Sisi

Never Not Thinking About Egypt

I’m struggling to make sense of Egypt and Egyptians. I’m really really struggling. I’ve reached a point

I took this picture during the January 25 revolution in 2011.

I took this picture during the January 25 revolution in 2011.

where I bury memories so deep inside of me that most recent events in Egypt are a mere blur in my head. People talk about the various huge post-January 25, 2011 demonstrations in which hundreds have been killed and all I can find in my memories is a hazy image of me sitting in front of a laptop or a television set in a complete state of incomprehension. I hear the names of people in jail or of people who have been killed and all I can say is, “Wait. Which one is that?”

Being away from Egypt for just over a year now has been a small blessing. I needed to break away from it all. I was suffocating. But just when I think I’m pushing through what I’m sure is post-traumatic stress disorder from the hundreds of events that have happened since the revolution, something new happens in Egypt and I feel like someone has a huge, hairy hand on my head, shoving my whole body into a crouch in a small, dirty, smelly sack.

I can’t breathe.

Why is Egypt the way it is? Why are so many Egyptians the way they are? Why can’t we have normal problems? And a normal life? Why has it become so commonplace for Egyptians to be killed by the police, the army, thugs, and neglect? How is it that there is no justice for the innocent while the guilty get away with their crimes scot-free? What is wrong with us?  (more…)

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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…)

Are Egypt’s Estranged Revolutionaries Moving Out?

“I’m counting the number of very close friends planning to move away next year and so far the toll is at 5. I really can’t bear it.”

Picture taken by Nadia El-Awady on February 11, 2011, the day Mubarak was ousted

Picture taken by Nadia El-Awady on February 11, 2011, the day Mubarak was ousted

These were the words of one of my friends on a Facebook status a few days ago.

Another wrote just one day earlier, “I am currently witnessing the largest mass emigration of friends and family from Egypt.”

The subject has become a common topic of conversation among family and friends. People leave, others announce they are leaving, yet others talk of their desire to leave.

Egyptians have been emigrating out of Egypt in large numbers since the early 1970s. According to the EU Neighborhood Migration Report 2013 published by the European University Institute, the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, and the Migration Policy Centre, there were 6.5 million Egyptian immigrants living in different parts of the world in 2009, 74 percent of whom were temporary migrants. Libya, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar were the highest receiving destination countries of temporary migrants that year while the U.S., U.K., Italy, France, and Canada were the highest receiving countries of permanent Egyptian migrants.

How these demographics are statistically changing after the January 25, 2011 Revolution and then later in 2013 as political upheaval has overtaken the country is yet to be seen. Yet it is clear that a change is indeed happening, if not in sheer numbers then in the reasons that are causing Egypt’s revolutionary youth to leave.

I asked several of my friends who have left or who are actively in the process of leaving Egypt – all active participants in the January 25, 2011 Revolution – to write a couple of paragraphs each, explaining their reasons for wanting to leave. I had originally planned to incorporate some of their words into an article on Egyptian emigration post-Revolution. But after reading their words I have decided to leave them as is (albeit translated from Arabic). You will see why. (more…)