Friday, June 10, 2005

Egypt from up top

First off, excuse my ignorance when I wrote before about what I think Kefaya should do. Its always easier said than done. But it doesn't mean that I'll shut up. So I finally made it to some of those activists' events. Went to Wednesday's night candle light vigil, and to yesterday's The Street is Ours event.

The reasons I started going to such events are pretty simple. One, they're finally starting to pick some convenient times (8pm for the vigil and 5-8pm for the women's political event). And I don't mind being involved in democracy when its convenient. Two, I was a little affected by what I saw and read about the May 25th public assaults on women. And three, I have nothing better to do.

The candle light vigil started out boring, but ended up interesting as more people showed up. Some formed a small street theatre singing songs, reciting poetry, playing Oud. Some can never help but shout chants as strong as they can, as if someone is listening to them, and as if the louder they shout the more they will listen (kinda reminds me of those in prayers who shout Amen so loud after every supplication as if God will hear them better that way). Some were reporters, and some were constantly giving interviews to reporters. Oh, and some were uniformed and plain-clothed state security guys.

With my limited imagination, I just keep wondering how that will eventually lead to toppling Mubarak and establishing a democratic state with less corruption and more justice. Just shows my lack of imagination, lack of history readings, and lack of political experience (what have the experienced politicains achieved though?) I guess.

The candle light idea was novel and looked nice. It is more of a Christian tradition, but a cool one, that no one minded --including those Islamists from AlWasat party. The night ends peacefully and I take the subway to Tahrir square and walk to Zamalek. Kasr ElNile bridge was packed with people (close to the number of those who were in the demonstration), people hanging out, families, and couples enjoying the not-so-fresh air and the cool breeze. It was like walking in a different world entirely. Most of them don't know there was a protest going on a few blocks away, not to mention that they probably don't care. But I don't know that. I know however, that they've had a rough day in the morning, a rough life ahead of them, and they just want to enjoy the night out without depressing themselves more by wondering how can their lives improve by participating in political activism and demonstrations.

The Street is Ours event was also interesting. Dominated by women, with quite a number of upper class women invovled. Didn't really get to hear the testimonies and the small speeches by people, but I got a chance to have a good chat with a friend, to talk to an acquaintance whom I've seen holding a video camera in the last two events, and to say hi to an old friend whose not talking to me anymore (but that's another topic). The friend I chatted with managed to take 2 pounds from me as contribution in exchange for a "Street is Ours" badge, but didn't manage to get my name on the sheet. She talked to me about how the committees in the Youth for Change movement are starting to function, and how they've been trying to interact with the public by distributing leaflets, and talking to people. How they're trying to get a permanent location for their meetings (and how some make jokes that this is so that the police can find them easier), and how they've stopped being active in the subway because its way too risky, with the police waiting for them in the next station. I suggested one of their activities be to deface the Yes To Hosni posters in the streets, and she said they're already planning on that. Then I asked her if they had preparation plans for the upcoming elections.

Another friend of mine who was enjoying two luxurious nights at the Four Seasons Nile Plaze kept calling me, threatening that he'll have dinner without me if I'm not there shortly. I had to cut my attendance of the event short, and run to my friend to catch my free dinner with him at the Nile Plaza's Spice. Now, that's a Chinese restaurant that even most Chinese would probably be impressed with.
The place was almost packed with mostly Egyptian families, couples, and some foreigners. The topic comes up with my friend over dinner about Communists, and his high regard of Karl Marx's thoughts, and the rich father from the table next to us takes a peak at those two sitting on the next table (so I slightly raise my voice so he can hear what we're talking about). So ofcourse dinner was just awesome (the not paying part).

We finish the fruit platter and the fried bananas to go have the drinks up in the suite's balcony. And truly, the saying is a fact, "seeing Egypt from up above, is totally different than seeing it from down below." Sitting in that balcony, watching the beautiful Nile, the city lights and detaching from everything real in Cairo is just a breathtaking experience. Sitting in that wonderful blacony, I tell my friend that all we need now is to have this balcony closed with a glass window to isolate us completely from the noises down below. Then after a while I realize that hearing those noises adds to your sense of isolation from everything filthy down below, easily forgetting how filthy some have to be to get up here.

