The Cross and the River: Ethiopia, Egypt, and the Nile

The Cross and the River: Ethiopia, Egypt, and the Nile

The Cross and the River: Ethiopia, Egypt, and the Nile

The Cross and the River: Ethiopia, Egypt, and the Nile

Excerpt

The idea of writing this book was conceived in the late 1980s. The memory of the great famine in Ethiopia was still fresh. The images of the walking skeletons of young children, victims of their country's failure to store water and develop a modern irrigation system, refused to fade away. The absurdity of the land of the Blue Nile dying of thirst was combined with the fact that Egypt at that time was about to face a similar catastrophe. Egypt, the “gift of the Nile, ” had fully developed its water system, but its dependence on the river, and on rains in Ethiopia, remained. In the early summer of 1988, after five years of drought in Ethiopia had reduced the waters of Lake Nasser to an alarming level, experts predicted the imminent demise of Egypt's agriculture. The good rains of that summer brought some temporary relief, but no rest to my mind. As a student of both countries' history, I was aware of their historic interdependence, of their mutual strategic, cultural, and religious relations. I was also aware of their failure, through many centuries of meaningful relations, to cope together with the challenge of the great river. The intensive Egyptian-Ethiopian efforts to reach understanding that resumed in the early 1990s have not been facilitated by old legacies of mutual suspicion. A common, long-term, multifaceted history continues to send double messages, blurring an aggravating issue.

In 1995, I began to work on the present volume. It is an attempt to reconstruct cultural-conceptual developments beyond the concrete, ancient Ethiopian-Egyptian relations. My research was assisted by two institutions. The Israel Science Foundation, founded by the Israeli Academy for Science and Humanities, granted me a three-year scholarship. The United States Institute of Peace, based in Washington, D. C., generously financed the fourth year of gathering materials. It is my honor and pleasure to thank the leaders of these two prestigious bodies. They saw . . .

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