You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘culture’ category.

I was recently invited to make a guest appearance in a High School Social Studies & Politics class in Vermont by the teacher who follows my twitter feed and reads my blog. I was deeply humbled by the invite and by the fact that the teacher had gone beyond the call of duty to ask someone from the Middle East to answer student’s questions.

I liked the idea a lot from an educator’s perspective. What better way to build bridges and to shatter false images and misconceptions painted by the media than by exposing students to someone who is Egyptian and actually lives there?

A trip to Vermont would have been ideal but out of the question at the beginning of the academic year, so thanks to modern technology, I could be in two places at once with the help of Skype. After  a couple of test runs and agreeing on a day and time that suited both time zones, the questions which the students wanted to ask were sent to me in advance so that I could mull over how I would answer them and what I would say. As well as checking information and sources to make sure the information that I was discussing was indeed factual.

As the day approached my nerves were on edge as well as boiling over with excitement. I was nervous because I was stepping out of my comfort zone and talking to a group of young strangers thousands of miles away and I felt a bit like a diplomat representing my country. I posted the event in my group on facebook so that my readers would know. I was quite flattered by all the words of encouragement from friends and acquaintences who sent me words of encouragment and told me how proud they were of me for doing this.

The day of the interview I was invited to my sister’s in-laws for brunch. I was terrified that I would not make it home in time for 3pm, so I took my laptop and all my research with me just in case, (and it was a good thing I did too). I have to thank my brother-in-law and his family for allowing me to take up a corner of their sitting room while they session took place. I am very grateful.

Friday 28th of September at 3P.M Cairo local time the Skype video call began …                                                                                                                                          (I can’t remember all of my answers verbatim, but I will do my best to recall my responses as best I can)

The teacher that I had been communicating with was present along with another Social Studies teacher, the Principle of the school and the students        (talk about nerve-racking!!).  For 45 minutes I was asked questions and discussed Egypt and the region.

The first question I was asked was ‘Why did you agree to Skype with us?’

My answer was simple, Why not? How else are we going to build bridges and destroy misconceptions if we don’t learn from one another?

The second question was ‘Would there be any repercussions for speaking with us?”

No, not in my case, I’m not a political blogger and I don’t write anything negative about the government, the president or religion so I have not been red flagged.

What is the current political situation in Egypt?

Well, we finally have a president! Part of the parliament has been dissolved, the president tried to overrule the decision and allow them to be reinstated but he was over ruled again by the Supreme Court, so we don’t really know what’s going to happen with them.  Then there’s the writing of the new constitution.

Can women run for public office in Egypt?

Yes, they can. We had a woman named Bothaina who was in the presidential elections but, she didn’t get enough votes to carry her through. We also have other women in parliament.

 

What was it like for you during the Arab Spring?

(Never a simple answer and I couldn’t help but let out a big sigh)

Having lived in Saudi Arabia and remembering the signs of what happened during the Gulf War, I knew something was going to happen. I started to read and follow many of the revolutionaries on twitter. I prepared myself for the worst, made sure I had provisions in the house and on the 28th of January I asked a Canadian friend and colleague of mine to come and stay with me because she didn’t know what was happening and didn’t speak the language. There isn’t a word in the dictionary to describe what we experience. We had no clue what was going to happen from one minute to the other. There were riot police and then the police were dissolved. Saturday 13000 prisoners were released from prison taking the ammunition that was in the stations and that’s when chaos broke loose. Boys your age and younger were out in the streets armed with whatever they could find, planks of wood, kitchen knives, candle stick holders, Molotov cocktail bombs to defend their neighborhood and their homes from petit thieves and dangerous criminals who were heavily armed. It was a terrifying experience. Things have calmed down a lot since then, but even months afterwards you always looked over your shoulder.

How do Egyptian people view the United States? Is there a difference between how they view the government and the American People?

Egyptian’s don’t hate Americans. They don’t dislike foreigners. We need foreigners to come to Egypt for our tourism. Tourism is our source of money (I had meant to say income, but the word escaped me). We just don’t like your foreign policy.

(I am sure many will disagree with me on this point, but that is how I perceive things to be)

There were many questions that followed these but I cannot remember their chronological order or how I answered them.

While answering the questions I didn’t notice how fast the time had passed and when the bell rang I couldn’t believe a class period had flown by. I wasn’t sure what the student’s impression of the video call was. It was hard for me to see their faces and to know if they found it engaging or not. Once the student left the class I spoke with both teachers for a little while longer. I won’t know the verdict on the experience until next week, but I did get an email from the class teacher the following day. It read;
“Hi Irish!

A number of students have come to me and said they enjoyed speaking with you and wondering if they would be able to do it again. That’s a good sign. Our principal who left three quarters of the way through was very impressed with you and happy that you too took the time to speak with our students. He actually said he got chills up his spine a couple of times when you were speaking. Again that is a good sign. Thanks so much for taking the time to do what you did. It’s a great learning experience for myself and my students. Hopefully we can find some other ways we can break down some of the misconceptions of both Egyptians and Americans with our students. If there is anything you can think of or anyway we can bring students together through this source of media please let me know. “

An even further update on how the skype talk went;

” You have received many positive comments and none negative. Greg who you talked with after the class felt that you had a great persona on camera. I agree with him on that and its not easy to do on skype.

I spoke to one student’s mother who said her son came home and talked  about the class’s conversation with you. He said he really liked it.  This is from a student who usually doesn’t appear to interested in  class.
The students commented on your English and how good it was.. They wondered if it would be hard to understand you. They all said they would like to do it again.

I hope you would be willing. As I told you I think if they get more comfortable with you and you them it would be interesting to see where the conversation leads just in regards to daily life in Egypt and the United States. Perhaps the average person’s goals, dreams, hopes for the future etc, so that they see people are not really that different regardless of what country they live in.

I asked them if they felt you had answered their questions and they felt you had done a good job of that. I heard them laugh a number of times during your talk due to the expression on your face in regards to a question or answer. This indicates that they picked up on your facial expressions and body language. I believe they felt that you were much like them instead of this perception they may of you. “

I thought this picture I took in Dublin was best suited for the topic

If I had a Pound, (Euro or Dollar) for every time someone asked me ‘Why Aren’t You Married’, I would have a hefty retirement fund!

It has reached a point where, I wonder if this is all people have to worry about?! I meet people for the first time and naturally they’ll ask if you have a significant other, but they shouldn’t feel the need to lecture me on ‘Why I Should, Have One’. Even some of the doctors I’ve had consultations with seem to be more concerned about my marital status than my ailments. I appreciate the fact that close friends and some family members want to see me settled down and happy. What I don’t like is those whom I hardly know appoint themselves to play match maker with determination. (What do they get out of it? Is there some jackpot or prize you get if your match is a good one?)

Let me clarify, once and for all to those who are adamant to find me a significant other (based on THEIR wrong criteria to find me a ‘PERFECT’ match) and to those who can not get their head around the idea of me flying solo. I have great respect for marriage and all that is stands for. I do think it is a beautiful thing to be able to live ones life with another and share the burdens and happiness that come their way together as a team and to justify their union and love by having children, so their family tree can continue to blossom and grow. HOWEVER, I DO NOT believe that I should marry for the sake of being married. Just so that I can have a wedding band placed upon my ring finger along with a nice big sparkly one, have a big party and not be alone! If I want to wear a ring, I’ll go buy one. If I want a party, by GEORGE I shall throw one! If I’m lonely, I can go out to social events mingle with people, invite people over or go visit family or friends.

Marriage is a commitment that I would take seriously and I would want it to be forever, (not to use as an escape to move out of my parent’s home. Which doesn’t apply to me because I don’t live with them anyway). I do not want to marry the first person that comes knocking at my parent’s door asking for my hand, especially if he knows nothing about me, my family or upbringing.

In the past I have had mothers of sons and men see me walk into a store or driving my car and find out who I am through 6 degrees of separation, get my parent’s home number and call my father up and ask for my hand in marriage without ever having spoken a word to me! The last time someone did that my father took great pleasure in telling the caller that I had recently just been released from a mental institution, (NOT TRUE OF COURSE) and that he was a garbage collector. I found it extremely funny, while the person on the other end of the line was not as amused!

I want to marry someone who understands how my mind works (well, to some degree), who appreciates and understand my mixed ethnicity/cultural heritage (and doesn’t want me to change who I am or make me choose one culture over another),  has similar characteristic traits, shares some of my dreams/interests, is a bit adventurous, likes to play sports and can deal with my loony family and relatives! He must speak ENGLISH quite well, (if he can speak more languages, excellent! but he has to be able to communicate with the Irish Clan), likes to hold intellectual conversations, reads, well-traveled, has a playful side, very good sense of humor and doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty, because I won’t be the only one doing all the hard labor around the house and changing dirty diapers. Oh an most importantly is financially independent from his family.

Marriage to me is a partnership, where two people promise to look after one another and share everything. I am not the type to marry and be told to stay home, not work, cook/clean all day long, have children and raise them alone. While hubbiness goes to work, comes home, eats, naps, showers, changes and goes out and socialize with his friends.  (If that’s what I wanted, I would go for Don Draker, from MAD MEN). That is a recipe for my misery and driving me to the brink of insanity ! So, those kind of guys need to be taken off your must introduce her to him lists! That is if you really do have my happiness and best interest at heart.

If you’re miserable in your life and want company… then please don’t set me up with anyone.

If a guy comes from a well-known, respectable, rich family it DOES NOT automatically make him a nice guy and my dream man! Money is great to have, but it isn’t a recipe for a successful marriage. The person’s personality, ethics, morals, values, mentality are things that I find more important than the wrist watch he wears, car he drives, his home address and the size of his PARENT’S bank account.

‘Friends’ of mine, (who have now been demoted to mere acquaintances) wanted to introduce me to a guy who was VERY wealthy and was quite liberal. Now, I am not one to judge a book by its cover, but why would anyone want to introduce a 20 something year old girl (my age at the time), to a guy in his mid 40s who is extremely over weight, has lost half of his teeth, from lack of dental hygiene (due to excessive smoking and drinking) and has little social etiquette? Clearly these people didn’t take the time to know me or to choose wisely either.

I have met, socialized and been out with several guys who fall into this category. I have to say a small minority of them have been raised to be gentlemen of great integrity and are very decent men. While others have been toads dressed like princes.

Players and Cheaters… What can I say? I have been played and burned by both. Not the most pleasant of experiences and I have learned from my mistakes and have grown wiser and stronger because of it. These two are like trying to domesticate a tiger!! Woman can not ‘change’ or ‘reform’ them. They have to sincerely want to and they have to be the ones to take the steps. If/when they are ready, I’ll gladly give them consideration, until then, I’ll Pass, Thanks.

