Al-Sisi

Cycling Europe Day 45: Poland, Pouring Rain, and Thoughts of Egypt

Today I crossed three mountains to get from the Czech Republic to Poland. That part

Poland! Albeit in pouring rain.

Poland! Albeit in pouring rain.

was fine. I’m up for almost anything but those killer hills they have in southern Czech Republic.

I knew to expect rain today. It was rough. I got through the first 30km in dry weather. Then the heavens opened her doors as wide as she could. I cycled the remaining 45 km in pouring rain. The first 15 km of those were fine because I was cycling uphill and generating heat. As soon as I started going downhill, the only things moving were my hands controlling the brakes, and it wasn’t long before I started shivering uncontrollably.

I was wearing a long-sleeved cycling shirt and a rain jacket. My shirt was a bit damp from sweating in it for four hours. I stopped at a roadside cafe, stood by one of their outdoors tables that was under a big umbrella (no one was eating outside in that rain) and changed my shirt, added a fleece, and put my rain jacket back on. I was drier but it took getting to a place where there was a bit of an incline and I started generating heat again for me to stop feeling that I was going to fall off my bike from all the shaking.

It was total relief to find a hotel, take off my soaked cycling shorts, and get into a hot shower.

Despite the rain and poor visibility, I could see that this part of Poland is really beautiful. I can’t wait to see more. Today I’m in Jelenia Gora and apparently it is worth seeing. But it’s still pouring outside and will continue to all night. I can’t bring myself to go back out in that. I’m going to chill this evening in my hotel. They have a pool, so I’ll probably go for a swim. They have a sauna I’ll have to pay extra for, but given all the cycling I’ve been doing and the shivering from today, I figure it’s worth it.

I try as much as I can to avoid thinking about Egypt. It depresses me when I do. But I couldn’t help it today. (more…)

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The Day We Egyptians Lost Our Moment

There is not a shadow of a doubt in my mind that we, the Egyptian people, have been outwitted.

There are very few moments in time that decide the course of history. They come every 50 years, once a century, or even furtherDSC02825 apart. Our generation’s Moment was January 25, 2011. A critical build-up of recent events amassed the emotions of an already seething Egyptian population and our Moment was born. Millions of Egyptians took to the streets for 18 days…blah blah blah… We all know the story. And we know the ugliness that followed.

Providence gave us a moment because we were able to unite as a people when it really mattered. We saw our chance and held onto it for a full 18 days. And that’s why the story ends there. If a Moment is to truly change the course of history, its people must hold onto it and never let it go. We let go after 18 days and went back to our old ways of conniving, distrusting, and power struggling. (more…)

The Fall of a Revolution – Or Can It Still Be Saved?

On January 28, 2011, after killing hundreds of revolutionaries, the Egyptian security forces retreated from the scene, suffering a huge emotional defeat after revolutionaries took over important squares all over the country. During the months to come, they would rarely appear on the streets of Egypt’s major cities, seemingly hoping that the country would descend into chaos.  It would appear, however, that instead of mere moping, they spent the months between February 2011 and June 2013 regrouping. Now, under the leadership of General Al-Sisi, a leader even more ruthless than ousted President Mubarak if that is even possible, the Egyptian security forces have staged a comeback as no other. The twist is that they now have the support of a large portion of the Egyptian population.

The telltale signs of Mubarak’s former regime are all there:

  • Churches are burning and sectarian violence has returned.
  • The fear of the Shiites is stronger than ever in the hearts of Sunni Egyptians.
  • Opposition media have all been shut down while the majority of remaining media organizations are towing the military’s line.
  • Men in civilian clothing are present with the Egyptian security forces during all standoffs, standing with and shooting from among their ranks.
  • Claims of a need to clamp down on terrorists are being used to impose control over a whole country through martial law and curfews.
  • Egypt’s jails are overflowing with political prisoners.
  • Every kind of rumor imaginable with barely any evidence to back it is making the rounds among the Egyptian public.

And today we hear news of Mubarak’s imminent release after judges cleared him from a second corruption case.

When the good times arrive, they arrive in a flood. (more…)

When It’s All Right to Be Judgmental of a Whole Country and the Zombies Who Occupy It

For a few years now I have prided myself on being a non-judgmental person.

Until yesterday, that is, when I wrote a blog post implying that a significant portion of the Egyptian population was brainwashed.

It wasn’t my blog post that made me stop and think. The blog post was actually quite a hit and I received lots of positive feedback about it from Egypt and around the world. What got to me were comments I received from two people on two separate occasions in the past three days. One told me I needed to calm down. The other told me to give myself space to have a “clearer head”.

Calm down?? I thought. CALM DOWN?? I’M THE F#$%ING CALMEST PERSON IN THE WHOLE BLOODY COUNTRY! Clear head?? IT LOOKS LIKE I’M THE ONLY PERSON IN THE WHOLE COUNTRY WHO HASN’T BEEN BRAINWASHED YET!!

“A bit patronizing of you,” I responded to the second person.

That is when I stopped to think. (more…)

What Does It Take to Brainwash the Egyptian People?

Apparently not that much.

“If [army chief] Al-Sisi wants us to go out [to the streets], then we will go out,” wrote one female Egyptian columnist in Al-Masryal-sisi Al-Yowm daily newspaper. She was writing in response to Al-Sisi’s July 24 call to the Egyptian people to take to the streets the following Friday to give the army a mandate to confront “violence and potential terrorism.”

“Frankly, he doesn’t need to invite or order us. All he needs to do is wink… And if he wants to have four wives, we’re at his service. If he wants us as melk el-yemeen [members of his harem], I swear we aren’t above that!” said the much enthused writer.

Al-Sisi’s 40-minute speech on July 24 was reminiscent of Egypt’s first (or second, depending on who you ask) president, Gamal Abdel-Nasser. Speaking with dark sunglasses in his sharp military uniform, he appealed to the Egyptian people with storytelling and apparent sincerity. “I swear to God, I swear to God, I swear to God,” Al-Sisi repeated, “the Egyptian army is as united as the heart of one man,” he said in response to rumors that the army was split over the ousting of Morsi. (more…)

Egypt’s Road to Hell

I feel compelled to write. It feels as if it is my duty. But my brain is frozen. What is there left to say?

I spent part of today sending notes to friends trying to make sure they were still alive and unharmed. This wasn’t the first time I’ve done this. Over the past three years there have been many times when I have had family members or friends in the direct line of fire. When things began getting really bad just after the protests of June 30, 2013, I spent several days making sure that the remaining members of my direct family who were still in Egypt came to stay with me for a while in the UK. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be in a sort of mad frenzy to get my family out of our country.

When they all got out, I convinced myself I would stop caring about what happened in Egypt. “Now that my family is with me, Egypt could go up in flames for all I care,” I found myself saying. It wasn’t true. I still obsess over news from Egypt. (more…)

Where Are We Taking Egypt?

It is hard being Egyptian these days.

I remember how I felt just after the 2011 Revolution. I had a business trip to the US just two days after we toppled Mubarak. I walked through the airports with my Egyptian flag waving, my head held high. At the international conference in which I was an invited speaker on science journalism, I instead talked about the amazing achievements of the Egyptian Revolution to standing ovations of large audiences. I had never felt prouder to be an Egyptian.

Now, I just hang my head in confusion and despair. I knew our road to democracy was going to be hard. But I could see a light at the end of the tunnel. Now that light completely eludes me.

The last three years in Egypt have been, for lack of a better word, shit. (more…)