Lesson from the Damaittans
Zahi Hawass

What happened in Damaitta can be a lesson that all of us (governors, government officials – all Egyptians) can learn from. As we all know, a Canadian company – Agrium - was pursuing construction of a fertilizer factory on the island of Ras El Bar and because of the recent controversy parliament appointed a committee to study the case and they decided to move this factory away from Ras El Bar. First I would like to say that I am from Damaitta and I have always been proud of my origin. When the National Geographic made a film about my life story and work, I took them to Ras El Bar, the seashore where I spent my childhood. I took them to a unique place where the red water (from the fertile land) of the Nile used to join the Mediterranean Sea, the beautiful setting called El Lessan (tongue).

This area has been developed by the great man and architect, Dr. Mohamed Fathi El Bradey. If you go there at sunrise or sunset, you will witness remarkable seashore that does not exist in any country in Europe. Many famous actors, writers and politicians used to spend their summers relaxing at this magnificent seashore. After the 1973 war, the seashore was ruined by immigrants who turned it into a city, but Dr. El Bradey returned it to its former glory and made it into a national park. No one can believe, that the authorities would allow an industrial factory to be built on one of our treasured seashores, destroying the natural beauty, fish and wildlife and polluting our atmosphere. How could this happen? We also must ask ourselves why the Canadian company agreed to this. Would they have accepted this damage if it was being done in their own country? Would they destroy one of their national parks? I think not!

This important case can teach us a lesson. First, the governor, Dr. El Bradey stood with the people and spoke out against the government project. Normally in his position he should support government projects but he put himself on the line and stood with the people of his district. He is a man with ethics and integrity. He felt that history would be his judge and if he didn’t say anything to help protect this area he would be blamed. He was not afraid about losing his position, instead he stood with courage and in a quite way without using an antagonistic voice he analyzed the project and he concluded that the factory would ruin all his dreams to make Ras El Bar a protected site; a contribution from him, a gifted architect, to the people of Damaitta.

The second lesson is how the people, together as one, stood against the government project. The people in Damaitta did not stage violent protests or marches. They did not destroy cars or busses. To show that they opposed the project they put black flags above their houses to demonstrate that the factory would change their lives. All the parties in Damaitta, the Democratic Party and the opposition parties, and the members of parliament rejected the idea of this project that would ruin the beautiful seashore. We can learn discipline and determination from the people of Damaitta. President Mubarak, during his latest visit to Damaitta, announced that he hoped to see all the Egyptians to be like the Damaittans.

The third lesson is that we need city plans. Our cities and villages do not have city planning like other places in the world. For example, when the city of New York was originally planned (organized) more than 200 years ago they set certain restrictions that are still followed today. It is the duty of every governor to bring expertise and help establish plans for their cities and villages that designate specific locations for tourist and industrial activities. So when they retire and governors in the future take over (even hundreds of years from now) they will have a plan to work by. We need to keep areas that are considered national parks safe because these natural wonders cannot be replaced. We have a vast desert that can house factories but these factories must still follow regulations so they do not destroy our atmosphere. We can look to the desert road in Upper Egypt to erect these types of industrial projects.

Dr. El Bradey should be seen as an example of man who taught all of us an important lesson.

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