Archive for the ‘General News’ Category


Tuesday, February 19th, 2013


The Lychnapsia and the ‘Birth of Isis’

By Robert Bauval ©2013

The most celebrated ‘suicide’ in history, and one which has fired the popular imagination for centuries, which has inspired Shakespeare, poets and authors and even Hollywood, is surely that of Queen Cleopatra VII, the last of the Ptolemies.  In consideration of the universal notoriety of this event, it is a irony of historical that the date and time of her famous and tragic death has not been recorded in any contemporary or near contemporary record –at least none that have survived.  

In 1953 Professor Theodore C. Skeats  (1907-2003) of the British Museum, realized that this curious paradox of history and decided to investigate the matter.  Skeats wisely decided to work on one date that was known with certainty and which was related indirectly to the death of Cleopatra VII: the day of the fall of Alexandria to the armies of Octavian (later Augustus Caesar).  Octavian is known to have reached the gates of Alexandria sometime towards the end of July 30 BCE and, from records kept at the Roman Senate it is known that he took Alexandria on the 1st August of the Roman Calendar.  Skeats established that this date corresponded to the 8 of Mesore according to the Egyptian Calendar  —Mesore being the last month of the Egyptian Calendar. He then used another known day also associated to this historic event:  the 1st of Thoth, which was the coronation of Octavian as ‘pharaoh’ of Egypt. The 1st Thoth was the New Year’s Day which fell after the 5 Intercalary Days (the Epagomene) that were added to the last month of the year i.e. Mesore. Skeats also found contemporary records that allowed him to deduce that the death of Cleopatra occurred 18 days before the coronation of Octavian.  Working backwards from the coronation date, Skeats concluded that Cleopatra died on the 17th Mesore.  Converting the 17th Mesore into the Roman Calendar, this gave the 10th August as the date of Cleopatra’s death on the Roman Calendar. However, at that time the Roman Calendar was two days behind the Julian Calendar, which gave SKeats the date of 12th August (Julian).

In 1937, thus six years before Skeats groundbreaking article, professor M.S. Salem, an authority on the influence of ancient Egyptian cults in Rome, investigated the well-known Roman Feast of Lychnapsia that was celebrated in the early centuries.  This was an Isiac feast i.e. a feast of Isis, and was incorporated in the calendar of Rome by the Emperor Caligula around 39 CE, and was celebrated on the 12 August (Julian).  Knowing that the Lychnapsia was also called the ‘Feast of the Lamps’ or the ‘Feast of Light’ in honor of the Goddess Isis, M.S. Salem sought to find its source in one of the many feasts of Isis celebrated in Egypt at the time.  He first noted that the Roman Lychnapsia feast was incorporated into the Julian Calendar in 39 CE from the Egyptian Calendar. At that time the 1st of Thoth fell on the 14th August (Julian).  Salem knew that in Egypt the ‘Birth of Isis’ was celebrated on the 4th Intercalary Day of the Egyptian Calendar, thus 2 days before the 1st of Thoth i.e. the 12th August. There was little doubt that the Roman Isiac Lychnapsia feast was also regarded as the ‘Birthday of Isis’. 

Cleopatra VII close relationship with Rome and Roman affairs need no further reminding. It must also be born in mind that it was Cleopatra who, in 47 BC,  had introduced  Caesar to her court astronomer, Sosigines. It was upon Sosigenes’s advice that Julius Caesar adopted the 365 days calendar (with an extra day added every fourth or ‘leap’ year), which became known as the Julian Calendar. Cleopatra herself was well learned in matters of astronomy and the calendar and, therefore,  must have been acutely aware that now the ‘Birthday of Isis’ fell on the 12th August Julian. Cleopatra is also well known to have presented herself as the ‘New Isis’ and, in 44 BC had made a spectacular entry into Rome as such.  Also while Cleopatra was in Rome, Julius Caesar placed a golden statue of her as ‘Isis’ in the temple of Venus Genetrix in the Forum Caesaris.

The question, therefore, must arise: Did Cleopatra chose the 12th August as the day of her suicide to coincide with the ‘Birthday of Isis’ and the Lychnapsia? By doing so she would have linked her own ‘rebirth’ (death was ‘rebirth’ in Egypt) to both Egypt and Rome  —something that this very bright, very beautiful and very ambitious queen would have liked very much.


M.S. Salem, ‘The Lychnapsia Philocaliana and the Birthday of Isis’, in The Journal of Roman Studies, vol. 27, Part 2, 1937, pp.165-7

T.C. Skeats, ‘The Last Days of Cleopatra: A Chronological Problem’, in The Journal of Roman Studies, vol. 43, 1953, pp. 98-100

Christian-fundamentalists And American Zionists Tampering With the Sphinx?

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

  lambert-dolphin.jpg    135.jpg

Lambert Dolphin, a retired American scientist, wants to build the ‘Third Temple of Solomon’ on Temple Mount in Old Jerusalem. The trouble is that in order to do that, you would have to demolish some of the most sacred monuments of Islam: the ‘Dome on the Rock’ (Omar’s Mosque) and the Al Aqsa Mosque, not to mention causing World War III.  In 1983 Dolphin caused a huge scandal in Jerusalem when he collaborated with Stanley Goldfoot, a founding member of the fanatical ‘Temple Mount Faithful’, for attempting to conduct explorations on the Temple Mound.

