Egypt: No Longer Jewel of the Nile

Four of the seven upstream Nile Basin Initiative countries have decided to sign a new Nile deal. Despite strong Egyptian and Sudanese opposition, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Ethiopia signed a new water-sharing agreement. The other three countries, Kenya, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo are expected to sign the new deal within the next 12 months as allowed by the accord.

Bikya Masr reported:

It is water. Water for all. At least this is the argument that upstream countries along the Nile River have been saying for years, but Egypt continues to refuse to renegotiate a colonial-era treaty that would allocate more water for use in the upstream countries part of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI). Egypt says that without its access to water, the country could face severe shortages and possible nationwide anxiety and protests.

Egyptian Citizen laments the current situation saying:

مصر مش هتبقى هبة النيل عشان خلاص النيل راح من ايدينا
دي خريطة فيها النيل عشان نبقى فاكرينة
بكرة دول حوض النيل السبعة
هتوقع على أتفاقية المياة الجديدة
دون مصر و السودان
و هيبقى للمياة ثمن مثل البترول و الغاز
Egypt will no longer be the jewel of the Nile for we no longer have a Nile!
Have a good look at the map when we once had a Nile.
After the Nile Basin Countries sign the new treaty without Egypt and Sudan, water prices will hit the roof – just like oil and gas.

Nawara Negm is also worried – but for a different reason:

اسرائيل مسيطرة على دول حوض النيل وهي اللي حتمول السدود بتاعتهم … وهي اللي مقوماها في دماغ دول حوض النيل
وبصراحة كده اللي عندنا ما بيعملوش حاجة
وبصراحة اكتر هم مش عارفين يعملوا حاجة
وبصراحة اكتر واكتر هم مش حيعرفوا يعملوا حاجة
حد ينجدنا
انا باتكلم جد …. حد ينجدنا
حد ينجدنا
حد يدخل افريقيا ويقطع على اسرائيل وينقذنا… بيقولوا ايران في افريقيا بتحاول تقطع على اسرائيل هناك، ياريت ربنا ينفخ في صورة تركيا وتدخل معاها على الخط، ما السعودية تدخل في الليلة وتحاول تغريهم بالفلوس، ما دبي تعمل استثمارات وتقايضهم.. انجدونا يا ناس …. حنموت من العطش
Israel has full control over the Nile Basin Countries and they will finance their dams.
Our officials did  not lift a finger to stop this.
To be more precise they do not know what to do.
As a matter of fact, they will not be able to do anything!
I am serious! Rescue us! Please!
Someone please intercept Israel's plan! They say that Iran is trying to set foot in Africa instead of Israel. I hope Turkey jumps in. Why doesn't Saudi Arabia lure them with cash or Dubai, why don't they tempt them with investments … people .. rescue us .. we will die of thirst!

Bikya Masr does not see a reason for panicking:

However, despite a new agreement being signed, little is likely to change. Egypt is already pushing international donor bodies, such as the World Bank – the main financier of the NBI – to cut funding to the signatories.

According to World Bank officials last July in Alexandria, they would not fund any new project without the approval of Egypt.

“Egypt is the leading country in this consortium and the World Bank will not get behind any initiative that leaves them out,” a World Bank official said at the time on the sidelines of the NBI conference in the Egyptian port city

Meanwhile, The Egyptian Silent Majority is ashamed:

اخطأنا كثيرا في حقهم….اهملناهم….استهنا بهم…..تركنا غيرنا يشاركهم التنمية و يأخذ بيدهم نحو التقدم و اكتفينا نحن بالفوز عليهم رياضيا…بل و التندر عليهم و على امكانياتهم و قدراتهم.
و اليوم نكرر نفس الخطأ بتهديدهم بإستخدام القوة ضدهم.
لا اعلم كيف سنخرج من هذا المأزق…..فمن حقهم تأمين حصتهم من المياه مثلنا تماما….و ليس منطقي ان نطالبهم بتأمين احتياجاتهم من المياه عن طريق الأمطار (كما قرأت في الصحف) و ترك النيل لنا!!!!!
We have often wronged them (Africans)! We neglected them! We belittled them! We let someone else invest in their land and take their hand into civilization. We enjoyed defeating them in football, mocking them, joking about them, and making fun of their resources and capabilities. Today, we are making the same mistake when we threatened to use force against them. I do not know how we will get out of this dilemma for they have a right to a fair share of water and it makes no sense to arrogantly ask them to secure their water needs by relying on rain water – as some papers mentioned!

Nawara Negm disapproves of President Mubarak's visit to Italy:

انت ازاي تروح لايطاليا عشان مشكلة النيل وفاكرها حتفرض على اثيوبيا رأيها؟ ازاي تهين الناس بالطريقة دي انت ايه؟ انت ايييه؟ … انت فاكر انك لما تهينهم بالطريقة دي حيسكتوا؟
انا لو مكانهم اتربس دماغي… يعني مش مستعنيهم تكلمهم، وبقالك كام سنة بتعاملهم معاملة الكلاب وكمان تروح تكلم ايطاليا كأنها الابلة بتاعتهم؟
How dare you go to Italy and ask them to intervene with the Nile water issue? Did you think they will coerce Ethiopia into changing its stance? How did you have the audacity to insult people that way? What were you thinking? Do you think they will just suck it in? If I were in their shoes, I would be more obstinate. You did not even bother talking to them directly, and for years you've treated them with negligence and an air of superiority … and now you are surpassing their sovereignty and talking to “their class teacher”?

Ethiopia tells Egypt the Nile is for all, Bikya Masr reported:

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said on Wednesday that the bullying of Egypt over the construction of dams along the Nile River must end as upstream nations attempt to implement a number of water projects despite Cairo’s opposition. He rejected threats by Egypt to prevent the erection of projects along the world’s longest river.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Zenawi argued that a new era in the Nile basin has begun. His statements come less than one week after Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania signed a new treaty on water-sharing along the Nile.

Egyptian Citizen wondered:

هو احنا هنعمل اية حتى لا نعطش؟
هو احنا هنعمل اية بعد كدة طيب اية الخطة البديلة عشان نقدر نعيش و متجيش اللحظة الي مصر تكون فيها عطشانة و يبقى فية أزمة عطش في مصر … قبل ما نملى جراكيل مياة و ناس تطلع تقطع طريق الدائري و ماسكة الجراكل و تقول عاوزين مية عاوزين مية
What will we do so as not to wither of thirst? What is our alternative survival plan? How can we avoid a time when Egypt gets hit by a water crisis? What will we do before we see Egyptians walking up and down highways with empty buckets begging for water?

On Nawara's blog, the independent initiative for water conservation took off:

  1. Full car washing is completely prohibited; wipe your car with a wet towel.
  2. Minimize using water at home while bathing, getting ready to prey, or washing the dishes.
  3. Sprinkling water in front of buildings in the summer is prohibited.
  4. Use recycled water for irrigation purposes.
  5. Be positive and direct others on how to preserve our limited water resources.
  6. Upon manually washing the dishes, use a plug to conserve tap water.
  7. Use a dish washer if possible; it consumes less water than manual dish washing.
  8. Proper plumbing at home is mandatory to avoid leakage.
  9. Do not leave the water running while bathing, brushing your teeth, or shaving.
  10. Make sure all water taps in your vicinity are not dripping.

Blogs that are part of the initiative are Egyptian Resistance, A Human Being, Egyptian Citizen, Me and Those, Ehab Affandy, Silence Screaming Out loud, and Internet-ian.

On Facebook, Against the Nile Basin Countries page was created in fear of the coming wars over water.

And another group was created to promote the Independent Initiative for Water Conservation.


  • Dan

    Ethiopia is THE SOURCE of the BLUE NILE river, contributing about 85% of the nile. While Ethiopia has not been able to build dams, and irrigation fields on its lands, while Egypt’s desert is used to EXPORT food t other wealthy countries. What a stupid decision by Egypt to not engage directly with Ethiopia.
    How is Egypt going to stick to a colonial rule that didn’t even involve independent Ethiopia?

  • dodo

    that is what we have become.the day has come that we become vey very small in the eyes of more 1950s’ egypt nor 1960s nore 70 even nore 80s

  • alja

    Hope it’s not too late for Egypt. As long as Ethiopia is not developing very fast to satistfy the needs of the growing population, Egypt would have a serious problem. No dirty tricks with world bank or other “european masters” would save the long term problem of water in the region. The dynamic development of Ethiopia and also it’s population and needs cannot be stopped as the flow of nile will probably remain for the coming decades. World bank will not give you water so as world bank can never help or stop the development of a country like Ethiopia. Their is no country on Earth which has developed with the help of World bank. They are just political pupets. Lets be real.

