So, in case you don’t know, I am Egyptian – American. Born and raised and lived in Cairo for a quarter century before moving to the USA. One of the main reasons that made me wanna leave Egypt was the fact that corruption was rampant and you either had to join it or pretend it doesn’t happen and live like a zombie with no hopes or aspirations. I’ve seen demonstrations during my college years and they usually ended in a cloud of tear gas and injured or killed youth and these were the lucky ones. The ones that were arrested were tortured and their families were tortured in front of them. You see, the imposed Emergency Law gives the government a fully fledged authority to arrest and imprison anyone for any reason they see fit. No trial necessary. Not to mention the one party system and the rigged elections that always resulted in 99.9% success rate to the ruling party. I never voted or bothered to vote as the whole process was a farce. Since I wasn’t an activist I tried to change things through music but even then we were sensored and targeted by the government. The government started a methodical press campaign using government owned media, demonizing all the Egyptian Heavy Metal bands that started popping up around 1993. They called us Satanists and they called us tools of the Western countries trying to invade our culture by corrupting the minds of the innocent youth. Some of my musician friends were arrested and got their long hair shaved.They were beaten and kept in custody for a few days. I was lucky I didn’t get arrested but I had to stop playing music and lay low for a long while.
I worked as a tour guide as that was my major in college. Looking back at Egyptian history, Egypt has never seen democracy, EVER! Since its creation, the Pharaoh was a God. Try arguing with that! Then we went through a series of occupations by various foreign entities, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Turks, French, English you name it. So no democracy there either. Then the military stated a Coup D’états in 1952 against King Farouk promising of a new found democracy. However, replacing a King by a “President” was just a naming convention change but the reality was we had a dictator placing another. So since 1952, Egypt has seen only 3 presidents. None of them was elected and none of them left willingly. All of them were from the military. Of course all of them had great historical achievements there’s no doubt about that but they have stripped the Egyptian people from the right to choose. They all thought they knew what’s best for the people without consulting the people, relying only on the corrupt circles around them. Nothing good comes out of feeling superior to anyone.
Now fast forward 59 years from the 1952 Military “Revolt”. You have a country that is in a powerfully strategic location in the world, very rich in resources both natural and intellectual, yet more than 60% of the population lives off $2 or less a day! While 2% own the country’s wealth and about 30% getting by or living a somewhat decent life. I never felt the country was mine but rather occupied by the tyrant and his police forces. It’s really degrading to feel worthless in your own country and valuable in others. For some reason Egyptians coped and coped to a painful extent. People seemed to have given in to the current circumstances. There was a general feeling of carelessness. People didn’t care if there were garbage dump sites near their homes or if they had to bribe three different people to get any paper work done. Or that they had to stand in line for government subsidized bread and basic rations. “It’s not my problem” was the theme for years. People were numbed by government controlled media, wide spread of drugs, over 300 satellite channels that transmit nothing of value. Every time I went back to visit my family I would see some progress in certain areas, like better roads, better communications etc. but I also noticed that the general spirit was getting bleaker and bleaker. Being an insider/outsider gave me this bird’s eye view of the disintegration of the Egyptian human spirit. Never in a million years that I thought that they will ever rise up like they did. Not in my life time at least and I’m an optimist!
So, on January 16, 2011 my wife (who’s American) and I went to visit my family planning on staying there for three weeks through February 6, 2011. Stay tuned for part 2….