One would think that such a Christian-fundamentalist fanatic would not be allowed anywhere near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem or, for that matter, near any other national monument in the Middle East. Yet as incredible as it may sound, Lambert Dolphin was allowed to work for several years on the Giza Plateau where, as Director of the Stamford Research Institute (SRI), he supervised the drilling of several boreholes around the Sphinx and even sent seismic shockwaves through the Sphinx’s body. The Chief Inspector of the Egyptian Antiquities at Giza was Zahi Hawass who collaborated with Lambert Dolphin between 1977-1980. Hawass was assisted in this activities by Mark Lehner, then the representative of the Edgar Cayce Foundation in Cairo. Directing the drilling and engineering activities was Joseph Jahoda, an ‘Christian fundamantalist’ business man. Later in 1996, Zahi Hawass collaborated with Joseph Jahoda and Dr. Joseph M. Schor, a Zionist Jewish-American businessman who’s “Schor Foundation” was given a five-years renewal exploration permit to do a radar and archaeological investigation at the Sphinx. Jahoda and Schor were long-time members and principal funders of the Edgar Cayce Foundation ‘Egypt Project’ whose mission was to find the ‘Hall of Records’ of Atlantis. Dr. Schor’s’ wife, Laura Schor, served as the Executive Director of the Hadassah, the largest Women Zionist Organization of America, and now a principal member of the Jewish Fund. Dr. Abdel Halim Nour El Din, who was Chairman of the Antiquities at the time, cancelled the Schor Foundation permit when he found out about this ‘covert’ operation. But in 1996 Nour el Din was suddenly ‘fired’, and the Schor Foundation permit was re-activated to allow further seach for the ‘Hall of Records’ till 1998.  


Drilling at the Sphinx 1978-9


The President of the Edgar Cayce Foundation, Hugh Lynn Cayce, at the Sphinx in 1978-1980. Hugh Lynn believed he had been in previous lives a ‘Disciple of Jesus’, ‘an Egyptian king’ and and also ‘a leader in the Crusades’


Zahi Hawass and Mark Lehner at the Sphinx in 1978-9


Mark Lehner resporting at the Edgar Cayce Foundation c. 1979


1978 ‘Sphinx Project’. Hugh Lynn Cayce and Mark Lehner examining a drill hole at the foot of the Sphinx




Cairo 1785. My origins in pre-Napoleonic Egypt

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

113l.jpgMy family starts in Egypt in 1785, thirteen years before the Napoleonic invasion (1798). My great-great grandparents (Joseph Siouffi and Therese Tutungi) were born in Cairo in 1785-6. My grandmother, Caroline (Siouffi) Bauval was born in Alexandria in 1876. My father, Gaston Bauval, was born in Alexandria in 1905. I was born in Alexandria in 1948.


My grandfather, Charles Bauval, and my father Gaston Bauval. Alexandria c. 1909


My grandmother Caroline (Siouffi) Bauval. Alexandria c. 1909


My grandparents. From left to right: Robert and Mary Gatt (maternal grandparents), Caroline Bauval (paternal grandmother). Alexandria c. 1950


My parents, Gaston and Yvonne (Gatt) Bauval. Alexandria 1939


My twin sister Therese and I with our parents. Alexandria 1955

The ‘Star of David’ and the Sphinx

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

The two prominent American businessmen, Joseph Jahoda and Joseph Schor, a self-declared Zionist, had been members of the Edgar Cayce Foundation since 1951 when they were in their teens, and from that time developed an obsession to find the so-called ‘Hall of Records’ that Cayce had predicted was under the Sphinx of Giza. In later life Jahoda became the head of Astron Corporation dealing in electronics, and Schor got a PhD in Chemistry at the Florida State University, and eventually became vice-president and major shareholder of Forest Laboratories in New York.

In 1976-9 Jahoda directed, on behalf of the Edgar Cayce Foundation several expeditions at Giza to search for the ‘Hall of Records’. Zahi Hawass, along with Mark Lehner (the Edgar Cayce Foundation representative in Cairo) were directly involved in helping obtain the Permits from the Egyptian Antiquities Organization (EAO; later in 1995 called the Supreme Council of Antiquities [SCA]). Hawass and Lehner also worked on these expeditions. The search for the ‘Hall of Records’ was unsuccessful. But in 1994 Jahoda decided to try again, this time with the collaboration of his old friend Joseph Schor.

The Schor Foundation was created by Joseph Schor in 1994 for the purpose of getting a permit from the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) to work at Giza to search for the ‘Hall of Records’. In May 1996 the Schor Foundation teamed up with the Florida State University (Schor was an alumni and a donor to the FSU Foundation) and, with the help of Zahi Hawass, they were granted a permit by the SCA. The image here attached show the logo of the Schor Foundation in 1996. It can be seen that a ‘Star of David’ has been added to the logo at the centre of the crossed-keys. The ‘Star of David’ is a well-known symbol of Judaism and used also by the World Zionist Organization. Why would Joseph Schor want to display this logo for his expedition at Giza? Could it have something to do with the fact that his wife, Laura (Strumingher) Schor, was the Executive Director of the Women Zionist Organization of America (Hadassah)? Joseph Schor died in July 2013, so we may never know…


The Schor Foundation logo, for the 1996 expedition at the Sphinx in search for the ‘Hall of Records’


Dr. Joseph Martin Schor directing operation at the Sphinx in 1996 (courtesy Boris Said)


Dr. Joseph Schor directing operations at the Sphinx. Joseph Jahoda is the man with white hair. (courtesy Boris Said)


Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

The question of how former Egyptian Minister of Antiquities Zahi Hawass got a PhD in the United States in 1989 has been a matter of controversy.  Edgar Cayce (1877-1945)’s son, Hugh Lynn Cayce (1907-1982) claimed in 1980 that he, as director of the Edgar Cayce Foundation, arranged for Zahi Hawass to get a scholarship to study in the United States for a PhD. This is his exact words, apparently recorded on tape:

“I got him a scholarship at the University of Pennsylvania in Egyptology, to get his PhD. I got the scholarship through an ARE person who happened to be on the Fulbright Scholarship Board. He [Hawass] had aided Mark [Lehner] to work at the Sphinx, and I am very appreciative.”

Big question: Is this true or is it a lie?”

Zahi Hawass has vehemently denied that either Hugh Lynn Cayce or anyone else had anything to do with him getting a Fulbright Scholarship to study in America or helped him to obtain a PhD.

Big question: Is Hawass telling the truth or is he lying?

And WHY would Hugh Lynn Cayce have wanted Hawass to get a PhD in America? According to Hugh Lynn’s biographer the reason was:

“…to advance within the [Egyptian] government to further his own career and open doors for Hugh Lynn [Cayce]’s project, [and] he could do it best on the wing of higher education at an American Ivy League college.” ”

And WHAT was Hugh Lynn Cayce’s “Project”?


Events show that Zahi Hawass DID get a PhD at the University of Pennsylvania; he DID further his career in the Egyptian goverment and he DID “open doors” for the Edgar Cayce/ARE foundation for Hugh Lynn’s “project” to search for the Hall of Records.

Zahi Hawass is presently involved in an investigation by the US Deparment of Justice for allegedly having accepted bribes from the National Geographic Society. He is also under investigation by the Prosecutor-General of Egypt in his alledged involvment in a crime related to illegal taking of samples from the Cartouche of Khufu in the Great Pyramid. If what Hugh Lynn Cayce has claimed is, in fact, true, then this also falls under the the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of the US Department of Justice. In view of the importance of this matter, here is the story as best as I can make it out based on written documentations.


In 1988 the journalist A. Robert Smith, then editor at the Association of Research and Enlightenment (ARE) press, wrote the biography of Hugh Lynn Cayce (1907-1982), the son of the world famous American ‘Sleeping Prophet’ Edgar Cayce (1877-1945).  In this biography, which is titled ‘Hugh Lynn Cayce: About my Father’s Business, Smith quotes Hugh Lynn Cayce (from tape recordings he made before Hugh Lynn’s death in 1982) as saying that he had arranged for the higher education of Zahi Hawass, the Egyptian ex-minister of State for Antiquities, and also for the education of Hawass’s colleague, the American Egyptologist Mark Lehner, visiting professor of Egyptology at the University of Chicago and director of AERA (Ancient Egypt Research Association). Hawass and Lehner have been friends and colleagues since 1974 and have collaborated on many excavations and research at the Giza Plateau until 2011.

The quotes in Smith’s book attributed to Hugh Lynn Cayce are:

(Regarding Mark Lehner in 1972): “He [Mark Lehner] asked if I though they’d take him at the [American] University in Cairo. He told me he had some good grades and some very bad grades, and he asked if I’d write him a letter of recommendation. I wrote to the Dean of Admissions who turned out to be somebody who had read all the ARE books. He said he’d love to help Mark.” (Smith, Chapter 19, p. 245)

(Regarding Zahi Hawass 1980): “I got him a scholarship at the University of Pennsylvania in Egyptology, to get his PhD. I got the scholarship through an ARE person who happened to be on the Fulbright Scholarship Board. He [Hawass] had aided Mark [Lehner] to work at the Sphinx, and I am very appreciative.” (Smith, Chapter 19, p. 250)

The “‘somebody” that is referred to by Hugh Lynn regarding the education of Mark Lehner was Frank  Blanning, the Dean of  Students Admissions at the American University in Cairo (AUC) in 1972. The people who put up the money were Arch and Ann Ogden from Florida who  donated $ 3500 per year for Lehner’’s fees at the AUC. Hugh Lynn Cayce had told them: “”It is very important, in my opinion right now for the ARE to have a man in Cairo.”” Lehner primary mission, in his own words: ““I went to Egypt to study at the American University in Cairo and to search for the Hall of Records that psychic Edgar Cayce had prophesied lay beneath the Sphinx.””

[note: The AUC started in Egypt as a Christian missionary body in the 1920s, and it is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that Blanning had read all the ARE books and was impressed by Hugh Lynn Cayce, whose father was seen as some sort of new-age Christian prophet in America and around the world. Also the founder of the Fulbright Scholarship was James William Fulbright (1905-1995), a United States Senator from Arkansas and a long serving chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and hge, too, was a member of the Desciples of Christ (also known as the ‘Christian Church’) of which also Edgar Cayce was a member. Also a former President of the American University in Cairo was Raymond F. McLain (president 1954-1963)  ‘pastored several Disciples of Christ churches in Ohio.]

The ‘”person’ ” at the Fulbright Commission in Egypt regarding Zahi Hawass’s scholarship was the same Frank Blanning, who had been transferred from his post at the AUC to director of the Fulbright Commission in Cairo.  


