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March 28, 1975 - Image 48

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1975-03-28

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48 Friday, March 28, 1975


Robert St. John in Egypt

Little Changed After 15 Years

(Continued from Page 1)

Nasser's home and who
knew the number to dial to
reach the white telephone
on Nasser's bedside table.
One was Field Marshal
Amer, head of the army of
the United Arab Republic:
the other was Heikel.
After Amer was made the
scapegoat of the Six-Day
War and was required to
commit suicide, Heikel re-
mained Nasser's only true
confidante. Now he has been
succeeded by Mustafa
Amin, whom Nasser sent to
prison for nine years, and
his twin brother. Ali, who
has been years in exile.
They are today the two most
powerful newspaper editors
in Egypt. But our first dis-
covery in Cairo was that the
Amin twins still do not have
nearly the powerful influ-
ence on Sadat that Heikel
had on Nasser.
After 15 years there are
other changes. The latest
census figures quoted in al-
manacs and encyclopedias
give the current population
of Cairo as between 3-5 mil-
lion. But Cairenes them-
selves — from government
officials down to taxi drivers
— claim that the population
is now 9 million by day, 7
million at night.
If true, this makes Cairo
one of the six or eight larg-
est cities in the world.

Watching hordes of peo-
ple from outlying districts
coming to work in the city
each morning, one can
believe the statistic, Cairo
by day is an anthill. Every
bus and tram car is fes-
tooned with humans, rid-
ing on the roof, jampacked
inside so tightly that arms
and legs stick out the win-
dows, with occasional
amputations occuring
when a bus careens ar-
ound a corner and sides-
wipes a telephone pole.

in having a seat in a bus on
the way to work or in
being able to buy a little
more food with the handful
of paistres they earn a day
than in trying to push two
or three million Israelis
into the sea.

Tel Aviv is less than an
hour by bombing plane
from Cairo, but despite all
that has happened in the
past 26 years, it is still re-
mote to the everyday prob-
lems of the average Cairene.
As for the fellaheen in Up-
pe• Egypt, despite the Nas-
ser Revolution and all the
talk about bringing Egypt
into the 20th Century, most
of them still plow their
fields and raise water from
their canals with the same
crude instruments you can
see their ancestors using
three thousand years ago in
has reliefs in the Egyptian
Museum. Most.of them have
never heard of Tel Aviv and
to them Cairo is the place
\vhere the all-important de-
cision is made as to when to
raise or lower the level of
water in the Nile, which
may mean for them the dif-
ference between starvation
and having a modicum of
Cairo 15 years later has
only one new hotel of any
size, yet the city is overrun
with tourists wanting to see
the antiquities and busi-
nessmen from Europe and
America eager to get their
hands on some of the sec-
ondhand petro-money that
Egypt acquires from her
rich neighbors. Hotel reser-
vations must be made six
months in advance and even
then it is highly likely the
reception clerk will squint
at the written confirmation
in your hand and say:
"Sorry, but we had to cancel
your reservation."

It happened to us upon
arrival at the Hotel Semi-
ramis at 11:30 one dreary
night. Fortunately we had
a letter of introduction to
the manager of the Nile-
Hilton down the street.
But, "If my own mother
stood there," he said, "I
couldn't find a bed for her
in Cairo; in our hotel or
any other." We spent a
few hours that night in
Mena House, 20 miles out
of the city. "But only for
tonight, monsieur. In the
morning you must get

As we jostled and
squirmed our way through
the humanity-cluttered
streets I remembered a 1973
interview with an Israeli
soldier who was angry and
frustrated because Israel
had been forced to sign the
Yom Kippur War cease-fire
just when the Egyptian
Army was about to be de-
stroyed. "Next time," he
said, "we'll not stop until we
occupy Damascus and
Occupy Cairo? If all 2.8
Then, by great luck, we
million Jewish Israelis —
men, women and children found a room in a broken-
— were given Uzis and sent down palace on Ghezira Is-
to Cairo they couldn't begin land euphemistically called
the Omar Khayyam. There
to control the city.
The Aswan Dam was sup- was not hot water, the tow-
posed to flood enough land els were gray, the electric
to grow enough food to raise heater didn't work, there
the living standards of were rats in the dining
everyone in Egypt signifi- room, and the service was
cantly. But during the years unimaginably had, even for
of building, so many more Egypt, because the waiters,
millions were born in Egypt bartenders and room boys
that the living standard ac- all knew that the Omar
tually declined, despite the Khayyam was to be torn
down in a few months to
My principal observa- make room for a new Amer-
tion, after some weeks in ican-run hostlery, and so
Sadatland, is that the why bother.
The Semiramis is also due
mass of Cairenes are prob-
"- . '.41ore interested to go this year, so the hotel



