The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts tagged food
The Arab Spring was a revolution of the hungry

Thanassis Cambanis, writing for the Boston Globe about food riots and the dependence on imported grain in Arab countries:

THE ARAB STATES are the world’s largest net importers of grains, depending on exports from water-rich North America, Europe, and Central Asia.
So it follows that bread riots will break out every time there’s a disruption in the global food supply. Anger will bubble up every time there’s a drought. Or when oil profits fall and it becomes harder to pay for grain imports. The Middle East North Africa region consumes about 44 percent of global net grain imports, according to Eckart Woertz, author of “Oil for Food: The Global Food Crisis and the Middle East”: “Self sufficiency is not an option in the region,” he said in an interview.
Still, most scholars now accept the idea first proposed by the economist Amartya Sen, that food shortages and famines are usually caused by political mismanagement, not by an actual lack of food.

I don't think he gets it quite right. Apart from the poorest states, Arab states have largely been able to cover their grain imports – either by spending a lot of their budget on it, or with aid. And the era of regular food riots (even if cost of living – in Egypt for instance a poor household will spend a disproportionate part of its income on food – was part what spurred of the Arab uprisings) is over. Morocco used to have these food riots on a regular basis until the early 1990s, they were often brutally suppressed. The last major for riot in Egypt was in 1977, even if there were clashes over the malfunctioning of bread distribution in 2010-2013. The sharp rise in commodity prices of 2008 was handled in the short-term by these governments, even if it may have contributed to the 2011 uprisings.

In other words, states are actually able to sustain food subsidies. Moreover, there are interest lobbies that want them maintained, particularly since traffic in subsidized flour is lucrative. Better management of bread supplies is clearly needed; and arguably delivering on that makes you popular – in Egypt, since 2011 the army's (partial) takeover of bread distribution was widely seen as successfully putting an end to shortages. The point here is that local droughts are less important than fluctuations in commodity prices and the ability of the state to raise funds to cover these or insure against them, since essentially many of these states import not just their calories but also their water in the form of grain. And that is more sustainable than it seems, because these governments do have access to funding (and it is far more sustainable than spending on fuel subsidies). In fact, droughts may be more important how they impact the agrarian economy than how they affect the food supply – arguably the long drought of the late 2000s in Syria, and the rural-urban migration it caused notably in the north-east, was an important cause of the rebellion there but not because it disrupted food supply at a national level.

AsidesThe Editorsfood
The Arab uprisings and climate change

Via a perfectly reasonable and non-annoying column by Thomas Friedmanune fois n'est pas coutume! — a new Center for American Progress report posits that climate change and market variations in wheat prices were a key "stressor" contributing to the Arab uprisings:

All of these authors are admirably cautious in acknowledging the complexity of the events they are analyzing and the difficulty of drawing precise causal arrows. But consider the following statements:

  • “A once-in-a-century winter drought in China contributed to global wheat shortages and skyrocketing bread prices in Egypt, the world’s largest wheat importer.” (Sternberg, p. 7)
  • “Of the world’s major wheat-importing companies per capita, “the top nine importers are all in the Middle East; seven had political protests resulting in civilian deaths in 2011.” (Sternberg, p. 12)
  • “The world is entering a period of ‘agflation,’ or inflation driven by rising prices for agricultural commodities.” (Johnstone and Mazo, p. 21)
  • “Drought and desertification across much of the Sahel—northern Nigeria, for example, is losing 1,350 square miles a year to desertification—have undermined agricultural and pastoral livelihoods,” contributing  to urbanization and massive flows of migrants. (Werz and Hoffman, p. 37)
  • “As the region’s population continues to climb, water availability per capita is projected to plummet. … Rapid urban expansion across the Arab world increasingly risks overburdening existing infrastructure and outpacing local capacities to expand service.” (Michel and Yacoubian, p. 45)
  • “We have reached the point where a regional climate event can have a global extent.” (Sternberg, p. 10)

These assertions are all essentially factual. None of them individually might be cause for alarm. Taken together, however, the phenomena they describe weave a complex web of conditions and interactions that help us understand the larger context for the Arab Awakening. Indeed, as Johnstone and Mazo argued as early as April–May 2011, in an article written just at the outset of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, it was already possible to see that climate change played a role in the complex causality of the revolts spreading across the region. They called it a “threat multiplier.” It significantly increased the interactive effects—and hence the overall impact—of political, economic, religious, demographic, and ethnic forces.

