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Egyptians Are Enraged After President Sisi Handed Over Two Islands To Saudi Arabia

Since the decision to give the strategic islands on the Red Sea to the Gulf kingdom, Egyptians have called for mass protests and a lawyer has sued the government.

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CAIRO — Egyptians are up in arms after their government said it had sold two islands to Saudi Arabia.

The Egyptian cabinet announced Saturday that the country was selling the Tiran and Sanafir islands — two Egyptian-administered territories on the Red Sea that are also claimed by Saudi Arabia — to the oil-rich Gulf Kingdom.

The announcement came during a rare five-day visit to the country by Saudi King Salman, and one day after the king announced that his kingdom would build a bridge on the Red Sea to boost trade between the two countries. (Saudi Arabia also signed an agreement to set up a $22bn investment fund with Egypt).

That was well enough — but Egyptians were shocked when the cabinet suggested it was simply returning the two islands to its rightful owner.

Popular Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef tweeted:

قرب قرب يا باشا، الجزيرة بمليار ، الهرم باتنين، و عليهم تمثالين هدية. #عواد_باع_ارضه

Come closer, come closer, sir!

We sell island for one billion - pyramid for two billions, with special offer two statues for free sir.


Some used the hashtag, #عواد_باع_ارض, which translates into “Awaad sold his land,” a reference to a popular 1960s radio drama centering around a character named Awaad, who brought shame upon his family after selling their land.

Duraid Lahham, an Arab actor, referred to Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Yemen’s bloody war:

بعد سنة من #العدوان_على_اليمن السعودية تسيطر على جزيرتين مصرية اوعا ياعم #عواد_باع_أرضه

A year after attacking Yemen, Saudis control two Egyptian islands.

Woooooooow man #عواد_باع_ارضه (Awad sold his land)

Amr Abd-Had, a lawyer and member of 2012 constitution committee, tweeted

مش هتلاقي سعودي واحد بيقول ان جزيرتي تيران و صنافير مصرية انما هتلاقي مصريين كتير خونه بيقولوا ان الجزيرتين سعوديتين #عواد_باع_أرضه

You won’t see one Saudi defending the Egyptian right and saying the islands belong to Egyptians, but you will see a lot of Egyptians betraying and saying: it belongs to Saudis!! #عواد_باع_أرضه

Mamdouh Hamza, a prominent engineer based in Cairo, tweeted:

اناقربت أصل لدرجه الجنون مش فاهم كيف لرجل عسكري مهمته الدفاع عن الحدود والأرض يتنازل عن حدود وأرض ماذا وان كان الرئيس مدني كان الوضع آيه؟

I am very close to going crazy. I can’t understand how a military man, whose main job is defending borders and land, gives up the lands!! What would he do if he were a civilian?

Khaled Ali, a prominent lawyer and former presidential candidate, told BuzzFeed News on Monday that that he had filed a lawsuit against the country’s president and the prime minister for giving away the two islands. “This is not a personal case,” he wrote on his Facebook page, as he called on the public to join him.

A group of people has started an online petition to get parliament to undo the decision. Another Facebook campaign called “The Land is the Honor” has taken off, with more than 12,000 people saying they plan to attend a protest called for Friday (a small number of people protested in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Sunday).

Online, Saudis took a different view. The country’s latest investment in Egypt comes less than three years it gave the the country a $12 billion aid package, just as it was struggling from an ailing economy.

Saudis didn’t let Egyptians forget it.

كم يوم راح نجيب الإهرامات إلي ساحة الصفاه بعقد مبرم بين بن عاقول وفؤاد باشا ..!! #صنافير_وتيران

[Give us a] few days and we will bring the pyramids to Safat Square.

السعوديين لو ضاغطين شوي يطلعون بشرم الشيخ.

If Saudi Arabia had put more pressure, we could have taken the pyramids as well.

انا اشوف انو نبدأ نشتري نهر النيل و الاهرامات، و كمان شرم الشيخ .بما انو سعر الجنيه نازل اليومين دي. #صنافير_وتيران

The Egyptian pounds is down these days, so I think we should now buy the Nile river, the pyramids and Sharm el-Sheikh.

The Tiran and Sanafir islands are located near the coastlines of both countries, and are considered important because of their location on the narrow sea passage that leads to major ports in Jordan and Israel. In 1967, the Egyptian blockade of the Strait of Tiran triggered the Arab-Israeli war, widely known as the six-day war. Both the islands had been under Egyptian control for more than 60 years.

Maged Atef is a journalist based in Cairo.

Contact Maged Atef at

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