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Through her father, Ahmed is able to witness the costs of the shifting
political fortunes of Egypt. As the Chairman of the Hydro-Electric Power
Corporation, Ahmed’s father opposes Prime Minister Nasser’s plan to build the
Aswan High Dam on ecological grounds. The Dam is a highly important project for
the Nasser regime: it will establish Egypt’s ability to take on grand
modernization projects, and its construction involves further establishing
Egypt’s independence from France and England. Nothing sways Ahmed’s father from
him idealistic position, and he goes on to publish books in the 1950s condemning
the plan, which are confiscated by the government. Ahmed views her father as so
invested in his scientific ideals that he is unable to see the political
consequences of his actions. The stubborn stance he takes will haunt him for the
rest of his life, as the government meddles in his financial and personal
affairs and harasses his family.
Ahmed’s father is the source of much of Ahmed’s conflict regarding the
multiple cultures that surround her. He does not send his children to an Islamic
school to study the Quran, in part because of his traumatic experience there as
a child, being beaten by stern teachers for small infractions. A native
Egyptian, Ahmed’s father earns part of his status in society by marrying a
member of the Turkish upper-classes—Turks were the ruling class of the Ottoman
Empire and thus enjoyed high standing in Egyptian society. Nonetheless, Ahmed’s
father constantly hits boundaries in his professional life. When he is a
student, for instance, British authorities, fearing the expansion of the
educated, skilled classes in Egypt, demand he switch majors from engineering to
geography in order to receive a scholarship. Despite his setbacks, Ahmed’s
father never loses his reverence for British culture and ideas, an attitude that
Ahmed chalks up to “colonial consciousness,” or an atmosphere in which the
colonized begin to internalize the ideology that oppresses them.
Ace your assignments with our guide to A Border Passage!