their lasting impact, in that the language changed, as did with time the customs and traditions.
Moreover, the Egyptians themselves were happy to get rid of the oppressive Byzantine occupation and hence welcomed the desire by the Arabs to introduce Islam as a new religion to the Egyptian people. They voluntarily converted to Islam and out of love for the new religion and its propagators mixed willingly with the Arabs and absorbed hundreds of Arab Tribes, as it seems today evident in the different Arab dialects of Egypt. Thus a new distinguished culture was built and the Egyptian-Arab mixture enriched human progress in various domains.
As a result of these changes, it is impossible to claim to be pure Pharaonic, because the people are totally mixed and there are no tribal nor religious delineations whatsoever separating an Arab Egyptian from a non-existent Pharaonic one. An Egyptian now is a combination of both. Furthermore, Egypt with its fertile land assimilated and still assimilates to this very day people who decide to live there because Egypt has always been an assimilator. The fact that hieroglyphic culture ceased was not due to Islam and the Arabs but due to the fact that the Pharaonic civilization came to a halt and could not develop further, and thus was overrun by new developments introduced by each and every new invader. Luckily by the time the Arabs arrived, Egypt was prepared and ripe for an everlasting transformation by swallowing the potion of the emerging Arab civilization that it identified itself with. Egypt also has in the past assimilated a lot of Arab Semitic Christians (Assyrians, Phonecians, Aramites etc.) and thus Copts too are mixed and do not have the right to identify themselves as heirs to the Pharaonic character, not to mention that the Coptic language does not match with Hieroglyphic language, any more than Egyptian Arabic.
All in all I think that Pharaonic Zealots, who include writers, TV announcers and thinkers who have become well known to us, because of their failure to produce anything new are now returning to the past, so as to justify their present failure. It behooves them to exert more efforts towards the development and democratization of Egypt so as to catch up with developed world and maintain the current momentum at whose vanguard is the President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak, who has shown himself until now as a capable and farsighted leader and shall do extremely well if he sets an example by rendering Egypt a democratic country, in spite of all the difficulties, because all Arabs look up to Egypt as an example. Despite efforts to derail Egypt, still I am sure that we will not be disappointed because of the unique Egyptian combination.