Thursday, September 22, 2011

Like in a movie

Yesterday evening, I took a bus to the fruit and vegetable market in Dahar. The journey lasted an eternity and a bit more:

While wonderful romantic Arabic pop music was playing from the loud speakers, the bus driver determinedly drove through Hurghada’s nocturnal streets. Brightly lit shops, scantily dressed tourists and their half-naked partners stroll in front of shops and cafés, enjoying the mild temperatures and getting dazzled and bewitched by the busy oriental atmosphere or by the dismantling smile of the shop assistants and their language knowledge.

The microbus hurries on, stops here and there because a passengers calls „ala gamb“, because another one on the roadside gives a sign with his arm to get on the bus. The brightly lit row of shops is scurrying past by as in an assembly line, melting together to flashy photos. Some distance further on, there is another view in the cold neon light: old and young, fat and slim, simple men in traditional kaftans and white caps are sitting at shaky wooden tables, sipping tea, playing backgammon and exchanging news. Children are jumping up and down barefoot on the dirty sidewalk, playing, shouting, arguing. Elaborately piled mangoes, grapes, pomegranates, potatoes, tomatoes and onions are waiting for customers in small red and brightly lit stalls.

Three tall, heavy men in traditional clothes climb into the bus. They hardly manage to squeeze through the seats, jolting the other passengers while chatting loudly. The fattest of them is narrating all kind of tales of which I can catch some words only… until a young passenger exclaims: you’re a liar! The passengers are grinning and I can hardly withhold laughing out loudly while the other one continues shouting: you’re a liar! You’re a liar! Somewhere, the tall fat man and his friends get off the bus, banging his head on the door, babbling and gabbling on while walking away from the bus.

The movie goes on: outside of the window pane, old, skinny men are sitting cross-legged outside a mosque, smoking shisha, sternly glancing onto the street, into the bus, out into the nowhere. They are always sitting here: in the day, at night, in the morning, in the evening… waiting for work or something else that will never come.

More shops, furniture, cars, tools, fire extinguishers, brightly lit, the honking noise and the still romantic Arabic music are mingling with each other into a dream, a movie.

Outside, a bar stops beside the microbus, it’s somehow familiar to me…. No, the other way round: the bus stops beside the bar: terminal stop.

I would miss it. Really, if I ever leave this place, I would miss all that…

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sad times

My friends at home keep on asking me, if Egypt is still safe for tourists (and for me).

Hurghada is safe. Most probably it’s the safest place all over Egypt – besides Sharm El-Sheik (and the police academy in Cairo, where the trials against the representatives of the old regime are held). But no one wants to go to Sinai, as a friend who is living over there recently told me. Hurghada is full of tourists; Sheraton Street – the main shopping street downtown – coffee shops in El Memsha and in the Marina are crowded to overflow. Downtown, on bypass and arterial roads, the police is on duty. Usually, electricity, water and petrol are available, there are hardly any walkouts and HEPCA’s employees scavenge the streets and empty the trash cans. There’s now security around my neighbourhood: at each entrance, a gate has been installed and the one who wants to pass through it, either needs to be a resident or has to hand over his ID card to the security.

Outside of Hurghada’s safe world, it looks quite different. Across Egypt, employees are on strike: teachers, post office employees, scavengers, police men, doctors, lawyers, bus drivers… continue to badly affect Egypt’s economy with their walkouts. Their demands are: higher wages, long-term employment agreements (which include social insurance), replacement of bosses, dismissing foreigners, better working conditions, out of revenge and many others.

At the same time, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is strengthening censorship. The one who speaks out against the SCAF better resigns from his job or has to face judgment before the military tribunal without the right to defend oneself and soon after might find oneself behind bars. One has better shut up since the emergency law has recently been reactivated. Under the emergency law, anybody can be detained without “any reason whatsoever” (in quotation marks, since one of the two parties always puts a reason forward). The SCAF struggles to show strength. However, power lies in the hands of those thousands who broke out of prisons (respectively who have been freed by the police and criminals that are interested in creating chaos). Armed robberies in broad daylight, on busy roads, break-ins in residential areas und kidnappings are meanwhile a daily occurrence. Clans make the best out of the lawless situation and settle old scores among themselves whether for religious reasons or just for so-called inadmissible statements…

Egypt has become unguided.

The foreigner who wishes to visit all those amazing historical sites between Alexandria and Abu Simbel better travels with a well organised group, preferably accompanied by security. This is my very personal recommendation and I am anything else than a coward and not really very careful. Stay away from travelling individually as a foreigner. Better wait one or two months and meanwhile enjoy the beauties of sun and sea in Sharm El Sheik or Hurghada and surroundings. The next couple of months will show which way Egypt will choose. Actually, I can’t imagine more chaos, although there are people who predict a scenario even worse than the one the country is going through at present. I personally plan to travel not before October, provided the security situation has improved. I’ve still got some plans in my mind…

Monday, September 12, 2011

9/11 commemoration and bombs

The whole world is commemorating the events that shocked the Western world on September 11, 2001.

At the same time, the Western world is bombing an Arabic country, Libya, in the name of the NATO. These are two headlines on the very same day.

One should reflect on this from the Arab world’s view…

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Emergency law activated

Last week, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces promised to abolish the emergency law that has run for thirty years. The abrogation of this emergency law was a core demand of the demonstrators.

Today it was fully reactivated, on ground of last night’s events. I wonder if the SCAF will, by doing so, be able to get the country and its safety under control again.
Good bye democracy, good bye human rights, good bye revolution!

Israeli Embassy attacked

Israel’s Embassy in Cairo has been attacked – this was the first news I read this morning. First I thought: oh no, not that? Is there anything more stupid coming to their mind?

For months, one terrible news follows another in this country. Last week’s events reflect what is going on:

  • All over the country, post employees are on strike; that means many people can’t obtain cash and companies are blocked
  • Football fans are clashing with the police and recently have mixed with demonstrators
  • Islamists want to ban bikinis and alcohol – goodbye tourism
  • In future, individually travelling tourists should request their visa from the Egyptian Embassy in their respective countries prior to travelling to Egypt, instead, as until now, upon arrival at the airport
  • At former President Mubarak’s trial including his sons, former interior minister El Adly and his aids, turmoils occur regularly: lawyers yell at and physically attack each other, family members of those died during the uprising do the same; the judge has to stop the hearings repeatedly because of those turmoils; outside the police academy – where the trial is held – Mubarak supporters and opponents end up in bloody clashes.
  • Every Friday – for seven months already! – there are demonstrations on Tahrir square in downtown Cairo – yesterday supported by many cities all over the country

If lawyers behave uncivilised in front of a judge, what is going on in the middle and lower class people’s head and soul? Sheer fury, anger, hatred, frustration – nothing else.

Is this the reason why Israel’s Embassy has been attacked? How is it possible that an Embassy is not being protected more carefully by his host country? Especially after the recent border disputes during which Egyptian guards were shot “unintentionally”? Or is there maybe reckoning behind? Is there a group that is interested to sow more instability and conflicts? The Near East is alaready in an upheaval… Yet what if the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt becomes void and Israel finds itself „alone“ amidst of „Arabs“? What else will we have to face then?

What initially seemed to be a rather stormy, but controllable wave, is gradually developing to a mature tsunami: the enormous waves that are rushing all over Egypt from all sides (even from within) are on the verge of destroying everything.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Feast days in Hurghada

Actually, feasts are something enjoyable. And in fact, I am truly happy for those who have something to celebrate.

However, when there are more important feast days in Egypt, as it is the case at present after Ramadan, I do prepare myself for inconveniences. Why? Hurghada is being flooded by “better-off” Egyptians from Cairo and Alexandria and I don’t know from where else, that are able to afford a couple of holidays in Hurghada. This year’s Eid Al-Fitr looks like this from my personal experience:

Riding peacefully my bicycle in the early morning hours, a car is suddenly at the same level and driving the same pace. First, I do not react but then, I turn my head and click! a picture is taken from me by some shortly the puberty escaped Egyptians. The car is full of this kind of guys. After having successfully taken a picture, they accelerate. Have I meanwhile become a point of interest?

Normally, I wisely avoid going downtown on one of those holidays, but that’s not always possible. So I am waiting at about noon at the roadside for a microbus. One of those posh cars (preferably a Mercedes Benz or BMW) is slowly driving up and stops in front of me. The occupants (see above) glare at me as if they had never seen a decently dressed European female.

In the evening, I am waiting at the roadside for a microbus. It’s been dark since 7pm. Slowly, a car is approaching with full beam and flashing like a taxi driver; full beam so that I can’t see anything. The occupants (this time older and fat) examine me and then accelerate. Am I a prostitute? When finally a microbus is arriving, I greet the driver in relief with an “Alhamdulillah” (Thanks God) through the window.

My mobile phone is ringing and I answer the call in hope for a new student. A man is introducing himself in half Arabic, half English with his name as a doctor in his sixties. I do not understand him completely and ask if he wants to learn English. No, he says, not really. He wants to marry me!

Dear Egyptians: not all European female are buyable and not every one of them unconditionally wish to have one of you. When do you get this?

Fortunately, in Egypt as well, feast days find their end. What remains is the question whether I prefer the short time harassment of the rich or the on-going daily harassment of the workers and peasants ;-) …