How common are major cities not built by abundant water?

How common are major cities not built by abundant water?

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When you look at the biggest cities in the world, they all tend to be built on a major body of water, either a coast, a large lake, or a major river. This made sense in ancient times, as abundant water fills two essential needs for civilization, (abundant water for drinking and abundant water for agriculture,) but even in modern times, when one would think that irrigation and pipelines would mitigate the necessity for local access to abundant water, we still see major cities showing up on the waterfront.

I can only think of one example, modern or historical, of a major city without local access to abundant water, and that's Jerusalem. (And it took some pretty impressive feats of ancient engineering to get water to it.) But it seems strange to think that that would be the only one. Are there any other examples of major cities, either historical or modern, without local access to abundant water? How common was it?

To some extent, the answer depends on your definitions of "abundant" and "major city." Generally, the supply of water needs merely be adequate to support a population, not "abundant," so I would argue that the situation you describe is rather common, with perhaps hundreds of important cities present and past thriving despite their distance from a major river or freshwater lake. The presence of "abundant" water does contribute to a city's growth, however, because historically, water enables trade, and trade in aggregate brings prosperity, and prosperous cities will grow.

Human settlements number perhaps in the millions, but not every camp becomes a village, not every village a town, and not every town a great metropolis. Cities grow because cities prosper, and while access to water was historically important, it was not for the reasons you propose.

Do not conflate cities and their civilizations. Civilizations depend on agriculture, and agriculture depends on water, but almost by definition little agriculture takes place in cities. But even in the case of agriculture, many pre-industrial civilizations were able to divert springs, store floodwaters and runoff in reservoirs, and supply agriculture through canals.

To be sure, water is necessary. Mesopotamian civilizations shriveled when the Tigris or Euphrates shifted course, and parched Dodoma is Tanzania's capital largely on paper partly for its unstable water supply. But "abundant" water is not sufficient for a major city to arise, either. None of the fifteen largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. is situated on any of its fifteen largest rivers by discharge (in fairness, #16 Minneapolis-St. Paul is on the Mississippi). The Nile Valley has not been the richest part of Africa for some time, and the great cities of Brazil are not situated on the banks of the Amazon.

Even in ancient times, urban drinking water needs could be met by transportation (i.e. canals and aqueducts), collection/storage (i.e. reservoirs, cisterns), and groundwater (wells and springs). Jerusalem, which you say lacked an "abundant water supply," used an extensive system of cisterns and reservoirs supplemented by aqueducts to support its population. The same goes for Athens, Byblos, Carthage, Constantinople, and on down the line to Pompeii, Syracuse, and Tyre- given the dry climate and unlacustrine geography of the Mediterranean and Levant, quite a few of its settlements would have relied in groundwater and cisterns, with increasingly longer and more sophisticated aqueducts built, especially starting in the Roman era.

For a more modern example, Dallas, Texas is situated on the Trinity River, but that is a minor waterway that is not navigable. It was founded there for its lack of water- that is to say, a trading post was established at one of the river's few natural fords to service the many wagon trains crossing there. From the trading post grew a metropolitan area of over 6 million residents.

What this illustrates is that a more important driver of growth is trade, and trade is what access to a major river or lake (or the sea or ocean) facilitates. Prior to the invention of the steam engine, transporting goods over land was slow, subject to loss by banditry, and limited by the speed of pack animals. Water was the only feasible medium for shipping cargo in large quantities or over long distances, whether by barge or boat. Communications, too, would have been faster by water, particularly in a mountainous country like Greece, and the presence of a port implies contact with outsiders, contributing to the sharing of ideas. Countries and empires undertook huge canal projects to facilitate water transportation; thousands of miles of them in the United States alone.

Of course, trade is not the sole force behind a city's growth, either. Other population centers became established for political reasons, such as Madrid, or for military reasons, such as Moscow. But in such cases, the availability of water is again secondary. Madrid has a tenuous water supply for a city its size, but had an ideal location for Philip II to establish his court.

The invention of the steam engine, telegraph, and railroad have of course torn all the above considerations apart. Sending a package from New York to San Francisco by clipper ship would have taken three months, half the time to ship it by stagecoach over land. But the transcontinental railroad made it possible to ship it in a week. Such things would have rendered Pheidippides and Andrew Jackson largely invisible to history, but they also made possible cities that would scarcely have thrived otherwise: Los Angeles, watered from hundreds of miles away, is a trade hub because it connects the American railroad network- improbably, over mountains and across deserts- to its busiest port- an artificial harbor dug by steam shovel- and busiest O/D international airport.

City where I live, Bangalore (in southern India) would be an example. It has a population of about 8.5 million (which is slightly more than that of New York city), so it definitely can be considered a major city. It is not built on the shores of any significant water body. It has been around since at least 1537, if not earlier.

I am guessing that there would be many more such examples.

You have to remember that these major cities weren't major cities when they were first built. Jerusalem was a small town for most of its existence, and had sufficient water for its population.

