tuque /tūk/ n Canadian English, var. toque [19th c. Canadian French, from the French toque, from the Basque tauka] 1 A close-fitting knitted cap, often with a long tapering end or tassel or pompom. 2 fig Something quintessentially Canadian.
souq /sūk/ n from the Arabic سوق var. souk 1 An open-air marketplace. 2 fig A central meeting place for the circulation of news and ideas.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Somali Piracy Watch: Egypt's déjà vu in the Arabian Sea

Reuters posted an excellent article by historically minded journalist Jonathan Wright that compares the current piracy crisis in the Arabian Sea - and Egypt's lacklustre response to the international brouhaha in its backyard - with the 16th century Mamluk Empire's vanilla approach to marauding Portuguese privateers, who appeared asudden around 1510 and molested Egypt's near-monopoly on western Arabian Sea trade:

"Marauding seamen infest the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea, extracting tolls from shipping and disrupting an ancient trade route between Asia and Europe.

Egypt, one of the main direct beneficiaries of the transit trade, takes time to react. The government is in the hands of an aging leader, who looks to outside powers for help.

That was the challenge that Mamluk ruler Qansuh al-Ghouri faced in the early 16th century, when Portuguese ships appeared unexpectedly east of Suez and started to harass Egypt-bound shipping in the Red Sea and its approaches.

After centuries of peaceful trading, Egypt had no Red Sea fleet capable of countering the Portuguese menace."

The article goes on to describe how current Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak has been a wee bit insouciant about the piracy affair: "This problem could come to an end if merchant ships arm themselves with heavy artillery to deal with the pirates," Mubarak was quoted in al-Gomhuria.

As an aside, Qansuh al-Ghuri later had his head cut off and sent as a prize to Istanbul after losing a battle against the Ottoman Turks.

[Thanks to our friends at the Arabist blog for alerting us to this story.]

No comments: