With both celebratory commentary and reporting on the staunch security plan surrounding the inauguration of the Suez Canal on August 6, the nation’s new megaproject is simultaneously a site for national pride and fear of terrorist attacks for local media.
The Suez Canal project, launched last year by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, entails the extension and deepening of the canal by 72 supplementary kilometers.The project was funded through investment certificates sold to people, as Sisi insisted that the financing of the project stays local. The financing scheme was successful and generated the LE60 billion required to complete the project.
The opening of the project, one year after work on it began, is marked by hype around the success of the current regime in completing a major national feat.
Local media is leading the way for this hype.
In today’s daily coverage of the Suez Canal inauguration, the state-owned Al-Ahram published reflections on the Suez Canal throughout history, and its association with the past more than the future. This association points to how the canal represented a nation rising from backwardness and dependency, and a society open for development and the challenges surrounding it.
Today’s project, the newspaper reports, is instead a reminder that the Suez Canal continues to embody the hope for development and construction that will put an end to the economic recession that Egypt has seen in the last few years, especially in the aftermath of the January 2011 revolution.
The state-run incumbent media institution has also issued a memorial publication, compiled for the occasion, entitled: “The Suez Canal: the history, the fate and the promise.” The preface of the publication is written by Mohamed Hassanein Heikal, the journalist and former editor of Al-Ahram, known for his close connection with former President Gamal Abdel Nasser and following regimes. The publication has chapters written by today’s Al-Ahram’s Chairperson Ahmed Sayed al-Naggar and former Culture Minister Emad Abu Ghazi, among others. The book’s content has been featured in Al-Ahram daily throughout the week.
The privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm chose to report about Saeed Badr, the professor of fine arts who has been commissioned to produce a statue that he has dubbed “the guardian of history.” The sculpture will be erected on the west bank of the Suez Canal, at the entrance of Ismailia city.
The statue’s concept, Badr said, is inspired from “the events that Egypt went through and the ability of Egyptians as a people and an army to preserve their nation.” He added that he was impressed by how the new project was completed in less than a year, with a spirit of enthusiasm and determination.
Celebratory reporting aside, the lead-up to the inauguration of the canal also brings up fears of sabotage in the wake of rising terrorist attacks throughout the country.
Security sources told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the presidency has asked the security apparatus to review all plans put in place for the inauguration. Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry has declared a state of emergency until the inauguration takes place.
The sources told the newspaper that visiting delegations will probably be bussed from Cairo to the site of the canal, accompanied by troops.
Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar said that a supplementary 2,000 officers will secure the canal area during the inauguration, Al-Masry Al-Youm reported, following his meeting with Mohab Mamish, the head of the Suez Canal Authority.
Security operations have been taking place in the canal area and the surrounding cities of Port Said, Ismailia and Suez, according to residents. Some hotels have been closed to visitors and apartments for rent have been allegedly searched as well.
Al-Ahram also reported that Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb is headed to Ismailia to check on the security preparations ahead of the inaugural festivities.