Impressions of Egypt having just returned.

Friday August 23, 2013 Egypt Impressions

Kostya and I have just arrived in Maadi Cairo after a long day of twists and turns. It began this morning in Pasadena, Los Angeles, California. We finished packing and had a very hard time capturing our cats for the trip back to Egypt. Bossa and Donya were afraid and after lots of hissing, running, scaring and scratches we got them both in the bag. After a discussion we decided they had gained so much weight living in US for two months that they could no longer fit in one bag comfortably. We decided to leave Donya behind with Christopher, split them up and just take Bossa back to Egypt with us. On the way to the airport Kostya said he felt like we were doing the wrong thing, just like in the film Black Fish when they captured young orcas and took them away from their families, we were dividing the two sister cats.

At LAX it was a mad house, millions of people flying everywhere. Nile had reserved for the two cats with Delta Air via Paris to Cairo, but we soon found out that the flight was operated by Air France and there was no way they were going to let our cat fly without a micro chip. Nile complained and said that Delta had the reservation and never mentioned this to us. Air France was awful and took no responsibility for the lack of information and their partnership with Delta. Both Delta and Air France were incompetent. Many people were complaining on the flight about AF treatment. The Air France lady told us that we would have to go through customs in Paris even though it was just a one hour transit connection. She told us they would “kill our cat” if we took her. Obvioiusly Bossa went back to Pasadena with Christopher. In Paris there was no customs and we just changed gates. The AF lady had lied. A passenger near us had her dog with her and no one checked it at all. In the end, it was probably for the best that we did not bring Bossa so that the two cats were not separated. (Kostya is planning on adopting another baby cat. He wants to get a cat bag and carry it with us everywhere we go in case he sees the cat that he wants.)

Aboard the flight we were calm and comfortable. We watched movies, slept and ate. We arrived in Paris and had less than an hour to change planes. We met my WHO colleague Dr. Hassan Salah and his family at the gate and the kids got along great. The flight to Cairo was uneventful and we arrived to an empty airport at 5:15pm. Our flight was the only one that landed. Everyone rushed us through customs and immigration and baggage claim because everyone including those who work at the airport have to be home by 7:00pm curfew and everyone is taking this very seriously. None of our bags arrived, thanks to AF. I suppose they never made it on the flight from Paris. So we left with only our carry-ons.

Aunt Laila’s driver Salama met us and drove us home stopping at a grocery store to get some quick purchases milk, cereal, tomatoes, cucumbers, tea and pasta. We made it to Leila’s apartment by 6:45. Salama left us and told me not to go out at all in the evening.
Kostya watched TV and I phoned friends to tell them we had arrived.

It is extremely strange here in Egypt, not like ever before. Normally we would find it bustling, busy and gay. At the airport I saw three different peasant women crying out of stress and uncertainty. Maybe they were Syrian refugees or Egyptian peasants. I don’t know. They were most likely going to be spending the night on the airport floor. The streets were empty as we drove to Maadi, compared to normal. The curfew has really changed life here. Nothing is open after 6pm and there is no one walking on the streets or on the Corniche Il Nile holding hands or dancing to music or eating sweets. It is just dead and the feeling is anything but Egypt.

Our rented apartment is on the 23rd floor over-looking the Nile River on the Maadi Cornish. The view is extraordinary and we can see the Pyramids directly across the river. The balcony is usually full of life and food and people. Today it is quiet and no one is laughing together. The Nile is quiet. One lone felucca sailed in front of us, probably the felucca owner who is trying to hold on to the love and gift of Egypt in his heart just one more day. There is no noise from boats playing loud obnoxious Arabic music. Now that it is gone, I miss it. Now that there are no young men selling roses on the Corniche, I miss them. Now that the horns are not honking and the youngsters are not singing and dancing in the streets, on their car roofs and on the sidewalks, I miss it.

I am sad to know that Khan El Khalil Souk is closed and dark. I am stunned to think that the ancient Cafe Fishawy in the heart of the Khan is without Egyptians and their rhythm, sellers, incense, tea, fortune tellers, tourists and cats, stunned that this might be the first time in her 700 year old history that this elderly Cafe is resting in its life. Fishawy Cafe is one of the only places on the planet where you can get a cup of tea at any time of the day, week, month or year, any time. This may be the first time it is closed. Salaam All

Saturday evening 24 August
Today we took care of business, banks, rent, phones, internet, etc. and visiting one friend before the curfew.

Our apartment is on the Maadi Corniche 23rd floor overlooking the Nile with the Pyramids straight across the Nile. Just below the balcony is a check point with tanks and soldiers. They are keeping the peace and looking for thugs or anyone that is trying to make trouble. It is the main entrance to Maadi. Today the curfew was extended to 9pm. Yesterday it was 7pm. Any cars or people who are out after curfew are questioned and then go on. It is calm and well done so far. There was a bit of normalcy this evening when one boat on the Nile played music and people partied aboard for a small wedding group. The jokes about the situation are quite funny. CNN is called CNZift (which means CNShit and it rhymes) Al Jazeera is called “Alkharrea” which means the Pigs and it also rhymes. Everyone is really pissed off at how the American, Saudi and Qatari media are representing Egypt’s revolution.

The Egyptian people are fighting the same terrorists as the West, fundamentalist Muslims who represent less than 1% of Muslims. Egyptians are mostly Muslim (85%) but they are NOT fundamentalists – they are regular people who want normalcy in their lives and happen to be Muslim – just like most Americans who are Christian by birth. Don’t let the media make you think otherwise. Imagine if the radical Tea Party – SOME of whom are people who kill doctors that perform abortions were backed by another country. This is how the Egyptians feel about other nations (those mentioned above) backing the Muslim Brotherhood. The hate it.

Enough politics……but you can imagine that is what is on everyone’s mind these days in Egypt. Egyptians want their country back. The country that welcomed millions of tourists every year, the country that sang and danced at the drop of a hat, the country that has been tolerant and open for thousands of years. They want all that and democracy, freedom and justice too. It is not easy to get and it will take years. The French revolution took 100 years and their constitution was rewritten 13 times before they got it right. Freedom, democracy and justice is messy business because there many (mostly outside Egypt) who do not want that to happen for various reasons.

I believe that in the end the Egyptian people will prevail. I have never seen a people that love their country so very much; the history, the culture, the food, the social life, the relationships, the language, the music, dance, the people are all of that.

This was written in haste and I have not re-read it – so please be kind – I have to sleep – don’t worry we are fine and surrounded by good friends that care about us and our safety.

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Political analysis on Egypt and the Region…….. Author Unknown

The international stage, whether those who oppose or support Egypt is secondary to the battles on the ground, but it can all be easily explained when one evaluates actions based on interests and not emotionality.

> The US and EU have a keen interest to ensure that Egypt remains in a subordinate state that guarantees the safety and security of Israel…which was in jeopardy after the 25Th Jan. revolution, thus it became imperative to seek an alternative, and the MB provide just such an alternative but in a way that far exceeds the utility provided by the Mubarak regime, simply because their subordination is combined with an ideology that is contrary to the nation-state concept, as such the incorporation of Hamas into Sinai (and the effective end to the nationalist Fatah), the chipping away of Egypt’s southern border and the breaking up of Egypt’s armed forces are all possible elements that can be incorporated in any deal in a manner that could never be possible before.

Therefore it is only natural that the West fully support the MB, not just because of what the MB can provide, but also because the emergence of an independent and nationally oriented Egypt (whether liberal or autocratic is secondary to the west, but important for us)is simply too great a risk to take. Erdogan’s Turkey is also easy to understand when one analyses the MB roots of his party, but also the potential for personal aggrandizement that can result to Erdogan and his party if a regime that believes in the caliphate over the state, and thus a potentially preeminent role for the heirs of the Ottoman empire where Egypt is subordinate assumes power in Cairo.

The alignment of Europe, the US, and Turkey presents an interesting mix that brings to the forefront a near unified NATO position, if for completely different reasons. Make no mistake, our political ’56 is against NATO.

