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Whatever Else Happened to the Egyptians?

Whatever Else Happened to the Egyptians?: From the Revolution to the Age of Globalization

Galal Amin
Translated by David Wilmsen
lllustrations by Samir Abd aI-Ghani
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 196
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt15m7k3h
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  • Book Info
    Whatever Else Happened to the Egyptians?
    Book Description:

    At the time of the Egyptian Revolution in 1952, the population of Egypt was around 22 million. At the end of 2002, it stood at 69 million, and was growing at a rate of 1.33 million a year. What happens to a society that grows so quickly, when the habitable and cultivable land of the country is strictly limited? After the success of Whatever Happened to the Egyptians?, Galal Amin now takes a further bemused look at the changes that have taken place in Egyptian society over the past half century, this time considering the disruptions brought about by the surge in population. Basing his arguments on both academic research and his own personal experiences and impressions, and employing the same light humor and keen sense of empathy as in his earlier work, the author discusses how runaway population growth has not only profound effects on many aspects of society—from love and fashion to telephones, the supermarket, and religion—but also predictable effects on the economy.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-053-5
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[ii])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [iii]-[iv])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-2)
    Galal Amin

    This book describes aspects of the development of Egyptian society over the last fifty years, covering the second half of the twentieth century. It could therefore be considered as a continuation of what I had begun inWhatever Happened to the Egyptians(Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 2000), since it deals with subjects that were not addressed in that book. However there is another important difference: whereas the dominant theme of the first book was one of social mobility, and the effect that a changing class structure in Egypt had on social phenomena, this book focuses on the...

  4. 1 The Age of the Mass Society
    (pp. 3-20)

    It was about fifty years ago that I fIrst boarded an airplane. I still recall how passengers comported themselves in those days. We were “airline passengers,” a rare breed of earth denizen, aristocrats in every sense of the word, and we were treated as such by airline staff, stewardesses, and ticket agents alike.

    Everything was so much cheaper then than it is now, yet the few pounds of the price of an airline ticket were well beyond the means of most of the world’s population, who for that reason were resigned to a life in their local cities or towns,...

  5. 2 The July Revolution and the Age of the Mass Society
    (pp. 21-32)

    In the three or four years before the July Revolution of 1952, a general feeling spread among Egyptians that something momentous was about to happen. They were ruled by a corrupt king, news of whose exploits with women and feats at gambling reached them every day. In 1948, the Egyptian army along with six other Arab armies suffered an ignominious defeat in Palestine that was followed by the announcement of the establishment of the state of Israel. After that, one Egyptian government followed another in quick succession, each one more corrupt than the one before. Income disparities were growing rapidly...

  6. 3 Journalism
    (pp. 33-44)

    There is no natural or human law dictating that we must read a newspaper every morning. This rather strange practice grew by stages out of specific economic and social circumstances until it had established itself among large segments of the population. In so-called advanced societies, the habit is so widespread that it has become something of an addiction.

    How can it have caught us unawares?

    There is, without a doubt, a need to know some news, and this need must be met by one means or another. For example, should a hostile tribe be intent on raiding and plundering a...

  7. 4 Television
    (pp. 45-56)

    It is quite possible that when future historians write the history of the twentieth century, the most appropriate name they might coin for the latter half of it will be “the age of the television,” in the same way that the first half of the century might be termed the age of the radio and cinema. Yet neither radio nor cinema has spread around the world in quite the same way or engaged people as much as television has.

    Egypt has known the medium for scarcely more than forty years. Even in Europe and America, television did not achieve its...

  8. 5 The Telephone
    (pp. 57-70)

    It is said that a friend of the famous French painter Auguste Renoir once told him of an astounding new invention that the painter had not yet heard of: the telephone. The friend described how two people could talk to one another even though they were miles apart. Renoir asked: “Suppose the telephone rang while I was absorbed in a painting; should I leave what I am doing to answer it?” His friend answered, “Yes.” To which Renoir replied, “How then would I be any different from a servant who comes at my bidding when I ring the bell?”

    This...

  9. 6 Dress
    (pp. 71-82)

    In my youth, that is, a little more than half a century ago, clothes provided a very easy way to classify Egyptians. Just by looking at someone, you could determine the class to which he or she belonged, whether lower, middle, or upper. This is no longer the case. The abject poor are still easy to distinguish, as are the exceedingly rich, but these two extremes aside, it has become considerably more difficult to identify a person's class by the style of his or her dress.

    Fifty years ago it was possible, for example, to classify a person as belonging...

