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Cairo and Egypt almost fifty years ago

Reader comment on item: The Arabs as Seen Fifty Years Ago

Submitted by dhimmi no more (United States), Mar 8, 2012 at 10:23

Dr. Pipes

As usual you are right on target in your article: "The Arabs fifty years ago." There is no doubt that Desmond Stewart's article does not fit with the reality of the Arab world fifty years ago or even now

The great German historians have alerted us long time ago about the nature of historiography and that writing any historical text is not any different than writing fiction and it only represents what the author believed "what really happened" and now we the readers can look back and realize that Stewart's remarks and conclusions were flawed.

Albert Hourani wrote about the "Liberal age" in the Arab world but he alerted the reader that it came to an end before the second world war, but it seems that Stewart was not aware of such conculsion

I also wanted to bring to your attention a book that was written by the Australian journalist James Aldridge in 1969 so it is just about the same time period and the book is "Cairo, Biography of a City" and I do believe it is a must read for any student of modern Egypt

It is a well written book. However, after liviing in Egypt for a long period of time he was unable to tell about very basic things as in the case of the difference between the Islamic hijab and the very Egyptian head-cover called tarha. Again authors only see what they know

But he goes on in believeing that Hourani's "Libreral age" is still marching on and on page 310 he wrote:" Like all religions Islam has suffered serious distortions over the centuries and as with all Middle Eeastern religions what was a good moral system for half a dozen desert tribes one or two thousand years ago is hardly a sound one now for an industrial nondesert society"! He sound very much like Stewart

But in the next paragraph he wrote:"On fridays the mosques of Cairo are always crowded ...." but he was unable to tell the reader what this could mean except that you can see the poor and the rich sharing the prayer mats and this is his evidence of "The only virtue before God in islam is this egalite."

I do believe that back in the 1960's and before the rise of radical islam world wide authors the likes of Aldridge and Stewart were hoping that that the Arab world will be another "West" and no more


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Daniel Pipes replies:

I read Aldridge's book in advance of going to Cairo for the first time in 1971 and it made a favorable impression on me. I arrived there expecting to see a city becoming more Western with time.

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