Consider a couple of modern-day examples without much (if any) local fresh water source. Los Angeles started as a sleepy farming community, with enough water from the seasonal rains & fogs, and streams like the Los Angeles River to support its small population. As it grew, construction projects brought in water from hundreds of miles away. Similarly with Las Vegas: it has only enough natural water to support a few ranches. The current city depends on the existence of Hoover Dam & Lake Mead to supply water from the Colorado River.

Moscow was build on a small river. It is in the 20th Cent. when through a channel Volga waters poured into Moskva river and it became… hmmm… a medium river.

Rome was built on Tiber - even smaller river.

Maya cities were built on marshes.

Really, old capital cities, especially in Europe, were rather small towns in nowadays terms and even a small river was enough at start. And later they simply transported the fresh water, if needed. Often by water, as in old Moscow or Venice.

A city needed rather a strong agricultural area around - the food was more serious problem.

And in the East they used some alternative methods to get the water. Karez water systems, or simply covering all valleys and mini-valleys bottoms by flat stones. The water condenses on the stones at night, gets below, cannot be evaporated during the day due to the covering and pours safely along the valley.

In the end of 18th century in Kafa there lived more than 150000 people using this atmospheric water by hand made brooks. After Russia got Crimea, the stones were taken for buildings and brooks disappeared. And the same town Feodosia in the end of 20 century had only 75000 inhabitants taking the water from the Dnepr by a huge channel.

So, using green technologies, you needn't a river. And without them, any river is not enough.

Milan, Italy, doesn't have a major waterway too. The first important river, the Ticino, is about 33,5 km and to reach it and other major bodies of water (Lake maggiore, lake of Como, Ticino River and then Po river) in the centuries has been made a lot of canals (sistema dei Navigli: naviglio grande, naviglio pavese, naviglio Martesana etc etc). But in fact Milan has no river, and this also because Milan literally "floats" on the water: the aquifer in some places is less than 20 mt below the soil level and water is usually copious all year long.

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia Is the capital and it is sitting on a totally dry land

Tehran is another example, Yaz and Mashhad, Kerman, and many other examples in Iran

Atlanta, Georgia (population of the metropolitan area approximately 5.5 million) doesn't have a major waterway. Its major impetus, in the mid-1800s, was as a railroad terminus (originally of the Western and Atlantic railway, from which the city derived its name).

Types of Bridges

Over the last several thousand years, bridges have served one of the most important roles in the development of our earliest civilizations, spreading of knowledge, local and worldwide trade, and the rise of transportation. Initially made out of most simple materials and designs, bridges soon evolved and enabled carrying of wide deckings and spanning of large distances over rivers, gorges, inaccessible terrain, strongly elevated surfaces and pre-built city infrastructures. Starting with 13th century BC Greek Bronze Age, stone arched bridges quickly spread all around the world, eventually leading to the rise of the use of steel, iron and other materials in bridges that can span kilometers.

To be able to serve various roles, carry different types of weight, and span terrains of various sizes and complexities, bridges can strongly vary in their appearance, carrying capacity, type of structural elements, the presence of movable sections, construction materials and more.

What does a map of climate zones really look like?

Distance to the equator is only one part of an area’s climate. Things like the movement of the oceans and Earth’s tilt and rotation also affect how weather patterns move around the globe.

If you classify the United States into climate zones using all of this information, it actually looks something like this:

This is an illustration of the climate zones within the United States. The extra climate zone, labeled "H" on this map, is a special zone called the highlands. The highlands climate zone is characterized by weather that differs from the surrounding area because of mountains. Credit: NOAA (modified)


This paper explores the spatial–temporal changes of urban–rural construction land use and its anthropogenic driving forces in Wuhan from 1996 to 2009. The vector maps and data from two National Land Investigations in China, socio-economic information from government departments are used, and land use dynamic models and landscape metrics with mathematical statistical method are applied. The outcomes show the expansion of urban–rural construction land, which is extremely rapid that the amount of cultivated land drastically dwindled, the aggregation of urban construction land strengthened, and the fragmentation of rural construction land aggravated. The urban–rural difference of construction land use changes exists in the regional disparity between the inner city and the outer city of Wuhan. During the study period in Wuhan, the quantity and structure changes of urban–rural construction land in the outer city play a decisive role for the change trends of the total city. Societal and economic factors, which include demographic change, economic growth, living standards, and policies, are closely related to the pattern of urban–rural construction land use. Significant regional and urban–rural differences exist on the driving mechanism between the inner city and the outer city of Wuhan. The smooth implementation of urban–rural coordination development can be achieved by allocating the rational scale of urban–rural construction land, optimizing city–town–village spatial system, improving the efficiency of urban–rural land utilization and restructuring urban–rural production, living and ecological spaces.


Figure (PageIndex<10>): Gypsum crystal

Sulfate minerals contain a metal ion, such as calcium, bonded to a sulfate ion. The sulfate ion is a combination of sulfur and oxygen (SO4 &ndash 2 ). The sulfate mineral gypsum (CaSO4즈H2O) is used in construction materials such as plaster and drywall. Gypsum is often formed from evaporating water and usually contains water molecules in its crystalline structure. The 즈H2O in the formula indicates the water molecules are whole H2O. This is different from minerals like amphibole, which contain a hydroxide ion (OH &ndash ) that is derived from water but is missing a hydrogen ion (H + ). The calcium sulfate without water is a different mineral than gypsum called anhydrite (CaSO4).


Victoria's climate varies greatly despite its small size. It ranges from the snowfields in the north east where the temperatures can be below freezing, to the dry semi-arid Mallee area of the north west where it can get very hot.

Overall, the southern position of Victoria means it tends to be a bit cooler and wetter than the other Australian mainland states.

The hottest temperature recorded in Victoria was 48.8 °C at Hopetoun, on the 9 February, 2009. Ζ] The coldest temperature recorded in Victoria was -11.7 °C at Omeo, on 15 June, 1965. Ζ] The highest daily rainfall was 375mm at Tanbryn, on 22 March, 1983. Ζ]

Fast Facts: Egypt

386,662 square miles, just over half the size of Alaska
Cairo is the capital and largest city in Egypt.

84.5 million (U.S. is 308.7 million)
Two-thirds of the world's Arabs live in Egypt.
Large share of the population is under 30.

College-educated adults under 30 face an unemployment rate of 30 percent.
Most Egyptians currently live on about $2 a day.


Main Exports
Oil, petroleum products, cotton

Islam, Christianity

Life Expectancy
69 for men, 73 for women (current world average is 67)

Egypt has lengthy coasts on both the Mediterranean and Red seas. So it has long been an important center of trade and communication for Asia, Africa, and Europe. Its location became even more important when the Suez Canal was opened in 1869. The canal makes the long voyage around the southern tip of Africa unnecessary.

Egypt is a modern nation in an ancient land. The Nile River runs like a ribbon through the length of the country. The Nile Valley was the birthplace of one of the world's earliest civilizations. Reminders of Egypt's glorious past dot the landscape. For example, the Great Pyramid at Giza was one of the wonders of the ancient world. It is the only one that has survived.

Egypt has one of the longest histories of any nation. It came into being about 3200 B.C. King Menes (also called Narmer) united the cities of northern and southern Egypt under one government. During his time, the giant statue known as the Sphinx was built. It appears part human and part beast and has fascinated travelers for centuries.

Beginning about 1000 B.C., Egypt's power declined and different peoples ruled it. In 331 B.C., Alexander the Great conquered Egypt. Other rulers followed, including Roman and Byzantine emperors. And Egypt became mostly Christian. This changed in A.D. 640, when Muslims from the Arabian Peninsula conquered Egypt. (The Muslims were members of the newly formed religion of Islam.) Egypt has remained Muslim since that time. Britain took control of Egypt in 1882 and then granted the country independence in 1922. However, British troops remained in the Suez Canal area until 1954.

In the 21st century, Egypt is modernizing its economy to better serve a growing population. Egypt still depends on its traditional cotton growing and tourist industries. But resources such as oil and natural gas are growing in importance. To make further progress, the government must ensure that many more new and better jobs are created each year. Other priorities include reducing poverty and improving education, especially in rural areas.

Most Egyptians are descended from the Arab settlers who followed the Muslim conquest in 640 and from the descendants of the ancient Egyptian pre-Islamic population. The typical Egyptian reflects a mixture of the two heritages. The Egyptian Copts, a sizeable minority, date back to pre-Islamic times. They are members of one of the earliest Christian churches. There are also some people of Armenian, French, Greek, and Italian ancestry.

Arabic is the official language of Egypt. Classical Arabic is the written language. It is used for conducting official business. Colloquial (informal) Arabic is the spoken language of the street. Both forms are used by the media, for business transactions, and in schools. Colloquial Arabic is widely used on television, which is very popular, and in the film industry. It is also used in songs and folk literature and popular poetry.

English and French are spoken among the more highly educated and by those who work in the tourism sector, where Italian and German are also heard.

The Coptic language developed from ancient Egyptian. It was spoken in Egypt until the 1100's but is now used only in ceremonies of the Coptic Church. Nubian is spoken by the Egyptians who live south of Aswan. Beja is the language of the nomads who live along the Egyptian-Sudanese border east of the Nile. Berber is spoken by the people of Siwa, an oasis of the Libyan Desert. Nubian and Beja are not written languages.

Most Egyptians are Sunni Muslims. (Muslims are followers of Islam, a religion based on the teachings of the prophet Muhammad.) Coptic Christians are the second largest religious group. There are also small groups of Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox, and Protestants. Egypt's cities are filled with mosques (Muslim houses of worship). Five times a day, the voice of the muezzin (prayer-caller) calls the faithful to prayer. Traditionally he did so from the mosque's tower, or minaret. But now the call is often amplified by a public-address system or broadcast by radio.

