There is a movement afoot to take the name of “Mubarak” and that of his wife “Suzanne” of buildings, streets etc. – mostly in Cairo at the moment.   I do hope this won’t go too far.  It is what we call a “knee jerk reaction, which with hindsight may look petty or meaningless.Egypt cannot simple push a button and erase the Mubarak era by changing street names etc.  Today’s visitors to Luxor are shown around temples and monuments and informed by their guide that this and that used to have the name Hatshepsut written on it but that Tutmoses III had her names erased and replaced.  But we know today that Egypt prospered for 20 years under Hatshepsut.  They go to Abydos Temple and look at the Hall of Kings and are told that the Amarna Kings and Hatshepsut are not listed because the Egyptians wanted to forget about them etc.  Yet, Tutankamun is the most famous Pharaoh that we remember today.  Tourists look at temples where Pharaohs erased their predecessor’s name and replaced it with their own.In each of the above instances the impression we form of the person doing the erasing is that of a petty individual.  You cannot erase your past – it does not serve you to erase it.  It serves you to observe it, understand it, improve upon it and move forward.  If you try to erase the past from your memories how can you move forward with improvement?  We accept and come to terms with our past and let it go.For those of us who live in Luxor we have had to watch helpless as our UNESCO-funded city council sent bull-dozers and demolition squads across the city demolishing beautiful old buildings with utter and total disregard for their history.  In the space of two years they eradicated almost all trace of 100 years of history, while we watched on in helpless horror and disbelief.  For what?  That is another discussion – here my point is that later generations will visit Luxor and ask where is the evidence of those years and will wonder what possessed us to eradicate it – by what right did we eradicate it’s evidence?  Rather we have a duty to preserve our history in all it’s forms if we are to be faithful, honest and impartial custodians of history.  Egypt safeguards it ancient history – what if the inhabitants of Egypt during the last 400 years had decided to demolish the Pharaonic temples, coptic and islamic monuments because they did not agree with, approve of or like them?  Imagine Cairo without the Pyramids – for what would anyone need to come to Egypt if not for it’s history – all of it.

Similarly, like it or hate it Egypt had a Nasser Era, a Sadat Era and a Mubarak Era and it will be up to historians with their many versions from their writing viewpoints to record it as I am sure many have already.  Scrubbing out names will not eradicate it.  It may be too soon now for some people to look at the latest era – the Mubarak era with impartiality and acknowledge the good of that time as well as the bad, and it is definitely not a popular time to do so!  It was a 30 year era and it may take another 30 years for those who have never known life without Mubarak – 30 years of a different type of public and private existence for them to be able to look back and acknowledge there were good days as well as bad days, benefits as well as deprivations – and sometimes it is only the wisdom of age that can acknowledge the humanity, frailty and failings of the rest of the human race without judgement.

So please, don’t try to eradicate the impossible – use it to learn from, use it to improve, use it to move on.  If you eradicate the names how can you tell your children of your crowning moment in history – you will have no evidence it ever existed.  Build new institutions, make new streets, see if your constructions and your new visions can surpass and outnumber the old.  And when your time is over you can point to your achievements and compare them in number, size and benefit to those that preceeded you.   But let this be a reminder to you…….30 years from now in all probability your children will regard you and this time in a somewhat similar light as you now regard your parents’ youth, efforts, successes and failures.  It is the way of progress, youth and human nature…so please, be gentle and maybe your children will treat you with gentleness and understanding also.

On a more practical and obvious note –  in the West we have a custom that when a girl marries she takes her husband’s name so while a girl’s name is Caroline Murphy until she marries a man named John Smith and then changes her name to Caroline Smith.  30 years on if she change her name back to Caroline Murphy who will know anything she did during the 30 years she was called Caroline Murphy?  In Luxor I live near a main street that has had it’s name changed 3 times – when you ask a taxi driver to take you there – he still checks if you want to go to the street it was originally called. We have a hotel that has changed it’s name 3 times in 9 years – nobody knows it under the new name – everyone still calls it the original name.

Save everyone from the confusion – leave the names alone.  Egypt is confusing enough!

 

 

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