Right to the Desert
A recent article in Egypt Independent states that under the new law on land ownership in the Sinai desert, the government will offer 100,000 acres, prioritizing Sinai Bedouins as purchasers. The law makes it so only Egyptians are permitted to buy the land and cannot resell or leave it to foreigners. This may begin to ease a fraction of the frustrations faced by Egypt’s Sinai Bedouins who, in addition to other dire conditions, previously had no formal rights to land ownership.
It is not clear if the law will eliminate the bureaucracy of acquiring property on desert land. According to research done by Cairo from Below team members, Hernando De Soto estimated it takes seventy-seven bureaucratic procedures in thirty-one different public and private offices for an Egyptian to formally get a plot of state owned desert land. Cairo from Below researchers explain that, according to their field research in March of 2011, all desert land in Egypt is considered state-owned unless sold by the state. State institutions thus own a large percentage of land in Egypt. The Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Awqaf (religious endowments) and the Egyptian Military are among the largest owners of land in the country.
Intentional and mindful consideration of marginalized members of society can be essential to ensuring further progress, sustainable development, and greater equity. Hopefully this is the case in Egypt.
Dana Kardoush is the Cairo from Below Communications Coordinator. Kardoush is an alumnus of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). While at SIPA, along with fellow classmates and colleagues in Cairo, she contributed to forming Cairo from Below. Kardoush’s interest lies in civil society mobilization and community-led development in the Middle East, and as a Palestinian-American, she hopes to return to live and work in Palestine in the future.