Egypt has two systems of education. One is public and the other is private. All levels of public education in Egypt are free. Five years of primary and three years of secondary school are required for all children. Three additional years of secondary school are needed for college or university. With over 200,000 students, Cairo University offers a wide range of studies. These include medicine, engineering, and law. The American University in Cairo is also a well-respected center of learning. Al-Azhar University in Cairo was established in the 900's. It is considered by many people to be the oldest university in the world. It was founded as a center for teaching Arabic literature and Islamic law and theology. It now includes technical subjects along with its traditional course of study.

One of Egypt's major challenges is its low level of literacy (the ability to read and write). Although eight years of education are required, girls and women tend to receive less education than boys and men. The government is working to enroll more children&mdashboth boys and girls&mdashin primary school and some progress has been made in recent years.

About half of Egypt's people live in the countryside. The rest live in cities, which are rapidly growing in population.

The country people, or fellahin, live in thousands of small villages. Each village has a mosque, a few shops, a religious school, and sometimes a church. The villages lie along the Nile River or near irrigation canals. The fellahin farm the land that they own or rent. They wear traditional dress. For a man, or fellah, this consists of an ankle-length cotton robe, called a galabia, and a skullcap or turban. The fellaha, the wife of the fellah, wears dresses with long sleeves and a black veil, which she sometimes uses to cover her face. On market days and other special occasions, the women wear earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and anklets. Both village men and women work in the fields. Children tend donkeys or water buffalo. And they herd sheep or goats, if the family is wealthy enough to own them. The staple foods are bread made from corn flour and a dish made of beans, called ful. Meat is usually reserved for special holidays.

Life in Egyptian cities has been strongly influenced by modern European culture. There are broad, paved streets and well-tended parks. Major cities are linked to the national network of highways and railroads. Many government offices and the courts of justice are located in urban centers. Most secondary schools and all universities are in cities. Many cities, particularly Cairo, are overcrowded and housing is in short supply.

Egyptian city-dwellers live in modern apartment buildings as well as crowded tenement districts. Or they live in private homes in the suburbs, an extension of the city. City dwellers dress mostly in Western-style clothing. However, traditional Islamic dress has become more common among women. If a man still wears the galabia, it is usually of a better quality than the one worn by the fellah.

In the cities, many adults return home from work for the main meal of the day. It is served at about two o'clock in the afternoon. The midday menu may include rice, vegetables, and lamb, broiled pigeons, fish, or poultry. Fruit is the most popular dessert. The meal usually ends with a tiny cup of strong, black Turkish coffee.

Sports and Recreation

Soccer is the favorite sport of most Egyptians. Others include tennis and squash. Because of the temperate climate, swimming is also popular. The country was once well known for its long-distance swimmers, especially those who mastered swimming across the English Channel.

Land Regions

The ancient Greek historian Herodotus called Egypt "the gift of the Nile." He was referring to the life-giving water and rich silt that the river carries from equatorial Africa to the desert of Egypt. Almost all of Egypt's people live on less than 5 percent of the land, on the fertile soil that borders the Nile River. Most of the rest of Egypt is desert inhabited largely by nomadic Bedouin.

Egypt consists of four geographical regions: the Nile River valley and its delta (the fan-shaped plain at its mouth) the Libyan, or Western, Desert in the west and south the Arabian, or Eastern, Desert in the east and the Sinai Peninsula. The Sinai Peninsula lies in southwest Asia. It is the site of Egypt's highest mountain, Gebel Katherina. Gebel Katherina rises to 8,651 feet (2,737 meters).

The Nile River valley is about 930 miles (1,500 kilometers) long. From the capital city of Cairo to the north, the valley merges with the fertile delta. The Arabian Desert is an extension of the Sahara. It consists of a plateau that slopes upward from the Nile to heights of roughly 2,000 feet (600 meters). The region is sparsely populated. It has a few oases. (An oasis is a small desert area that is fertile because it has a source of water.) The Sinai Peninsula is also part of the Arabian Desert.

The Libyan Desert is a great arid plain. Most of it lies below 1,000 feet (300 meters). The southern part of the Libyan Desert has no oases or settlements. To the north, the Qattara Depression covers about 7,000 square miles (18,100 square kilometers). It is 436 feet (133 meters) below sea level.

The Nile is the world's longest river. It travels over 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometers) through Africa before it enters Egypt. Then it flows northward through Egypt for over 900 miles (1448 kilometers) before it empties into the Mediterranean Sea.

In Upper, or southern, Egypt, the Nile River flows between high sandstone cliffs. The mammoth Aswan High Dam was opened in 1971. It doubled Egypt's power capacity and expanded the land used for farming by providing water for irrigation. From Aswan the Nile flows north to Cairo. Just below Cairo the river splits into two major branches, the Rosetta and the Damietta. This area is known as the Delta, or Lower Egypt.

The Suez Canal

The canal links the Mediterranean Sea with the Gulf of Suez, an arm of the Red Sea. Because it shortens travel time between Europe and Asia, the canal is one of the world's chief commercial waterways. The canal and the Isthmus of Suez are the traditional boundary between Africa and Asia.

Egypt has a generally warm, dry climate. Summers are hot. In the south, daytime temperatures may reach 107°F (42°C), but nights are cool. Winters are usually mild. Rainfall is limited and is heaviest on the Mediterranean coast.

