Probably domesticated in Asia Minor, the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) may have reached Egypt by 1500 B.C.E. Egyptian opiumwas important historically for medicinal uses, but increasing recreational use led to eradication efforts by the early twentieth century. With the closure of Lebanon's Bekáa Valley as a source of raw opium, poppy cultivation began in the Sinai Peninsula after 1990. Unemployment attracts bedouin men to this dangerous occupation. A heroin epidemic in Egypt is attributed to them, but their very modest opium production suggests wrongly so. A package of development activities with emphasis on backcountry tourism is proposed as an alternative to poppy farming.
Keywords: crop substitution, Egypt, narcotics, pastoral nomads, Sinai Peninsula.
Dr. HOBBS is an associate professor of geography at the University of Missouri.
To contact the author: Professor Joseph J. Hobbs
Department of Geography
Geographic Resources Center
University of Missouri-Columbia
Columbia, MO 65211
Phone: (573) 882.8370, (573) 884.4239 fax