“… let me make emphatically clear that I have never had any connection with the Edgar Cayce Foundation. It has not sponsored me, nor financed my post-graduate studies at the University of Pensylvania.” [statement made in September 1996]

In 1998 Hawass and Lehner further denied such claims in official statements given in the KMT Journal (volume 9, Number 1, Spring 1998, pp.5-6).  Here are their statements:

(Hawass): “The younger Mr. Cayce [Hugh Lynn Cayce] had absolutely nothing to do with my graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania. .. The Hugh Lynn Cayce I knew would exaggerate things. Robert Smith, author of the biography, [Hugh Lynn Cayce] About my Father’s Business… sent me a fax apologizing having written the reference therein to Dr. Lehner and myself without having contacted us regarding the accuracy of Hugh Lynn Cayce’s statements. Despite his claim to Mr. Smith, there is no way Mr. Cayce could have had any role in obtaining for me a Fulbright scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania.””

(Lehner): “I gather from Mr. Smith’s prologue that he wrote much of the book, including Chapter 19, from taped interviews with [Hugh Lynn] Cayce. Smith never contacted either Dr. Hawass or me to verify or comment on those passages relating to us. Anyone who knew Hugh Lynn Cayce well would have to honestly agree that fact-checking is especially important in this case… I introduced the younger Cayce (Hugh Lynn) to Zahi Hawass. I also introduced him to Frank Blanning, who was the Dean of Students [Admissions] at the American University in Cairo… Later Frank became the head of the Cairo office of the Fulbright Council for Education and Cultural Exchange, in which capacity he met Zahi Hawass…”.”

Yet in 2010 a recent statement was made by a senior director of the Edgar Cayce/ARE Foundation, Mr. John Van Auken:

 “Hugh Lynn helped Hawass get to the U.S. and get a Fulbright scholarship, creating a bond between the two men” [Venture Inward magazine, July-September 2010, p. 27. ]

For now and until further evidence may surface, it iremains the word of Hugh Lynn Cayce against those of Hawass and Lehner. Since Hugh Lynn Cayce is dead and so is Frank Blanning, the matter must rest here until further investigation.


Zahi Hawass stayed in the USA from 1980 to 1987 for his studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He lodged his PhD dissertation in January 1987. His main tutor at the university was Dr. David Silverman, a Jewish-American Egyptologist. Silverman was also one of three ‘readers’ of Hawass’s dissertation. The two other readers were Dr. David O’Connor and Dr. William Kelly Simpson. In the acknowledgements of his dissertation Hawass gives “very special thanks …to fellow students, Janice Kamrin, Heidi Rancin, and Stacie Olson, for their help preparing the manuscript with their suggestions, typing and editing.”Hawass returned to Egypt in 1987, and soon was made Director of the Giza Pyramids. In 2002 he was appointed Director-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. In January 2011 he was made Minister of State for Antiquities in the cabinet of Hosni Mubarak.  Hawass and Silverman have collaborated on many projects and wrote a book together. Silverman also serves as the curator, advisor and academic content creator for the exhibition Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs. in the New York and other cities in the USA organized by Zahi Hawass and the National Geographic Society. He was also put in charge for the exhibition Treasures of Tutankhamun at Chicago’’s Field Museum. Hawass and Janice Kamrin also wrote books together, and in recent years Hawass had appointed Kamrin as Director of Registrars at the Egyptian Antiquities Museum in Cairo. During his long tenure Hawass has also helped several times (in 1978, 1991, 1996 and 1998) the Edgar Cayce Foundation and/or its senior members to search for the ‘Hall of records at Giza. Among these senior members were Joseph Jahoda and Joseph Schor (a prominent Jewish-American businessman whose wife, Laura Strumingher Schor, was the National Executive Director of the largest women’s organization in the United States, Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America 1998-2000).



Hugh Lynn Cayce with the Dalai Lama

Hugh Lynn Cayce with the Dalai Lama

Hugh Lynn Cayce with Prime Minister of India Dr. Nehru

Hugh Lynn Cayce with Prime Minister Nehru of India


Mark Lehner and Zahi Hawass at Giza c. 1978


Mark Lehner reporting on the search for the Hall of Records at the Edgar Cayce Foundation c. 1979


Zahi Hawass Ranting on the Jews

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

In the front page of the top Arabic daily newspaper Al AHRAM (April 12, 2012 issue), Zahi Hawass, ex-Minister of Antiquities in Egypt, and Farouk Hosni, ex-Minister of Culture, claimed (falsely) that ‘An American book attributes Egyptian Civilization to the Jews’. This book, written by myself  & Ahmed Osman (Breaking the Mirror of Heaven,  publishers Inner Traditions Inc.) will be published on August 15, 2012. Hawass further claimed (falsely) that my parents were ‘Belgians Jews’ from Alexandria —a claim clearly intended to be derogatory, implying that being a ‘Jew’ explains the reason for me writing this book (as an act of ‘vengeance’) and that, in any case, being a ‘Jew’  I cannot be believed.

In response to this, I has shown proof on my Blog that such claims are untrue. My parents were Catholic Christians, and they were baptised (as I was) in the churches in Alexandria. See here:

It is not the first time that Zahi Hawass has used the ‘Jews’ to try and discredit his opponents. Since 1991 Hawass has played this ‘Jews’ card against his opponents. In 2009 Hawass went as far as accusing the Jews of ruling the world and controlling the USA.

See here:

Hawass’s and Hosni’s many tirades about the ‘Jews’ are well known. One only has to do a search on Google to find a plentiful supply.