Natural Resources

Egypt has deposits of petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, phosphates, manganese, limestone, gypsum, talc, asbestos, lead, and zinc.

Vegetation and Animal Life

Egypt's desert climate limits most vegetation to the Nile Valley and Delta and the oases. The most widespread native tree is the date palm. Others include the carob, tamarisk, and sycamore. The lack of forest and grazing areas limits wild animal life. But Egypt has foxes, jackals, boars, and hyenas. And crocodiles inhabit the Upper Nile. Egypt has more than 300 species of birds and 100 species of fish.

Egypt's economy has several strong resources to draw upon. These include energy resources, including oil income from the Suez Canal and a profitable tourist industry. But for many years the country's economy performed well below potential. In 2004 the Egyptian government began to reduce the state's role in the economy. It sold some state firms to private investors and made it easier for private firms to invest. These and other factors helped the economy grow.

Many challenges remain, however. Higher growth is needed to provide jobs for the over 1 million Egyptians who enter the economy each year. Poverty is a problem, especially in rural areas. The government has made progress in reducing poverty among the poorest Egyptians. But 20 percent of Egyptians still fall below the poverty line. That means that they earn or consume less than they need to achieve adequate nutrition, shelter, medical care, and other necessities. Better jobs will require better education for Egypt's young people, especially women.

Service industries contribute over 50 percent of Egypt's yearly gross domestic product (GDP). (GDP is the total market value of all final goods and services produced in a country in one year.) Over half of Egypt's workers are engaged in service industries, including government and tourism.

Egypt's manufacturing sector contributes about one-third to GDP each year. It includes firms that produce textiles, food products, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, cement, metals, and light manufactures.


The Nile Valley is one of the most intensively cultivated and productive farming regions in the world. Agriculture contributes less than 20 percent to GDP. But it employs about 30 percent of Egypt's workers. Cotton is the major export crop. Egypt is also an important producer of rice, wheat, corn, beans, fruits, and vegetables. Livestock raising includes cattle, water buffalo, sheep, and goats.

Historically, Egyptian farmers depended on the yearly flooding of the Nile Valley. This provided water for their crops. The Aswan High Dam and its reservoir, High Dam Lake (formerly Lake Nasser), provide a more regular source of water for irrigation. But at the same time, Egypt is losing agricultural land to its growing cities and to the sands of the desert. Egypt depends on imports for much of the food needed to feed its growing population.

Mining is increasingly important to Egypt's economy. Crude oil and petroleum products are among the country's top exports. Egypt also produces natural gas, salt, phosphates, iron ore, and coal.

Egypt relies mostly on fossil fuels, such as oil, to meet its energy needs. Its energy sector produces oil and natural gas. And the country is a rapidly growing supplier of liquefied natural gas, which is exported. Hydroelectric power is supplied by the Aswan High Dam.

Egypt exports crude oil and petroleum products, cotton, textiles, metal products, and chemicals. Among its main export partners are the United States, Italy, Spain, Syria, France, Germany, and Saudi Arabia. Its major imports are machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, chemicals, wood products, and fuels. Its main import partners are the United States, Germany, China, France, Italy, and Saudi Arabia.


The Nile River and the Suez Canal are Egypt's major transportation arteries. The Suez Canal and Sumed Pipeline are important routes for Persian Gulf oil shipments. Egypt's railroad system is state controlled. Egyptair, the state-owned airline, flies locally and abroad.


Egypt's large telephone system was upgraded in the 1990's. It offers land-based as well as cellular service. There are several million Internet users.

Cairo (Al-Qahirah, in Arabic) is Egypt's capital and largest city. It is also a major commercial and cultural center. With nearly 7 million people, it is the largest city in Africa.

Alexandria, with over 3 million people, is Egypt's second largest city. It is a busy port on the Mediterranean Sea. Founded by Alexander the Great in the 300's B.C., it was long a cultural center of the Mediterranean region. It was famed in ancient times for its Pharos, or lighthouse, and for its great library. Opened in 2002, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina is a modern replica of that library. It also features museums and a planetarium.

Giza is a suburb of Cairo. It is the site of Cairo University. The Great Pyramid and the statue of the Sphinx sit on the Plateau of Giza. (The pyramids served as tombs for the early Egyptian kings.)

Port Said is one of Egypt's principal ports. It is located at the northern (Mediterranean) end of the Suez Canal.

The ancient city of Luxor is one of the country's major tourist attractions. Its historical sites include the Temple of Luxor, the Temple of Karnak, and the Valley of the Kings.

Arabic literature traces its roots to the A.D. 500's. Poetry, novels, and plays are the offshoots of this rich legacy. From the mid-1800's to the present, Arabic literature interacted with Western influences. Muhammad Husayn Haykal wrote one of the earliest novels in modern Arabic, Zaynab (1914). One of the first Egyptian writers to be known outside of the Middle East was Taha Hussein. He wrote Al-Ayyam (1929-30), which was translated into English in 1943 as The Stream of Days. The novelist and playwright Tawfiq al-Hakim is known as the father of modern Arabic drama.

Other famous modern Egyptian writers include the playwright and short story writer Yusuf Idris and the poet Salah Abd al-Sabur. The novelist Naguib Mahfouz was the first Arab author to win (1988) the Nobel Prize for literature. His works, most notably the Cairo Trilogy (1956-57), have been translated into hundreds of languages.

Egypt is also one of the region's main filmmaking and publishing centers.

The constitution was amended in 2005 to allow the president to be elected by popular vote. The president serves a 6-year term. There are no limits to the number of terms the president may serve. The legislature consists of the People's Assembly and the Advisory Council. The Supreme Constitutional Court heads the judiciary.

Ancient Egypt

There is disagreement about early Egyptian dates. But it is thought that Egypt came into being about 3200 B.C. At that time a king named Menes united Egypt. Some of the most impressive structures known were built before 2200 B.C. The Great Pyramid was constructed by King Khufu, or Cheops, perhaps about 2600 B.C.

The Hyksos were an eastern people about whom little is known. Around 1675 B.C., they conquered Egypt, bringing the first horses and chariots ever seen in Egypt. By about 1500 B.C. the Egyptians had driven the invaders out.

About 1375 B.C., Amenhotep IV, later Akhenaten, became king of Egypt. He abolished the worship of the many ancient Egyptian gods. He introduced the worship of only one god. But after Akhenaten's death the believers in the old gods regained power, and Akhenaten's ways were discarded. Ramses II (1292-1225 B.C.) is best known for his monuments and temples at Karnak and for the temple he carved out of the cliffs on the bank of the Nile at Abu Simbel.

Around 1000 B.C., Egyptian power declined. Between this time and 331 B.C., Egypt was ruled in turn by the Libyans, Nubians, Assyrians, and Persians. In 331 B.C., Egypt was conquered by Alexander the Great. On Alexander's death one of his generals became ruler of Egypt, as Ptolemy I. The dynasty (ruling family) of the Ptolemies ended in 30 B.C. Cleopatra was the last of the Ptolemies. She was famous for her love for the Roman Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony). When the Romans defeated her armies, she took her own life. Egypt then became a Roman province.

For the next 670 years Egypt had a succession of rulers appointed by Roman and Byzantine emperors. The Persians also ruled it briefly.

The Arab Conquest: Muslim Egypt

In A.D. 640, Muslims came from the Arabian Peninsula and conquered Egypt. They founded the city of Cairo in 969 and made it their capital. One of the most famous of the rulers of Egypt in this era was Saladin (Salah El Dine). He fought the Christian Crusaders at the end of the 1000's.

Mameluk and Turkish Rule

Egypt was ruled by the Mameluks from 1250 until 1517. That year it came under the domination of the Ottoman Turks. In 1798 the French general Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Egypt. His expedition aroused European interest in Egypt. And it led to the discovery of the Rosetta stone, which provided a long-sought key to ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic writing.

Napoleon's troops were forced to withdraw from Egypt in 1801 by British and Turkish forces. In 1805, Mehemet Ali was made viceroy, or royal governor, of Egypt by the Ottoman sultan. Seizing power for himself, Mehemet Ali ruled until 1848. He undertook a remarkable program of reforms, modernization, and military conquest.

British Colonization

Egypt's prosperity declined under Mehemet Ali's hereditary successors. They borrowed large sums of money from the British and French. In 1875 the British government bought Egypt's shares in the Suez Canal. The canal had been built by the French and opened in 1869. To collect their debts, the British and French set up a commission to oversee Egyptian finances. A nationalist revolt in 1881-82 was put down by British troops, who occupied the country. In 1914, Egypt was officially declared a British protectorate.

Britain granted Egypt independence in 1922. But during World War II (1939-45), Egypt and the Suez Canal served as vital links in Britain's empire and as the gateway to India.

The 1952 Revolution: Nasser

After World War II, discontent and resistance to the British colonizers grew. The Egyptians resented Britain's continued control of the Suez Canal. The government of King Farouk, who had come to the throne in 1936, was corrupt and inefficient. The military blamed the government for losing a 1948-49 war with the new nation of Israel. In 1952 a group of army officers began a revolt that overthrew the king, and in 1953, they set up a republic. A leader of the revolution, Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser, became Egypt's president in 1956.

In 1956, Nasser nationalized (took state control of) the Suez Canal. When Israel was denied use of the canal, its forces attacked. They occupied most of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip. At the same time, British and French troops landed in the canal area. After the United Nations (UN) intervened, the three nations withdrew. The support of the United States for the UN intervention earned appreciation for the United States in Egypt.

Arab unity was one of Nasser's main goals, and in 1958 he merged Egypt with Syria in a federation called the United Arab Republic. But Syria withdrew in 1961 because of political differences. (Nasser also worked, along with Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister, and Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia, to get countries that were not aligned with the United States or the Soviet Union to form a separate, nonaligned movement. They hoped it would be powerful enough to have its interests promoted by the United Nations.)

