In search of Egypt’s Catholics

As they look forward to Roman Catholic Pope Francis’s visit to Egypt this week, Egypt’s Catholics might also be pleased by the public attention now being given to their history

It was sometime around the mid-1940s that Christine used to frequent the offices of her father Louis in downtown Cairo. There she would run from one room to the other and even step out of the offices to find her way into a nearby pharmaceutical business where the later famous singer Dalida was then working as a typist.

“I loved Dalida. She was very beautiful, and she would smile at me and get me to sit on her knees and to type a little on her typewriter. Those were such different times,” Christine said. She was speaking after having attended mass at the St Joseph’s Church of the Franciscan Order of Egypt.

Situated off Mohamed Farid Street in downtown Cairo, the beautiful church was built in the early 20th century after the land was offered to the Franciscan monks by the state and money was made available by a rich family belonging to the Roman Catholic Church. It was also in this very church that Christine and her two sisters were baptised six or seven decades ago.

For over 100 years, according to Father Boutros Daniel, now the priest in charge at the church, St Joseph’s had had its days of glory. “They might have dwindled a bit now, as the community has got smaller, but we are still celebrating, especially since our choir will be joining Pope Francis in the mass he will hold during his visit to Egypt that starts on Friday,” he said.

“When I was a child, this church, built to accommodate close to 1,000 people, would be so crowded that it was difficult to find a seat, especially at Christmas and Easter. The congregation was mostly made up of Europeans who had come to Egypt in the 19th century or had been born in Egypt to families that had come either after the opening of the Suez Canal or earlier,” Christine recalled.

She was herself born to an Italian mother, Nelly, who was born in Egypt to a couple who had both independently come to Egypt with their families in the late 19th century, and to a Belgian father who had decided to come to live in Egypt because of the wishes of the father of his new spouse.

“My mother would never have left Egypt. Her life was here. She never thought for a minute about going, especially as my father had successful businesses in Cairo and Alexandria. But then there came the nationalisation laws — a catastrophic time for all the foreigners of Egypt,” Christine said.

This was the moment, she insisted, when many people “just had to leave”. “Some felt it was the end of the dream they had had in Egypt, especially with the anti-foreigner speeches being given by former president Gamal Abdel-Nasser. Others were still hoping for better days, but the state forced them to go anyway,” she said.

Christine’s father “wanted to stay, not just because of my mother, but also because he hoped that the nationalisations would be reversed. However, this never happened, and he died of grief in his early 60s. He is buried in Egypt in the Catholic Cemetery in Old Cairo just like my mother,” she said.

Today, there are perhaps more Catholics in the cemeteries of Egypt than there are in the churches, Christine said. According to figures given by Catholic religious leaders in Cairo, there are today around a quarter of a million Catholics in a country of around 100 million.

The Coptic Catholic Church has the largest number of Catholic followers, a little under half of all the Catholics in Egypt. The other six main Christian Churches in Egypt were founded centuries later, mostly in the 19th century when waves of migrants came to Egypt first from the Ottoman Empire, especially Turkey and the Levant, to pursue trade or to flee persecution, and then from Europe in pursuit of economic prosperity or to flee various forms of conflict.

Today, there are various Catholic Christian denominations in Egypt, among them the Coptic Catholic Church, the Armenian Church, the Greek Catholic Church, the Latin Catholics, including the Franciscans, the Maronites, the Assyrian Church and the Chaledean Church.

Their congregations are mostly in Cairo, particularly in Heliopolis, a suburb built in the early 20th century that attracted many members of the then foreign communities in Egypt. Each Catholic Christian community today has at least one church, including in Alexandria, the Suez Canal cities, Tanta, Assiut and Minya.

“Some churches have a larger congregation than others. I would say that most of the Heliopolis churches have a considerable number of members, at least for Sunday mass and certainly at Christmas and Easter,” said Father Rafik Greish of the St Kyrillos Greek Catholic Church in Heliopolis.

He added that for the most part the congregation was ageing “after two waves of emigration forced many Catholics, among others, to pursue alternative paths, particularly as a result of the nationalisation laws during the Nasser era and the societal Islamisation that former president Anwar Al-Sadat introduced in the second half of the 1970s.”

In the first wave of emigration, Greish said, it was mostly foreigners who did not hold Egyptian nationality or those who had lost large businesses that left. In the second, it was fourth- or fifth-generation Egyptians of foreign origin who felt that the room for Christians in Egypt was getting smaller they decided to leave the country.



Janette, Rosa and Sylvia are three elderly ladies from Heliopolis who attend the St Kyrillos Church. They leave together every Sunday, now that their families are almost all gone, children as well as siblings.

These three ladies have many memories to share about once upon a time in Egypt, when, they say, all the religions with their many communities lived together in coexistence and tolerance. Christmas was celebrated with Christmas trees and shop decorations in the streets of the downtown area and in Heliopolis on 25 December and 7 January. There were beautiful afternoon brunches in Groppi’s on Al-Ahram and Al-Adli streets in the downtown area, and there were lovely summer evenings when the love of life was shared by all, they say.

François, an Armenian Catholic, remembers a class at his primary school that had boys from almost every religion and every community in Egypt and “where what mattered was never where we came from or which prayers we said, but rather that we were schoolmates who enjoyed being together and sharing who we were together,” he said.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, however, François had to say good-bye to many of his old schoolmates, most of them Christians, but also others whose families decided they would have to leave the country due to economic or other reasons.

Now in his mid-60s, François has got used to sitting down to Easter dinner to enjoy the traditional meal of lahmajoun (a salted pastry filled with minced meat), monte (pasta with minced meat), topic (hummus with tahini and onions) and chorek, a soft bread baked especially for the feast, with considerably fewer friends than before, just as he sees the St Therese Armenian Church in Heliopolis not half full as it used to be.

Today, Christine, Janette, Rosa and Sylvia argue that what is left of the once large Catholic community of Egypt is mostly memories that are not well-documented and might be lost in a decade or two as a result of age or decay. Today, these memories are sometimes reduced to a few names on the façades of buildings and a set of Catholic churches, they comment.


Basile Behna, the descendant of an originally Chaldean Catholic who came from Mosul in Northern Iraq to Aleppo in Syria before ending up in Cairo in the 18th century, is convinced that some things will remain from the Catholic history of Egypt, if nothing else the cultural contributions that many Catholics have made to the life of the country through the books they have written and the films and music they have produced.

The Behna family is associated with a leading cinema production company that was established in the early decades of the 20th century before it too was lost to nationalisation, along with “negligence and dust”, he says.

It took Basile decades before he was able to reclaim the offices of the Selection Behna Company and get the dust removed from the archives before rehousing them in one of Alexandria’s oldest downtown buildings off Mansheya Square where they can be consulted by today’s audiences.

Father Boutros Daniel of St Joseph’s Church is also convinced that the cultural influence of Catholics in Egypt cannot be overlooked. The Catholic Cultural Centre and the many cultural activities that are associated with schools run by nuns and priests all over Egypt cannot be ignored, he argues.

Sister Takla, head of the Our Lady of Perpetual Succour School in Heliopolis, is a firm believer in the educational mission that religious schools have had in Egypt for decades. She said that at some schools it is not unusual to see fourth-generation students attending the same school as their great-grandparents.

Now in her late 40s, Nermine is soon to see the graduation of her youngest daughter, Farida, from the Sacré Cœur School in Cairo. This is the same school she attended as did her mother.

“Maybe they don’t have the same quality of teachers they did when I was a student and maybe many things have changed, but this school is the right place for children because they worry about manners and behaviour and not just about education,” Nermine said.

According to Sister Amal, who joined the Heliopolis School a decade ago when it was expanding with a new branch in New Cairo, “the interest that families show in having their daughters educated at Catholic schools is not just about the quality of education, but also about the quality of manners and style of conduct we try to help parents pass onto their children. This is a key asset of the religious schools,” she said.

