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Egyptians suffer as heat wave continues across the Middle East and North Africa

July 25, 2023 at 7:18 pm

People fish inthe Nile river during a heat wave in al-Qanater al-Khayreya, on the outskirts of Cairo [KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images]

Egypt has warned the population not to use lifts for 20 minutes, each hour, whilst it implements power cuts so that it can conserve energy as a gruelling heat wave continues to engulf North Africa and the Middle East.

The Electricity Ministry has released a diagram to show the start and end times of the power outages every hour, and when to stay away from the lifts so that people do not get trapped inside them.

The government has said that the power cuts are due to increased demand for air conditioning, as people try to stay cool in soaring temperatures.

Egypt’s Transport Minister, Kamel Al-Wazir, has asked people to set their air conditioning units to 26 degrees to limit their consumption of electricity, sparking outrage on social media.

Critics have drawn parallels with the government’s announcement in January, that Egyptians should go for cheaper meat cuts like chicken feet and cattle hooves, to contend with rising food prices, as the country reels from a dire economic crisis that has seen ordinary people unable to afford staple products.

READ: Algeria warns of severe heatwave 

Temperatures have remained in the forties in Cairo and the Delta, and the fifties in Upper Egypt, with some villages experiencing power outages for more than six hours, seriously affecting not only their health, but also their ability to work.

The Arabic hashtag “electricity cut” hit the number one trending in Egypt with users posting about the dire state of Egypt and calling on the government to find a swift solution.

What has Egypt become under the military for 70 years? It has become the laughing stock of the world! No money, no food, no water, no medicine!

Others questioned the government’s stated motives behind the electricity cut.

We’re supposed to have surplus electricity that we received by taking out large loans to pay for it. Egypt was in negotiations to export electricity to other countries such as Jordan and Iraq. So why is our electricity being cut?

In 2018, the German company, Siemens, built three power stations at a cost of $9 billion, to boost Egypt’s electricity generation by 50 per cent.

Some have compared the media’s coverage of electricity cuts during the late Mohammed Morsi’s rule, which media personalities like Ahmed Moussa fiercely criticised, with the lack of coverage on TV stations today:

In 2010, the Egyptian Ministry of Electricity blamed the country’s power cuts on a natural gas deal with Israel, arguing that the decrease in gas began in 2004, when Egypt started exporting gas to Israel.

But, this week, the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK reported that security forces arrested Oma Mustafa after she raised a banner in front of the Suez Governorate protesting the sale of gas to Israel, whilst Egyptians suffer from power outages.

Power cuts are an ongoing phenomenon in Egypt. In December last year, Egyptians also complained as electricity cuts affected homes and shops as the government tried to save 15 per cent of natural gas being used in power plants.

READ: Fire breaks out in Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon

Power cuts have also hit the Gaza Strip amid the scorching temperatures, leaving small businesses, like cafes, unable to provide fresh food and for factories to keep machinery up and running.

Temperatures across the region were as high as 51 degrees, including in some parts of Algeria. Forest fires killed 25 people on Monday in the mountain region of Bejaia and Bouira, whilst 1,500 were evacuated.

Videos circulated online of mass evacuations in the north-western town of Tunisia as wildfires reached the border from Algeria.

Wildfires raged across Lebanon and Syria, including in a camp for displaced Syrians in northern Lebanon, which destroyed a large number of tents.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.