On the thresholds of paradise

A lioness slowly approaches a rhino in the jungle. They both examine each other. The rhino tries to hit the lioness with his strong horn, but she evades the blow skillfully. Then come the wild cats. The rhino panics. They start maneuvering around him. Suddenly, they climb on his back, stick their claws in his thick skin and bite him with their sharp teeth until he bleeds. They are joined by more lionesses. You could hardly see the rhino from the animals attacking him. 
Multitude overcomes courage. The weakened rhino falls to the ground. A lioness bites his neck, the other lionesses the rest of his body. The kings of the jungle lose their nobility. They lazily wait at a distance for him to die. 
The scene can fill you with dread. It makes you feel the need to build a safe world. It crystallizes your thoughts. In a world of predators, what saves you is your military discipline. You carry out tasks assigned to you by the army. You start your day by wearing your uniform. You replace the flag on the mast with a new one. Then you salute the flag.
One hundred and thirty-two years ago, an officer at the last Egyptian military station in the far limits of the Egyptian state to the north of the Congo River watched a scene figuratively similar to the attack of the lions. It was a scene that also lacked nobility. It was an attack on the Egyptian army to weaken it. The army was wounded seriously, but did not succumb to death like the rhino. It gathered its strength and continued despite repeated attacks by desperate claws and fangs.
Today, the same forces that spawned from the womb of the old conspiracy continue to target the army. It is not only the story of the army. It is the story of the whole nation that needs to revive its memory and face the cruel world of predators as in the past.
Only discipline will save the nation, as the officer of the last military station said to himself when he was besieged by brutal forces in a virgin place. The place was a piece of God’s paradise on the dividing line between the Nile and the Congo River. We should see the story with the officer’s eyes so that we can remove the masks from the faces of vileness, madness and brutality. This in itself is half the way to victory and the first step to survival.
A true story
The Egyptian army set up stations for valor and civilization on the banks of the Congo River.
The story is called “The Thresholds of Paradise.” It takes place in a land that is almost like God’s paradise. The author, Engineer Fathy Imbaby, spent seven full years reading the references of the story. He mentioned more than fifty references, one of which was alone 1,000 pages long. It is more of an account of history than a figment of the author’s imagination. It is a spectacular narrative with amazing melodic paragraphs and rhythmic cohesion of the successive thresholds and the structure of the work as a whole. It proves that history really repeats itself, not in a cynical manner as they say, but in a cunning and demeaning way, and with lies well-dramatized in the media and by misleading modern communication technologies that hide ulterior motives meaner than those of yesterday.
But we should not forget the past so that we can recognize the present and visualize the future.
The Orabi revolt was not a demonstration by the military to demand certain factional privileges as some kids and anarchists like to call it. It was the voice of a nation looking for a place in an era of modern states, constitutions, parliaments and sovereignty. And Orabi was but a good man who performed his duty towards the aspirations of the general public. The army officers who were educated in Paris and London at the time were among the vanguards of that nation.
The Khedive arrested Orabi, but the courage of Mohamed Ebeid and his soldiers released him from his cell. The Khedive’s reaction and that of those who controlled him revealed to what extent he was afraid of the nation’s ambition for freedom, justice and equality.
And so there was treason. For the fleet of the British colonial empire, which was the strongest in the world at the time, landed in Alexandria with fire and destruction. 
The Egyptian army waited for the British invaders to come from the north to al-Tall al-Kabir to fight them, but Ferdinand de Lesseps, who promised Orabi that he would not let the British fleet pass in the Suez Canal, betrayed him and open the channel. And so the British came from the east, which Orabi thought was secure. It was the naivety of an honorable man who did not think there were others not honorable. But the army did not give up as some like to tell.
The British in Egypt
The borders of the modern Egyptian state under Khedive Ismail
The army gathered its forces after the al-Tall al-Kabir massacre and went to its barracks and fortifications in Mokattam to continue fighting the British in Cairo. But the Khedive, who many called treacherous, ordered the abolition of the army on 19 September 1882, stripped the officers who participated in the revolt of their ranks and deprived them of their property and financial rights. And Egypt became a state without an army.
But Khedive Tewfik saw or was told by the British or the Turks that the army would heal its wounds and regain its strength, and would oust him with the support of the people and declare the Egyptian Constitutional Modern Republic that would separate itself from the Ottoman Empire. Here, he went back on his decision to dissolve the army and changed his death sentences to exiles.
And here begins the legend of the twelve Egyptian officers who were exiled to the far reaches of the equator at the sources of the Nile, where the God’s paradise, perhaps also hell, is found. It is the story that Imbaby’s magnificent but poorly printed novel tells. It is the tedious yet pleasant to read novel that the Book Authority should reprint in a decent edition. It is “The Thresholds of Paradise.”
Whatever the price
The announced reason why the twelve Egyptian officers were exiled there was for them to transport military supplies to Lado, the capital of the Equator Directorate that was under Egyptian rule, and to measure the water levels of the White Nile in order to complete a study for a reservoir in Aswan. 
But the real goal of the British officer that Khedive Tewfik appointed as head of the Egyptian army was to get rid of them so that there would not be another revolt. And he sent them from the port of Suez to the port of Suakin 13,000 soldiers of the army that was defeated in the revolt.
An epic march of twelve officers with their families toward the Great Lakes through swamps and under heavy rain, encountering cannibals and predators, until they landed on the shores of a green land whose beauty and wondrous animals, birds, trees and fruits no eye has seen.
An army fighting slavery
After bombarding Alexandria with cannons, Khedive Tewfik welcomes the British 
Twelve young officers who came out of Egypt to the equator and fought battles to liberate slaves and cultivated their own land so that they do not eat from the food of the natives. They never gave up on their military discipline and they never forgot to salute the Egyptian flag.
Four of them were allegedly killed in traps by the agents of the European colonialists and two died of tropical diseases. But only one of those who were left came back after seven years. It was officer Mostafa al-Agamy, the uncrowned king of Africa.
The saint of the Nile
Mohammed Amin Pasha, the hero of the novel “On the Thresholds of Paradise.” 
A young officer stood on a hill wearing his short Sudanese outfit with his pipe hanging down from the corner of his mouth. He is facing 300 warriors of the Makraka tribe raising spears. 
When he left Lado, he did not go north, but went to Makraka where he regained alliance with the tribes that saw him cross the Bahr el Ghazal Directorate returning a convoy of liberated slaves. This legendary man was amazing. He was an officer of the Egyptian army named Hawash Montasser. He fought fierce battles to expand the Egyptian presence and liberate slaves. He gave them food rations enough for their home journey. They thanked him and they spoke of him with their peers. They fought his battles before he arrived to the battlefield.
Egyptian lights in the middle of darkness
This Egyptian army built schools and hospitals thousands of kilometers away from the motherland. The officers fought epidemics and built roads and telegraph lines. They reclaimed land and cultivated it with sugar cane, cotton, figs and lemon trees, crops that the natives never knew of. 
For Egypt was the first civilized country in the world to send military forces to eliminate slavery. 
Montasser introduced the cultivation of white corn in Monboto on the equator. But paradoxically, Monboto was the place where the battle to get rid of him occured. He was trapped by the Europeans and their agents, such as Othman Arbab, the cleric who issued a fatwa allowing slavery. Because Arbab made a lot of money from this trade, he paid mercenaries to fight the Egyptian army. 
Meanwhile, the corrupt Mohamed Amin Pasha, who was appointed by Khedive Tewfik to represent the Egyptian state, was trading in ivory and ostrich feathers.
He too, with his German Jewish friend Isaac Edward Schnitzer, allegedly plotted against the Egyptian army.
And today, the so-called IS group and its militants are plotting against the Egyptian state just like in the past. 
I respect Fathy Imbaby for dedicating his novel to our officers and soldiers who are defending the homeland in a bloody battle against terrorism. I also dedicate this article of mine in solidarity.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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