The moving finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy piety nor wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a line,
Nor all thy tears wash out a word of it.
           – The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

Go to any temple in Egypt and the guide will show you where Pharaoh after Pharaoh obliterated the names of previous rulers to replace them with his own – a practice it seems that is decreed to continue into the 21st. Century.  The most remarkable and best remembered are the following examples.

Circa 1400BC under the rule of Tutmosis III the name of Hatshepsut was obliterated from many monuments.

Circa 1200BC Sety I omits the names of Hatshepsut and the Amarna Kings from his List of Kings Hall at Abydos.

Pretty much up to the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb – now the most famous of all the ancient Pharaohs – very little was know about Tut himself, his father Akhenaton, his mother Nefertiti (apart from the beautiful head found) or the two Pharaohs who ruled after him – such a good job was done in obliterating them – they were deemed to be heretics for deciding there was only one god (which would make most of the religions of the day….what?).  You see what hindsight and the re-discovery of history does?!

CAIRO, 2011 April 21 (Reuters) – “Egypt on Thursday took another step towards erasing the legacy of deposed president Hosni Mubarak by ordering his name, and that of his family, removed from public institutions across the nation.” Full story here

Here we have history repeating itself in Egypt once again and, in my humble opinion, this is an ill-thought out move for several reasons:

1.  The Mubarak Era is a fact and nothing is going to change that.

2.  The next generation will have nothing to remind them why this generation revolted – the names should be kept as they are to remind future generations why this generation revolted.  Memory is short.  After World War II it was decided to keep the death camps in Germany open as museums “lest the world ever forget what happened”

3.  What about legal papers?  A Certificate of Ownership or a Sales Contract in Egypt is written in such a way that not just the name of a street is written down to denote the position of a building – the name and owner of the buildings on all four sides are also documented.  Imagine the mess some documents are going to be in 30 years from now when nobody remembers where the “Mubarak” streets and buildings were!

4.  What about the millions of history books, fiction books, guide books, reference books that have been written over the last 30 years with the “Mubarak” streets and buildings mentioned?

5.  We have a hotel in Luxor that has been re-named 3 times since I arrived here 8 years ago.  Ask a taxi driver where “El Luxor Hotel” is – he will take you to “The Luxor Hotel” which is a different hotel altogether.  But ask him to take you to the “Etap Hotel” and he will take you directly to “El Luxor Hotel”, which is the original name of the “El Luxor Hotel”  The main street parallel to my own street, again in Luxor has also been changed 3 times in the last 10 years.  Nobody knows where it is when you ask for either the present or last name – because everyone still refers to it by it’s original name!

6.  Not to mention all the people who won’t be able to read the new signs anyway – they are going to be more confused than anyone!

CAIRO 2011 April 21  “A committee formed by Egypt’s Ministry of Education to revise history textbooks for elementary and junior high schools has issued a recommendation to re-introduce historical and political figures that have been deliberately overlooked for years.

The committee has recommended that chapters fawning over the regime of President Hosni Mubarak, ousted by the January 25 Revolution be omitted”  Full Story Here

History is History and though Egypt might today, as the Pharaoh’s of ancient times, wish to obliterate the Mubarak names, their wrong-doings, and their achievements (we have to be honest, there were also achievements made – if you deny this you condemn the entire population of the Mubarak Era as being what???).  They may wish to re-write history but it is not possible – our modern day world events are forever recorded on video, film, recordings, a wide range of literature – not to mention the all-knowing World Wide Web!  So rewriting the history books is a dis-service to the students of Egypt who will be ignorant of their own history in the face of the international community.

I can see the confusion this will cause going on for many, many years and, for the interim, people will be talking about Mubarak and his family even more because every time they speak to anyone about the new place names they will also have to remind people of the old name!!!  And what of the veterans and families of those who fought under the command of, and beside Mubarak in the Israeli wars?????  Are they to be written out or “played down” also?

Daily events, which with the passage of time becomes known as history, should be, and thankfully is always recorded from many different perspectives.  It is only when time has passed and all the different human perspectives are brought together and examined that a fuller, more complete and more comprehensive picture is revealed – devoid of the emotion inherent at the time of the events.

History is our most valuable tool in man’s evolution.  It is from history we learn how not to repeat our mistakes.  If America had written the bombing of Hiroshima out of the history books would we today be trying to curb the manufacture of nuclear bombs?  Or would we have “nuked” the entire Earth at some point over the past few years?  How do we feel about that event today?  Was it needed to win the war or was it an experiment?  If Germany had written Hitler out of history would we have succumbed to another Hitler later on?  And would he have succeeded where Hitler failed?

As for myself and the history I was taught in Irish schools – I am very sad today that so much of what I was taught was about our own 1916 Rising (revolution) and many selected British/Irish events, yet I never heard one word in my schools about the Egyptians whom, it seems, ruled Ireland at one stage and may actually have built our most sacred ancient monument knows as the Hill of Tara!  I doubt there is little record of that here in Egypt either!

But I imagine there are some folk these decrees of eradication will mean a lot to – in ancient Roman times the Emperors used to hold games in the Colosseum where people were murdered daily to entertain the “masses” – in the French Revolution the Guillotine was in the public square where again the “masses” were entertained.  It’s easy to sway the human emotions and divert the mind.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *