10 March 2009

Middle East Seminar with Aspen Institute: Day 1

Utter exhaustion. After 32 hours of travel, we arrived in Cairo late Sunday night. Our first meeting was with Ambassador Margaret Scobey: a woman with a lifelong career in the State Department and extremely knowledgeable in foreign affairs. 

Egypt is such an interesting country with several unique identities. The largest Arab country on Earth (and by far one of the most influential) they balance this by competing with South Africa as leaders of the African continent along with their own storied legacy of Egyptian accomplishments. Cairo has 25 million people and their lifeline is the Nile. Their interests are driven not only by religious and cultural allegiances, but also by geographic needs. Bordering the Gaza strip requires constant diplomacy with the Israelis and a willingness to work with their government. The election of Netanyahu leaves many questions especially on a two state solution.

Darfur is also on their border. Over 1 million refugees have fled to this already crowded country and Egypt has a peacekeeping presence in Darfur to help prevent any more. Tourism and the Suez Canal are the two main sources of revenue and their banks are extremely conservative benefitting the country greatly in the current global economic climate.