situation will get much the 25-piastre bill the cab
worse before it gets better. driver was handing me in
Until the two new hotels change (after having sub-
open, in two or three years, tracted on his own accord a
there will be hundreds 50 percent tip) and mum-
fewer available hotel rooms bled: "I am the little sheik of
than there now are. The his hotel — your little
first Secretary of the Cana- sheik." The nhe vanished.
dean Embassy told us he During the next two weeks
spends much of his time we never saw him again.
trying to find accommoda-
But there are also new,
tions for visiting Canadian typically Egyptian rackets.
When we first arrived in
The British Ambassador Cairo very tired after weeks
said: "We have a great many in Black Africa, the airport
spare rooms at our em- building was a scene of al-
bassy, but I'm all booked up most insane confusion,
for the next six months."
even though it was late at
The American Embassy night. But we were greatly
has no spare bedrooms, relieved when a handsome
not even for junketing young man approached us
Congressmen. A compli- and in fautless English
cation for anyone lucky made a gracious little
enough to get into the speech:

Nile-Hilton is that just as
"Let me introduce my-
you are comfortably set-
tled and begin to watch the self. I am Mohamed. I am
fellucas gracefully sailing with the government tour-
by on the Nile, you are ist office. You are a tour-
likely to be informed that ist, yes? We are trying to
you and everyone else _on encourage tourism to
the top two floors will have Egypt, especially from
to leave because Dr. Kis- America. You are from
singer, his army of aides America, yes? We want
and security people, and you to have a good impres
his press-followers are sion of our country, so we
about to arrive. will help you to get quickly
This can happen almost through all the annoying
any time, shuttle diplomacy formalities. Just give me
1975-style being what it is. your passports, your
And no one will have any money declarations, your
suggestion as to where you health certificates, the
$100 apiece you must
might go.
Tourist Tip: If you feel change for Egyptian
you must see the pyramids pounds, your baggage

and other Egyptian antiqui-
ties (which are indeed well
worth seeing) take along
your own tent; there's
plenty of uncluttered de-
Fifteen years ago wher-
ever you looked there were
framed pictures of Nasser
and posters from which his
face smiled forth. Knowing
how fickle the Egyptians
had been in the days when
their loyalty wavered be-
tween Nasser and Naguib, I
expected to find Nasser for-
gotten and Sadat's picture
everywhere, but five years
after Nasser's death there
are more likenesses of him
than of his successor on
fences, walls, billboards; in
shop windows, in govern-
ment offices. Sadat's
friends say he wants it that
way; that he works hard not
to be charismatic — except
with Kissinger.

Another relic of the past
that makes-oldtime Middle
Easterners feel at hothe is
that persistence of Egypt's
most endemic, most viru-
lent disease: baksheesh.
Everyone's hand is out, as

The man in front of the
hotel who gets a man to get
a taxi for you (the Taxi Get-
ter-Getter) expects baksh-
eesh. So does the man who
actually gets the cab. So
does the man who drives the
And when you reach your
destination there are others
and others and others. On
our arrival at the Omar
Khayyam that second night
a little old man popped out
from the bushes, grabbed