> On the other hand you have Russia and to a much lesser degree that is mainly economic in nature, China, that are interested to move in and consolidate gains as a result of US/EU loss of influence, especially after the recent events in Libya and the ongoing conflict in Syria with its Iran and HezbAllah dimensions. In the same camp, yet also for entirely different reasons, we find most GCC countries and Arab monarchies headed by Saudi that are threatened by the concept of an MB government in Egypt which can possibly directly impact their own regime survival for ideological and domestic political reasons. It is worth mentioning that perhaps the only country that genuinely has an emotionally attached position derived from its leadership’s background towards Egypt is the UAE.

> In the first half of the 20th Century Egypt gave birth to two conflicting ideologies,

1-Nationalism (based on the nation-state concept that would develop into Pan-Arabism) and

2- Islamism (based on a Caliphate/ Pan-Islamism that revokes the very concept of the nation-state). Egypt is essentially now settling the battle between the two ideologies that were born here almost a hundred years ago, and just as both ideologies impacted the region and the world, the result of the outcome will also be historic.

> This is actually one of the core psychological reasons behind the high propensity for violence exhibited by the MB and their imported Hamas fighters…they see us Egyptians and the State itself as “the other”…they are a closed cult type terrorist group that has few ties outside its circles…which is not the case with the police or army or the rest of the Egyptian population.

> The struggle now is thus between the State of Egypt, a national and independent sovereign entity (liberal or autocratic), and the district of Egypt, a vassal, non-independent, theocratic entity that is subordinate to a foreign caliph type leadership.

I ask you, if you were the West, and you had to choose between both, it’s not really a difficult choice to make in order to protect your interests, and it is a decision that they took a while back when they supported the MB/Hamas in its formative years to undermine nationalist movements.

The US/EU and their MB allies are just playing it very poorly, and the Egyptian people and state and civilization are proving to be more resilient than they had hoped…. I ask them to read up on some history…we broke the Hyksos, we broke the Mongols, we broke the Crusades, we broke traditional Colonialism….and Insha’Allah we will break you too…we have not been labeled the Graveyard of Invaders for nothing…so start digging.

Official Response of the Egyptian 6 April Youth Movement

Official Response of the 6 April Youth Movement to Wednesday’s events:

(This statement is somewhat different than the statement of the ECFA (see previous post). Both have legitimate claims.)

The Egyptian blood that was spilled in our country in the events of Black Wednesday proves that Egyptian blood is still worthless even after the great January revolution. In fact, it has become completely without value after the third wave of the revolution on the 30th June.

It has become apparent that the sides striving for power have little concern for the lives of Egyptians and will not hesitate to use the corpses of the Egyptian people as a ladder to reach their goals. The Muslim Brotherhood leaders sacrificed the lives of their followers for the sake of power, and the security forces did not hesitate to prey on those lives with all their violence and brutality.
The leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and the interim government chose a bloody conflict to achieve their respective political gains: the system to further its grip on power and the Muslim Brotherhood leadership to play politics with the lives of its followers. There is no clearer evidence for this than the timing of the dispersal which came the morning before the Al Azhar Initiative to exit the conflict. This proves that the leaders of the parties involved preferred the use of uninhibited violence instead of a political solution to deal with a political conflict.

The 6 April Youth Movement condemns the use of force to disperse the Raba’a and Nahda protests, the violence witnessed by Egypt’s provinces, as well as the attacks on Coptics, churches and police headquarters which led to many deaths and injuries. The movement confirms that a political solution is the only way to exit the current crisis and return to the path of democracy which will pave the way for the goals of the revolution stated by Dr. El Baradei. Violence will only lead to more violence and to the deterioration of the situation.

The 6 April Youth movement warns against the abyss of violence that the Egyptian people are descending into with all of their sects, institutions and individuals, government and opposition, majority and minorities, all for the sake of power that is temporary and fake glory built on the corpses of fellow Egyptians. The movement confirms that any policies which deepen the wound of the nation will pose a threat to future national security.

May God protect Egypt and the Egyptians.

The 6 April Youth Movement
Patriotism over politics, and principles over interests.

Egyptian Council on Foreign Affairs – Official Statement

Cairo, 15 August 2013

Dear Sir/ Madam,

As a follow-up to our previous communications on recent developments in Egypt, and at this critical time for all Egyptians concerned with their country’s transition to democracy, I am writing to share further thoughts on on-going developments.