Just because a guy lives abroad and holds a foreign passport like I do, doesn’t mean it’s a match made in heaven! The same goes if he’s of mixed ethnicity too.

So, to sum it all up. I would much rather be single and continue to work on improving upon myself and experience what life has to offer than jump into a marriage with someone who is not compatible with me (and vice versa). I don’t want to be put in a situation where I marry someone and find out 2 kids later, that I can’t stand being around him and be forced to make a decision to either stay in the marriage to keep the family together while I am secretly miserable and hide my pain behind my smiles as a sacrifice for their happiness or break up a family and watch the children go through pain I could have had a hand in preventing.

So, That is WHY, I am not rushing to the altar to get married. Let me live and let live!

If you find someone who meets MOST of the criteria I am looking for then we can talk. If not, DON’T even think about it!

The day I decide to tie the knot and take the plunge and say; I DO. I’ll let you know. Until then, no one should lose any sleep over me being happily single!

Students and teachers alike look forward to the longest holiday of the year, ‘summer’.

In the past summers for me meant packing my bags with all that I would need and move down to Agami, a summer resort just outside of Alexandria on the Mediterranean Sea, where my parents had a beach house. There I would spend my days in shorts, t-shirt, swimsuit and flip-flops with my beach bag ready for the beach. Two to three months of swimming, tanning, reading, playing volleyball, running a summer camp for children and catching up with old friends whom I hadn’t seen since the previous summer.

Summer home in Agami- Villa Casa Blanca

Times have changed and friends have moved on. I have not been back to Bianki since 2007. I miss the times, I had there during my teenage years. It is there where I made some of my most memorable memories and met some very interesting people and dear friends.  To date, my summers are split between Alexandria and going abroad to various destinations to get away from the stress that the post revolution has left and the political roller coaster of electorial disappointments we have had to take part in, witness and accept the results of.

The beginning portion of my summer for the past two years has been spent in Alexandria with my parents. My mother and I have been motivating one another to get back in shape and eat healthy. (This as some of you may know has been an ongoing process for me. After  1.5 years of battling the bulge, I am 13Kg away from my target weight!) I would spend an hour working out at home, doing various crunches and sit-ups as well as using an elliptical bike and 3 hours of the day would be spent swimming laps and using various apparatus to help strengthen and tone my arms and legs. For a few weeks, I or we would go abroad.

To go abroad for me is a chance to recharge, re-evaluate, relax and look at things from a different perspective (the change in scenery and climate is also an added bonus). This year my mother and I ventured to London to visit briefly with my sister and to Ireland to attend a family wedding and strengthen family connection with our cousins, whom we had lost contact with over the past few years.

I am fascinated with our family genealogy, especially on the Irish side. I have found that not only do I look Irish, I have a lot of the Irish family traits in me and from listening to stories, I find I learn more and more about myself and why some of the members of our family are the way that they are.

As a young girl London never appealed to me, I had formed an image of it being a dark, grey and gloomy place, much like the Industrial time in England. My opinion changed quickly when I first visited 3 years ago. I look forward to my visits there now, not solely due to it’s undeniable allure but because I actually feel normal there. I don’t worry about what I’m wearing and if I’ll be harassed as I walk down the street or how long it will take me to get to my destination. When I am there the stress of constantly having to be aware of the people around me and looking for signs of possible sexual harassers trying to invade my personal space drops from 100 to 1.

Time spent with my sister, her husband and other members of our family are precious and they always take priority. I try to spend as much time with them as I can, to keep our family bond strong and because I simply love being in their company. There is never a dull moment when we congregate! On extended visits I like to walk around and take in the sights, museums, shows, take pictures and of course shop! (One has to make a contribution to the economy of the country one happens to visit, no?)

It was also exciting to have been there pre-Olympic ceremony. To see the city decorated with flags of the different nations taking part in the games. The excitment and pride of the nationals to host the games. My mum and I missed the ceremony but watched many of the highlights and events once we had made it back to our hotel room and back to Egypt after our trip. The athletes are phenominal in their dedication and inspring!

Family time or giving new meaning to the term, ‘swimming with the fishes’

I have always been very proud and patriotic of my Irish heritage. When I visit I can’t help but be in awe of her beauty. Her beauty, in my opinion becomes more enhanced by her people, who have such a cheerful, friendly, helpful and funny disposition about them. I can’t help but find so many similarities in them and the ‘old’ Egyptian culture that I grew up knowing, ( it saddens me to think that what remains of the ‘old’ Egypt, might soon be lost, if things are not sorted out soon).

During this trip to Ireland, I made sure that I would not be rushing through like a forest fire, but I would actually have time to walk the streets, visit historical landmarks, eat in pubs, shop and talk with the locals, as well as visit with family.

I can not tell you how much I enjoyed touring the capital, learning about how Ireland earned its Independence, driving through the grounds of Phoenix Park, visiting Trinity College and sitting in its grand library of ancient manuscripts and books that were written and read by some of the greatest minds on earth and where some members of my family attended. Although my connection to the country itself isn’t strong, I think this journey has definitely strengthened it.

