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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. “

Another wave of turmoil hits the Middle East like a Tsunami with an Anti Islamic movie that went viral and caused hundreds of tempers to reach boiling point.

I haven’t been able to get my hands on the full film but the clip that I did see was a pitiful attempt at movie making to say the least. The quality of the cinematography was clearly of that of a rookie and the dialogue was so baseless and lifeless that I think a bunch of Elementary students could have done a better job. As for the content of the script and portrayal of the Prophet Mohammed (May Peace Be upon Him) was sick and twisted! The clip I saw portrayed him as a disoriented fool, who could be suffering from schizophrenia or was a junky of some kind that rambled on about none sense and didn’t make sense. I can now see and understand how upset, insulted and appalled Muslims around the world were.

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula (aka”Sam Bacile” or Mark Basseley Youssef) the film maker who sparked the wave of rage has proven to be a man of many names and a sly con artist with a very long rap sheet from the reports that are coming out about him. I wonder if his (wrongful) depiction of the Prophet was based on his own troubled soul?

Nakoula, an Egyptian born national collaborated with a U.S. religious group called Media for Christ. In a humors twist, these so-called “Right Wing” Christians had their dubbed anti-Islamic film directed by a pornographer (thought I recognized the 80’s style from somewhere). Forgive my ignorance…but, ummmm, doesn’t pornography go against Christian beliefs? Secondly why would they dream of having a director who directs sinful media associated with their ‘Media for Christ’? Surly, Christ himself wouldn’t condone such a person to make a film on his behalf and secondly the Son of God (Prophet or Messiah depending on your belief ) who endured crucifixion for his love of humanity wouldn’t want such a ‘Blasphemous’ film being made and have his name associated with it. After all aren’t we all God’s children?

Nakoula and the other right-wing people behind the making of this poor excuse for a documentary film knew exactly what would happen the moment his film was released to the public. He may have anticipated rage, which would then heighten the popularity of his poorly made and fact less movie but I doubt he could have known to what degree the anger would have reached and that blood would be shed.  I do wonder if he ever for one moment put his own people, by own people I mean the Coptic community of Egypt into consideration? Did he not think that this could backfire and that people might turn violent on them and persecute them for his stupid actions?

The reaction to the movie I can understand. The actions that people took, I DO NOT and I certainly DO NOT and cannot justify in any shape or form. In my opinion it was over reacted, only to fuel media interest and popularity in the movie. The attacking of Embassies, Ambassadors and Embassy employees was uncalled for and barbaric. Reactions like these just fuel the false impression and misconception that the world has about people from Egypt, Middle East and Muslims. When we go out with hot heads and tempers blazing they are ready and waiting to catch it on tape to stream on their networks to make us out to be the crazed ‘savages’ that they have painted us to be. Fueling ignorance and making us out to be psychotic trigger happy ignoramuses ready to declare ‘jihad’ and kill at a drop of a hat.

I don’t know about you, but I am sick and tired of hearing that we are all terrorists, uneducated, uncivilized….bla bla bla bla bla!!  Violent reactions like these make those avid watchers of FOX network think that what they are watching and what they are being told is true. It makes them out to be right in the eyes of the public and we keep playing into the palm of their hands. We need to STOP, THINK about our actions before we react and the best way to shatter the public’s image of us is to beat them at their own game. The best way I have found to beat bullies is to ignore them or to treat them nicely, (easier said than done, I agree. Then again nothing comes easy, but every time we resist the urge to fall into their trap and they find less to say to fuel their image would be well worth the effort.  It takes a lot to bite your tongue and not want to slap someone, but it can be done. If Gandhi could do it, then by George so can we!)

WE ARE BETTER THAN THIS!!! We have thousands of years of history, culture and ancient CIVILIZATIONS that WE originate from! The world of Mathematics and Science is what it is today because of OUR ancestors. Let us not forget that and while we are at it, let’s remind them and show them who we truly are.

Let us not allow the minorities that are captured on film doing these acts be the source of people labeling us and the basis for their generalization of people from the region. They do not represent me, they do not reflect who I am and I know they do not reflect the majority.

