Sophia's Peace Work

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Pan Arab Conference on Biodiversity

Just returned from a conference on biodiversity held in Alexandria, Egypt. Arrived a couple of days early and got to see a little of the city (with a very brief, rather surreal swing by the Pyramids in Cairo at night when we arrived). The old part of Alexandria was largely built by Italians and peopled by French, Italians & Greeks ... I heard several of the older generation of Alexandrians speaking French. The buildings are very cool but largely not maintained well. And there are many beautiful villas but they are largely surrounded by highrises that tower over them. In contrast, these newer buildings are cement monstrocities ... equally decaying due to the effects of the salty environment of the Med. The city is huge (about 5 million ... but Cairo is passing 8 million), having long ago expanded far past the borders of the old walled city.

I was able to visit and walk through the Qaitbay Citadel. (The following comes from: - The Qaitbay Citadel in Alexandria is considered one of the most important defensive strongholds, not only in Egypt, but also along the Mediterranean Sea coast. It formulated an important part of the fortification system of Alexandria in the 15th century A.D. The Citadel is situated at the entrance of the eastern harbour on the eastern point of the Pharos Island. It was erected on the exact site of the famous Lighthouse of Alexandria, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

The conference I attended was held at the Library of Alexandria, a really marvelous building to visit. I told my father I was going there and he said that I should read up on Callimachus. Callimachus (305 BC-240 BC) was a Greek (by way of Libya) poet and scholar of the Library of Alexandria who was responsible for producing the catalogue of all the volumes contained in the old Library. The great reading room of the current library is named after him.

The conference itself was rather strange ... it seemed that the organizers intent was to introduce the concept of the Encyclopedia of Life ... and to discuss the development of a regional organization to participate in the EOL ... but that was not really made clear to those of us attending. Many (including us) had hoped to make a presentation but the conference ended up only being really on one day and there was no time for us to discuss our work in Iraq. We did get to met alot of people from the region and set up a table outside the conference room with our presentations running on laptops. Time will tell if we made any kind of impression.


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