The night was just wonderful until that night's god of complaining arrived. Our friend arrives with his heavy relationship burdens. At first, I don't want to be involved and just want to enjoy the rest of the evening. I'm sick and tired of failed relationships and stupid couples, but I just can't help it. I always end up taking the women's side when my friends start complaining about their girlfriends or wives, and it seems that this is why they like to listen to my opinion. Well, ofcourse our other non-neutral friend has to throw in, "if you know it all, why don't you do so yourself then?" But its not about me, is it!

Dead tired at the end of the night, and falling asleep at that balcony couch, I go home thinking of how depressing it was, to be down in those street protests and political events without being able to figure out how that will improve the life of Egyptians, as well as to be up there watching Egypt from up above, getting a taste of the lavish lifestyle offered here.


haal said...

An archytype piece. Conveys many contradicting feelings..... loved it.

programmer craig said...

It's only the fixation with Karl Marx there at the end that's disturbing :)

Good artical!

Me, Myself and I said...

Thanks will try to recompose tonite when i am in the Egypt State of Mind..Yaay for me, i did it and knew how to register.

Me Myself And I said...

so let me give it another shot as YOUR blog chewed up my words this mrng..i meant to say that i really identify with what you went through in terms of the contradictory environments that lie no 5 miles away or so..there are so many times that i leave one of those pro-democracy events/meetings and then the minute i step out on the street i am totally disoriented and can see no connect...worse is when i meet with hip friends..I feel there are so many worlds inside sure it is the case with many places but the contrast is sometimes overwhelming for me..sorta trained myself i kind of statement got my particular attention in ur blog.."With my limited imagination, I just keep wondering how that will eventually lead to toppling Mubarak and establishing a democratic state with less corruption and more justice." and i am sure you did not literally mean kefaya or their events how they would lead to that...well in my humble opinion they will not and i do not think they are intended or expected to have this macro impact..they push the envelop, they took the dissent to the streets, they are making people ponder (even for seconds)..and i think this is about all one can expect..i fantasize about Kefay, the judges, the Uni prof, the other "movements" (but with Bakry as z spokesperson..pls that automatically turns me off-consider me superficial but it does,NGOs getting into a big coalition-even informal and making the push..Egypt does enjoy what i term "islands" of performance, u see it all the time..but there is something stopping them of workign together for the big bang..we all know coordination is the outfit where i work, we all share the same overall goal, but the various department have their specific objectives--we tend to stovepipe and each focus on what they are takes, creativity, energy, setting ur differences aside (not easy) for the big isone of my fantasies in life, but i also have more interesting ones

Mohamed said...

I agree with you MMI. They just push the envelope, and pushing it hard enough is a good enough thing, even if they push it over --I don't mind that at times like these.

Yeah Bakry as spokeperson for that new movement (tagammo3 watany) can't be good. But I guess every movement in Egypt needs a good 'ge3ga3'.

Alina said...

"Sitting in that balcony, watching the beautiful Nile, the city lights and detaching from everything real in Cairo is just a breathtaking experience." - I experienced the very same feeling last night, around midnight, wathcing Bucharest from a balcony...It looks quite different, it even seems beautiful, when you don't see the ugly details!

Wojciech said...

One comment to this piece:
"With my limited imagination, I just keep wondering how that will eventually lead to toppling Mubarak and establishing a democratic state with less corruption and more justice. Just shows my lack of imagination, lack of history readings, and lack of political experience (what have the experienced politicains achieved though?) I guess."

From my personal, central European perspective, I can say that movements like this you mentioned always lead to social or political changes. Even if the changes are not so quick. At the beginnig participation in tha movement gives people feeling of not being alone with his/her dreams. That gives them feeling of power and they learn how to not to be afraid. That is the basic condition to every changes.
Look for example at last mass protests in Ukreine or Lebanon.

Wojciech said...

Jus one more commet:
Your blog is very interesting - as you said - it's a view of ordinary Egyptian but with your many impressing opinions. And it has a sense of romantism. I like this title: "with love...." that shows your openness and somehow influences audience - when i read words "with love" i think not only about popular sentence from the postcards but i imagine the author of the blog is a person who tries to give a positive message and positive feelings to readers.

Mohamed said...

Thanks Wojciech. I like the title too actually. It does say alot, doesn't it.

Alina said...

Mohamed, this green-blue mixture really hurts me eyes! :))And I actually wear glasses with special protection for computer monitors! Imagine that!:))

Mohamed said...

Can't figure out the right color combination. Can you suggest some colors for me from these colors?

Alina said...

As I said, the one you chose is quite good! I think you could also try these: #FAEBD7, #FFEBCD. I think they'd look good with the red titles..