 

In the very early hours of Sunday morning my sister and her husband arrived from England for their annual two-week visit to Egypt to visit family and friends. During their stay, I though I would make their lives a little easier by lending them my car to help them get about in Alexandria as well as Cairo rather than relying on people for rides or public transportation. While I was at work they made their way to Alexandria to spend their first week there.

At around 11:30 pm I was awoken from my slumber to the sound of my blackberry ringing and a illuminated screen with a name across the screen. I would usually ignore any calls while I’m getting my rest, but I found it odd that my sister would be ringing at such an hour. When I answered I could sense that she was in no mood for pleasantries and wanted to get straight to the point. “Hi, did you have anything of value in the car?” Having just woken up unexpectedly, my brain got another jolt! (thinking to myself) ‘Why would she be asking me such a question at this time of night???? (brain kicks into gear) unless ‘…)  “No, nothing of value, just change in coins and my CDs, WHY?” I ask waiting to her the answer I already knew. “Someone broke into your car by smashing the passenger window and stole both license plates off your car and the car emblems, nothing appears to be stolen from inside, we are on our way to the Police Station to report it now.”

Upon hearing news like this, you would have expected me to have had more of reaction, but I took it really well and had no trouble going back to sleep. When I woke the next morning the memory of the conversation came crashing down on me like a tidal wave! License plates stolen, window broken …WTH!? Thoughts of the pains taking task that lay ahead to get the report stamped with the Egyptian Police seal, to go to the Traffic headquarters to get all the papers needed to replace the stolen plates with new ones and reissue a new car license with the new plate numbers on is worse than registering a newly bought car!! Then thoughts of my sister and her husband came to mind. They hadn’t been in the country 24 hours and this happens to them? Geez! That is not the way to start your vacation.

After work I called my Mom who gave me an update on the situation. She said it took my sister and her hubby a while to file the report and they didn’t get home till after 1am. She and my Dad (God Bless Them) got up at 8am to begin procedures to replace the plates and issue a new car license as well as running other errands in the scortching heat.

It turns out, my sister had arranged to meet a lot of her friends at the Greek Club by the tram in Alexandria the evening of her first day there. She had parked on the tram side of the street next to the club, which is where she has always parked pre and post revolution. While they were inside catching up with their friends the security guard came in and told one of the regulars that there was a space in front of the club for him to move his car too. Jokingly my sister said ‘What it’s not safe to park by the side of the club anymore?’ The security guard and friends said that is wasnt. The guard said he’d go and look and see if there was a place for her to move her car to, not long after going out to check he returned and informed the owner of the restaurant in the club that my car had been targeted. Apparently that area is watched by a gang of window smashing, plate stealing jerks!

Earlier that day, my sister’s friends had gone to Cairo and the very same thing had happened to them. Passenger window broke, plates stolen, but their car was taken, but later found with the wires dangeling down from the dashboard, (it had been hot wired) and quite a few items stolen from inside the car.

The reason the gang choose to smash the passenger window is because many people keep the car license in the car’s glove compartment. The license plates are taken to put on other cars transporting drugs and if caught, the plates won’t be traced back to them but to the owner of the car they stole the plates from! God forbid if the same should ever happen to you, report it immediately because if you don’t you’ll be held liable for any crime the plates have been involved in. Secondly do not leave your car license in your vehicle, because if you do and they take it, well they have evidence of owner ship and could sell it or find some other use for it.

I am very grateful that my sister and brother-in-law were not harmed in any way and that the car wasn’t stolen. I am also very grateful to them and my Dad for taking car of all the legal procedures in my absence and getting it all done.

Let this be a warning to you out there, be careful where you park the car. Try and avoid poorly lit streets.

Since the Revolution the crime rate appears to have risen drastically. Crimes like these occurred during the Mubarak rule, but they wouldn’t be as frequent because thieves knew what the consequences would be if they were ever to get caught. Now, it’s like a popular past time or accepted profession!

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!

When I was little, I used to come to Egypt in the summers to visit my grandmother in Alexandria. This would have been in the 1980s and I can remember the electricity constantly going on and off, especially at night and we would have candles lit in the room we were all sitting in and down the hallway and outside in the stairwell in case someone in the building got caught in the dark. As a young nipper I thought it was fun, but with the global warming and hot temperatures that we have now, I fail to make light of the situation.

The power cuts started to make a come back this past May and I know many people are blaming the newly elected President for this, (which personally just baffles me, because last I checked he wasn’t an electrician and he doesn’t spend his time at the power plants, but HEY! what do ‘I’ know?).

The person I think people’s anger should be directed at, is the Minister of Energy. If he had been doing his job to the best of his ability by calculating the population growth, with the number of air conditioners that have been purchased in recent years, as well as the number of illuminating billboards we see in the streets …etc I think he could have gotten a ball park figure of how much energy would be needed and how the number of watts being used has increased dramatically over the past decade.

Secondly, I recently read in an Al Ahram article that they are only now just cutting off electricity for people who are way behind in paying their bills. By people I don’t only mean private citizens but factories, business and shop keepers? When the man who goes round reading the electricity meters and takes down the number carrying a  hand-held briefcase or pouch with bills, why doesn’t he ask them to pay and if after two to three months of not paying why hasn’t he informed the power station so that they can turn off his electricity so that they do pay up? (Is this another side of corruption that we are unaware of?)

I am dreading moving back to Cairo in two weeks time if this is what I am going to have to put up with. The heat is unbearable as it is and I don’t want to have to constantly climb up and down 6 flights of stairs or teach students under extreme weather conditions can you imagine how hot and bothered a room full of 24 eight year olds will be? (It would be on a par with a waiting room of expecting mothers!)

Secondly, the street lamps should not be among the lights that should be sacrificed to keep energy flowing. Streets should be well-lit, for the safety of those on the road and pedestrians.

If over consumption of electricity is occurring then wouldn’t it be logical to communicate with the public, make them understand and possibly even campaign about it to educate the public and students of the problem at hand and how they might be able to help?

The power shortages are not just happening in one area, they are happening across the country and for the residence. I bet it’s really frustrating, especially during the month of Ramadan, when they are fasting from sunrise to sunset and they can’t drink any fluids to help cool their body temperatures, let alone using a fan!

I really hope that the situation doesn’t escalate and that things are more under control by the time I am back, otherwise I will be joining the hot tempered masses.

What I don’t understand is why the water keeps being cut off too?

Al Ahram Article;  http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2012/1108/eg5.htm

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;

The recent story of foreign journalist Natasha J. Smith has been circulating Cyber Space. The reviews of the journalist’s first hand account of what happened to her in Tahrir Square has been received with mostly horror, embarrassment and extreme disappointment. While others are somewhat skeptical and feel like the whole story is a hoax and made up OR exaggerated. Here’s the link to her account, read it yourself if you already haven’t ( http://natashajsmith.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/please-god-please-make-it-stop/ )

I shared the link on facebook and I have to admit that I was shocked at some of the men’s responses to the blog post. Their inability to understand the trauma of the situation of being attacked by a large group of men and having no one come to your aid. From the perspective of an Egyptian, I can understand where they are coming from. Egyptians are/were known as very generous, helpful and friendly people whom welcome tourists and foreigners to their land, but less and less of a positive image is being seen by my fellow country men and women these days. It seems to be one that has been replaced with contempt, hate and maybe even jealousy.

After my mother had read Natasha’s account, it triggered a memory of an instance that occurred 30 years ago here in Egypt, during one of her visits.

” I was here on holiday from Canada with my two year old, who had never experienced swimming in the sea. My husband’s family owned a villa on the beach in Agami, ( a popular beach resort just outside of Alexandria). My husband had business to attend to in Sidi Kreer and suggested that I go to the villa with our daughter so that I could enjoy the beach and the sea. The villa was situated on the beach, so it’s not as though I had to walk far to get to the water. It was a case of walking directly from the terrace on to the sand. “

