News That Eats You Alive

I live-tweeted a whole revolution in 2011. I posted pictures, videos, I wrote a few blog posts…but mainly I tweeted an almost minute-by-minute account of what was happening during those 18 fateful days in Egypt.

I wanted the world to know. I wanted the world to hear. I wanted the world to see.

I’m not sure I knew what I expected the world to do once they knew what was happening, but it was important to me for the world to be on our – the revolutionaries’ – side. It was important to me to have the events documented as historic evidence of what we went through and what we faced.

I am very aware of this when other things happen in the world.

Yesterday, three young Muslims were shot to death, reportedly execution-style, in their U.S. home in what seems to be a hate crime. Two days before that, 22 Egyptians died trying to get into a football match. The police played a major role in their deaths. A few days before, news surfaced that ISIS burned a Jordanian pilot alive while in a cage. A few days before that, a terrorist attack in Sinai resulted in the deaths of 32 military personnel. Three weeks earlier, two gunmen killed 17 people working for a media outlet that published cartoons mocking Islam. In the days in between, a young Egyptian mother was shot dead while demonstrating in Cairo, ISIS executed God-only-knows how many civilians, people in Syria and Iraq are being killed and tortured, there are countless political prisoners rotting in Egyptian jails…it just goes on and on and on.

Every single life is important. Every single one. Every single life is a story; there are mothers and fathers and siblings and spouses and children and friends. Every story is worthy of being told. Every story needs to be heard, needs to be seen, needs to be known.

When horrendous and great things were happening in Cairo between January 25 to February 11 – and beyond – I needed the world to know the details. I needed the world to know how I felt about it all and how it all impacted me. I am a person. I have a story. I need my story to be known.

Every single person deserves that same amount of attention from the world.

But by becoming acutely aware of these stories and the reactions to these stories, I am, oddly enough, slowly losing my hold on reality. I am slowly becoming more and more anxious. I am slowly feeling more and more helpless. (more…)

Is Egypt Really Self-Destructing? Observations From My 1st Day Back

This post is directed to Egyptians using social media:

I am terribly disappointed in you.

I have only been away from Egypt for three months. In those three months I have followed my close friends on Facebook and a large number of Egyptians on Twitter who have yelled wolf, screamed, and waved their hands in the air as one drowning. Almost everything I read on Egypt’s social media over the past three months gave me the impression that Egypt was about to self-destruct. I was terrified to come home. What I read made me feel like I wouldn’t be safe in Egypt. What I read convinced me that there was no stability in Egypt. I had already started considering the possibility of immigrating with my children to another country.

It took me only one day back in Egypt running normal errands to see that the country is exactly the same country that it has been for more than 20 years. All the bad stuff is still here. But all the good stuff is still here too. I wasn’t raped or harassed. Bearded men and face-veiled women had nothing but smiles on their faces and kind words on their tongues. The supermarket and mall were full of people buying things, meaning there must still be money in the country. Egyptian men are not out to rape me. The Islamists are not out to eat me alive. And the economy is still chugging along.

What Egyptians are posting through social media will inevitably keep Egyptians abroad from feeling safe enough to come home and tourists from feeling safe enough to visit the country.

Egypt is the same that it has been for 20 years. Yes. We have had a revolution and very little has changed for the better. But we still have lots of hope that it will. For change to happen we need to work very hard. Real change does not happen in 18 days. Real change takes decades of hard work.

If you are an Egyptian using social media, take some time to consider what you post before you post it. By focusing only on the negative you make it appear much worse than it actually is. By refraining to mention the positive, you make it appear that Egypt is nothing but a pile of shit. For those of us who are not always in Egypt, we have come to depend on social media users to get a sense whether what is published in the media is representative of reality or if it’s an exaggeration of it. When we see Egyptians echoing what the media says, we believe it. So stop blaming the media for scaremongering. Most Egyptians using social media are doing it far better than the media is. What that means is that Egyptians living abroad and tourists will not want to come to Egypt. Our country needs them both if we are to develop and to prosper.

Before you write your next status or tweet your next tweet, consider what effect it will have on people outside of the country. You terrified me. I am sure you are terrifying others. Be honest. Be balanced. Write as much about the positive as you do about the negative. Build Egypt. Stop destroying it.


I am not the 1st anyone to summit Kilimanjaro!

Only two days after I first announced to my friends that I had successfully summited Africa’s highest peak, Kilimanjaro, I read the first article that claimed I was the first

My summit picture - holding the Egyptian flag against the cold winds

 something to summit the mountain. In this case it was the first Muslim woman and it was published on

I immediately called my friends there and asked them where they got their information. “What’s your source,” I asked. Journalists aren’t supposed to write information based on instinct. They have sources of information. There was no source, I learned. They just thought this was the case. I went into ugly Nadia mode. “There’s no way on Earth to know who the first person was of any religion to summit Kilimanjaro,” I explained to them (actually, I pretty much yelled it). “People don’t register themselves when they come back from the mountain based on their religion,” I continued. The article on was thankfully edited into telling the story of a woman who summited Kilimanjaro.

One of the first things I did when I reached the base of the mountain was that I called the Park authorities to find out if any Egyptian women had summited the mountain before me. It took two days for the authorities to get back to me. In the past two years alone, I was told, at least four young Egyptian women had summited the mountain.

Since then, I’ve made a point of telling journalists who interview me that I am not the first Egyptian to summit Kilimanjaro. I know this as fact. Journalists assure me that they understand this. Nonetheless, twice now (in Egypt’s Shabab and Kul Annas magazines) there have been articles about me with titles claiming that I’m the first Egyptian woman to summit the mountain. When I ask the journalists who interview me how this happened even though I was very clear with them about this point, they tell me that they don’t write the titles. They write the article, hand it in to the desk, and someone at the desk writes the title. Some idiot, that is. That idiot either imagines things and writes up a title based on his/her imagination, or decides to spice things up by writing a lie.

Now when a journalist calls me up for an interview I make sure they know while we’re still on the phone that I am not the first anyone to summit the mountain. And if you accept that fact and still want to interview me, you are welcome to my home. They usually do accept and ask for the interview.

But this whole thing has really upset me about how the media function in our country. I’ve also learned first-hand why scientists, for example, have reservations about talking to journalists about their research. It seems that in some cases, no matter how clear you are with the journalist,  she or others above her will manage to get things wrong – if only to sensationalize a bit.

It’s disturbing. 

So for the record, world, I am not the first Muslim woman to summit Kilimanjaro. I am not the first Egyptian to summit Kilimanjaro. I am not the first Arab or Egyptian woman to summit Kilimanjaro.

And none of that matters.

Nadia El-Awady, a then 40-year-old Egyptian mother-of-four, summited Kilimanjaro. And to me, that’s a pretty amazing achievement without being anyone’s first.