    • Jilalu

      ethiopia is growing more than you imagine. but that is not the the problem Ethiopia has million of options to use as water sources. The great point her is the back ward “1929 mentality and attitude” of Egyptian officials. They should have to agree, other wise they hurt thier own people and country . Now every country is using as much they can , it is only official agreement that can stop it.

  • The Nile river was and is and would continue to be a greater part of Egyptian life and civilization.It forms the foundations of Egyptian culture,economy and National pride.

    Yes.Water and Water alone would be the key factor for regional stablity as well as cooperation.Egypt as a nation of outstanding population sees the nile river as part of the daily cycle of life.It considers the river as It’s owen,where ever it comes from and considers the the nile river as part and parcel of It’s national security.

    The Greatest failure of Egyptian diplomacy would be seen in a country as Ethiopia that hold the greatest share of the waters.

    Egypt should have traded Gas and oil for Water with Ethiopia before the rise of the current diplomatic turmoil.

    Egypt can still single out Ethiopia,with It’s rising demand for Oil and Gas for a special deal as such nations as Uganda and Souther Sudan start to open up for the international market on Energy.

    Ethiopa could always postpone any project on the Nile in exchange to a special price for Egyptian Natural Gas and oil that may operate on industrial infrastructures.

  • […] The Southwestern US states are not the only ones with water issues. […]

  • The upstream countries are 9 not 7 according to Wikipedia.

    The mentioned in Wikipedia is 10, with Eritria as missing information, since they are considered an observer only.

  • While Egypt is most assuredly the jewel of the Nile, the opposite is equally assuredly not true. The Nile is not the jewel of Egypt. Although some people are paying attention to that point, it seems that many others, some of them in the government are not. The Nile is not Egypt’s river for us to use as we please. We exist by its grace and it is our responsibility to ensure its survival for the benefit of all the people along its banks. There are plenty who question whether the rocky road started upon with the building of the High Dam was the right one. I’m not holding my breath in anticipation, but it is surely time for some rational thought, cooperation and serious environmental planning.

  • Jilalu

    Brothers and sisters in egypt , do not panic. You people think that, you belittle us -Ethiopians, wow I never heard of it. But do not forget the war you made it with Ethiopia in 1878. You lost. You try to control the source of Nile forever. But now you start crying like baby by going to Italy. Italy we hire them to do the work , and they make bussiness too. Brother Mubarek, he made the worst mistake. We thought that , you guys are smart enough to handle this situations. I also heard that It is a \ Red Line\ the Nile issue, that is may be for egyptian officials , not even for egptian people. Egyptians people they do not want other people dieing of hunger and thirst, egyptians official they love to see that. People after now \ Everything is changed, changed for Ever\ it is up to egyptians to handle this situation , not by airstrike. The only and only option egyptians they have is to respect the decision of other countries and to make the the best deplomacy effort with those upper stream countries.


    Egyptian dirty trikes at the world bank and IMF can’t hold Ethiopia any more have already seen the self funded billions worth two mega projects inaugurated in a single year TEKEZE and TANA BELES ..expect many more Mega projects in the coming years…hundreds of thousands of hectares to be irrigated….you have funded Somalia to tear us down …you have delivered your bobs to Eritrea be barry it in our land…you try became the architect to dismantle the country with no luck…but we survived it all… It does not matter what happen in the past, what matters is Ethiopia is now already awakened like it has been sleeping for ages …Our African Brothers are in our side, because they believe our question is Justified.

    Now … if you are dummy you will continue to the dirty work, and if you are smart you will start fear diplomatic process…Ethiopia will entertain both…

  • Mohamed

    As Ethiopian to utlize the river Nile we will not ask Egyptians or their masters/colonizers/.If Egyptians work out the issue with diplomacy to resolve the issue,it will be welcomed by Ethiopians,if not Nile volume blood could spill ,but Ethiopia is always Ethiopia weather colonialists or Egyptians like it or not.

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