Photo: Egypt 2 Lovers/Blogspot
When people think of Egypt, the first thing that comes to their heads would be something like a pyramid, a pharaoh, or a mummy. They imagine desert sand, intense heat, and men riding on camels. Throughout my life, I’ve found that my American friends know very little of the country that I come from. There are few that know about the culture, the government, or the history.
It wasn’t until the revolution in 2011 that I finally began to pay more attention myself. On this day, the Egyptian people rose up against the oppressive regime of Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak had been in power for decades, but was not wanted or liked by his people. For all intents and purposes, Mubarak was a dictator. He was vice president to Anwar Sadat, and succeeded him when he was killed. Mubarak managed to keep his power by stuffing the ballot boxes, buying votes, and arresting those who wanted to run against him. For 30 years, the Egyptian people were silenced and oppressed by this man, until finally the revolution began on January 25, 2011. On this day, millions went out to the streets of every major city in Egypt, calling for Mubarak’s resignation.
The revolution went on for 18 days, and for 18 days my parents had the news on around the clock. We watched as peaceful protests turned to riots, and innocent people as young as myself were being shot and killed by the government that was supposed to protect them. It was during those days that I began to feel more attached to my country. Even though I spent most of my life living in America, Egypt still felt like home, and my home was falling apart.
The revolution ended on February 11th; Mubarak stepped down, and Egypt prepared for its first democratic election. The Egyptian people were finally given the power to choose their leader, and they chose Mohamed Morsi. Unfortunately, Morsi proved himself to be no better than his predecessor, and was forced into resignation after several days of protests in 2013. After Morsi was removed from office, the Egyptian military, led by the current president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, took control of the government.
President Sisi is unfortunately no better than the two presidents before him. He, like Mubarak, can easily be called a dictator as well as unfit to run a country. He stood in front of an assembly and stated that if Egyptian people wanted the best for the country, they should listen to only him and no one else. In order to make an entrance to that same assembly, he arrived walking on a 2-mile long red carpet, and went on to discuss Egypt’s failing economy.
It is during these days that I remember what I felt when I first saw the revolution begin five years ago. It’s a difficult feeling, to be so far away from my extended family and country and to watch as it slowly goes back to where it was before all those young lives were sacrificed. To add to that, there is the alienating feeling of being surrounded by people who are unaware of what’s happening or feel it’s not worth worrying about. To me, it’s something I can’t seem to get used to; to discuss Egypt, the culture, the politics, or the history, and be met with indifference.
I have spent most of my life in America, yet Egypt will always be part of who I am. It’s clear to me that my fellow Americans would find it difficult to exhibit the same emotions when it comes to all that’s happening. It’s vital, however, to remember the importance of being aware of what goes on in the world. Egypt is not the only country that is perhaps subconsciously but nevertheless consistently ignored by the media and others. When it’s covered, it’s simplified beyond understanding.
There is so much that goes on outside of the United States and other Western countries. Other parts of the world have rich histories and diverse cultures that we in America know so little about and I believe it is part of why we lack balance in how we view the world.
My connection to Egypt has motivated me to expand my knowledge of the country, yet there are so many more that I know so little about. Bigotry, hatred, and oftentimes fear, are fueled by ignorance. To be aware of other cultures, of what goes on in other places, is one of the key ingredients to combat such ignorance hiding in ourselves and in others.