Marhaba from Cairo,
Egypt is in an interesting phase of its long history. This is a crucial time, just after the tumultuous Arab Spring and the removal of President Hosne Mubarak. With or without Mubarak, the country depends heavily on tourism and the revolution has deterred many of the usual throng of visitors.
the age of old men
Almost every local who offered an opinion – some solicited and just as many not – was ecstatic about the removal of the unpopular ruler. Optimism about the future (after January 25, 2011) is palpable. It’s obvious that people are looking forward to a different future. As one young woman said, “The age of old men is over.”
A Surgeon’s Journal
The print media in Cairo reflects the changed mood in more ways than one. A few excerpts illustrate the change. An editorial in The Egyptian Gazette – under the heading at the top of the page NEW EGYPT – said this: “Egyptians are normally too busy struggling to make a living to pay any attention to politics. But now things are changing.” A column in The Egypt Mail was written by Dr. Mohamed Nasr. It was called ‘A Surgeon’s Journal’. The first item in one edition went like this.
One sunny day in March 2011 an old man approached the Presidential Ourouba Palace in Heliopolis from where he had been sitting on a park bench. He addressed the military guard on duty, “I would like to enter and meet President Mubarak”. The guard looked at the man and replied, “Mr Mubarak is no longer the president and no longer lives here”. The old man acknowledged the answer and walked away.
On the following day, the same man approached the palace and asked the same guard, “I would like to enter and meet President Mubarak”. The military guard again told the man, “Mr Mubarak is no longer the president and no longer lives here”. Again, the old man thanked him and walked away.
The next day, the same old man approached the same military guard and asked, “I would like to enter and meet President Mubarak”. The guard – understandably getting a bit agitated about this – looked at the old man and said, “Sir, I have already told you. This is the third day in a row that you have come here asking to speak to Mr Mubarak. I have told you Mr Mubarak is no longer the president. Don’t you understand that?”
The old man said, “I understand completely. I just love hearing it!” The military guard snapped to attention and said, “I’ll see you tomorrow!” The story sums up the attitude of the people so succinctly.
All that optimism here is being suppressed by the absence of tourists. In a desert country which has become reliant on tourism for sustenance, the silence at the airport is a frightening thing for all concerned.