Saturday 31 December was my final day in Egypt and it was pretty packed. We started by meeting with the governor of Matruh at his huge office on the main square. Mohamad Al-Shahat spoke at the Cairo conference earlier in the week inviting the participants to hold their next meeting in his governorate, which encompasses most of the affected Western Desert including Al Alamein. We encouraged him to make this happen and offered our assistance. He went on about the need for the countries that used the ordnance to come and remove it, but moved beyond the rhetoric to make some interesting points.
According to Al-Shahat 148,000 fedans (an Egyptian mesurement of 4,200 m2/fedan) of land in his area has been cleared, but is not in use because of a lack of water. So he said the government needs to look carefully at how the land will be used before asking for millions of dollars to clear it. We expressed concern that the people finding UXO do not report them to police or the Army. Al-Shahat said they can always contact the local government office, but promised to follow-up on our suggestion that he establish a dedicated telephone number for people to report to. We described the many problems faced by the victims we met, including broken prostheses, low or no benefits, and lack of employment opportunities. He said the local government has a small business loan system in place and 240 permanent and 140 temporary jobs available, but has no ability to advertise these opportunities.

After saying he needed to leave, the governor spent 1.5 hours with us meaning we left Marsa Matruh for Cairo later than expected. On the way back, we met up with Saber again who took us abo of ut 20 kilometers into the desert to a location where a bedouin shepherd had uncovered a large cache of WWII-era weapons. When we got there, we found two mortar rounds, several grenades, an antivehicle mine, and bullets lying on the sand. Saber introduced us to a local man named Hamed, who lost most of his right hand and his eye in 1988 at the age of 13 years when he was making a fire for tea while grazing sheep and goats.
On the way back we stopped to chat with some kids about same age as Hamed when he was injured. They were grazing sheep, goats, and some camels. The sun was setting on the desert. It was a pretty scene. I just hope they grow up without going through the same experience as Hamed.