Tuesday, December 27, 2011


What’s this?

Once more, I am sitting on the front seat in a microbus, beside the driver. This is my favourite seat also in winter, except when the side window cannot be closed – because then, it is simply too cold.

I look unbelievingly at the rear mirror: this is not a rear mirror but a screen of about 20 to 12 centimetres and there are people moving about! A video! In fact, there is a movie on! I can’t refrain from laughing. The other passengers behind me are enjoying themselves and so does the driver.

It must be challenging to drive a microbus, focus on the traffic, stop on demand to let passengers get on and off and watch a video at the same time. However, no problem for Egyptians!

While I am thinking about it and wondering what the police might have to say, the bus passes by an important junction in full speed. Only seconds later, the driver gets aware of it and stops on the roadside. Without any hesitation, he goes into reverse gear, reverses against the traffic into an impasse, turns and drives against the traffic back to the junction that he missed.

That’s no problem at all. Phantasy and creativity are part of Egypt’s daily routine.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Eleven months later

During the last weeks and months, terrible things have happened in Egypt. Since January 25 everything has deteriorated.

I am closely following the events and sometimes, I have the opportunity to discuss things with Egyptians. However, it is difficult to keep track on what is going on. Lots of questions are in my mind and the lack of understanding makes it sometimes impossible for me to write. Besides, this is not a political blog.

But it’s a blog about my life in Egypt and this is why I try to give an overview from my very personal point of view.

Mubarak’s overthrow on February 11, 2011, was an event of utter joy for liberally thinking people and created much hope for a better future. Eleven months later, nothing is left from this joy. It rather feels like a lethal hangover after a hilarious party with accidents and disasters in the aftermath. Suddenly one becomes aware what should have been done differently – or what should have been omitted.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Shadows of the night

The sand is absorbing the determined, firm steps. No moon. Pitch dark. The wall’s shadows can be discerned only faint-heartedly. Yet after a while, they are shaping forms: roofs, balconies, windows, doors. Somewhere, a dog is barking without any reason until another dog joins this useless barking.

Otherwise, everything is quiet. On the black night sky, sparkling spots are shining. They stay up there recklessly and firmly, squandering their timeless beauty randomly on all those who care to see them. The steps hesitate… halt in order to catch this beautiful view up there.

Something unknown… dark… is moving off the way. Amidst the darkness. It takes the breath away, the steps hasten, the eyes let go of the beauty in the sky and unconfidentially grab hold of the dark. Nothing can be seen, nothing can be heard. However, the shadow approaches. Two shadows. Many shadows. The pulse races, the steps remain firm and determined.

The tall and slim shadows hover as in dancing over the uneven ground. The sand is absorbing their steps; their long flittering robes merge with the dark of the night. They disappear behind a wall… just to emerge anew some seconds later. They approach and dissolve again in the darkness’ twilight.

The street is near; the street lights cast its warm light into the dark. What a relief.

Yet… what is going on there, in the darkness?

The shadows vividly move to and fro. Silent laughter sounds over… Teenagers in the dark. Long caftans playing tag, a child’s play. What else? How foolish!

Friday, December 16, 2011

This time the military

Once again, violent attacks on protestors. Once again. people standing on roofs throwing down stones, glass, molotov cocktails and furniture on protestors. Once again, gunshots. Once again, there are injured and dead people. Once again, state TV is informing about attacks by protestors against the military (sic)!

Yet there is also something new: the (independent) media clearly calls the attackers by their name: the military. Up to now, it was either the police, the central security police or hired thugs. But now it’s the military! Photos and eye witnesses tell that even women of all age, with head scarves and fully veiled were brutally beaten as well.

All this after the transition Prime Minister El-Ghanzouri promised: no violent banishment of demonstrators any more. He allegedly has received full power – except the one over the military. Exactly!