I have yet to read the full report but it sounds fascinating — although I think there is a link to be made, too, with global commodity market manipulations by traders as seen in the precursor crisis in cereal prices to the 2010-11 spike, which came in 2008.

A solution to Egypt's food crisis

Last week, the excellent economics blog Rebel Economy highlighted a recent report on food consumption in Egypt:

Egypt’s most vulnerable households don’t have enough money to buy food, clothes and shelter.

That’s the frightening conclusion of the Egyptian Food Observatory’s latest government survey.

Of the 1680 households surveyed (and 7532 household members) in September 2012, 86% said their income was insufficient for covering total monthly needs including for food, clothes and shelter, up from 74% in June 2012.

As food prices have steadily increased over the year, income levels have remained static as the country’s fragile economic climate impacts salaries.

The knock-on affect of this has left many families adopting increasingly extreme coping strategies, the report says, the most common of which has prompted families to consumer cheaper foods and borrow food or money.

fooddivide

Meanwhile, the government has acknowledged across-the-board food price inflation on a range of commodities in a new report — confirming what was obvious to all. In the report, the government also advises citizens not to over-eat. Really. Still wonder why Egyptians are protesting?

Let them eat Baklava

Food and the Arab spring: Let them eat baklava | The Economist:

"They start with a peculiarity of the region: the Middle East and north Africa depend more on imported food than anywhere else. Most Arab countries buy half of what they eat from abroad and between 2007 and 2010, cereal imports to the region rose 13%, to 66m tonnes. Because they import so much, Arab countries suck in food inflation when world prices rise. In 2007-08, they spiked, with some staple crops doubling in price. In Egypt local food prices rose 37% in 2008-10."

A good piece on the food security issue facing most Arab countries, generally net importers of food. And particularly worrying as it appears the twin rise of oil and commodity prices of 2008 appears set to happen again.

Libya Dispatch: Rebel Twinkies fuel the struggle

An alternative use for ammo

Napoleon famously said an army marches on its stomach, and in the case of Libya's rebel forces, that would be tuna sandwiches, fava beans and a lot of junk food.

As Western air strikes are restarting once thoroughly defeated rebel advance, the once weirdly successful aspect of their rag tag forces should be gearing up again -- their food supply lines.

Like everything else about the uprising in eastern Libya seeking to challenge Moammar Gadhafi's four decade hammerlock on power, the fighters' food supply was an ad hoc affair of entreprising individuals and local charities with official sanction that somehow seemed to work -- even when nothing else really did.

Rebel checkpoints always featured cases of bottled water, juice, piles of bread and plenty of junk food such as biscuits and packaged cupcakes that fighters can grab and throw into their pick up truck before taking off for the front.

"We never run short of food, we have good kids from Benghazi who come and bring it down to us," said Mohammed Selim, 23, as he cleaned up the empty boxes of Twinkies, cookies and sugary juice drinks piled outside a rebel checkpoint in the oil refinery town of Ras Lanouf, two weeks ago before they were driven out.

As the furthest point of their advance, the rebel forces clustered around Ras Lanouf for almost week, giving birth to the most advanced food distribution point along the front.

According to the rebels, the food comes to the checkpoints in regular deliveries, partly organized by the provisional council running the eastern cities, but also in a large part due to efforts by individuals.

Many people who don't want to actually pick up a gun and join the fighting, instead go to nearby towns, stock up on staples like bread and tuna -- as well as plenty of junk food -- and deliver them to checkpoints.

"Now we are eating Snickers bars, before we could only just look at them in the store," said Ayman Ahmed, a 23-year-old volunteer for the rebel forces who together with a group of friends took over the abandoned house of a oil refinery worker in the Ras Lanouf residential area.

"We are really experiencing freedom now," he said, in a living room filled with discarded juice boxes and wrappers from packaged sweet cakes.

Before the rebels were driven out, the center of their food network in Ras Lanouf town was the aluminum and glass guard house at the entrance to the neat houses and villas of the oil complex.