Following massive demonstrations by millions of Egyptians on 30 June, it was clear that a great majority of the population demanded an end to the Presidency of Mohamed Morsi. Departing from the aspirations Egyptian expressed in their revolution of 25 January 2011, the previous President had lost legitimacy through a series of blunders including repeated infringements on the judiciary, journalists and political opponents. It became clear that his primary loyalty belonged to the dream of transforming Egypt into an Islamic state based on the vision of the Moslem Brothers Movement (MB), disregarding the country’s civic traditions of co-existence between all creeds, its tolerance and openness to the world. Mr.Morsi proceeded to issue legislation giving himself extensive powers, signed a constitution that did not reflect the consensus of all Egyptians, and allowed repeated transgressions on the rights of Christians, women and children. On several occasions, including important National Day celebrations, the previous President associated with terrorists and extremists with complete disregard for the country’s national security or its international status. His administration displayed incompetence in managing the challenge of rising terrorism in Sinai, responding to the need to negotiate issues related to the Nile waters or arresting rapid economic decline. In the absence of a mechanism to impeach or recall the President, and to avert wider civil conflict, Egypt’s armed forces were obliged to intervene combined with a massive popular demand for drastic changes.

In early July, Egypt’s Provisional Government announced a road map for drafting a new constitution and holding parliamentary and presidential elections over the next 6-8 months, together with initiatives for political reconciliation and transitional justice. However, the MB remained insistent on returning Morsi to power through mobilising their supporters to camp in several locations, particularly two vital junctions in Cairo. This was followed by six weeks of unsuccessful negotiations and mediation through the good offices of a multitude of foreign visitors (EU, US, UAE, and Qatar). An African Union High Level Panel visited Cairo and met with the different parties and civil society, and several Foreign Ministers were received and briefed in addition to two prominent US Senators. Many Egyptians were concerned at the level of international intervention tolerated by the Provisional Government, particularly as this was coupled with several statements that disregarded the clear will of Egyptians to correct the course of their transition to democracy. There was also concern at the lack of balance shown by some segments of Arab and international media.

On 24 July, the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs (ECFA) noted an escalating trend towards armed violence in the MB sit-ins. In response to photos of children being used as human shields, UNICEF condemned exploiting children for political ends while Amnesty International noted incidents of MBs torturing their opponents. Media reported that arms and ammunitions were finding their way into the hands of the demonstrators. Apart from contributing to traffic congestion, inhabitants of the two areas were being harassed and preparations were inhibited for the new term at Cairo University. More important, the authority of the state was being undermined in a manner that was inconsistent with Egypt’s regional and international position. Thus, yesterday, following repeated warnings over the previous days, security forces moved in to clear the demonstrators.

ECFA deeply regrets the loss of lives and injuries on all sides. It trusts that such cases will be thoroughly and impartially investigated and that, where appropriate, the culprits will be brought to justice. ECFA also strongly condemns deliberate attacks by the dispersed demonstrators and their supporters on churches, public buildings, homes, shops, including hospitals, police stations and the Ministry of Finance, which provoked the declaration of a state of emergency. We trust this will be a temporary measure. We urge the government to issue a law organising peaceful assembly and protests.

However costly and painful this experience has been, it is clear that Egypt has entered a new phase in its political development and there cannot be a turning back to the situation before 30 June. Meanwhile,there remains a need to re-establish an environment of order and stability, together with an inclusive dialogue open to all parties, to allow the country to move forward with the roadmap, particularly taking the essential of drafting the new constitution followed by legislative and presidential elections.. There are also vital security and economic challenges that demand urgent action from the Provisional Government. Egypt must return to business.

ECFA notes a series of unfortunate statements by Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, Senators McCain and Graham, Qatari officials and the Hamas Movement. Rather than increasing disagreements and tensions, ECFA calls for recognising the current moment for solidarity with the efforts to strengthen transition towards genuine and sustainable democracy in Egypt, and refraining from ill-considered statements, proposals and actions that reflect a lack of understanding of the delicate phase currently underway.

Ambassador Dr.Mohamed Ibrahim Shaker

Chairman of the Board of Directors

Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs