Last Update 11:3
Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Hot night, dark city: How Egyptians cope with power cuts

The summer heat is peaking, meaning Egyptians are forced to deal with power shortages - and all the problems that come with them

Zeinab El-Gundy in Cairo , Hanan El-Masry in Alexandria and Yasser Abu El-Nil from Aswan, Thursday 28 Aug 2014
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Millions of Egyptians lived through a hot and darker summer in 2014 (Photo: Reuters)
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In August, Egypt witnessed an unprecedented wave of power outages across the country, lasting up to six hours per day in Cairo and twice that in some parts of Upper Egypt.

The frequency of the power cuts subsided in the past week. But that didn't stop Egypt's Electricity Minister Ahmed Shaker from issuing a statement expressing his wish to solve the problem – while still admitting that it will take four years to reach a solution dependent on a new power station and renewable solar energy – both of which carry high investment costs.

While some attribute Egypt's electricity problem to an outdated system and a lack of fuel, many talk show hosts and newspapers have blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for a series of attacks on electricity pylons – despite the power cuts having occurred frequently during the tenure of Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi in 2012.

Beyond the political and economic debates – assigning blame, addressing causes and trying to find solutions – Egyptians are finding new ways to survive in the darkness brought on by the power cuts.

Dark hospitals

Last week, a photo of a team of surgeons using the light of their mobile phones to conduct a hysterectomy in Ismailiya governorate went viral – and sparked controversy.

One of the doctors, Nader Mohsen, published the photo on Facebook to bring attention to a recurring issue that he says surgeons must deal with at the public hospital where he works.

The electricity minister followed up this incident with a claim that public hospitals are exempt from power outages – which was refuted by the Doctors Syndicate.

"Why do patients have to suffer and live in fear that they may die because of a power outage in a public hospital or clinic?" Hossam Abdel-Rabou, a doctor from Alexandria asked.

Abdel-Rabou told Ahram Online that public hospitals and clinics cannot afford to buy heavy-duty power generators whose prices are above LE10,000 (about $1,400).

"Of course there is nothing compared to a power outage taking place while you are operating on a patient. When this happens, you either wait until the power comes back or have the patient die while you are waiting," he said, adding that many patients on ventilators and premature infants in incubators are at risk of death during power outages.

The fear that elderly patients could die during a power outage led Alexandria resident Mansour El-Hoseiny to pull his elderly mother out of the hospital.

"I fear she may die while I stand helpless as there are no fans or air conditioners working for hours [in the hospital] when there is a heat wave and high humidity in Alexandria," he said, referring to the two-hour power cuts that happen six times a day in the coastal city.

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A photo for the surgery during the power outage at Ismailia General hospital that went viral in Egypt by Dr. Nader Mohsen

Outages and illegal construction

With millions flocking to the popular seaside town over the summer months, Alexandria's poor infrastructure has been strained by the additional burden of nation-wide power cuts that affect both electricity and water since many buildings use electrical-powered water reservoirs.

Alexandria resident Abdel-Hakim Ahmed said that elevator usage has also became an issue, with many people developing "elevator-phobias" – the fear of being locked inside for hours during power cuts.

The governor of Alexandria recently blamed hot August weather for increasing the strain on the government's electrical capacity, despite the fact that such weather and humidity occurs on an annual basis.

In addition to climate, experts and activists in Alexandria have also assigned blame to Alexandria's unlicensed buildings, estimated to number up to 200,000.

Architect Sahar Abdel-Mohsen points to a place like Agamai, a popular beach town west of Alexandria where his family owns a chalet. He says the electricity supply to Agami is allocated according to what the town used to be – a place of villas and chalets – and not what it is today: a resort overrun with large, multi-story buildings "constructed by greedy contractors".

Generator fever

Shops, cafes and restaurants in Alexandria have relied on power generators to avoid huge losses during the busy summer months.

The growing demand for generators has spawned a black market, said Karim El-Din Ramadan, a merchant from Alexandria.

Aside from the black market, the word "generators" has become the most-searched-for term on the internet in Egypt, according to Google trends in Arabic.

Yet the prices and availability of power generators – and diesel fuel – means that buying a generator isn't easy.

In Qena, 450 km south of Cairo, only restaurants, cafes and some workshops can afford diesel-powered generators. Most citizens suffer from power outages that last up to 12 hours in rural villages outside the city, according to software developer and internet marketer Mahmoud Ahmed.

"I was on the verge of losing my job as an internet marketer this month because of the constant outages that often occurred six times a day in Qena," Ahmed said. He described how the problem has gradually intensified over the past few years, hitting its peak this year.

Besides power generators, rechargeable and emergency light fans have become top selling products this summer – cheaper than air conditioners and yet still handy when the power goes out and your apartment heats up.

Along Abdel-Aziz Street in downtown Cairo – known for its abundance of electricity appliances for sale – the shops are full of Chinese rechargeable and emergency light fans, stacked up alongside the usual TVs and fridges.

A shop owner on the street said he usually sells at least 50 of the rechargeable fans a day, priced between LE300-350.
Another alternative are Japanese and Chinese UPS batteries.

The small- and medium-sized batteries range between LE400 to LE4000 (about $57 to $570), according to wattage, and are a short-term alternative to pricey generators – for those who can afford them.

Either way, Egyptians know it may be a long time before the power issue is addressed – let alone solved – despite promises from government officials.