  10. 7 Romance
    (pp. 83-90)

    When my heart opened to love for the first time, there was no possible way I might have expressed this love to anyone but to the girl next door. That was over fifty years ago, at the end of the 1940s, and romance in Egypt in those days was an entirely different creature from what it is today.

    We were a family dominated by boys. Of eight children, only two were girls, and they were more than fifteen years older than me. For that reason, I have hardly any memory of a female presence in the house except for that...

  11. 8 Birthdays
    (pp. 91-98)

    As the youngest member of my family, with five boys and two girls older than myself, I can attest with confidence that not one of my brothers or sisters ever had a birthday party. Because I was the youngest, I was the only one to catch this fashionable new custom that had at the time only recently arrived in Egypt. It quickly spread like wildfire from one social class to another and it might be interesting to examine what it was about Egyptian society that allowed birthday parties to become so popular.

    One may well be justified in celebrating the...

  12. 9 Culture
    (pp. 99-124)

    A little less than fifty years ago, in 1955, a book written by two young Egyptian Marxists caused widespread reverberations and sparked off great interest among intellectuals in Egypt and throughout the Arab world, who either sang its praises or condemned it vehemently. The attention was well deserved, as the book proved in time to be a milestone in Egypt’s intellectual history.

    The book wasOn Egyptian Culture, by Abd al-’Azim Anis and Mahmud al-’Alim. The tone of some of its chapters was excessively harsh on some of the great Egyptian writers but the position it expressed was bold and...

  13. 10 The Economy
    (pp. 125-136)

    Seen from an economist’s point of view, the fifty years since the July Revolution may be divided into two periods, which by pure coincidence are of roughly equal length. During those two periods Egypt witnessed two entirely different orientations of economic policy: one in which the state interfered mightily in economic life, and the other coming very close to a free economy. The date that divides the two periods is not the death of ‘Abd al-Nasser in 1970, but the inauguration of the open-door policy (orinjitah) in 1974. Hence, each of the two systems prevailed for about a quarter-century,...

  14. 11 Rich and Poor
    (pp. 137-144)

    One of Marxism’s famous tenets is that the state is primarily a tool used by the privileged classes to subjugate other classes. So there is no such thing in the Marxist scheme of things as a neutral state with respect to class struggle. Anyone who thinks that the state could act as a referee between classes or that it might be possible to persuade it to act on behalf of the underprivileged at the expense of the privileged is a dreamer. This means that political power must sooner or later redound to those who possess economic power. So if one...

  15. 12 The Circus
    (pp. 145-154)

    When the idea of a national circus was suggested to Gamal ‘Abd aI-Nasser in 1960 as part of a five-year cultural plan, he saw nothing wrong with it, and so the idea was put into practice, and the circus was opened in 1966 in the neighborhood of Agouza on the west bank of the Nile. The idea was that the state would support the venerable circus that the Helw family had established at the dawn of the twentieth century and had continued to direct and perform in for generations. The state would spend on the circus to develop and modernize...

  16. 13 A Train Journey
    (pp. 155-168)

    Even though the people who ride in the third-class carriages of Egyptian trains, and the people who take the minibuses between Cairo and Alexandria, or between regional towns and villages make up, together with their families, more than half the Egyptian people, the Egyptian media, nevertheless, has almost nothing to say about them. If you only get your information from Egyptian radio and television, and Egyptian newspapers and magazines, whatever their political orientation, you will not learn any but the most superficial news about the way of life of those passengers. It is true that some news about them may...

  17. 14 The Doctorate
    (pp. 169-176)

    I Wish someone would collect some figures from newspapers, magazines, the radio, and television to see how many people on the news hold doctorates. Whoever did would find that their absolute number as well as their proportion of the total number of writers, expert consultants, commentators, cabinet ministers, and other persons of authority are greater in Egypt than in many other countries, developed or otherwise. The phenomenon bears scrutiny since it is not to be welcomed without some serious reservations. It also reveals some unfortunate truths about the state of Egyptian society today.

    There is, first of all, the simple...

  18. 15 This World and the Next
    (pp. 177-186)

    In this last chapter I will relate a more personal story, about a change that has occurred in my own family over four generations–those of my grandfather, my father, myself, and my son. The story revolves around one single theme, namely our changing view of this world as compared with the next.

    In my father’s autobiography, published in Arabic some fifty years ago (Ahmad Amin,My Life, Cairo, 1950) this description of my grandfather’s character appears, revealing his view on this matter:

    He is an exceedingly religious man, prays frequently and reads the Qur'an and Prophetic Traditions avidly. He...

  19. Notes
    (pp. 187-191)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 192-192)