The removal of UN forces in the Sinai at Egypt's request and Egypt's closing of the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli ships led to war with Israel in 1967. Israel again invaded the Sinai, reaching the Suez Canal itself, and retook the Gaza Strip.

Sadat: War and Peace

In 1970, Nasser died and was succeeded as president by Anwar el-Sadat. In 1971, Egypt changed its name to the Arab Republic of Egypt. Determined to regain the lost Sinai, Sadat, in 1973, launched an attack on Israeli positions on the east bank of the canal. Following a cease-fire, UN forces were again stationed in the area. Israel withdrew from the canal, which was reopened to shipping in 1975. Israel was allowed to use the canal for nonmilitary cargoes.

In 1977, Sadat visited Israel to discuss the question of peace in the region. His historic journey led to a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. Israel agreed to a gradual withdrawal of its forces from the Sinai Peninsula. A formal peace treaty was signed in 1979.

Mubarak as President

In 1981, Sadat was assassinated by members of a group that opposed his peace policies. His successor as president, Hosni Mubarak, supported the peace treaty. The last Israeli forces withdrew from the Sinai in 1982, and the area was returned to Egypt.

Mubarak was re-elected several times. As president, he restored Egypt to its position as one of the leaders of the Arab world. Egypt was formally welcomed back into the Arab League in 1989. This was ten years after it had been suspended for signing the peace treaty with Israel. During the Persian Gulf War (1990-91), Egypt provided one of the largest forces to the U.S.-led military coalition against Iraq.

In 2005, the People's Assembly amended Egypt's constitution to allow multiple candidates to run for president. In September 2005, Mubarak was re-elected to a fifth term as president.

Ruth Warren
Author, First Book of the Arab World
Reviewed by Mona N. Mikhail
New York University

The Society of Honor: the Philippines

We’ve had numerous discussions here at the blog about the barangay system and whether it works to good advantage or not. The general consensus is that it is ‘troubled’, to be kind, but that there are some aspects that are valuable.

Although I don’t want to get tedious about all the rules, because they are ominous, it is important to get the particulars out in a short-form, layman’s synopsis. That gets us all on the same page.

The barangay concept

The barangay is a “little government” with an executive branch, legislature, and judicial function. It is patterned after most governments with executive (captain and council) running things (health care, water systems, etc.), legislature developing new rules and monitoring old ones, and a judicial system that seeks to resolve small, localized conflicts without going to the regional courts.

Barangays are well funded through a share of the Internal Revenue Allotment (about 20% of the IRA goes to barangays) allocated by National to cities and municipalities. They also receive share of certain taxes and fees raised locally, and directly assess some fees (water service, etc.). An annual budget for a typical barangay might be in the range of P2 million to P4 million pesos per year.

Expenditures are for staff (captain at least P1,000 per month and other officials P600) plus certain insurance, hospitalization and tuition benefits, plus all the other work done to keep the community clean, orderly, and with basic water, health, and legal services. Plus fiestas. [Compensation and Benefits of Barangay Officials]

The barangay captain is the power person locally. He enforces laws, negotiates contracts, maintains public order, chairs the council, appoints staff, organizes emergency activities, plans the budget and approves spending, handles pollution control, administers the judicial function, ensures delivery of mandated services, conducts the annual fiesta, and promotes the general welfare of the community.[THINGS YOU NEED to KNOW: BARANGAYS and its OFFICIALS]

The barangay assembly is all the citizens of the community. They are occasionally called to a meeting to coordinate events, provide guidance, or receive guidance.

The judicial function is one of conciliation, whereby the captain applies his neutral position to the resolution of cases and, if necessary, works with the barangay court (10 to 20 local residents) to form small panels to deal with troublesome issues. Major conflicts (requiring imprisonment of more than one year or a fine more than P5,000) go directly to the municipal court. So do cases involving residents of more than one barangay.

The judicial function is tediously detailed. It takes a lawyer to understand them. Unfortunately, most barangay officials have no such background. [GUIDELINES ON THE KATARUNGANG PAMBARANGAY CONCILIATION PROCEDURE ] [THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES, BOOK III, LOCAL GOVERNMENT UNITS, TITLE ONE. – THE BARANGAY]

Problems, Importance, and Opportunities

There are two main problems with the barangay system. I’ll call them (1) political opportunism, and (2) incompetence.

Political opportunism arises from the reality that a city or municipality is a captured political system. Everyone knows how their bread gets buttered. The mayor demands and gets loyalty from the barangay captains. If the mayor is pro-Marcos, the barangay captains are pro-Marcos, and local residents are persuaded to back Marcos. Likewise, within the barangay, the captain is politically powerful and can take care of friends well and enemies badly. He decides where money is spent, as well.

Incompetence arises because the captain, council members, and other staff are often not professionals. They may be farmers or unemployed or housewives, not attorneys, not business managers. So things don’t get done or get done poorly.