Father Greish notes that the Catholic schools in Egypt are not only about French and English, “as there are many schools that provide services in Arabic in Upper Egypt and elsewhere to children who are obviously mostly Muslim.” This, he says, “is at the heart of the Catholic faith, as we aim to provide for whoever needs our help.”



Charities are an essential part of Egyptian Catholicism. Missionaries who attracted followers from within the Christian faith and were banned from targeting Muslims have long provided orphanages and elderly care, schooling, including boarding schools, and medical care in the country.

Caritas is a Catholic charity, now also registered as an NGO, which provides services across Egypt. It provides low-interest loans to people seeking to launch businesses, literacy classes for those who wish to learn, and a wide range of health services especially for women and children. It also offers help to refugees irrespective of faith.

In some cases, faith is taken into consideration, for example at the retirement community affiliated to St Fatima’s Church, a Catholic Chaldean Church, in Heliopolis, however.

“This is not designed to be discriminatory, but we are mostly dealing with women who are old and frail and part of our work with them is spiritual group activities that are designed to help them with loneliness and to keep up their faith,” said Dina Sabaa, its director.

She explained that it is not a requirement for all the women admitted to the house to be Catholics, but they do need to be Christians.

Renée, a Catholic lady, said that she was only “too happy to have come to this house” from her Upper Egyptian residence in Sohag after her son had immigrated to the US and she had failed to join him. For her, it would have been difficult had it not been for this house where she can be looked after in her old age.

“There are more and more elderly [Christian] people whose children have to go and pursue their lives in the US, Canada or I don’t know where, and it is in these places that we can spend the remainder of our days in peace and dignity,” Renée said.

Meanwhile, the dwindling number of Christians in the Middle East is becoming a major concern. A century ago, Christians accounted for around 20 to 25 per cent of the population, but in the region as a whole they have now declined to around five per cent. Even the very cradle of Christianity, the birthplace of Jesus in Palestine, has been suffering from a serious decline in Christian numbers, with only a few thousand Christians left in Jerusalem.

The only two groups that seem to have a solid chance to survive the fear of radicalism and/or economic decline and political instability are the Christians of Lebanon and the Copts of Egypt.

“The Copts, maybe, but not the Catholics. We are increasingly looked at as foreigners, and if a few more elderly people go and a few more young people emigrate there might come a time when we see Catholic churches shut their doors and only a few nuns serving in the schools and living in the monasteries,” said Lili, a Catholic lady in her late 30s.

Lili herself would have gone to join her brothers and her in-laws in Australia had it not been for her mother in Egypt. She added that her mother “does not want to leave and wants to have her funeral in the same church where my grandparents were married and where she herself was baptised” (the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Heliopolis).

But when her mother dies Lili is not planning to stay in Egypt. “I would always want to come back to visit, to walk in the streets and visit my old school and my friends, and maybe to pray in my church too, if it is still there. But the diverse Egypt, in the cultural not just the religious sense, is fast disappearing, and the country is becoming increasingly a place for Muslims and Coptic Orthodox only, and maybe in time for Muslims only,” she commented.

But this will not necessarily be the case, despite the many challenges facing the Catholic community in Egypt and “the many attractions that make so many people, irrespective of their faith, want to leave,” said Father Philip Nejem of St Fatima’s.

There are new waves of migration coming from troubled Arab countries to Egypt, and these, though having a largely Muslim population, also include a Christian component.

“We have some young couples coming with their children, just as we have elderly people frequenting mass here,” he said. He added that while the heyday of St Fatima’s Church, built in the early 1950s, is gone, it would be wrong to think that the days of the church itself in Egypt are numbered.

*This article was first published in Al-Ahram Weekly

New Hamas document accepts Palestinian state with 1967 borders

The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas unveiled Monday a new policy document easing its stance on Israel after having long called for its destruction, as it seeks to improve its international standing.

The document notably accepts the idea of a Palestinian state in territories occupied by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967.