Until then, they will find their own way to survive in the dark – and the heat.

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From Abdel Aziz street in Downtown , Egypt

 

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8



Neo
25-09-2014 04:34pm
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3+
Stop being negative, move forward …
One of the good side of Alahram in English is it supposed to bring well-educated people to share their ideas, and constructive views, rather than the usual negative attacks. The solution to Egypt Energy problem is very simple …. 1. Green Energy - they already announced 8 GW of Solar and Wind 2. Money - they proved they can raise money with the Suez Project 3. Execution - and this is the issue, they need capable experts to help them execute Let’s focus my fellow Egyptians on the solutions, rather than spread the blames!
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7



Sherif Shehata
15-09-2014 09:18pm
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4+
stupidness
Egypt needs a new vision with a new brain. I live in the UK, we use Solar power without enough Sun. Egypt has the sun so why are we not using Solar power. God give us the sun, we should be utilizing this power. Please Mr President ask China for help. China is the cheapest for Solar panels. There's nothing in this world I wouldn't do. God save Egypt.
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Farhan
18-09-2014 09:30pm
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1+
Because Egyptian fascist leaders don't plan any thing
Only thing they plan is how to steal more money.
6



expat
31-08-2014 05:52pm
1904-
551+
get your reproduction rate in order...
other than that,you will go down the drain in ten years max,as your country will never be able to feed and operate the state otherwise
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Farhan
07-09-2014 08:48pm
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203+
Expat you are anti-Muslim fascist, so we don't think that your advice is going to do any thing good
Many other countries in world have lot more population than Egypt on much smaller land but they survive because they produce resouces for it., Its failure of Egyptian government which has created this problem not population.
expat
05-09-2014 09:58pm
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12+
@ jenny
i do understand,that mb followers dont understand anything about logic statistics and its not new to use emotional women to put them in front...but just calculate,if you,lady,get happily 10 children from your egyptian husband,and maybe even,as he is a rightious mb,has a second wife with as much children,all this 20 children want to marry and reproduce as your example teached them just the same..mbs are now not really known to create jobs(rahter they sit in medical or other governmantel jobs and trying to hide their views from the others),but from what should this new 20 families live? resources are limited,no "allah" will give you more bread,than the state can buy/lend/begg....you got the point? today its your electricity,which is based on solar and gas,tomorrow it will be your subsidiced bread,which the governmant will not any more be able to issue....you got that point too? better forget about muslim god given rights to get 10 children and try for once to get one child educated right
Jenny
03-09-2014 04:56pm
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240+
Has nothing to do with reproduction
It's the management of energy and lack of resources.
5



ayman
29-08-2014 06:05pm
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42+
Long term
If its for the overall good in the long term, I don't mind. Cutting electricity once or twice a day made me rediscover our radio stations. Some of them are good!
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4



Jenny
29-08-2014 04:54pm
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328+
Meanwhile in Ethiopia....
Surely they will have plenty of electricity after they ruin the Nile :(
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expat
05-09-2014 09:59pm
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15+
mbs highjacking western names...
no new news here,they do it since the mursi freak show is abandoned...but it is tiring that they never learn
Jenny
03-09-2014 04:57pm
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Was referring to Ethiopia
The Nile could be used for hydro electirc power and for that matter so could the sea, but after this dam is built, the resouces in Egypt will be much tighter.
Thaile
01-09-2014 06:35pm
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how comes we ruin the nile
how come we ruin the nile while we are using for electricity, how do you explain the use of nile for agricuture and navigation
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Thaile
29-08-2014 03:06pm
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4+
Why not we invest on the Ethiopian dam to get cheap power
Here in Ethiopia also face power cuts every time. The difference is we can sleep in the darkness as the weather is good here. So why do you advocate Egypt also to invest on the Ethiopian dam to get cheap power in the future. I think a media like you have to work to wards such cooperation between countries and we all benefit out of it.
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2



expat
28-08-2014 11:08pm
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66+
a country down to its knees by stupidness of the government sector...
i really like this country,and under the former-former president it did work somehow after his follower it was up to prayers now its up to loans of the saudhis or others which want to keep the nation quiet all in all this state is down to pakistan situation when siau ul hakh was leading a duplicated terminated country as sissi is today the whole country is one edge because the guys in the army gears dont know,that their biggest enenmies are sitting comfortably in their nasser socialist burocrat seats and NEVER get kicked out of it,as the mafia rules you doubt it? go towards your local counsil and try to get something fixed..... sissi is a army man? kick the shit out of every office,kill the backshish system in EVERY egyptian office and start the whole system new it was never easy in this country,but honestly,it is getting unbearable this year
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1



George Beshoy
28-08-2014 09:57pm
271-
935+
We had thought that Mursy was the reason
Now, the MB is proven innocent.
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Jenny
29-08-2014 04:55pm
534-
19+
Yeah not quite
They are still terrorists.
Allen
29-08-2014 01:17am
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14+
So you are tying the electrical problem, to the terrorist Morsi's innocence??
Is that logic employed when the brotherhood terrorists actively destroys electricity grids with explosives????
expat
28-08-2014 11:14pm
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926+
its much easier,folks
without dollars,neither mursi nor sissi can get your town lightened up,as the saudhis and emiraties are no saints,they want cash back from the umma
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