                                                       
                        The scene from the brige where my cousin wed his bride. Tintern Abbey-Rosslare

My cousin whom I had only reconnected with over the last three years and hadn’t seen in twenty, invited my family and I to attend his wedding. The place in which the nuptials took place and the ceremony itself was unlike any wedding that I have ever been to or seen before. It was a Humanist Wedding/Ceremony, filled with spirituality, tradition and love. It was held on a bridge on a beautiful summer’s day with beautiful landscape encompassing the couple and their families and friends. Nothing could have made it more magical, meaningful or beautiful in my opinion.  The two-day event was packed with entertainment, food and great times. Most importantly it was shared with people who truly cared for the couple and genuinely wished them nothing but happiness in their future life together. It was at this event, where I made new connections and bonds with members of our family whom I had lost contact with and those I had never met before. (Now, I know where I get my energy, drive, motivation to succeed, love of learning, sense of humor and love of partying from, The McSorley Clan)

The third part of our trip was spent visiting the area of where my grandmother and generations before her had come from. In some strange way, Wexford, a small county by the sea reminded me of Alexandria. It is here where my mother attended boarding school as a young girl and where she spent many summers with her aunt, uncle and cousins at a nearby resort called Rosslare. As I walked the quay and breathed in the fresh Irish sea air and took in the scenic views, I couldn’t help but be grateful for the opportunity to have traveled to the land of my ancestors, to see where half of me is from and to be able to pass down the stories that have been told to me by my aunt, mother and cousins, so, that our history isn’t lost or forgotten.

In Wexford we strengthened existing ties with family we are in touch with. It was also a second opportunity for my mother to spend time her aged aunt of 97 years and to thank her for all the wonderful summers she had spent with them as a child and all the other things she and her late husband did for her growing up. (Moments like that should be seised, because they may never come again).

There is so much more for me to see and learn of Ireland but I have an itching desire to learn as much as I can about my family as I can. I hope to be able to go back there again soon in the near future.

Upon returning to Egypt I couldn’t help but feel depressed. Ireland might be in dire straits economically but the people have the drive to rebuild the country to get it back on its feet again. Egypt, a nation of great potential and historical as well as cultural wealth seems to be sinking before our eyes and very few seem willing to get their hands dirty. I have said it before and I will say it again. I fear for Egypt’s future and her children. I pray that I am wrong and that she will not suffer in the hands of men like Rasputin. Perhaps the Egyptian Olympians who preformed so well at the London 2012 games, might inspire their country men and women that hard work does pay off and that they can not only achieve great things but be recognised for them in the long run, if they pull together and move forward in rebuilding the country rather than pointing the finger of blame.

Isn’t she embarrassed walking down the street with her head uncovered? How immoral!

Since the fall of the former President of Egypt, Sexual Harassment has been rampant like a forest fire throughout the country. Horror story upon horror story of attacks and incidents on women have been surfacing and making headlines. It’s getting worse and worse with each day that passes. Since Egypt’s first Democratically Elected President had been announced another serving of worry has been served up on to our plate.

The President as many are all well aware is a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has a lot of the élite, liberals and women quaking in their boots worried about Egypt’s future on many fronts and their place in the new Democratic Egypt. There is a vast majority on the other hand who find that our President previous association gives them the carte blanche to do as they please, when it comes to educating the public on what is right or wrong in the name of Islam. Sometimes I feel like things are looking more and more like a Mad Max movie.

Self-appointed groups and individuals feel they now have the right to tell people what to do, how to dress and how to behave. A couple of weeks ago there were two incidents in different places in Egypt that sent a ripple of fear and dread through the country. The phrase we are turning into the next Saudi Arabia or Iran was on the tip of everyone’s lips.

(If things don’t change and social order isn’t put in place, then I will have to agree)

In Suez an engineering student was badgered by 3 bearded men, who demanded to know his relationship with the woman he was walking with. When he told them to mind their own business they stabbed him. The stab wound was fatal. The woman was his fiancée.

Story has it that the men were caught and will be given the death penalty.

http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/46784/Egypt/Politics-/Suez-knifing-stirs-fears-of-moral-policing-in-Egyp.aspx

Another story was that a young man was playing his guitar during the call for prayer in the governorate of Ismaleya and others found this to be a sign of disrespect and took it upon themselves to teach him a lesson.  The lesson rumor has it resulted in a severe beating which lead to his death. It was also reported that a group of bearded men went into a café in Cairo’s, Madinat Nasr area and told the customers that they should go and pray. Unfortunately I cannot confirm these stories to be 100% accurate, but having lived in Egypt so long, when there is a story there is always some element of truth to it.

I can confirm two others stories from women that I know personally and experienced some very disturbing events that worry me and honestly have me concerned for the future wellbeing of Egyptian women.

The first story is of a woman who works at a hair and beauty salon in Alexandria. She is a single Mom of a 4-year-old girl. She said she was walking in a district of Alexandria holding her daughter when a car drove by. One of the passengers in the car sprayed her with an acid like substance that ate through her clothes. It made huge holes in her dress which caused her undergarments to show. Embarrassed, scared and shaken she got into a taxi to go home. The reason for the passenger spraying her was because part of her leg was showing in the dress that she was wearing.

The second woman I work with and this is the straw that broke the camel’s back and pushed me to write this post. Yesterday she posted a warning to all her contacts on her Facebook page, so that we would all be made aware of what may happen if women decide to take a public mode of transportation. My colleague along with her brother, sister and future brother-in-law were boarding the car at Sadat Metro Station (El Tahrir) and just as the doors were closing a guy pulled her by her hair. She said she didn’t hear the full sentence of what he said but it had something to do with her not being veiled. This is NOT the first time she has experienced something like this.