No one ever found the key, so to get in and out, those passing out the food had to climb through the windows they had forced open.

Inside the kiosk was filled with stacks of biscuits, boxes of juice and milk and two enormous stainless steel dispensers brewing tea for the troops.

"We are volunteers who came here and took on the responsibility of handing out the food while others pick up weapons and stand guard outside," said Walid Abu Hajara, a cheerful 27-year-old from Benghazi, who has been managing the makeshift kitchen for the last three days.

Together with Selim and other volunteers they made fava bean sandwiches for the fighters' breakfast and in the afternoon stuffed tuna into the loaves for lunch.

"We have a problem with the supply of bread," admitted Abu Hajara, referring to the crunchy short-baguette style Libyan bread that is the staple of any meal. "We have people that we call when we run low -- we even call members of the council."

One of his fellow workers shushed him, told him not to admit to the journalist about any shortcomings and only say that everything was fine.

Less than half an hour later, though, the bread appears and fighters can be seen pocketing several loaves each, along with wedges of processed cheese.

With the lack of logistical organization of the rebels' regular armed forces and the flood of volunteers to the front, this largely charitable food drive is vital to keeping rebel fighters functioning.

There are also little in the way of grocery stores in the remote towns strung along the desert coastal road of Libya's barren center.

To a large extent, the informal food network grew out of the flood of charitable endeavors that sprang out of the euphoria of the Feb. 17 uprising against Qadhafi.

Longstanding eastern Libyan traditions of hospitality and generosity have blossomed with the successful throwing off of central government control and everywhere people are handing out food.

Outside Benghazi's courthouse, where day and night there is some sort of gathering commemorating the demonstrations that faced down the police more than a month ago, food is regularly provided.

Elsewhere in the city, kitchens prepare a steady supply of meals for the poor and needy.

At a gas station on the road to the front, a man handed out packets of dates stamped "a gift from Jalo for the Feb. 17 revolution," referring to desert town far to the south.

At another stop, a local patiently gives out prepared sacks of food to passing motorists, even journalists, containing tuna sandwiches, an apple and banana and a twinkie.

"We eat whenever people bring us food or we go to the checkpoints," said Ali Youssef, a tall thin 22-year-old fighter who's been living on the front for weeks. "The food is, well, war food, but it's okay," he said with tentative smile.  

His favorite dish is a Libyan pasta and tomato sauce specialty, and surprisingly hot cooked meals are not a rarity for most soldiers. Many say they eat chicken or lamb at least once day, once again thanks to local efforts.

At the Brega Hospital, where doctors wait for the latest dead and wounded from the fighting at Ras Lanouf, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) west on the coastal road, a young man in a scout uniform hands out meals.

The foil boxes contain rice and a fairly substantial piece of beef supplemented with more Libyan loaves.

"My mother and my aunts, all of us worked on it together and we distribute it to the hospital, to the revolutionaries and others," said Essam al-Hamali, as he handed out the meals to waiting doctors in blue scrubs.

He said today he and his family and fellow scouts put together about 700 meals.

Other days, fighters say people just show up with aluminum pots filled with rice or pasta topped with meat or chicken.

For Muftah Momin, a young fighter sharing the abandoned oil workers house with his friend Ahmed, it's not the hot meals, however, that really stand out.

"You get the best honey here," he said, offering of spoonful of it. "This is the fuel of the revolution, provided by the council." 

1970s Futurist prediction: Egypt wiped out

From the great blog Paleofuture, excerpts (1, 2) from the 1968 American futurist Paul Ehrlichin's book The Population Bomb, in which he predicted global chaos due to high population growth and the Cold War, and advocated sending food aid spiked with anti-fertility drugs to third world countries:

In 1974 the United States government finally realizes that the food-population balance in much of Asia, Africa, and South America is such that most areas cannot attain self-sufficiency. American expeditionary forces are withdrawn from Vietnam and Thailand, and the United States announces it will no longer send food to India, Egypt, and some other countries which it considers beyond hope. A moderate food rationing program is instituted in the United States. It further announces that food production in the United States will be increased only so long as the increase can be accomplished without damage to the environment of the North American continent.

. . .

"Only the outbreak of a particularly virulent strain of bubonic plague killing 65% of the starving Egyptian population had averted a direct Soviet-American clash in the Mediterranean."

Of course in reality the Green Revolution dramatically increases crop renditions, enabling countries like Egypt to feed their rapidly growing populations by both growing more and importing more. Still, with that kind of literature around no wonder the meme of plots to poison the country by food aid remain a staple of the Egyptian yellow media.

If you have heard of any other insane predictions about Egypt or elsewhere in the Arab world, please send them my way! 

On vegetarianism in the Arab world

I was alerted to Joseph Mayton's latest piece on vegetarianism in the Arab world — Vegetarianism is not contrary to Arab culture — by Brian Whitaker, who comments further about on the issue in his blog.

Both Joey and Brian are vegetarians, and in fact I think Joey is even vegan and certainly very evangelical about his food ethics. I've discussed this issue with both of them in the last — only a couple of months ago with Brian in Beirut, as I devoured keba nayeh (spiced raw meat, one of my favorite Lebanese dishes) and he vegetable kebabs. I am obviously not a vegetarian, but am certainly sympathetic to some of the arguments against eating industrially-produced meat, and have been of the opinion that, in many parts of the world, those who can afford to often eat an excessive amount of meat. I am guilty of that myself at times, but generally — as the main cook in our household — keep a fairly reasonably balanced diet and often cook pure vegetarian meals. That being said, I love meat and see no reason to abandon it, although that is because I can afford to shop carefully for it and pay a premium for the best quality stuff (especially since I don't consume that much of it.) I'll happily forego factory chicken every day if I can have a delicious baladi bird (the equivalent of free-range) once a week. 

For a while, Joey has been campaigning on Twitter and in his writings for vegetarianism as a solution to economic problems in Egypt, and presumably elsewhere. The context of this is a steep rise in the price of meat since the beginning of the year, as well as scandals over rotten imported meat and a more general drop in purchasing power for a good part of Egypt's population in the last few years due to high inflation and still-unexplained rises in the price of certain foods.

His argument for vegetarianism — which is ethical at its core — is deployed around economic arguments in Egypt:

In other words, even if you are not convinced of the moral case for vegetarianism, if you care about the future of our planet it makes sense to stop eating animals – both in environmental and economic terms.

In Egypt, for example, we see that hundreds of thousands of cattle are imported into the country for slaughter; lentils, wheat and other staples of the Egyptian diet are also imported. That all costs money.

If Egypt were to promote and incorporate vegetarianism into its economic policy, the millions of Egyptians who struggle and complain about the rising costs of meat could be fed. It takes around 16kg of animal feed to produce one kilo of meat for consumption. That's a lot of money and food that could serve the hungry population.

According to Hossam Gamal, a researcher at the Egyptian agriculture ministry, "the exact amount of money that could be saved by reducing meat production is unknown, but I have estimated it to be in the billions [of dollars]".

Elsewhere across the region, Gamal continues, "we could increase the health and living situation for millions of people if we didn't have to spend so much on maintaining the desire to eat meat".

I can support ecological reasons to reduce meat consumption, and campaigns to get people to eat less of it. But there are two problems associated with this. First, the question of tact in a country where many people cannot eat meat more than a couple of times a month. Secondly, you have to think hard about the available alternatives: there has also been a rapid increase in the prices of legumes — nutritious vegetables like carrots or spinach — as food prices generally increased in recent years. The fact is that, among the poorest, it is not only less meat that is being consumed, but also less green vegetables. What has increased, and quite dramatically so as we saw during the 2008 world food crisis that resulted in bread riots, is the consumption of bread and other carbs. The poorest, increasingly, are eating bread, onions, beans and cheese. The occasional bit of meat might be (along with certain feculents) an important source of iron and protein.

As for cultural resistance to vegetarianism, I think yes and no. Open any Middle Eastern cookbook and you'll find plenty of vegetarian dishes, perhaps more than, say, in a French cookbook. But there are those occasions that are specifically associated with meat, such as Eid al-Adha, as well as an association between meat and affluence that exists the world over. It would be much more fruitful, therefore, to argue for a low-meat diet than a purely vegetarian one (or — the horror! — a vegan one). This is a place where the state can enact policies to reduce the economic and ecological impact of large-scale meat production and encourage better nutrition, as well as inform consumers about the kind of meat they buy. Just don't be in a rush: there are surely more important priorities out there than the veggie jihad.