But the amazing irony is that Hawass’s recent outburst evoking ‘Jews’ and his obvious desire to show that he ‘protecting Egyptian civilization’ against ‘Jews’ may, in fact, be a smoke screen to his own very involved relationship with American Jews  –something that today in Egypt would definitely not go down well in the present political climate. It is well known in academic circles that Hawass obtained his PhD in America (at the University of Pennsylvania) with his tutor and a ‘reader’ of his thesis being Dr. David Silverman, who is Jewish (two other readers were Dr. David O’Connor and Dr. William Kelly Simpson). Dr. Silverman, Dr. O’Connor and their  university, have been granted long-tern concessions in Egypt by Hawass, and Hawass and Dr. Silverman have collaborated on many projects and even wrote a book together. It is also well-known that Hawass has ‘facilitated’ the Edgar Cayce Foundation of America to work at the Giza Pyramids many times, and that the principal funders were Joseph Jahoda and Joseph Schor, two promiment Jewish American businessmen.

See here:

Let it be very clear to everyone that I do not hold any anti-Semitic sentiments whatsoever. And I do not consider it either a detriment or an advantage to collaborate on projects with Jews  –or Christians or Muslims for that matter. Indeed religion, as far as I am concerned, does not and should not be a factor at all in Egyptology or any other endeavour. But we may wonder what Zahi Hawass is playing at by constantly attacking his opponents by labelling them  ‘Jews’. There is, excuse the pun, something not quite Kosher about his behaviour.

Ex Ministers Hawass and Farouk make false allegation regarding “American book and Jews”

Friday, April 13th, 2012


On the front page of the Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram of April 12, 2012, ex-Minister of Antiquities Zahi Hawass, and ex-Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni have made the following false assertions:

1.) That I am a ‘Jew’ and that I was born from ‘Belgian Jewish’ parents in Alexandria.

2.) That the book I have written with Egyptian author Ahmed Osman, Breaking the Mirror of Heaven, is an “American book that attributes Egyptian civilization to the Jews”.

3.) That I met ex-Minsiter Farouk Hosni to give him a DVD/video about this alleged theory.

I Robert Bauval hereby confirm:

1.)  That I was born and baptised a Christian in 1948 in Alexandria. My father (Gaston Bauval) and my mother (Yvonne Gatt) were born and baptised Christians in Alexandria in 1905 and 1915 respectively. (they are both resting in the Latin Christian Cemetry in Alexandria). See certificates below.

2.)  The book ‘Breaking the Mirror of Heaven’ DOES NOT attribute Egyptian civilization to the Jews. A statement confirming this will also be issued by our publishers Inner Traditions Inc.

3.)  I have never met Farouk Hosni, nor ever attempted to give him a DVD/video of any kind. I also confirm that I am a Belgian citizen (born in Egypt in 1948).

The false allegations “American book attributes Egyptian civilization to Jews’ and that my parents were ‘Belgian Jews’ from Alexandria, are clearly intented by those two Egyptian ex-ministers as well as the Al Ahram newspaper to arouse against my person (and my co-author Ahmed Osman) public sentiment in Egypt and indeed everywhere else where Anti-Semitism and Anti-America is rife. This is especially the case for Egypt today.

Baptism certificates of Robert Bauval, father (Gaston) and mother (Yvonne):

baptismrb1b220w.jpg baptismgaston1b220w.jpg baptyvonne1b220w.jpg



Christian Baptism Certificate of my father, Gaston Bauval, born in Alexandria in 1905

Christian Baptism Certificate of my mother, Yvonne Gatt, born in Alexandria 1915

Feminist Movement in Egypt 1919 to the Present. (extract from BREAKING THE MIRROR OF HEAVEN)

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

Hoda Shaarawi, the wife of Ali Shaarawi, who was Zaghloul’s companion in the Wafd, organized lectures for women in order to bring them out of their homes and induce them to actively participate in Egypt’s social and political reform. Shaarawi also opened a school for girls that taught useful academic subjects rather than the hitherto very limited home economics. Legend has it that in 1923 when Shaarawi stepped out of the train in Cairo’s Central Station (upon returning from a women’s conference in Rome), she defiantly pulled off her veil in front of the hundreds of Egyptian veiled women who had gathered to greet her. At first shocked by this bravado, the women then broke into a loud applause! This was the beginning of the end of the veil in Egypt (ironically, only to return with a vengeance today). Shaarawi became the leader of the Women’s Committee in the progressive Wafd Party and created the first Egyptian feminist movement, demanding better education, better social welfare, and full equality for women. Shaarawi went even further by calling for the abolition of polygamy.

Another of Egypt’s most admired women of the period was Safiya Zaghloul (the wife of Saad Zaghloul), who was known to many as mother of the (modern) nation (om el umma). Alexandria’s main downtown avenue, the fashionable Boulevard Safiya Zaghloul (dubbed Egypt’s Champs-Élysées) was named after this great feminist, yet one cannot help wondering if the black-veiled women who stroll up and down this avenue today (which puzzlingly has stores with window displays flaunting outrageously erotic types of women lingerie) are aware of Safiya’s bold efforts to abolish this ancient tradition, which has been revived in Egypt.

Other well-known feminists were Aisha El-Taimuriya, Nabawiya Moussa, Duriya Shafiq, Malak Hifni Nasif, and Aisha Ratib. One of today’s most outspoken feminists in Egypt is Nawal El Saadawi. According to Khalil Al-Anani, an expert on modern Islamism, “The basic difference between the current movement and the one preceding it lies in capabilities and interests. It is the difference between liberal Egypt, which experienced cultural and political emancipation during the first half of the 20th century, and totalitarian Egypt which has been suffering from political repression and cultural dogma since the 1952 Revolution.”


Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

The strange irony of social changes in present day Egypt is that the city of Alexandria, once the center of the intellectual world and in modern times a city priding itself for its multi-cultural  population which inspired novelists such as E.M. Forster and Lawrence Durrell to write about its marvelous cosmopolitanism, as well as a city which has been the seat of the Coptic Papacy, the Greek Orthodox  Patriarchy, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina and the inspiration to many Muslim scholars and artists, has now become the bastion of one of Islam’s most radical and intolerant faction: the Salafists. This is a faction that, until a year ago, was hardly noticed in Egypt but after the Tahrir Revolution of 25th January 2011 has seemingly shot out of the woodwork and, almost overnight, has become a dominant political and social force in the land.

I was born in Alexandria in 1948, when the city still retained much of its cosmopolitan character and when the three great Semitic religions  –Islam, Christianity and Judaism—  co-existed side by side, as well as people of different cultural and racial backgrounds: Arabs, Greeks, Armenians, Syrians, Turks, Maltese and other Europeans  —many of whom had been in Egypt for several generations. In the case of my family, which was of Italian, Maltese and Belgian mixture, it can be traced to the 1830s. My father was born in Alexandria in 1905 and died there in 1966. My mother was born in Alexandria in 1910 and died in 2009. Both lay side by side in the Latin Cemetery outside the old city gates.

The Alexandria that lives in my memory is of a beautiful city of mixed cultures and creeds, a city that evokes a glorious and splendid phase in the story of mankind, and that reverberates whenever is mentioned the names of Cleopatra, Euclid, Theon, Hypatia and many more illustrious characters who have left their indelible mark in world history.  Deep was my sadness and shame, therefore, when I was told this morning by a friend that a documentary was aired on Spanish television showing extreme Islamists/Salafists covering city monuments in Alexandria which they deemed ‘offensive’ to Islam  (such as statues depicting the female body,  one being of a ‘mermaid’ in a traffic roundabout).

Since early 2012 the ‘new’ Egyptian Parliament is dominated 70% by ‘Islamists’ of which 30% are from the Salafist ‘Nour Party’ (created last year after the Tahrir Revolution). Yesterday this Parliament selected a Constituent Assembly to  draft the ‘New’ Constitution of Egypt, the mahority are from the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salfists. In the course of the last few months there has been outcries from some extreme Islamists —many from the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists—  demanding, among other things, that all women in Egypt wear the veil, that men don a beard, that alcoholic beverage in public places and bikinis on beaches be forbidden, and that entertainments deemed un-Islamic such as belly-dancing be banned. One can only wonder, therefore, what kind of ‘New Constitution’ will come out if people like them are involved in drafting it.  But let us also be fair: not all Salafists and Muslim Brotherhood members are like that. Indeed many are very nice people and moderate in their thinking. But unfortunately these ‘moderate’ stand aside while the extremists attempt to have their way.

Let me be absolutely clear: I have nothing against Islam. I have lived and worked in many Muslim countries (Egypt, Oman, Iran, Sudan and Saudi Arabia). My closest friends are Muslims and Egyptians, and I have the utmost respect for their religious beliefs and their Arab traditions. Anyone who has visited Egypt will agree with me that Egyptians are very tolerant, friendly, compassionate and generous people. They love life, they love to enjoy themselves and they love to welcome foreigners who come to Egypt and pride themselves on their hospitality. In my view, anyone who wants to change these admirable qualities, and who wants to turn Egyptians towards obscurantism and intolerance cannot be regarded as a true ‘Egyptian’, but rather as ones indoctrinated by the bigoted and hypocritical Wahabbism of Saudi Arabia.

Let those who practice their religion, however radical it may be, be free do so in the way they choose. But no one should be allowed to force others to do the same. History has shown that if this is allowed to happen, it will lead to disaster. This is why I am speaking out. I love Egypt, and I want to see it prosper. I want to see all its people prosper and live in peace together.

Democracy is based on the respect and tolerance of all creeds and races, and equality for all.


Sunday, March 25th, 2012

Who are the Egyptian Salafists? And what is their mission?

© Robert Bauval, 23 March 2012

The term ‘Salafi’ comes from ‘Al Salaf al Saleeh’, loosely translated as ‘the pious forefathers’, meaning those original Muslims who were companions of the Prophet Mohammad, as well as their direct followers. To be a Salafist is to relate oneself to “that group of people about whom the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “The best of people is my generation, then those who come after them, then those who come after them”, that is the first three generations of Muslims. It demands a strict adherence to the Qur’an and a code of behavior that is full conformity with its teachings.

But, of course, things are never as simple as that when it comes to interpretation of ‘Holy Scriptures’. Not only do interpretations differ widely, but the question also arises as to how to apply and impose these interpretations.  Today, especially in Egypt, there is a serious attempt to use the political route to impose Salafist beliefs and ideologies on society.

In brief, and in a wider definition of the term, Salafism can be said to have originated with the Prophet himself, and with his companions and their followers. As a modern movement, however, and according to Trevor Stanley, a researcher in Islamic terrorism and editor of Perspectives on World History and Current Events (Terrorism Monitor Volume 3 Issue: 14, July 2005) “Salafism originated in the mid to late 19th Century, as an intellectual movement at al-Azhar University, led by Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905), Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (1839-1897) and Rashid Rida (1865-1935).” Finally, as a political movement, Salafism in Egypt stems directly from the creation of the Nour Party (the ‘Light Party’) after the Tahrir Revolution of 25th January 2011. Their presence is more so felt in Egypt by winning 30% of the Parliamentary seats in 2012.

