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Sips from the nile » Mashareeb

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Mar
14


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Sips From The Nile: Five Things I Learned From The Egyptian Revolution

“Sips From The Nile” is a series of articles, written by Basil El Dabh, that will be featured on Mashareeb. Basil is an American born Egyptian who decided to move to Egypt for a couple of years after graduating from college for a job opportunity. He writes about his experience going back to his roots and living in Egypt after spending his whole life in the United States.

Five Things I Learned from the Egyptian Revolution

It sounds cliché, but many people have spent the last few weeks learning a lot about both the world around them and themselves. Egypt has entered a new age, and
while this is just the end of the beginning with much rebuilding and restrategizing to come, the milestone reached last Friday provides a great opportunity for reflection.
1. Egyptian pride is alive – Coming from the United States, I have grown to take the concept of patriotism for granted. Patriotism in Egypt was not only virtually dead prior to January 25, but it had come with a very concerning inferiority complex. To many Egyptians, their country was a place to which they were begrudgingly bound by birth. It was beyond many that I spoke with as to why I would leave a developed and advanced country that I had spent my entire life in to call Cairo my home. Don’t get me wrong – Egyptians have always possessed a definite love for their country, a love without which the last few weeks would not have been possible, but it’s fair to say not many looked around their ancient and storied nation with pride. But this has definitely changed. Egyptians are now proud enough of their country to clean up the streets. They are proud to see that as they seek a better life, the rest of the world virtually stopped in suspense, and most importantly they are proud enough to recognize that they have been blessed with a country that they can now change for the better.
2. A whole is equal to the sum of its parts – Any Egyptian has numerous stories reflecting this. A political party, a religious faction, or a disgruntled minority did not sustain the January 25th Revolution. The hundreds of thousands, if not millions that took to the streets in cities and towns across Egypt sustained it. The men who protected their neighborhoods through long nights sustained it. Those directing traffic with no incentives sustained it. Doctors and nurses who provided pro bono care to those injured sustained it. Any of the millions of Egyptians that did their best to keep life going as the government completely shut down sustained it. People proudly did their part to help one another at no cost sustained it. Two months ago, if someone had told me that Egypt would see days in which there were no police on the streets, I would have envisioned chaos and injustice taking the reigns. And I would have been proven seriously wrong. The police and security forces are not the stewards of this country…its people are.
3. The critical role of media – Especially when Egyptians lacked Internet access and other fundamental forms of communication for any 21st century society, the media stepped in and played a huge role. International media outlets continued their 24-hour coverage despite the continuous detainment of their correspondents and journalists. Individuals such as Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin were arrested, only to be released and not only remain in the country, but also continue their coverage for millions around the world.
4. Unity – Regardless of what some people would have you believe, this was a unified revolution in every aspect. This is especially important to highlight in a country with deep religious and socioeconomic divides. People I’ve spoken to abroad express worries that the events that have taken place have left the country wide open for the Muslim Brotherhood to take over. All I can say is if reform is carried out in the same spirit as the protests were, we’re about to bear witness to an Egypt with more equal opportunities and less marginalization. One day when leaving Tahrir Square with my cousin, an older man with a beard asked us if we knew where to closest mosque was so that he could go pray. We responded saying no, and that we are Christian. He then looked at us and asked, “Are you Egyptians?
”  We said “Yes” and he replied “We’re all Egyptians… we’re all the same.”

5. Change does not necessarily entail chaos – It’s an age-old dilemma, especially with regard to the Arab World: Isn’t stability more important than democracy and reform? For weeks, Mubarak and Suleiman menacingly presented themselves as beacons of stability, as opposed to the alleged inevitable chaos that would take place in their absence…some people even fell for it. Suggestions by international leaders and analysts that the region needs strong dictators to preserve long-term stability are borderline insulting – an insinuation that people in the region are incapable of responsibly governing themselves. In reality, if long-term stability depends on a small group of people and their cronies, then we all have bigger problems. As Egyptians prepare for a 2011 of economic challenges, they know that they have the assets to not only bounce back, but to come back even stronger without a corrupt regime siphoning billions of dollars from those who truly deserve it. The country still has a long way to go to transform into the nation that many Egyptians want it to be, but as long as those who desire change remain committed, it’s inevitable. Decades of corrupt governance suppressing intellectual and social rights hardened the Egyptian people- a group historically characterized by its light- heartedness and openness. But, as someone proudly told me…”Egyptian history stopped for 30 years, but now it’s back.”

Jan
05


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Sips From The Nile: Introduction

“Sips From The Nile” is a series of articles, written by Basil El Dabh, that will be featured on Mashareeb. Basil is an American born Egyptian who decided to move to Egypt for a couple of years after graduating from college for a job opportunity. He writes about his experience going back to his roots and living in Egypt after spending his whole life in the United States.

Introduction

It’s been a month since I’ve moved to Cairo and the recurring question to which I have had to answer is “Why did you move here?” It’s a fair question…I grew up in Ohio and have lived my whole life in the United States. What would bring me to a country that my parents left for more opportunity 25 years ago? The first couple times I fumbled for a reply that would completely capture my thoughts and mindset, but now I retort with another question: “Why not?”
Where else can you more fully appreciate the concept of family and community? Growing up, my frequent visits to Egypt gave me small doses of the true meaning of family and the breadth of its definition. Sure I have my grandparents here, but I also have cousins, and no I’m not just referring to my aunts’ and uncles’ kids. Here, cousins can be your second cousins, your parents’ cousins, cousins of cousins…even friends of cousins. At times, it feels like there are only one or two degrees of separation between any two people here. When people say, “Let me know if you need anything,” they mean it. It’s a commitment to action, concern and a sincere willingness to actually help.

Upon first glance, Cairo can be overwhelming to many. It’s a virtual 24-7 rush hour, but upon further examination the contrasting community dynamic is eye-opening. You are bound to run into people with ulterior motives but when you really get to know people here, they tend to be very welcoming. I’m one of the only foreign-born people in my workplace, which initially made me nervous, but where this would lay the foundation for alienation in many places, coworkers have seen this as an opportunity to lend a helping hand, even with my shaky Arabic.

Where else can you be further removed from the monotony that comes so easily with life in general? Even with a 9-5 job, I am far from living a 9-5 lifestyle in the normal sense. In the City that Truly Never Sleeps, punching out at the end of your workday only marks the day’s halfway point. It marks the beginning of enjoying time with friends and family at bars, cafes, or one of the countless venues for nightlife in Cairo. A relaxed mentality here blurs the line between weekday and weekend evenings. If it’s 10 pm and there is an errand I want to run, I don’t even look at the clock. If I get a call from friends at 11, I get dressed and walk out my apartment door without hesitation, whether it’s a Tuesday or Friday night. Life here teeters between relaxed and fast-paced, but definitely far from routine (similar to Cairo driving).
Where else can you find people that know how to have a good time any more than they do here? It goes beyond the nightlife too. Even taxi drivers who may not lead the most comfortable lives find ways to laugh with their passengers and find ways to smile while maneuvering through the often-frustrating traffic. Those with the means to do so often escape from Cairo during the weekends to enjoy the beautiful beaches on North Coast or Red Sea with friends. At the end of the day here, though, good times are dictated by the company, not the location or activity.
Will I still be living here ten years down the line? I have my doubts, but they have a saying here that roughly translates to “Once you drink from the Nile, you keep coming back for more.” I know that wherever life takes me, the sip I’m currently taking will leave me with a thirst that will repeatedly bring me back here.


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