A Moment of Epiphany
Cairo’s Youth – what is really going on? Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll? Sort of…I’ve had and continue to have the privilege to witness the progression of young Egyptians in to the new age. What do I see? Do I like what I see? These are questions which occupied my mind over the two weeks I spent in Egypt.
I had an important Christmas party to attend to the day I arrived and as Egyptians take their social outings quite seriously, I was expected (after two days of sleep deprivation) to make an entrance. After spending a mere 90 minutes with my family at home, I got myself in to a cab and headed to Giza.
‘It’s absolutely great to be back!’ I told the cab driver with utter zeal. As he offered me a cigarette (which I refused), he responded without hesitation, ‘there is no place like Egypt, your home, our home.’ ‘I completely agree!’ I replied, being away from the country for a year. I was astonished to hear such a positive response given the political and socio-economic ebbs and flows which the country had gone through over the past year.
‘You know? I am thinking of moving back within a year,’ I told him eagerly, ‘WHAT?!’ he interrupted me. I was taken aback, as soon as I uttered those words he went on a 5 minute rant about how corrupt, backward and oppressive Mubarak’s government is. ‘Why the hell would you want to move from the United States of America back to Egypt?!’ he asked curiously. A little baffled with his schizophrenic opinions, I told him that I felt obliged to serve my country as an American-educated Egyptian.
The cab driver was stunned to hear what I had to say. I suppose he was quite intrigued by the fact that given my educational background (and residency in the US), I was not entirely captivated by America – the sine qua non of capitalism.
‘No!’ I responded to him, ‘I don’t believe that America is the greatest nation in the world, it has positives and negatives just like anywhere else, just like here!’
I knew that his initial comments were too good to be true. I was used to the ranting of the average Egyptian but at the same their peculiar essence of pride. For a moment the cab driver felt that I was giving a sense of reality, “the grass is not always greener on the other side,” I told him nonchalantly, “we, Egyptians and Arabs have a long, long way to go but there is hope…”
I began to see a subtle nod of approval and thought to myself, Egypt needs another Gamal Abdel Nasser – the symbolic epitome of nationalism, someone to drive hope and optimism in the hearts and minds of the people; someone for them to believe in; someone to revolutionize their daily lives.