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The Sherine Incident: A Tale of Two Niles

November 2, 2018
Evening, Nile River, Uganda. Courtesy of Rod Wadington, Flickr.

In February 2018, Egyptian singer Sherine Abdel Wahab was sentenced to six months in jail after a fan asked her to perform her popular song “Haven’t You Ever Drunk from the Nile?” (Mashrebtesh Men Nilha), to which she responded, “No, you’d get Schistosomiasis. Drink Evian instead.” This flippant comment was ruled a serious offense to the river to such an extent that Egyptian officials determined it warranted an arrest. Schistosomiasis, a water-borne disease, has a very long history in Egypt, infecting a high percentage of the ancient Egyptian population up to 5,000 years ago. More recently, the Egyptian cultural icon, Abd al-Halim Hafiz, died from the disease in 1977. Although Egypt has combatted Schistosomiasis for decades, the Nile parasite continues to afflict the nation-state. Shortly after the Egyptian government called for Sherine’s arrest, the performer profusely apologized and insisted her comment was nothing more than a “silly joke.” However, in a country where the Nile serves as the primary source of drinking water and irrigation, was Sherine’s comment not simply an honest raising of awareness in the Egyptian public’s best interest? Furthermore, did Sherine, as a popular public figure whose…

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