“I was ignorant to the culture and the social taboos of the land and I was obviously a foreigner. Blond hair, blue eyes and fair skin and everyone appeared to be extremely friendly. So, I ventured forth with my two year old in my arms wearing my one piece swimsuit, which by western standards was quite modest. I walked the few meters to the shore and entered the water. As I entered the water, my daughter was nervous once the water lapped against her legs and clung to me tightly and I was talking to her calmly and explained to her that there was nothing to fear…etc. As I was continuing to walk into the water reassuring her that she was safe, I was momentarily unaware of what was happening around me. Until I felt something grab at my crutch area. I almost stumbled, but righted myself and began to realise what was happening around me. I was waist deep in sea water, surrounded by about 10-15 men who were systematically diving underwater and groping me. The beach was crowded with men, women and children who were watching the scene with what appeared to be great amusement at the antics of these people. It got so bad, that I was losing my footing and about to submerge underwater still holding my daughter and I was calling for help. Nobody came to my rescue, fortunately I had the key to the villa clutched in my hand, with the point of it facing downwards, I was frantically stabbing their heads as they came up for air. Eventually I was able to fight my way out of the water trembling with shock and disbelief that people who called out friendly remarks and welcomed you to their country could see the horror that was unfolding and not do anything. Not one person came to my aid or my daughter’s aid. There must have been at least a hundred people watching and what shocked me most was that they found it extremely amusing.  How they would have reacted if it had been one of their own, I don’t know, but the feeling I got was, because I was a foreigner then I was seen as ‘fair game’. ” By this time my daughter was screaming and I was trying to fight my way out of the water and to the safety of the villa. It was anger and adrenaline that saved me.”

“My husband although Egyptian had left Egypt when he was seventeen years of age and Agami was a very deserted beach in those days, where you could swim freely without any problem, he was unaware of how much the culture had changed in his absence. “

“It has left a lasting scare and impression on my psyche but I do know that if Egyptians KNOW you and know your husband’s family it’s a totally different story. They do come to your aid as has happened to me in a couple of situations since then. As for this young journalist, I truly believe that what she wrote is genuine and is totally possible and accurate because of my own experience.”

-K.E -IrishAlexandrian’s Mum

This clearly isn’t a ‘NEW’ phenomenon that  has suddenly plagued our land, it has been here for quite some time but there is more and more light being shed on the stories that are surfacing thanks to modern media.

Men do not experience such traumatic experiences, they should be grateful. However, a part of me truly wishes that those who do harass women, have similar experiences so that they can get a taste of their own medicine and think twice before they attempt to invade a woman’s personal space.

PARENTS and TEACHERS, hear our plea, educate your sons on how to treat women ! It is up to us to eradicate this growing cancer that is polluting the minds of many.

President MorsiIf you haven’t been following the news lately and haven’t heard that Egypt has its first elected civilian president, then you need to get with the times!

The past couple of days the population anxiously awaited the election results of the country’s first Democratic elections. The days leading up to the announcement the air was heavy, the conspiracy theories were flying around like moths to a flame. The majority of the nation predicted that Shafik would win since he had rubbed elbows with many of the big guns in the army. The thought of former President Mubarak’s Prime Minister as head of state infuriated so many that it drove hundreds if not thousands of people back to Tahrir square. The idea of having a member of the former regime  as head of state would mean that the Revolution and the death of those who gave their lives to end dictatorship was for nothing.

As Sultan read the reams of papers pertaining to the election process, number of votes from abroad and all the governorates, people were guessing who the next president would be right up until the last second. When he announced Morsi had won by the skin of his teeth the celebratory cheers of jubilation were heard throughout the nation, fireworks were set a light and gunfire rang out too.

I am not one who likes to jump to conclusions or assume I know someone or can guess their plans, so I would prefer to wait and see what our new President will do before I pass judgment on him. I can however pass judgment on some of those who chose him for what I believe to be the WRONG reasons.

Sunday, the day following the announcement a woman on twitter tweeted posted the following; “الوندر ولية المصرية@BerbelNinja

Random stranger to me while I’m walking to work: “aho morsy galkom w haylemik enty w el sharameet el zayik. Ya kafra”. Awesome start.”

( Translation: here, Morsi has come to you and he will teach you and the other whores like you, you none believer)

5 young girls between the ages of 10 and 12 were in Montaza, Alexandria yesterday. They had left the beach dressed in shorts and a t-shirt to go to get some food from McDonald’s, when a group of manaqabeen (fully covered women) said; Tomorrow Morsi will teach you how to dress.