I love the hammer-to the head assessment by Sara Soliven De Guzman who wrote about the real-world situation in Barangay 101 [PhilStar, 2013]:

Okay, hold your horses and don’t get sensitive. Of course there are exceptions here. First, those running [in elections] seemingly have had no stable career in their lives. Some are certified bums. Some have dropped out of school. Some are too lazy to keep an 8-5 job. Some may even be drunkards, gamblers, drug addicts or small town ‘bullies’. Some are merely spoiled rotten brats looking for something to do. Second, some changed careers thinking there is more money in politics (they are probably right since many suddenly become rich).

The three most important benefits that make the barangay valuable are:

  1. Effective, on-the ground coordination for emergencies or special activities.
  2. Rudimentary health and legal care for residents at no cost or low cost.
  3. Oversight of basic services such as water delivery.

Well, alas, incompetence is cumulative so water systems are glued together haphazardly, there may or may not be metering, and people today get their information from social media or texting rather than community meetings. Essentially the old “word of mouth” value has become less important. It is hard to tell whether money spent by a barangay is “highest and best use”. No one is really watching that carefully.

An exhaustive study of the barangay system was done in 2010 by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies. [Do Barangays Really Matter in Local Services Delivery? Some Issues and Policy Options]. Here are some excerpts from the conclusions:

Decentralization has been in existence for almost two decades in the Philippines. Yet, barangays mostly in the rural areas are still stuck into the quagmire of incompetence and inefficiency, unable to deliver better basic services, if at all, and being complacent on the status quo because of policy, institutional, financial binding constraints undergirded by political, economic, social, and cultural factors. Unless and until barangays perform better in the provision of basic services, decentralization defeats its very purpose – . . .

The policy interventions or options proposed in this paper, i.e. higher LGUs taking responsibility for services barangays cannot deliver, making a paradigm shift in understanding and practicing economic development, and getting incentives right for fiscal governance and economic advancement, may take a while before they could impact as intended. For the process of change is incremental, that is, it does not happen overnight, and that the agents of change (local elites, barangay officials, local communities) have to be convinced . . .

The study concludes that, given a choice between struggling to deliver basic services and being a part of a self-sufficient, capable influence in making people’s lives better, barangays would choose the latter if they are to really matter in local service delivery.

Sara Soliven De Guzman puts it as follows:

If positive changes can be achieved in the barangay level, changes in the national level will surely come easy. But the problem is that we cannot effect change in the barangay because some of the leaders are dummies of top local officials who have taken great pains in ensuring that their power extends down to this level. So how can you expect puppets to walk or talk when they are controlled by their masters? Yes, if the Barangay Chairman is too weak to know what is right for his community, he will allow his mayor or city officials to influence him. This is where the problem begins, all leading to poor and inefficient public service.

No city or barangay official wants to cut himself and friends off from the gravy train.

Religious Beliefs and Practices

The majority of the Lhotsampa people are Hindu, in contrast to the northern Bhutanese, who are almost exclusively Buddhist. However, significant minorities among the Lhotsampas are Buddhist or Christian. Among Hindus, religious leaders and teachers are chosen early in life and taught by the previous generation of Brahmin. They have many responsibilities in the community, including teaching the next generation, leading ceremonies such as weddings and baby-namings, and providing prayer leadership to members of the community on a regular basis. Practices among Buddhists or Christians are largely dictated by their individual religion.

In the U.S., assistance from resettlement agencies typically ends just a few months after refugees arrive in the U.S., rarely enough time for individuals and families to successfully establish themselves in their new lives. Christian churches (many of them Protestant) have been a source of much-needed support for Lhotsampa refugees, inspiring a spirit of conversion and leading some families to choose baptism.

In the Seattle metropolitan area, there are three Hindu temples where Hindu Lhotsampas worship. They are in Kent, Maple Valley, and Bothell.


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Curet, L. Antonio. Caribbean Paleodemography: Population, Culture, History, and Sociopolitical Processes in Ancient Puerto Rico. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2005.

Fernandez, Ronald. The Disenchanted Island: Puerto Rico and the United States in the Twentieth Century. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1996.

― ― ― ― ― . Puerto Rico Past and Present: An Encyclopedia. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1998.

Janer, Zilkia. Puerto Rican Nation-building Literature: Impossible Romance. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2005.

Maraniss, David. Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006.

Morales Carrion, Arturo. Puerto Rico: A Political and Cultural History. New York: Norton, 1984.

Morris, Nancy. Puerto Rico: Culture, Politics, and Identity. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1995.

Pic ó , Fernando. A General History of Puerto Rico: A Panorama of Its People. Princeton, N.J.: Markus Wiener Publishers, 2006.

Villaronga, Gabriel. Toward a Discourse of Consent: Mass Mobilization and Colonial Politics in Puerto Rico, 1932 – 48. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2004.

Watch the video: God Will Work It Out feat. Naomi Raine u0026 Israel Houghton. Maverick City Music. TRIBL (June 2022).


  1. Faezil

    Pindyk, I'm just crying))

  2. Nataur

    I am of the same opinion.

  3. Gat

    In it all grace!

  4. Al

    I have repeatedly read similar posts on English-language blogs, but it does not come out that I did not like your post

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