Egyptians’ Stance and Sentiments towards the Nile River

Is nationalism best served by expressing passionate sentiments for one’s country in song or does a nation’s true progress need more than love? Egyptians’ tendency to voice their emotional attachment to their country is not only a sign of hypocrisy; it also aims at highlighting their dependence on the State and, in turn, enhances the State’s prominence and citizens’ need for it.

Egypt is probably one of a few countries that produce numerous songs in praise of national glory. We sing in praise of the Pyramids, the Sphinx, the Nile River, ancient monuments and of course our civilization in general. The Egyptian government obviously supports this trend, rewarding such singers by enrolling them into its entourage!  However, simultaneously with celebrating these songs, many of us abuse our national resources – by engaging in the illegal traffic and mistreatment of our ancient relics, for example.

Our government is constantly repeating that the Nile River is a matter of life or death for the Egyptian people. Yet we have been carelessly damaging this lifeline for decades by inefficiently consuming our share of the river’s water, polluting it with waste disposal, and mismanaging our current conflict with Ethiopia over Nile water allocation. Nonetheless, along with the abuse, we maintain our sentiments for the river, saying that visitors who drink from the Nile will always come back to our country.

The Egyptian singer who spent years singing a very emotional popular song in praise of the Nile River is currently being prosecuted because of a word that slipped out as she tried to make a joke at a live concert. Meanwhile, millions of citizens who have been abusing the Nile for decades continue to do so without being penalized. The Egyptian State’s understanding of who should be penalized and who should be applauded is definitely flawed.

Zooming out, many Egyptians often express their sentiments for the military and police apparatus that protect our national security, apparently convinced that spending their time singing for our soldiers facing terrorists and enemies on the front line is a serious pursuit that helps to keep our country in a good shape! Not only is this hypocritical, it also reflects an unjust attitude towards citizens who put their lives on the line and others whose utmost contribution is to express their love.

Many Egyptians are privileged by the State for humming “Long Live Egypt” in song! The phrase has become a password used by people to express loyalty to their country, in return for which they are granted State positions and immunity from being held to account for their ineffectiveness or for involvement in corruption. Meanwhile, Egyptians who want to play a constructive role in the development of their country are marginalized for not being in tune with the rhythm required by the Egyptian State!

“Rest assured that we will solve the problem” was President Al Sisi’s recent response to the grave concerns of Egyptians regarding their share of Nile River water upon learning that the technical negotiations with the Ethiopian government on the Renaissance Dam had come to a deadlock. In my view, the Egyptian government should have negotiated this issue and struck a deal with the Ethiopian government when the Renaissance Dam was still a prototype. Now that the dam is close to realization, reaching a solution is infinitely more complicated.

Egyptians in general find it difficult to trust a government that has been mistreating all our natural resources for decades! Seeing our government lose a number of internal and external political battles makes us justifiably concerned.  Candidness is not as essential a quality for a ruler as competence; a competent ruler would be able to solve our challenges – or at least to provide some sign that we are on the right track. Sadly, the Nile River conflict might drag Egypt into an unpleasant internal scenario that could have been avoided had the issue been addressed well in advance.

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