So by now you all have probably heard of the riots going on in Egypt. My family and I were in absolute shock and awe at these events, for about five minutes. Then we understood. We left Cairo on January 21st, after nine exhausting days spent ogling the tourist sites and being hassled by merchants.
Initially we wanted to see Egypt for the mystique of sand dunes and camels. You know the pyramids, the pharaohs, the sunrise through the mist on the beautiful Nile and the dead horse drifting in a tributary running through Cairo. WHAT!? Yea, we were as surprised as you.
This isn’t a political blog. In fact, I despise dealing with most things political and religious, especially on blogs, because opinions are like assholes – everybody’s got one and they all stink. However, what we saw while on vacation in Egypt isn’t an opinion, and it needs to be addressed.
At first we were completely ready to accept and look beyond the bad. It’s our first visit to Egypt, and we know there is always the good with the bad, as with all countries. However, every day we’d notice more and more, and it would all start adding up. In fact, the state the country is in didn’t come into focus until we made a Friend. A local, who lives in Cairo, who would prefer staying nameless for fear of retribution from the government, just in case, you know… Friend said that the current government in Egypt is a Dictatorship cloaked in a Democracy.
We as tourists saw this first in the blatant disrespect and whoring of their greatest national treasures – national and historic monuments, temples, museums, and animal treatment. These things were not maintained, they were simply exploited to make money, for as long as they’d hold. What would happen once they were gone? I don’t think they thought that far. The animal abuse came in the form of the donkey carts. We saw these animals beaten without remorse, with rib cages showing through a matted and muddy skin. Some even had rub marks from their yokes which begged the question if they’ve ever been unbridled? Our tour guide Ihab shared these sentiments and told us not to support them and to take a taxi instead.
And then there were the merchants, ready to make you as uncomfortable as possible so you’d buy something from them, at a ridiculous rate just so they will leave you alone. Desperation is reflected in the architecture, the people and the animals. Okay, I’m whining and complaining a lot. But how am I supposed to see the great Egypt, the society that built the oldest stone building, with the earliest recorded history, and definitely the biggest buildings up until the 1900’s, as more than just a corrupt, desperate society?
During the three day cruise up a Nile river boat we saw a beautiful river on a backdrop of sand dunes and desert. The sunsets don’t get any prettier, let me tell you. We saw old derelicts, and we saw factories dumping sewage into the only life-giving artery Egypt has. How can this be? Why must it be so bittersweet, such an unrelenting paradox, the good always right next to the bad. How can a government stand by while business destroys its natural resources? How can people stand by and watch animals abused? How can tourists keep spending money to support the corruption that’s been festering for more than 30 years?
Did you know, in Cairo, one’s trash removal service is a percentage of the electric bill. The trash however never gets removed by government services, so a private company has to be paid again to remove the trash. Thus, one pays twice for the trash to be removed. No wonder it’s so filthy!
In speaking with Friend from Cairo, we asked about hunger strikes and other types of protests, but friend said that the government would just catch you and force feed you. And even if people were allowed to protest, news of it wouldn’t get out to the rest of the world for international support or leverage as the government would block the appropriate channels. Luckily, that doesn’t seem to be the case, this time around, but definitely reflects what used to happen.
Ok, Ok, maybe Egypt is just a poor country. Well, Aswan’s high dam hydro-electric power generates enough power to sell to neighboring states, according to our tour guide Ihab. Egypt also exports oil and natural gas all over the world! There is also money coming from traffic through the Suez Canal and produce cultivated on the banks of the Nile. And what about the $2.3 Billion the USA provides to Egypt every year for not fighting with Israel?!?
Unfortunately the numbers are different in every source, and I’m unable to find the original report, but President Jimmy Carter arranged peace between Egypt and Israel in 1978, at Camp David, with Menachem Begin (Israel) and Anwar Sadat (Egypt). Part of this meeting’s terms was Egypt’s reward, which today, and ever since 1981 has been used for military purposes, by Muhammad Hosni Mubarak. So far, that’s a total of $73.6 Billion paid for NOT FIGHTING! OK, maybe Egypt isn’t the richest nation in the world, but my question is: WHERE IS ALL THE MONEY GOING TO?
I’m sad to say, I’m glad to see the country in turmoil. The residents are finally fed-up enough to use whatever they have, including rocks, to rectify the horrors that have become a staple of daily life there. It is good to see people rising up and finally saying كفى (“kifa” – Enough is enough). It is rare to see a country in Africa do this, where international aid, usually from the USA is the expected norm. And if there’s a fight I will always support, it’s for those who will fight for what they know is right! I know Friend from Cairo is out there fighting with them.
Unfortunately I can’t join the fight, nor should I, it’s not my fight. However, what I can do is to look at the US’s part of the problem, and work towards changing that. That problem being all of the funds coming from tourism, especially Americans, and the $2.3 Billion the USA pays Egypt NOT to fight with Israel. Why doesn’t Egypt pay us $2.3 Billion annually NOT to blow them out of the water IF they fight with Israel? Because that’s what mobsters do…. I believe it’s called security money. Does that change when we spin it around, into its current situation?