A journalist friend of mine, posted this as her status on facebook;  “Yesterday, while waiting for my friend at the airport, I heard this Egyptian guy, who had just arrived from God knows where, “boasting,” to his family that he said “Fuck you Bitch,” to a tourist who was crying and saying she doesn’t want to visit Egypt again, after she realized that her luggage was lost at the arrivals. Nice! That’s how you treat the tourists! Idiot.”

I concur if we are not going to bring the tourists back to boost our economy and keep the history of our ancestors alive. Does this mean that we will be solely dependent on the investment from Gulf countries.

If this ‘IS’ what THE PEOPLE of Egypt are expecting and want for our country, then I am greatly perturbed and worry for the rights of women and their future in the coming years. I have been in the field of education for 11 years now and I have been fighting against ignorance tooth and nail. I am not one to throw in the towel or declare defeat, but if this is what the country is coming to, I will NOT go down with the ship.  It pains me to say so, but I don’t want to be hidden under a long cloth and be silenced. It isn’t me or how I was raised.

I AM independent, I AM intelligent, I do have a purpose other than being a child barer and slave in the kitchen and I fully intend on staying that way too.

(picture in the post was copied from; http://www.albawaba.com/news/morsi-working-formation-new-government-431356)

As a woman living in Egypt for the past 20+ years I have seen the deterioration of men’s respect for women first hand. I remember when I first moved to Egypt at the age of 12 and going for walks in Alexandria with my mother. You would get the occasional cat calls and you would get one guy who would try an invade your space and try to touch you. For everyone guy who did try to sexually harass a woman you would have 10 others who would come to your defence demonstrating chivalry. Now, it’s the complete opposite!

The greater percent of the men of this nation would stand by and watch a woman being harassed rather than come to her aid. I recently came across a post on facebook about a foreign journalist who has had one of the most harrowing and traumatic experiences that I have ever read or come across here in Egypt. It saddens me that some of the men and women who saw what was happening didn’t try to come to her aid.

This has got to stop before it gets out of control, because if it doesn’t any woman who looks remotely foreign, has her hair showing or isn’t covered from head to toe!

 

PLEASE READ and Pass it on !

http://natashajsmith.wordpress.com/?like=1&_wpnonce=a982312bd5&wpl_rand=6ee9fbeb5d

Family

Here I am, a thirty something year old whom for the first time feels like she has gained more independence since having moved out of the safety and comfort of her parent’s house about eight years ago and yet now that I have my very own pair of walking shoes to go on great adventures to travel to far off places, to have experiences of my own and to create my own repertoire of stories to tell the next generation. I find myself hesitant …

In International teaching, you find that there is a lot of vacation time and being where I am, traveling to Europe, Asia and Africa is just one short plane ride away. Unlike my colleagues, I don’t plan my trips in advance. I prefer going home to Alexandria to spend time with my family.

I have found that people are spending less time with their family and losing out on the wisdom, stories and family bonding that was once so important 4-5 generations ago. Living so far away from my maternal relatives has hindered our relationship and I feel that gap between us is so big that we have become strangers, (with the exception of one or two).

There are times where I want to do something different and experience new things in far off lands, go on a safari or something of the sort, where I’ll have the opportunity to meet new people and observe foreign cultures first hand, BUT I also feel that if I do go, that I’ll be losing time that I could be spending with my family. Let’s face it our parents have invested a lot of time in raising and looking after us and once we are set free to earn our own living our lives get so busy and we are so absorbed in the drama that fogs our sight and engulf our every waking moment that we spend less time with them and sometimes lose focus on whom we have in our lives and how precious they are. I love spending time with my parents.I feel like I learn more about myself and traits when I’m with them. It also keeps me grounded and true to my origins. A person should never forget where they came from in order to be able to move forward and become who they are destined to be.

I do know and recognize that I can’t keep doing this and I need to broaden my horizons more, but it’s a double edged sword. Our parent’s aren’t around forever and neither are we if we think about it. The only thing we have is ‘now’, limited time and it’s a gift. We need to use it wisely and not waste it on trivial things. That’s all I can advise and say.

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