He had the next two
weeks all neatly planned.
We did so, as I mumbled Just sign the contract on the
something about having dotted line. No need to pay
traveled through 88 coun- the whole thing now. A de-
t•ies and never had I had posit of one hundred dollars
such V.I.P. treatment. would be enough. At this
While others from our plane point he turned over to us
were still milling around a half the Egyptian pounds he
quarter of an hour later, had obtained with our
Mohamed returned with our lars. We looked aroun ,
passports properly
At other tables in • is
stamped, our money decla- remote corner were three or
rations validated and our four other handsome,
bags on the shoulders of sev- American-speaking, young
eral husky porterS.
"tourist office" frauds doing
(Mr. St. John was accom- the same thing with three or
panied on his tour of Middle four other tourist couples.
Eastern and other Muslim
End of story: although
lands by his wife, Ruth).
Mohamed was very an-
The first suspicion we had noyed, we signed nothing;
was when he led the way not we paid nothing; we got the
toward the taxicab stand other half of our Egyptian
but to .a small table sur- pounds, but he did do us in,
rounded by chairs in a quiet nevertheless, in a minor.
corner of the airport build- way. As we finally were get-
ing. Seated there, Mo- ting into a cab to go to our
hamed, still in firm posses- hotel, he jumped in beside
sion of our passports, health the driver.
certificates and $200 in
"My home is on your way
Egyptian pounds, began his
the Semiramis. You don't
"Of course you want to mind, do you?" But first he
rest tommorrow morning. had the driver go a mile or
Maybe shop a bit. But at two out of our way to pick
two o'clock we'll pick you up his wife and then more
up at your hotel — the miles in an opposite direc-
Semiramis, isn't it? — and tion to reach his home, and
take you to the pyramids. when we finally got to the
Then in the evening a bel- Semiramis the taxi bill was
lydance show and a big about three times what it
Egyptian dinner on one of should have been for a direct
the Nile boats. Wednesday trip.
Egypt gets more like
we'll fly you to Luxer and
Egypt every day!
then . . ."

checks, your plane tick-

House Bill Would Impose Penalties
on U.S. Firms Aiding Arab Boycott

Legislation was introduced
in the House of Representa-
tives that would impose
criminal and civil penalties
on American participants in
the Arab boycotts or those
who initiate them.
The legislation was pre-
sented by Rep. Peter W.
Rodino (D.-N.J.), chairman
of the House Judiciary Com-
mittee, and Rep. Elizabeth
Holtzman (D.-N.Y.).
The legislation would
make liable a company for
up to $1 million in fines and
company officials would be
subject to imprisonment
and fines up to $100,000 for
any company effort to or-
ganize an illegal boycott.
Any company that cooper-
ated with or participated in
an illegal boycott would be
liable to $500,000 in fines
and its officials liable to
fines of up to $50,000.
In addition, any person or
company hurt by an illegal
boycott could bring federal
court action for treble darn-
ages against the company
instigating the boycott.
Also, in the event the firm
initiating the boycott is not
present in the United
States, the attorney general
could seek a civil penalty
against it, and after a court
ruling, could seize its assets
in the United States, includ-
ing any funds owed to the

firm by an American com-

Rep. James J. Blan-
chard (D.-Mich.) inserted
into the March 10 Con-
gressional Record a brief
statement and a Washing-
ton Post editorial de-
nouncing the Arab boy-

In his remarks Blanchard
said, "The actions by the Ar-
abs to force nations and cor-
porations to halt trade with
Israel and exclude Jews
from enterprise is nothing
Nut blackmail . . .
"Perhaps it is tempting
for some to succumb to the
wishes of those nations be-
cause it appears to be the
easy way to end economic
Rep. Blanchard added, "I
personally deplore any such
action," because it denies
the principle of religious
freedom. "For the Arabs to
dictate this sort of policy is
an insult to all free nations
of the world"


In Charleston, S. C., the
Jewish community has
asked the Charleston
County Council to deny a
Kuwaiti company and its
American subsidiaries
permission to develop Kia-
wah Island off the South
Carolina coast as long as
Kuwait continues its
blacklist and boycott of
American firms.

In Detroit, the Egyptian
director of the Interna-
tional Economic Coopera-
tion Agency told the De-
troit Economic Club this
week that the Arab boy-
cott against Israel is justi-
fied because the Arab
world is at war with Is-

Adly Abdel-Meguid told
the group that the boycott
against companies who do
business with Israel is a
flexible thing, and the
Egyptian government will
help remove a company
from the boycott list if it of-
fers useful services.
Meanwhile, in Am`iis-
dam, Dutch Minister
tic Andries van Agt
clared notarized statements
certifying a person as non-
Jewish are unlawful.

Dutch tourists and busi-
nessmen traveling to cer-
tain Arab countries have
recently been asked to fur-
nish notarized statements
that they are not Jewish.
The Netherlands Brother-
hood of Notaries Public
declared that it was
against this practice and
asked its members not to
comply with such re-

Van der Stoel last week
cancelled an official visit to
Saudi Arabia when the Sau-
dis refused an entry visa to
a young Jewish journalist.

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