Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sinai Poppy Fields

Sinai Bedouin are turning to opium cultivation because of declining tourism revenue:
A sharp slump in tourism is rippling across the southern Sinai, where resorts catering to foreigners line the Red Sea coast. Bedouins like Mohamed, who made a living from tourism before Egypt's political unrest, have turned to growing poppies...
Joseph Hobbs, a professor of geography at the University of Missouri and the author of the only scholarly work on the Sinai's opium culture, says that poppy cultivation there began in the early 1990s. Until then, opium had been smuggled from Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, before the Syrian Army – then occupying Lebanon – began cracking down on poppy farmers in Bekaa.
The Sinai Peninsula had the right climate and terrain: soil that doesn't become waterlogged, and mountains to shield the fields from the wind. It also offered the protection of lawlessness. In his 2010 study, "Troubling Fields," Hobbs estimated that the Sinai at that time contained 476 poppy fields.
Since then, growing opium has become virtually risk-free. Egypt's 2011 revolution chased police off the streets, creating a security vacuum in which drug seizures – mostly hashish and heroin smuggled in via the Sinai Peninsula – dropped to almost nothing.
Yet for many first-time poppy growers, the deciding factor was not the retreat of law enforcement but the collapse of tourist arrivalsOf six poppy growers interviewed by the Monitor, all had previously worked in tourism.



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