It also says its struggle is not against Jews because of their religion but against Israel as an occupier.

However, Hamas officials said the document in no way amounts to recognition of Israel as demanded by the international community.

“…Hamas considers the establishment of a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital along the lines of the 4th of June 1967, with the return of the refugees and the displaced to their homes from which they were expelled, to be a formula of national consensus,” it says.

The movement’s leaders have long spoken of the more limited aim of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip without explicitly setting it out in its charter.

But after years of internal debate, the new document formally accepts the idea of a state in the territories occupied by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967.

Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, remains deeply divided from Fatah, the more moderate party of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas based in the occupied West Bank.

Hamas’s announcement comes ahead of Abbas’s first face-to-face meeting with US President Donald Trump in Washington on Wednesday.

The new document was posted online as exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal was due to hold a press conference on it in Doha.

Israel says 300 Palestinian inmates end hunger strike, Palestinian Authority denies

An Israeli minister said Sunday that 300 Palestinians have agreed to end an almost two-week-old hunger strike launched in protest at the conditions of their detention.

However, the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian NGO the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club said 1,500 inmates were keeping up their fast in Israeli jails.

Three hundred hunger strikers have “agreed to take food without having obtained” any of their demands, Israel’s internal security minister, Gilad Erdan, told army radio.

“Negotiations are out of the question,” he said, adding that 920 Palestinian prisoners remained on hunger strike.

But the head of the Palestinian NGO, Qadura Fares, said the prison service is trying to negotiate with some of the prisoners and had moved a number of hunger strikers to a jail in northern Israel for that purpose.

“The Israeli prison service is trying to launch negotiations with groups of prisoners who are on hunger strike about their demands, except for (Palestinian leader) Marwan Barghouti,” said Fares.

The hunger strike began on April 17, with those taking part ingesting only water and salt. They have issued demands ranging from better medical care to phone access.

Barghouti, who is very popular among Palestinians, is serving five life sentences over his role in the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising.

Fares said Barghouti was placed in solitary confinement, a claim confirmed by Issa Qaraqe, head of detainees’ affairs for the Palestinian Authority, according to Palestinian media.

Erdan also said the prison service planned to set up 400 medical centres inside jails “to avoid as much as possible the transfer of hunger striking detainees to civilian hospitals”.

Popes Francis and Tawadros’ baptism declaration: Positive step but not full solution

Roman Catholic Pope Francis and Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros signed on Friday a mutual declaration that each of their respective churches will seek to acknowledge baptisms performed in the other church.

The declaration was signed shortly after Pope Francis arrived in Cairo for a two-day visit, the first trip by a Roman Catholic Pope to the country since Pope John Paul II’s visit in 2000.

The declaration between Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros states that their respective churches “will sincerely seek not to repeat baptisms administered in either of our churches for any person who wishes to join the other.”

A statement by the official Vatican Radio broadcast following the signing said that the declaration finally resolves an issue that has been a consistent source of tension between Copts and Catholics; which is the insistence on a second baptism for Christians who convert from Catholic Church to the Orthodox Church.

Before Pope Francis’s visit to Egypt on Friday, controversy erupted among members of the Coptic Orthodox Church – who make up the majority of Egypt’s 10 percent Christian population – over an alleged version of the agreement that circulated among the community that unambiguously stated that each church would accept members from the other without a re-baptism.

Pope Tawadros and the Church Holy Council announced in statement shared via Bishop Rafael that despite rumours and “false statements,” the final declaration would include the words “sincerely seek,” indicating it would not mandate a blanket acceptance of new members without re-baptism.

Why is it significant?

Bishop Antonios Aziz, the Emeritus of the Giza Coptic Catholic Church, told Ahram Online that the main issue when it comes to converting is marriage, “as Orthodox priests cannot marry a couple unless they are of the same religion, sect and denomination.”

Aziz says that it is generally required for Christians that a couple not of the same sect follow the sacraments of only one of their respective sects for their marriage to be recognised.

Rights activist Mina Thabet, a senior researcher at the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, told Ahram Online that “this has affected inter-marriage between the two churches, as it is difficult for a Catholic who wants to marry an Orthodox Copt to repeat the sacrament, and for a Catholic this means that his Christianity is not recognised by the other church, as if he is not a true Christian.”

Thabet says that he understands why Orthodox Copts oppose recognizing Catholic baptisms.

“It is a result of centuries of sectarian discrimination, from the times of the Roman Empire till today, which has pushed the Coptic community towards being more conservative, closed, and strict in its Orthodox values.”

The churches’ different positions

The seemingly contradictory statements by the two churches around the declaration possibly reveal differing stances on the issue of re-baptism.

Thabet says that “despite the contradictions, it is clear there was the intention by Pope Tawadros to recognise Catholic baptisms, but this changed because of the pressure exerted by the conservative current in the Coptic Orthodox community.”

Thabet added, however, that the statement “sincerely seek not to repeat baptisms” still represents a new and positive step towards unifying the Christian faith and achieving convergence between the two churches, and this is why it has caused this huge controversy.

Bishop Aziz says that “it is clear that there is powerful opposition to seeking unification and acceptance, so I believe that the phrasing of the declaration changed many times, as the word ‘sincerely seek’ was not [initially] there.”

“We all seek unification, but it requires real steps to achieve,” added Aziz.

“Current statements lead us to expect various responses from Orthodox churches: some priests will not repeat baptism, some will, as is already happening.”

According to Aziz, there are between 250,000 and 300,000 Egyptian Catholics.

Theological differences

There are some theological differences between the Catholic and Orthodox churches dating back to the Ecumenical Councils.

The baptism sacrament, one of the seven sacraments of Christianity, differs between the two churches.

The Catholic Church baptises by pouring holy water on the head of the individual being baptised, while the Orthodox baptism involves complete submersion in holy water.

The Coptic Orthodox Church requires new members joining from the Catholic Church to be re-baptised. However, the Catholic Church does not have the same requirement.

In the 1980s, then-Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda insisted on re-baptism for anyone looking to join or marry into the Coptic Orthodox Church, according to Thabet.

“The sensitivity between the two churches is caused by the fact that Catholics entered Egypt with the French and British occupation, so preserving the Orthodox principals became not only a theological issue, but also one of nationalism,” Thabet explained.

Greeks mark May Day with strike, demos against fresh cuts

Greek trade unions marked May Day on Monday with a 24-hour nationwide strike and protests against looming new cuts demanded by the country’s creditors in return for bailout cash.

Under pressure from its creditors — the European Union, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — the government agreed to adopt another 3.6 billion euros ($3.8 billion) in cuts in 2019 and 2020.

Athens conceded fresh pension and tax break cuts in return for permission to spend an equivalent sum on poverty relief measures.

The measures are to be approved by parliament by mid-May, with the government hoping to reach an overall deal at a May 22 meeting of eurozone finance ministers.

“Bailout government and the creditors have been squeezing the people and workers for seven years,” civil servants’ union Adedy said ahead of demonstrations planned in Athens and other major cities.

A general strike will be held against the cuts on May 17.

A government source early Monday said Athens and the creditors were inching towards a preliminary agreement.

“There are four dossiers with important issues, and four or five dossiers with lesser issues (remaining),” the official said, according to state agency ANA.

In an interview Sunday, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said a May 22 deal was feasible “if the (Greek) government respects all the agreements.”

“Greece has made progress, the last figures are positive. But the government has not yet fulfilled all the agreements,” he said.

Greece and its creditors agreed a third, 86-billion-euro ($94-billion) bailout deal in July 2015.

But the IMF has so far refused to take part after two prior programmes on the grounds that the targets were unrealistic and Athens’ debt mountain unsustainable.

A compromise is required to unblock a tranche of loans Greece needs for debt repayments of seven billion euros in July.

Additional debt relief for Greece has proved a contentious point for many of its European creditors including Germany, where additional concessions are unpopular with a general election looming in September.

Storms in US South and Midwest kill at least 14

Deadly weekend storms have left at least 14 dead in the midwestern and southern United States, according to officials, as eastern regions faced potential damaging winds and isolated tornadoes into Monday.

Severe weather devastated homes, overturned cars and felled trees, with the National Weather Service confirming at least four tornadoes in Texas.

The mayor of Canton, Texas — a city some 60 miles (95 kilometers) east of Dallas — said the death toll there stood at four.

“It is heartbreaking and upsetting to say the least,” Mayor Lou Ann Everett told journalists Sunday.

A spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management told AFP severe weather had caused at least five fatalities in that state.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency had confirmed two deaths, one of them a child who was killed by electric shock in floodwater.

Heavy rains also lashed the midwestern state of Missouri, with at least two reported casualties. According to CNN one of those killed was a 72-year-old woman who was stranded in her car as it was swept away by floodwaters.

In Tennessee, a two-year-old girl was pronounced dead at a hospital in Nashville after she was struck by a heavy metal soccer goal blown over by heavy winds, according to the city’s police department.

As of late Sunday the NWS was projecting major flooding to continue in parts of eastern Oklahoma, northern Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana.

Authorities warned that severe storms potentially packing heavy winds, large hail and tornadoes could hit parts of the mid-Atlantic and northeastern US by Monday afternoon.

Well-known Egyptian comedian Mazhar Abol Naga dies at 75

Egyptian comedy actor Mazhar Abol Naga has died at the age of 75, Al-Ahram Arabic news website reported on Monday.

Abol Naga passed away at a hospital in Giza’s Mohandiseen district after a recent series of health problems.

The Dakhleya-born actor starred in dozens of popular films, plays and TV dramas over a career stretching back to the early 1970s.

He is best known for a number of plays he appeared in alongside comic actor Mohamed Negm in the 1980s.

For more arts and culture news and updates, follow Ahram Online Arts and Culture on Twitter at@AhramOnlineArtsand on Facebook atAhram Online: Arts & Culture

French campaign revs up with rival rallies, May Day marches

With just six days until a French presidential vote that could define Europe’s future, far-right leader Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron are holding high-stakes rallies Monday that overlap with nationwide May Day labor marches reminding both candidates that jobs are voters’ No. 1 concern.

The tense campaign interrupted the usual calm of the May Day holiday, as supporters of both candidates are taking to the streets, airwaves and social networks to weigh on an election closely watched by global financial markets and France’s neighbors as a test of the global populist wave.

Le Pen’s efforts to clean up the racism and anti-Semitism that has stained her anti-immigration National Front party’s past may be undermined by a parallel Paris event by her father, Jean-Marie, expelled from the party over his extreme views.

Seeking to remind voters of the National Front’s dark past, Macron paid homage to a Moroccan man thrown to his death in the Seine River on the sidelines of a far-right march more than two decades ago. Macron joined the man’s son and anti-National Front protesters at an annual commemoration near the Louvre Museum.

The National Front traditionally holds a march in central Paris on May 1 to honor Joan of Arc, and at the 1995 event, a group of skinheads broke away and pushed 29-year-old Brahim Bourram off a bridge into the Seine, where he drowned. Then-party leader Jean-Marie Le Pen sought to distance himself from the attackers, but the death drew national outrage.

Standing on the bridge, Macron hugged Bourram’s son Said, who was 9 when his father was killed.

Said, now a chauffeur who supports Macron, said his father was targeted “because he was a foreigner, an Arab. That is why I am fighting, to say no to racism.”

Macron insisted that despite Marine Le Pen’s efforts to distance herself from her father’s anti-Semitism, “the roots are there, and they are very much alive. … I will not forget anything and I will fight to the last second not only against her project but against the idea she has of democracy and the nation.”

Polls consider Macron the front-runner but the race has been exceptionally unpredictable.

Jean-Marie Le Pen is holding the Joan of Arc event again Monday, a march his daughter wants nothing to do with. Instead, she is holding a rally in an exhibition center north of Paris.

Marine Le Pen said on France-2 television Sunday night that the political rupture with her father “is definitive.” She called it a “violent” decision for herself, but said she did it “because the higher interest of the country was at stake.”

Her event will be opened by Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, a conservative candidate from the first-round election who shocked many French by agreeing to be Le Pen’s prime minister if she wins the presidency.

Le Pen, speaking Monday on Europe-1 radio, reached out to “all those who are patriots” and who want to restore French borders and currency and “rediscover the voice of labor, defend our identity, fight against Islamic fundamentalism.”

Meanwhile, the traditional May 1 union marches across France will be politically charged this year. Some groups want a united front to keep

Le Pen from the presidency, but unions also fear that Macron — a former investment banker — will dismantle worker protections.

Macron, who says his plans to restructure France’s complex labor laws would boost job creation, said Sunday night that May 1 “is the face of a globalization that protects workers … an accomplishment of the great labor fights to defend worker rights. … Globalization is not only the face of those who oppress.”

Ahly players were ‘not in top form’ in 1-1 draw against El-Entag, say assistant coaches

Coach Hossam El-Badry refuses to apologise to referee for giving him ‘the look’

Ahly’s assistant coaches have expressed their dissatisfaction with the team’s performance in Sunday’s Egyptian Premier League 1-1 draw against El-Entag El-Harby at El-Salam Stadium in Cairo.

“A draw against El-Entag is normal. This is football; we might get a loss or a draw in any game of the season, but the Ahly players weren’t on top form,” Ahly Football Director Sayed Abdel-Hafiz told his club’s official website after the game.

Assistant coach Sayed Mowad echoed Abdel-Hafiz, blaming some players for making mistakes.

“We’ll quickly fix our mistakes and get back on the right track for winning the league title,” says Mowad.

The title-holders, who are close to winning their ninth league title in 10 seasons, appeared slow and lacking in confidence against El-Entag.

In their bid for a 39th league title, Ahly lead the table with 68 points, eight clear of second-placed Maqassa with eight matches remaining.


Abdel-Hafiz also commented on the sending off of coach Hossam El-Badry for looking the referee up and down. Abdel-Hafez demanded more flexibility and clear standards from referees.

“I refuse to apologise to the referee. Next time I will look at him more tenderly,” said El-Badry on an Egyptian TV program, commenting sarcastically on the incident.

(For more sportsnews andupdates, followAhramOnlineSportson Twitter at@AO_Sportsand onFacebookatAhramOnlineSports.)

Egypt’s FM Shoukry heads to Uganda with message from Sisi on water-security

Shoukry will deliver a letter from president Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to his counterpart Yoweri Museveni dealing with water-security issues and the Nile Basin Initiative

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry is heading to Uganda on Monday for a visit aimed at boosting cooperation with Nile Basin countries, according to a ministry statement.

Shoukry will deliver a letter from President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to his counterpart Yoweri Museveni dealing with water-security issues and the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI).

The visit will also involve discussions on bilateral relations and development cooperation, the statement said.

Last March, Egypt’s Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Abdel-Ati attended a meeting of the NBI’s council of ministers in Uganda’s Entebbe.

The minsiters discussed concerns over the Cooperative Framework Agreement, more commonly known as the Entebbe Agreement, which was signed by six Nile Basin countries: Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Egypt and Sudan have declined to sign the agreement, which sets out principles and obligations of member states regarding use of the basin’s water resources, citing concerns about its reallocation of Nile water quotas and other provisions.

Historic water-sharing pacts between Egypt and Sudan divide the Nile waters between the two countries.

The NBI has 10 permanent members: Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. Meanwhile, Eritrea has observer status.

The Grand Ethiopian Dam, which when construction is complete will be Africa’s biggest hydroelectric dam, has been a source of concern for Egypt in recent years, with some experts arguing that filling and operating the dam will reduce the water that flows downstream to Egypt.