Over the past 20 years since I moved here with my family, I have seen the country grow more and more conservative. It wasn’t very noticeable at first. It was rare to see veiled women, now you are most likely to see veils and niqabs than a woman with her head uncovered in Alexandria. I have no qualms with people becoming devoted in their beliefs and dressing in the way that they think is modest or more appropriate. What I DO have and issue with is other people, particularly strangers who don’t know me and demand or try to dictate to me how I should be more respectful and how I should dress.

I know that one of Morsi’s spokes people came out and condemned the actions of these individuals but I’m sorry that isn’t good enough for me. If the President himself doesn’t come out and say that he will not tolerate and accept these actions of harassment on people’s personal liberties and that people will be held accountable and punished for them, then he might as well have a pom pom in each hand cheering them on. His silence is a sign of condoning of what has happened and what will continue to happen. (That’s how I am interpreting it)

If President Morsi meant what he said in his speeches that we are free to live our lives as we have in the past, then I think he needs to not only say it repeatedly until it gets through people’s heads but to show that he sincerely means what he says. Otherwise these self-appointed groups and individuals will continue to badger, harass and attack innocent people who are minding their business and just going about their day-to-day lives and it isn’t right!

I lived in Saudi Arabia for 10 years, where the Mutawaa’s (religious police) would patrol the streets and make sure that people were abiding by the country’s code of conduct. IF this IS the direction that our new Elected President is going to guide Egypt towards then, I fear all hope is lost for Egypt. If Egypt sccumbs to becoming a country with blinkers on and where people are no longer permitted to be themselves and live freely, then we will be pushed back decades behind the rest of the world and that in all honesty would be DREADFUL. Egypt for centuries has always been a land that made history and has been (and continues to be), studied with fascination, awe and respect. I would hate to see a country with such a rich past and HIGH potential for a bright future be shut away and put down in such a manner.

How do we counter act this? How do we push back the threat of this wave that is hovering over us? I honestly do not know. I think WE are ALL open to suggestions, if anyone has any.

Otherwise the cartoon below might be what lies ahead for Egypt and for us;

Former President Hosni Mubarek in the cage

History was made today in Egypt, when Mubarak, the former Egyptian president actually appeared in court in a white jump suite lying down on a hospital bed with an I.V. in his arm, (contents of IV are unknown). He appeared in court along with his two son and other accused. One of whom was the former minister of Interior and security Habeeb El Adly (who is already serving 12 years sentence for corruption and could be facing the death penalty if found guilty of having a hand in the murder of the victims of the uprising for allowing the security forces to use weapons and live ammunition).
Lawyers from both sides took turns speaking in to their microphone, declaring whom they represent and what requests they would like the judge to consider during the trial. For the prosecution there were over 130 lawyers, many of whom were not permitted to enter the courtroom. Most of who represent the people and the families of the martyrs from many different governates in Egypt.
The lawyers when speaking were reciting verses of the Holy Quraan and would harp on and use fancy words and phrases, which the judge didn’t care for and insisted that the lawyers got straight to the point. At times the circus of lawyers fighting for the right and time to speak in to the microphone looked like a classroom scene where eager students were trying to answer questions to impress their teacher. At one point in time the judge insisted all the lawyers be seated and come up to the microphone one at a time in an orderly fashion. There were a few lawyers who stood out, some demanded that Gen. Tantawi be brought testify as well as Anan former Vice President Omar Soleiman. Another brought charges against the phone networks Mobinil, Vodafone and Etisalat for cutting phone lines, one lawyer pulled out and ink pad and demanded the finger prints of the former president and his sons to open a criminal file against them. The lawyer that stood out the most was the one who wanted a DNA test because he believed that the man in the cage wasn’t Hosni Mubarak but an imposter who has been posing as him since 2004, because he believes the real Hosni Mubarak is dead.
The momentous moment for me was hearing the Prosecutor read the charges against the defendants gave me chills. To see the country’s former giants in a cage in a courtroom in jump suits hearing the charges brought against them was surreal. Never did anyone in this nation think they would see the day when a former leader and his crony’s being brought to justice. Mubarak’s sons who remained standing beside their father’s bed blocking the cameras from getting a clear shot of their father were chocked up and emotional when they heard the charges against them being read.
When the judge (Rifaat) asked for the defendants to show themselves and prove that they are present and asked them how they plea to the charges that were read and brought against them and hearing their answers of ‘not guilty’ to me was a moment to remember. I didn’t think that I would ever live to see a trial of this magnitude or significance take place in Egypt.

I am glad that the Judge has split the cases, Mubarak and sons will be tried separately from Adly and his aids. Adly and aid’s case will resume tomorrow, August 4th and the Mubarak’s case will be brought back on August 15th.
Mubarak has been ordered to be held at a hospital on the outskirts of Cairo, on the Cairo Ismalia road. I know that many people felt sorry for Mubarak and believed him to be seriously ill. I am skeptical and think it’s part of an act. I do however admire his sons standing by his side and trying to block camera’s view and showed unity, (that doesnt change what I think of them though).
We have to wait and see what will happen until then…. Never the less it’s all history in the making and possibly a significant step towards true democracy.

I officially started in the field of Education in 2000, when I graduated from University. I had dreams of climbing the corporate ladder and bringing home a 6-8 figure salary by the time I was 30. Those dreams were shattered very quickly. The corporate world in Alexandria didn’t want me, a female because I would eventually want to marry and would have kids, so I wouldn’t be able to put in the time they wanted or be as dedicated as they needed me to be. So, I took a job as a Teacher Assistant at one of the schools. From there I moved to another school and was mentored by trained and qualified teachers from the U.K. It was there I caught the teaching bug and wanted to get my qualifications.

In 2006, I was told that The College of New Jersey was extending their global program to Cairo. The program is an American Teaching Certificate, where professors from the reputable College of New Jersey come for 10 days to give an intense and condensed course in the subjects needed to earn a Teaching Certificate. Tough doesn’t even begin to describe what you have to endure to get through the curriculum, readings, written assignments, projects, presentations and discussions, as well as working full-time and going to class after work until 8:30-9pm at night. With the possibility of having to go home and do assignments, project work and lots of reading! A whole semester/term in 10 days is no joke. If you commit to it, you have to REALLY want it. Social life… becomes none existent during that time or anything else for that matter. The courses would be offered as often as 3-5 times a year in order to earn teaching qualifications. 8 courses, 3 credits each to earn a teaching certificate. 11 courses, 3 credit hours each to earn a Master’s degree + a comprehensive exam.

From 2006-2008 I pushed myself like I had never done before to get through the program. I am not going to lie to you, by the 7th day you are mentally exhausted, drained of energy and sleep deprived. My own father didn’t even believe that I could do it. Truth be told, I even had my doubts. I really wanted to be certificate because it is Internationally recognized, so I persevered and pushed forward. I can tell you in all honesty, it was worth every cent spent, sacrificing my social life and every minute I took away from sleeping. In August 2008, I had earned my teaching certificate and  it opened new doors for me. I was able to work in reputable  Schools in Cairo, that only hired qualified teachers. After 2 years of continuous studying, I took time off to rejuvenate and recuperate from all the studying and enjoy life. I am just hours away from completing my Masters in Education. This final push to the finish line has made way for bigger opportunities. As of September 2011, I will be working in one of the BIG International schools in Cairo. Having this school on my CV, means that I can more or less work in any International School world-wide!

Another great thing about the program is that you have the opportunity to do courses in other countries during the year or summer. The courses are offered in Thailand and Majorca, Spain. It’s a great chance to visit new countries, experience new cultures and network. You meet teachers from around the ‘globe’.

In Cairo you also meet some very strong, inspiring and dedicated women whom really want to make a difference in their teaching, classroom and in the education system. We don’t only learn from the visiting professors, we learn a great deal from one another too. During these courses you form a friendship or a bond that is fueled by genuine desire for change. We are all in the same boat and have all decided to become the front line soldiers fighting against ignorance, striving for change and reform in the field of education here in Egypt.

Since 2006 there have been 3 classes whom have graduated with a Master’s degree in Education and there will be many more to follow in our wake.

If you are in Egypt or a neighbouring country and are considering or looking in to becoming a qualified teacher look in to the TCNJ Global Program. AUC (American University of Cairo) also offers a teaching certificate program now. Check them both out and see which best suites you.

                                                      Dedicated to making a difference one child or class at a time!

It has been almost a month since I last posted something on my blog. It isn’t due to lack of interest or something to say…it’s due to over saturation of events past and present that are preventing me from expressing myself clearly. I have tried to sit down many times to continue typing up and posting my Diary entries during the 18 days of the revolution, but reliving it whilst still going through the post revolution events was getting to be too much for my mind and my emotions to handle. To add to the turmoil neighboring countries to Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Bahrain …etc are going through similar if not worse circumstances and to relive the past with the present became too much for me to cope with.

Messages from Family members, friends and readers whom have been reading the entries and following me on twitter have encouraged me to keep writing and posting. They say that my entries paint a clear picture for them from a person who is actually living in the country. So, I will try to work through the daily distractions of current events here and in the neighboring countries to get my story written and posted.

God Bless

Diary Entry 9

Friday, 4th February 2011

 

‘Departure Friday’

 

 

I wake up with my nerves on edge. I am completely and utterly nervous. So nervous that I am nauseous filled with fear and dread. If the past two days have been bloody then God only knows what lies in store for the brave protesters today.

 

Today we anticipate more protesters to take to the streets and head towards Tahrir, but after seeing the event unfold on TV the past two days I am fearful for the lives of those who want to go, Becs and a few friends of ours too.

 

‘Please God, If you can hear me, let there be no blood shed today. Blow away those who want to inflict harm, violence and chaos.’

 

Every time I look at the clock or my watch the hands don’t appear to have moved. I feel as though everything is going in slow motion.

I sit and continue to type my diary entries out on to my lap top. As I peck away at my keyboard, I feel as though my intuition is picking up on the anxiety of everyone around me. My heart is racing, breathing heavily and a tightness forms in my chest. I try and over come the strange sensation, by taking deep breaths and exhaling slowly. Bec now is looking at me with concern and ask if I’m alright and if he can get me anything.

 

“God, I just want this day to pass”

 

Becs’s sister asks me if I want to accompany her at Makani, a café very close to the house. I think getting out of the house might be a good idea.

 

My Blackberry these days seems to be an extension of my hand. I check twitter every few minutes for up dates from trusted sources in Tahrir and in other areas of the country.