Once again questions linger: what’s the military’s aim? What’s the SCAF’s aim? What will happen next in this country that is tumbling faster after each sunrise?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Additional turn

They are getting off the bus. Germans or Swiss, I suppose. They live nearby. Getting around by microbus as I do.

Soon after, an Egyptian is getting on the microbus and hands to the driver a bag that was left on the seat. I tell the driver – once more I am sitting on the front seat – that it’s the foreigners’ bag, for sure. He stops immediately, turns and hurries back to where they got off the bus. I think they went to that direction over there. The driver goes on, searching, honking, changes the direction and surprise: the couple got attracted by the car honking and approaches the microbus in great relief.

They get their bag – the driver gets five pounds. I feel a bit ashamed about this mingy reward. But I guess the foreigners were far too surprised to react appropriately.

The driver returns to his normal itinerary and excitedly tells how recently a bag with money, mobile phone and passports were left in his bus – and how he could, hours later, hand it over to its owners. He talks about this as if it was the most common thing in the world: returning any valuables to its owner. And in fact it is, isn’t it? Even in Egypt…


Since the results of the elections‘ first stage have become known, fear is spreading around. There is fear that Egypt might become a radical Islamic country such as Iran or Saudi Arabia. The idea that the Muslim Brothers (40% of the votes) and Salafis (20% of the votes) might co-operate is more than hair-rising.

Egyptians are religious, however, they gleam from zest of life and don’t want anybody to interfere and dictate how they should live their lives. To impose prohibition of music on people who start singing, clapping their hands and dancing on any occasion? I just saw this on the vegetable market: the farmers sang and clapped their hands next to their booth in broad daylight!

Fear is felt among the Copts; they fear that there will be even more constraints and harassment. And so do women who have been fighting for their rights since the twenties. And all those who fought for the overturn of regime feel betrayed, once more.

However, not everybody shares this apprehension. So far, only one third of the elections for the lower house have taken place. Chances are that the liberals are able to attract more attention from the ordinary people and to get their votes – however there is only little time and they (the liberals) neither get financial support from Qatar (Muslim Brothers) nor from Saudi Arabia (Salafis) in the range of millions of US dollars. Chances are that vote rigging gets enabled – however, considering the present chaos this scenario seems rather unlikely. Chances are that the Muslim Brothers enter a coalition with the liberals and distance themselves distinctly from the radical Salafis. On the occasion of yesterday’s and today’s run-offs, members from the two parties fought harshly against each other. This might change again, but I simply can’t imagine that the Muslim Brothers could unite with the Salafis.

However, one forgets over all the Islamophobia that Egypt definitely has other much more serious problems to face than alcohol prohibition, coercion of the headscarf and dress codes for tourists. This country urgently needs investments requiring legal security and stability. It needs an increase of the agricultural output (Egypt is the largest wheat importer!). Corruption must be eliminated. Emergency law has to be abolished. The educational system urgently needs to be improved. Privatisation has to be pushed forward. Subsidies that are wrongly allocated have to be abolished. Environmental pollution needs to be combatted. Any subjects can arbitrarily be added to this list because all domains of this country have decayed during 30 years of dictatorship.

The Salafis don’t seem to be able to get all this done. They got their votes thanks to threat, propaganda and gifts. This is not an option in politics in the long run. It would imply that people continue remaining poor and illiterate.

Sober-minded people argue that only the Muslim Brothers are the ones to be able to approach Egypt’s huge problems. They have eighty years of experience and many of them are successful businessmen and entrepreneurs – last but not least in tourism.

Last week, I got my visa extension for another year and was very happy about it. Especially, because during the last couple of months some residence permits were not renewed any more. Yet, after the elections’ results, me too I thought “if the Islamists are going to be Egypt’s next rulers I quit; I don’t need this”. I would not be able to go cycling anymore! But we are not that far yet. By mid-January we will know more and until then the chaos will continue. Fear will continue too, although the Muslim Brothers are struggling to convince with their liberal political convictions.