Pork, piety and the nature of reality

Pork rinds, known in the American South and the English North as crackling, are a delicious beer snack consisting essentially of the roasted skin of pigs. In the video below, the Muslim owners of deli in New York receives a consignment of the snack and ponders and whether or not they should sell it. A particularly interesting point is that the pork rinds appear not to contain any pork (indeed most ¢99 renditions of pork rinds consist of salt and flavorings imprinted on a soy wafer). Before this ontological conundrum can be resolved, the package of pork rinds is recalled... and taken to the Jewish deli across the road.

Links for Dec.26.09 to Dec.28.09
Get Elected; or, al-Baradei Tryin’ (Part 1 of ???) « THE BOURSA EXCHANGE | TBE translates that ElBaradei interview from al-Shorouq.
Could the Mullahs Fall This Time? - The Daily Beast | Interesting ruminations on whether Iran is near a revolution and the importance of Ashura as a symbol of the fight for justice.
Op-Ed Columnist - The Big Zero - NYTimes.com | Economically, the decade produced nothing.
The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب: Saudi Wahhabi Physiognomy: this man should be teaching at KAUST | Funny.
Rasheed el-Enany on modern Arabic lit: not quite a Renaissance | Al-Masry Al-Youm | "I think the status of translated Arabic literature is better than it's ever been."
Two Hamas members killed in Beirut explosion | Unusual... this attack was in a safe, Hizbullah-controlled area.
Activists appeal to Mubarak over entry into Gaza - Yahoo! News |
Egypt said it would prevent their passage because of the "sensitive situation" in Gaza and warned Monday of legal repercussions for anyone defying the ban.
Around 1,300 international delegates from 42 countries have signed up to join the Gaza Freedom March which was due to enter Gaza via Egypt during the last week of December.

Exclusive excerpt from Joe Sacco’s groundbreaking new book: Footnotes in Gaza | I'm awaiting my copy of this book from this great cartoonist.
Sic Semper Tyrannis : Men on Horseback | Pat Lang on the Afghan policy war inside the Obama administration.
Ardebili's laptop - Laura Rozen - POLITICO.com | Iran holding hikers and others because US holding Iranians?
Anis Sayigh: and Israeli history of letter bombs | Angry Arab has an interesting post on the Israeli use of letter bombs against civilians.
Officials Point to Suspect’s Claim of Qaeda Ties in Yemen - NYTimes.com | Rather suspicious, this Yemen angle at a time when people are trying to confuse the Huthis and al-Qaeda...
The Lives They Lived - Ben Ali - The Chili That Shaped a Family - NYTimes.com | Sausages and chilli, served to Obama by an Indian Muslim Trinidadian.
Mainstreaming the Mad Iran Bombers | Marc Lynch | Lynch on NYT op-ed's call for war.
The Nevada gambler, al-Qaida, the CIA and the mother of all cons | The Guardian | "Playboy magazine has revealed that the CIA fell victim to an elaborate con by a compulsive gambler who claimed to have developed software that discovered al-Jazeera broadcasts were being used to transmit messages to terrorists buried deep in America."

Links for Dec.10.09 to Dec.12.09

Daily News Egypt - Editorial: The Illusive Metal Barrier | On Egypt's denial that a wall is being built.


BBC News - Egypt starts building steel wall on Gaza Strip border | Video report has some more details, but the whole thing is rather hazy.


Israel National Survey | Survery of Israeli attitudes on various topics.


Libya still jailing dissenters: Human Rights Watch | New HRW report.


'Egypt is one of the freest states in the entire Arab world' - The Irish Times - Sat, Dec 12, 2009 | Ismail Serageldin engages in apologia.


Palestinian leader speaks from prison - CNN.com | Interview with Marwan Barghouti.


Swiss Man Builds Minaret to Protest Ban - WaryaTV | Good for him.