Today politics in the ‘New Egypt’ is full of contradictions and confusion. But here is one such contradiction that requires perhaps some deeper scrutiny: contemporary Salafists define themselves as Muslims who follow “literal, traditional…injunctions of the sacred texts”, and regard Ibn Taymiyyah as their ideal role model and “not the 19th century figures of Muhammad Abduh, Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, and Rashid Rida”.

Taqi al-Din Ahmed ibn Taymiyyah (1263 – 1328 AD), was a Muslim scholar and teacher born in Harran, Turkey. He was a follower of Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (780-855 AD. Regarded as the most famous Sunni theologian and a ‘father of Muslim Juriprudence (Fiqh)’. He is also widely known as ‘Sheikh el Islam’). Ibn Hanbal advocated the return to the original and pure interpretation of the Qur’an and the Sunnah.  (Fiqh is an ‘expansion’ of Sharia, the latter being a ‘code of conduct’ based on the Qur’an).

In other words, the Salafists today in Egypt link themselves to an earlier, non-Egyptian source, rather than the 19th century Egyptian source (of Muhammad Abduh, Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, and Rashid Rida). 

The ‘19th century figures’ of Muhammad Abduh and Jamal al-Din al-Afghani are somewhat of an embarrassment to Islamic fundamentalists and Salafists. Not only these early Salafists admired the scientific, technological and social advancement of the Western World (generally seen as anathema by modern Salafists) and tried to merge them with their own belief that they, the Salafists, were the inheritors of the Golden Age of Islam that followed the Prophet, but it transpires that Muhammad Abduh and Jamal al-Din al-Afghani were also senior members of a Western ‘secret society’ that today is vilified and banned by Muslims all over the world. In 2005 Matthew Scanlan, a well-known historian of Freemasonry, wrote an article in Freemasonry Today (Issue 31) titled ‘Freemasonry Serving Egypt’, in which he stated that,

‘Today it is a tragic irony that Freemasonry is falsely derided in much of the Muslim world as a stooge of Zionism, when some of the great names of Islam have in fact been keen Freemasons. And foremost among these were two towering figures of 19th century Islamic modernism –Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and Sheikh Mohammad Abduh –both actually members of the same Egyptian lodge.”

Although born in Persia (modern Iran) and educated in Afghanistan, Jamal al-Din al-Afghani ‘travelled extensively before arriving in Egypt in 1871.” He was very awed by Western scientific achievements and became convinced that it could “eliminate economic backwardness and cultural sterility’ in the Muslim world. According to al-Afghani ‘a rediscovery of Islam’s scientific past would not only help Muslims materially, but also strengthen the unity of Islam’. In his own words,

“Those who imagine that they are saving religion by imposing a ban on some sciences and knowledge are enemies of religion.”

Al-Afghani believed that he could learn how Western nations had progressed with the use of science and technology if he fraternized with prominent Europeans in Egypt within the Masonic Lodges which, in those days, acted as meeting place and open forums to the elite. Al-Afghani consequently was initiated in 1875 into the Egyptian Lodge No.1355 Kawkab al-Sharq (The Star of the East). He was followed there by Mohammad Abduh, who was also initiated into Lodge 1355 in 1877. 

According to Ami Iseroff, writing for Encyclopedia of the Middle East (December 2008),

“There are at least three types of Muslim groups or movements who claim to be Salafi or are called Salafi:

1-      Conservatives like the Wahhabi

2-      Radical Islamists (or ‘Jihadists’) such as Al Q-Qaeda

3-      Liberal reformers like Muhammad Abduh and Jamal al-Din al-Afghani

Salafi fundamentalists are not necessarily all violent nor do all schools insist on interfering in political affairs. Some authorities class reformers such as Jamal_al-Din Al-Afghani and Muhammad Abduh as Salafists because they returned to early sources, but this construal is often not accepted by others (especially non-westerners), because both Afghani and Abduh favored reform by Itihad – innovation. They were only ‘Salafi’ in the sense that they wanted to disown much of Sharia law and return to what they considered to be ‘first principles,’ in order to liberalize Islam.” An attempt has been made to see the movement al-Afghani and Abduh as al Salafeya el Tanwiriyya (Enlightened Salafism) since, on the one hand it was a reformation of Islam seeking to restore it to its former glory using modernism, while on the other hand it advocated a return to the original pure form of Islam practiced by its original followers. They did not see this as a contradiction in terms, and deemed it feasible. In fact the term ‘Salafi’ was first coined as a slogan by followers of Mohammad Abduh, especially when after his death his disciple Rashid Reda moved closer to ‘traditional Salafism’ and the teachings of ibn Taymiyyah, after being influenced by Sheikh Mohammad abdel Hamid el fiqqi who drew him towards the ‘Saudi’ type of Salafism or Wahabbism. Thus even though the present Salafist politicized movement in Egypt rejects any connection to al-Afghani and Abduh, there embryonic origins in Egypt cannot simply be dissociated from them and, in consequence, to the connection these figures had with European Freemasonry.

