I grew up in the United States as a child and a young teenager. Even so, Egypt grew in my heart with me. My father constantly told us glorious stories of his youth, growing up in the village, living through the 1952 Revolution (although quite young at the time), and protesting against President Gamal Abdel-Nasser. He told us how Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together peacefully and how a person’s religion was almost irrelevant. Before I ever visited Egypt as a youngster, I recall seeing my father, with my five-year-old eyes, watching the news from Egypt very closely in October 1973. I had no comprehension of the war going on between Egypt and Israel at the time. Even so, I have a clear memory in my head of my father weeping with joy in front of the television set on October 6, 1973, when the Egyptian army successfully crossed Israel’s Barlev Line.
The Egypt of my youth was one of wonderful summer holidays. It was an Egypt where sheep roamed freely with people on the streets of Cairo. It was an Egypt of sun, warmth, lots of good food, neighborhood children to play with, walking along the main street of Roksy with its flashy shoe stores and then eating the best shawerma in the whole world, riding on camels in front of the Pyramids, streets with few cars, doting grandparents and uncles and aunts and extended family members who were all also called uncle and aunt…
I finally settled in Cairo in 1986 to start university at the age of 17. It was so exciting for me. (more…)
There are some places in this world that require you to walk long and far and with a certain amount of risk to life and limb in order to reach them. Months and sometimes years of training are needed to achieve the physical strength and the mental willpower necessary to take you to these places. These places are worth seeing.
Our night ascent to the summit of Egypt’s highest peak was grueling at times. We were pushing hard and were not taking breaks. The moon shone bright over our heads. Our headlamps were not required. My breathing became heavier and heavier as we went higher and higher. I began to feel the weight of my backpack that was carrying four-days-worth of clothes and snacks. “Why do I keep doing this to myself?” I thought. “I am not enjoying this. I feel miserable. What is wrong with me?”
We reached the summit in a short three hours. My best friend Arwa slumped down on the floor of the summit hut, shivering. I took her in my arms and rubbed her back to warm her. We ate a quick snack and jumped into our sleeping bags, lying side by side with our two Bedouin guides barely a meter away.
After a very restless sleep – altitude gives me nightmares – I woke up and saw the door to our stone hut was lined by a dim halo of light. I put on my sandals and fleece jacket and opened the door.
This was why I did it, I suddenly remembered. Below me lay a wide expanse of clouds and mountain range, shining under the rising sun.
I almost feel obligated to write the requisite “January 25 2nd Anniversary Blog Post”. I’ve been thinking about this for the past few days: what do I write and how do I really feel? All I’ve been getting back from the Little Man in My Head is, “blah” and sounds of someone on the verge of vomiting.
I often think about those 18 days, the hardships we faced, the fun times we had, and the accomplishments we achieved. Sitting here in the UK where I’m spending three months, it all seems like something I must have watched in the movies. I no longer hold the same sense of pride and accomplishment I had in the days following February 11. I still believe we did what we had to do. I still believe that Egypt now has a chance for a better future. And I still think it might take a generation or two to happen.
But truth be told, I’ve found myself feeling nostalgic for the days when the majority of Egyptians couldn’t care less about politics. (more…)