Israel court: Deported Palestinian student can't return - CNN.com | Everyday misery from Gaza blockade.


ENVIRONMENT: Darkness at Noon Clouds Cairo Skies - IPS ipsnews.net | On the black cloud - which I thought was not as bad this year.


The Language of Food | Ceviche and Fish & Chips | Fascinating on the Persian and Arab origin of escabeche, ceviche, and fish and chips.


The Language of Food | Ceviche and Fish & Chips | Fascinating on the Persian and Arab origin of escabeche, ceviche, and fish and chips.


‘Sultan wants children to be God-fearing’ | The ridiculousness of the al-Sauds.


No real "freeze" on settlement: Israeli minister - Yahoo! News | No kidding: "JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The population of Jewish settlements in the West Bank could grow by 10,000 in the coming year despite a declared "freeze" on Israeli building in the occupied territory, an Israeli Cabinet minister has said."


On Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Lobby: A response to Peter Beinart | Walt on Obama's Afphan policy and the lobby.


Middle East Report 253 contents: Apartheid and Beyond | New issue.

Links for 11.16.09 to 11.18.09
ضغوط أمريكية لزيادة الغاز المصري لإسرائيل وخفض أسعاره - بوابة الشروق | al-Shurouk reports that US is asking Egypt to increase gas deliveries to Israel, and at cheaper price.
US rebukes Israel on settlement plans - Yahoo! News | ... but will do nothing about it.
Nubian fury at 'monkey' lyric of Arab pop star Haifa Wehbe | World news | The Guardian | The Haifa Wehbe / Nubian scandal.
The Obama admin is selling the peace process, but the press is not buying it. | Phil Weiss has surreal transcript from State Dept. over new settlements.
Readability - An Arc90 Lab Experiment | Very nice bookmarklet for reading long articles.
Palestinians say they will ask UN to recognise state - Yahoo! News | Doesn't the UN already accept previous resolutions with the 1967 line? Regarding my previous comment on US senators' call for a veto, the Palestinians do appear to want to take it to UNSC, not UNGA.
Le Figaro - Conjoncture : Le grand Monopoly mondial des terres agricoles | Nice chart accompanying this article on the sale of arable land to food importing nations.
U.S. "would veto" Palestinian state move: Senators - Yahoo! News | I suspect recognition by the UN would take place by the General Assembly, not the Security Council, so that turncoat Lieberman can take his veto and shove it...
The pro-Israel lobby in Britain: full text | openDemocracy | Report on UK Israel lobby by documentary filmmaker Peter Oborne.
FT.com - Inflation rears its head again in Egypt | Mostly affecting food prices ahead of Eid.
Egyptian Blogger Beaten | "During the mayhem of a major soccer match, Egyptian blogger Kareem el-Shae’r was kidnapped and beaten. El-Shae’r moderates the Free Egypt blog and is a member of Ayman Nour’s el-Ghad party and the April 6 Youth movement. For his activism, el-Shae’r has been arrested several times and beaten before. The Egyptian interior ministry refused to comment on the incident."
Gaddafi hires 200 young Italian women – to convert them to Islam | And tries to convert them to Islam.
Israel must end Gaza blockade, evictions, alleged abuse of Palestinian children - Ban | "Israel should end the blockade of Gaza, cease evictions and demolitions of Palestinian homes, and ensure that the rights of children are respected and that all allegations of torture and ill-treatment are promptly investigated and perpetrators prosecuted, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in an annual report released today."
Yemen Finds Dreamland of Architecture - NYTimes.com | On Yemen's traditional architecture.
The Arabs by Eugene Rogan | Book review | The Guardian | Robert Irwin reviews this book, which I am currently reading.

Middle Eastern food fest in London
This event looks really fun for foodies:

The London Middle East Institute (LMEI), the SOAS Food Studies Centre, and Fertile Ground invite you to an evening celebrating the foods of the Middle East.

Students and family members of all ages are invited to prepare a dish of special significance to them, and to share their food, as well as stories about it, with others.

Special guests Claudia Roden (author of numerous food books, including A New Book of Middle Eastern Food, The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand and Vilna to the Present Day, and Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey and Lebanon) and Sami Zubaida (Professor Emeritus at Birkbeck University and co-author of A Taste of Thyme: Culinary Cultures of the Middle East) will offer remarks about the culinary traditions of the region.