 

Friday prayer has commenced and the TV is showing rows upon rows of people worshiping, bowing and praying together shoulder by shoulder and in unison,

while others form a human chain around the people praying to protect them. The sight of the live footage on TV is empowering and moving. I am moved so much that a lump forms in my throat and my eyes begin to burn from holding back the tears.

 

This is a scene I have longed to see, where hang ups and walls between Muslims and Christians do not exist. They stand together as people, as Egyptians. I can not help but feel proud. How I want to be there and stand among them and witness the barriers between religion, classes and people come crashing down along with a regime that built it. I am thinking of ways of escaping the safety of Heliopolis to go there. A phone call from my mother quickly ends that. She calls to make sure that I am safe and nowhere near Tahrir! Grrrrrrrr

‘Are these the same people who had been fighting in self-defense the past two days?’

 

The world as I have been told by many have been glued to their TV sets for hours every day and today they will be as shocked as I am to see a different scene, a scene of unity and solidarity. Muslims and Christians standing together, what a vision, what a sight and what an example they are being to the world.

 

For the pas few years I have been teach in a school where my students have tried tirelessly to find out what faith I belong to. I never tell them because it shouldn’t matter what religion I practice. What should mater is what kind of person I am. We shouldn’t teach children to identify others by their practices. It’s wrong and that is what causes BIG problems and a huge rift in our country and society. I hope my students and the administration are watching this and will be inspired and learn from it.

 

Heba comes and joins us at Makani. I introduce her to Meeza we talk about how things are going right now in Tahrir. Heba shares my desire for wanting to go to Tahrir. She too has given her word to her parents that she won’t go. Her father calls her every day, early in the morning to make her promise that she will not go. He doesn’t want to have to worry about her, while he is out of the country. She alone understands and shares my frustration.

 

The café is filling up with more customers; the limited menu doesn’t turn them away. The change of scenery and being out of the house seems to be a common change that everyone is in need of. Being here sitting in a café makes me feel guilty. I feel as though I am not contributing or supporting. I am a firm believer in the freedom of speech, liberty and justice and for years I have been trying to break free from the chains that the country and society have tried to shackle me with and here I am sitting at a café!!!! What a hypocrite! ARGH!!!

 

I take my phone and check the tweets!

Reporters are having a tough time down on the ground. Military officials are confiscating cameras and detaining them. The safest place for them ironically is in Tahrir, where the protesters grant them refuge.

The square is turning in to a huge big out-door concert or festival with live music and dancing!

 

I should be there!

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, 2nd of February 2011

In the early hours of this morning Mubarak addressed the nation and said that he would not run for president in September and will change the government.
The speech sounded reasonable, but something told me that things weren’t going to go down well with the protesters or the public.

Later that morning Becs and I decided to walk from his house near the Baron Palace to Korba to buy a few things and stretch our legs. I don’t know how inmates or animals in the zoo adapt or cope to being kept indoors for hours on end! I just can’t stand being in doors for 17 hours a day! It’s enough to drive you loopy!! All of this because of the curfew hours that have been set. It’s enough to cause cabin fever or claustrophobia!
I needed to be out doors, smell the cleanish air, walk around, do something different.
The feeling of being cooped up brought back memories of when my family and I took the last ferry-boat leaving Jeddah to Suez after the invasion of Kuwait in the 90s. Three days locked in the First Class floor because passengers who couldn’t get cabins were sleeping on the deck and the crew didn’t want them coming in doors. I don’t think I’ve ever been so bored in my life!

Walking in Heliopolis you would find it hard to believe that there was anything going on in the country, it’s relatively peaceful and quite. The presence of the armed army vehicles that were stationed at several important government building made it real.
Walking was refreshing, I could feel the blood circulating through my body again but as we approached the center of Korba I grew sad. People walking out of stores with boxes and bags full of provisions incase there is a food or water shortage. The traffic in Korba made things feel less out of the ordinary but seeing the store windows blacked out or empty and fast food restaurants and café’s with barricaded doors just brings everything crashing down again. Is this really happening? How long will this last? How long can we as a nation endure this? Will the government be heartless and not give in to the people’s demands? Is their intention to make people starve?
The line for the ATM machine is just as long as the queue from the local ‘Forn’ (which means oven, but it’s where you can buy (I believe) the subsidized cheep bread from)

As we walk around trying to find bottle of water to drink, Becs notices that his phone was sending him facebook notifications. He thinks his eyes are deceiving him so he asks a man waiting his turn to go in to a café if the net is back. He says yes it, the signal is weak, but it’s getting stronger. YES! The government took heed and listened to foreign delegates requesting that communication be re-instated!! What a relief, we can now communicate freely with the world again. Well, almost freely, I’m sure that twitter and facebook are being very closely monitored by Egypt’s Secret Service. I guess, I have to choose my words wisely or I’ll end up on their most wanted list.
Nal, my friend in D.C will be thrilled she won’t have to call us daily to check up on us and can communicate through social media. I call my sister to tell her to see if the net is up and running in Alexandria.