At any rate, in 1964 President Gamal Abdel Nasser banned Freemasonry from Egypt when it was believed that the lodges had been infiltrated by Zionist spies. Since then Freemasonry has been regarded as some sort of ‘Zionist’ organization working against Islam and the Arab world. The fact that the State of Israel owes its creation to the direct support by US President Harry Truman, a prominent Freemason, as well as the Zionist lobby in Washington DC, has strengthen the view that some sort of Zionist-Masonic-American conspiracy exists to control the Muslim/Arab world. Not unexpectedly, in 1978 the Islamic Jurisdictional College of El-Azhar University in Cairo, one of the most influential Sunni organizations for interpreting Islamic law, issued the following statement:

“Freemasonry is a clandestine organization, which conceals or reveals its system, depending on the circumstances. Its actual principles are hidden from members, except for chosen members of its higher degrees. The members of the organization, worldwide, are drawn from men without preference for their religion, faith, or sect. The organization attracts members on the basis of providing personal benefits. It traps men into being politically active, and its aims are unjust. New members participate in ceremonies of different names and symbols, and are too frightened to disobey its regulations and orders. Members are free to practice their religion, but only members who are atheists are promoted to its higher degrees, based on how much they’re willing to serve its dangerous principles and plans. It is a political organization. It has served all revolutions, as well as military and political transformations. In all dangerous changes, a relation to this organization appears either exposed or veiled. It is a Jewish organization in its roots. Its secret higher international administrative board is made up of Jews, and it promotes Zionist (pro-Israel) activities. Its primary objectives are the distraction of all religions, and it distracts Muslims from Islam.It tries to recruit influential financial, political, social, or scientific people to utilize them. It does not consider applicants it cannot utilize. It recruits kings, prime ministers, high government officials, and similar individuals. It has branches under different names as a camouflage, so people cannot trace its activities, especially if the name of Freemasonry has opposition. These hidden branches are known as Lions, Rotary, and others. They have wicked principles that completely contradict the rules of Islam. There is a clear relationship between Freemasonry, Judaism, and international Zionism. It has controlled the activities of high Arab officials in the Palestinian conflict. Any Muslim who affiliates with it, knowing the truth of its objectives, is an infidel to Islam

The growing conflict between El-Azhar and the Salafists in Egypt has been discussed in an article in the Terrorism Monitor (Volume 8 Issue 35, 16 September 2010 which points out that,

“Having emerged from a period of religiously inspired terrorist violence in the 1990s, Egypt has since been regarded as a regional bulwark against Islamist militancy in the Arab Middle East. However, a new ideological struggle is emerging between the religious scholars of Cairo’s al-Azhar University (Sunni Islam’s preeminent institution of scholarship and religious rulings) and Egypt’s growing Salafist movement, largely concentrated in the Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria. Recently, al-Azhar’s Shaykh (leader) equated the threat posed by Salafism to the danger posed to Islam by secularism, Marxism and Christian missionaries. Views expressed in a recent interview with current al-Azhar Shaykh Dr. Ahmad al-Tayeb were only one indication of the ongoing conflict between al-Azhar and Salafist movements in Egypt, especially with the attempts of al-Tayeb to revive al-Azhar’s role as a central and effective player in the management and guidance of religious affairs not only in Egypt but throughout the Islamic world (al-Ahram Daily, July 10; al-Ahram Weekly, August 19-25). The interview included harsh criticism of the Wahhabi-based Salafist currents, with al-Tayeb declaring a campaign against Salafism, which he deems alien to Egypt and funded by foreign countries. Describing Salafists and their activities, al-Tayeb said, “In the absence of al-Azhar’s role, Salafists and other foreign sects have become active, with Wahhabism trying to fill the vacuum, leading to the spread of Saudi fiqh [religious jurisprudence] at the expense of moderate fiqh.” Al-Tayeb’s interview provoked commentary from Salafist internet forums in Egypt, with one activist angrily stating, “How could you (al-Tayeb) put what you called Wahhabists in the same sentence with anti-Islam people like Christian missionaries and Marxists?” Another activist in the same forum called al-Tayeb’s remarks a war on the rising Salafist currents in Egypt “expected from [an] al-Azhar Shaykh with Sufist inclinations.” The activists further described both al-Tayeb and Egypt’s Mufti, Dr. Ali Goma’a, as “advocates of turbaned scholars,” whose popularity is diminishing compared to the rising fame of Salafist shaykhs such as the Alexandria School figures and Shaykhs Muhammad Hassan, Abu Ishaq al-Hoyaini and Muhammad Hussein Yaqub. That argument deepened so much so that some rumored about al-Tayeb’s plan to expel scholars with Salafist inclinations from al-Azhar University. Al-Tayeb, however, denied that would be the case (al-Osbou Weekly, July 29). It is vital here to point out that this was not the first time al-Tayeb has attacked Salafists since assuming his post as al-Azhar Grand Shaykh on March 19, 2010. He launched a scathing attack on them during an April interview with al-Arabiya News Channel. Al-Tayeb accused them of sophistry, saying Salafist thinking is alien to Islam, having a pedigree of less than 200 years. Al-Tayeb added during the TV interview that he was “concerned such thinking might spread in Egypt, as al-Azhar and moderate thinking dominate Islamic life in Egypt” (al-Arabiya, April 2).”

All this, needless to say, creates a potent brew of social ideologies and political objectives that not only are very confusing to the ordinary Egyptian in the street about to vote for the very first time in a multi-party presidential elections and in a possible referendum on a new constitution, but could be the wick of a powder keg that could blow Egyptian society into an inner conflict  –a wick that, once lit, would be very difficult to diffuse.