The event will be held in the Brunei Gallery Café Suite on Monday 7 December 2009, beginning at 6:00pm.

Space on the event is limited, and registration is required. Those interested in participating should email Laura Jacobs (laura@fertile-ground.co.uk) by Friday 13 November at the latest.


If anyone in London is going, I'd like to hear about it -- and if they answer the perennial question of the mystery of Egyptian cuisine.
Links for 07.18.09 to 07.20.09
Gambling with peace: how US bingo dollars are funding Israeli settlements | World news | The Guardian | More Moskowitz. There should be an international financial blockade against any institution involved in the settlements.
'U.S. tells Israel to halt East Jerusalem building' - Haaretz - Israel News | More on Irving Moskowitz's settlement plans.
Asma Al Assad: Syria's First Lady And All-Natural Beauty (SLIDESHOW) | HuffPo celebrates the beauty of Asma al-Assad. Never mind her hubby being a dictator and all...
WaPo bows cravenly to pro-Israel lobby | WaPo publishes inaccurate "correction" on Gilo settlement.
De “Freej” à “Hamdoon” : le dessin cartonne aux Emirats | On the spread of homegrown cartoon characters in the UAE.
French agents kidnapped in Somalia | Security trainers were posing as journalists and staying at journalists' hotel — can't say I feel any sympathy for them.
Publier ici votre bilan des dix de règne - Comme une bouteille jetée à la mer! | Larbi, one of the best Moroccan bloggers, is inviting readers to send in their assessment of the first 10 years of Muhammad VI's reign.
Breaking the silence | Soldiers’ Testimonies from Operation Cast Lead, Gaza 2009
Al-Ahram Weekly | Egypt | Cementing the rift via dialogue | Update on Egypt-brokered Palestinian reconciliation talks after Ramallah meeting, takes the position that Fatah is sabotaging talks for electoral purposes. But does not acknowledge Egypt's acquiescence in this plan.
The freegans' creed: waste not, want not | Environment | The Observer | Article on freeganism, i.e. eating free food that's been thrown away. Clearly only possible as a lifestyle in the first world.
Somaliland's addict economy | GlobalPost | About Qat (also spelled Khat, the drug) in Somaliland.
EGYPT: Poet accused of insulting Mubarak awaits final verdict | Babylon & Beyond | Los Angeles Times | Ridiculous.
OpenStreetMap | Not bad alternative to Google Maps. For Cairo not bad, but Google is more detailed and in Arabic. Still, good effort that might improve, and does not lock us in to the G-Man.
Revisiting Obama's Riyadh meeting | The Cable | So the idea that Obama came out empty-handed out of his pre-Cairo Speech meeting with Saudi King Abdullah is gaining ground. But it is ridiculous to imagine that Abdullah would pre-emptively agree to concessions before the Israelis have made even a single concession.
Egyptian chronicles: Ahmed Rushdie-Barely-Speaks For The First Time | Very interesting post on former Egyptian minister of interior Ahmed Rushdie, described here as the only minister of the Mubarak era to have resigned and the only interior minister who was respected. (I don't know how true this is, but it's interesting!)
International Crisis Group - 152 Sudan: Justice, Peace and the ICC | New ICG report on Sudan warns of laying off pressure on Khartoum over Darfur as focus shifts to the south and the CPA again. Among key recommendations to the ruling party is that Bashir should step down as soon as possible.
US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman Talks to Asharq Al-Awsat | Sharq al-Awsat interview, mostly on Syria. The Obama administration sure loves Saudi media.
Palestinians aim for massive pastry record Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | I'm all for building the world's largest ball of twine or baking the biggest kunafa, but the reporting on this is over the top.
Taboo Topics on Contemporary Foreign Policy Discourse | Stephen M. Walt | Excellent post on the Ten Commandments of foreign policy wonks. You could add plenty more, but I would add (as far as Egypt is concerned) "Thou shall greet yesterday's oppressor as today's reformer, or vice versa if appropriate." Walt makes so many good points it's hard to choose a favorite, although #9 is up there.