I try sending people a text message, but mobile phone services haven’t fully been reinstated yet.
To keep ourselves entertained at home we buy a couple of packets of cake mix, eggs and chocolate to make icing from scratch. Marie Antoinette’s quote of ‘Let them eat cake’ was sounding in my head for some odd reason. Well, if I can’t go to the protests I may as well make cake.
Back at home, I waste no time in yanking out my laptop, setting it up, plugging it in and getting connected with the world-wide web. HOW I HAVE MISSED YOU! I busy myself reading e-mails and messages of support and concern from family and close friends. I answer every single one of them. My sister has tagged me in  the album of newly uploaded pictures and I am horrified. The scenes of last Friday in front of the building where my parents and sister live is harrowing. The clouds of tear gas, the bus and the Muhfza (governors building) a blaze. I can’t begin to relate to the horror or the fear that must have been pulsing through them at the time.Pictures of a looted and semi destroyed Carrefour in Alexandria is also very disturbing. You hear tales about places that have been looted but when you see the photos of familiar places, it really hits home.
In the midst of replying to messages, Bec’s family switch from a movie to the news and we are horrified at the images that are being brought to us from Tahrir Square. It looks like a re-enactment of one of the war scenes from the film, Braveheart. When the Scots are fighting the British to gain independence, but this wasn’t fake, it was very real. Men and women claiming to be ‘Pro-Mubarak’ supporters in Tahrir armed and attacking the protesters, but wait what’s that men on camel and horse back as well? What the hell is going on? How did this happen? Who could condone such savage and violent behavior? Protest and speak your mind, pro Mubarak or not, but attacking people and throwing cocktail bombs is just not on!
The Irish/Sa3eedi (Saeedi is what we call people from Upper Egypt, like the Newfie in Canada) blood in me was boiling; the urge to fight back was rising. I want to be there to defend, take a stand, fight and protect those that are there trying to reform a country for the well-being of the people. The majority have been peaceful, helpful and respectful and these hooligans are just being darn right barbaric!
This escalates the urgency ! Things are going from bad to worse! I HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!!! My host family will not let me leave and my family will crucify me if I go, so the only thing left to do is what I do well and that is, write!
Let me tell the world and anyone that is will to read or listen about what is going on in Egypt through my eyes.So, I begin to type until the late hours of the night.

I’ll be damned if i don’t do anything at all! If I can’t be on the ground, I will do my part some other way!

A strange name for a movie title, but once you watch the film, you understand why it is so aptly named

Let me first say, that I am not the biggest fan of modern Egyptian cinema, I find most of them a waste of a cinema ticket because they lack quality and originality, but there are a few that are worth seeing. This movie is one of the exceptions, it is a must see and I think every male in Egypt should go and watch it to know what women have to put up with on a daily basis, when they leave the safety and sanctity of their homes, just to go to school, work, visit a friend or meet up with friends.

The movie sheds a bright light on Sexual Harassment of women in Egypt and how it is brushed under the carpet like it doesn’t exist. The movie shows the life of three very different women, from different classes and backgrounds in Cairo.

The first of the three women that we meet is a veiled woman, who works in a government office and lives in what looks like a council building. She develops a fear of taking the bus, (public transportation) because some of the men on the bus tend to use the crowded bus as a cover to rub themselves up against a woman. With her limited salary she ends up spending it on taxi fare to avoid the harassment. Her shame and disgust of what men do, causes her to make excuses and push her husband away.

The second of the three women, is an affluent woman from high society and is an artists. She started giving talks of how women need to stand up against this kind of harassment and tried to encourage them to speak up and defend themselves. Her experience of sexual harassment was of the worst kind. She had accompanied her husband to the stadium to watch a football game between Egypt and another country. When the team won, she and her husband went out in to the street to celebrate with everyone else. She was snatched away by a man in the crowd and raped.

The third is a young girl in her early twenties who is from a middle class family. She had a funky but conservative way of dressing. Her Fiancé was dropping her off across the street from where she lives, when a man driving a pick up truck grabbed her by the breast and pulled her along as he drove.

Fate brings the three women together and a kinship forms between them. There is more to the movie than that, but I don’t want to spoil it all for you.

What I like about this movies is that it shows that even if you’re hair is covered and you dress very conservatively you can still be a target. For a change it shows that the women are not trying to provoke the men in any way, that it is the men, who launch themselves at women. It shows how humiliating and degrading it makes women feel, when men touch them,

I have lived in Egypt for close to 20 years now and I can tell you many stories of my own personal experience of harassment. My earliest memory was when my sister and I were walking home from one of the small shops. I must have been around 13 at the time which would have made my sister 8. I was talking to my sister as we walked and when I turned to look at her, she was gone. Some guy had just grabbed her by the arm and pulled her from my side. I turned in his direction and started yelling and screaming profanities at him, which caught people’s attention and the guy, was then beaten by shop keepers and other people in the street.
Almost two decades later, if a woman screams for help, she has a better chance of people coming to her aid if she yells ‘harami’, which means ‘thief’ than if she yelled help, because a man is attacking her. Why, well because, no one would come to her rescue, they would just think to themselves, ‘she deserved it’, ‘she provoked him’ or ‘of course he would she isn’t veiled. If she covered her head, he wouldn’t do that.’

Having lived in both in Alexandria and Cairo, I have found that the harassment is worse in Alexandria. I can’t go anywhere without hearing cat calls, having someone attempt to pinch my behind or to invade my personal space. I have learned to march not walk, wear an expression on my face that reads, ‘touch me and I’ll break your hand’. I wear sunglasses to cover my eyes so I don’t make eye contact with any of the men, so they don’t get the wrong idea or interpret it as an invitation. I make sure that I am conservatively dress, and that my clothes don’t cling to my body as another precaution.

I applaud the script writer for having written the story. I also salute the producer and director for bringing it to the big screen and creating awareness.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,654 other followers