Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year Egypt

Actually, I did not have the intention to publish more greetings for the year end. Yet along with the disastrous news coming from Egypt right now, I wish myself and Egypt from the digastricus of my heart:

May the New Year bring a miracle for Egypt!

A normally thinking human being is at a loss in imagining a way out of the desolate economical and the messy political situation. However, Egyptians see it differently. Two of my Egyptian acquaintances (one of them an activist) and a well-known blogger and activist expressed the same during the last three weeks: they expect, no, they bank on the unexpected, on a surprise as it is typical for Egypt. And they count on the second anniversary of January 25, 2011.

I shouldn’t be at all surprised…

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Constitution referendum finished

Last night, the second part of the referendum about the controversial constitution was finished.
Even before the official results were published, Moursi nominated 90 members for the Shura Council; this should have happened only after the publication of the results. The members of the Shura Council may issue laws as long as no new Parliament has been elected. This is another hint – for me and others – that the result of the voting was known beforehand.

The voting process was as irregular as never seen before in Egypt; although the country has seen plenty of rigged voting results. Yet, all proves of manipulation, vote buying, coercion, intimidation, polling stations opened too late or closed too early, false or missing supervisors are useless. There is no way to claim right and justice because Egypt has become a lawless state: there is only the Muslim Brothers’ despotism.

In this situation, the gossip factory is working overtime: Moursi was very ill, can be read; the Central Bank’s director resigned last night. This resignation however has been denied again. There’s no smoke without fire, a proverb says. Therefore, nothing surprises me anymore. I would not be surprised at all, if Moursi was declared insane and Khairat El Shater would finally take over the rule. He is the initial presidential candidate but was legally enabled to run for the presidency. There is no Vice-President anymore since he resigned two days ago. Then, no surprise if the seat of the Central Bank’s director and other key positions in finance and economy would be taken by Muslim Brothers. What is happening right now only gets the label “legally correct”.

Yet, these are still rumours and my personal speculations. The latter happened to turn out to be wrong as well, for example those that the Military would never allow the MB to come to power. The Military tolerate this because the MB ensure to leave the Military’s benefice untouched. However, will the Military also tolerate the country to tumble further and see their benefice in danger?

Egypt will soon rub its eyes aghast when it realises what is going to happen. The president (I do not say Moursi) has more powers in his hands as Mubarak ever had! Nip it in the bud…

… I think it’s too late.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Muslim Brothers reveal their true face

“We have to give him a chance“, Egyptians said after Moursi’s election as Egypt’s President. They didn’t want to see what was about to come.

During five months, Moursi didn’t do anything for Egypt. He travelled around the world, begging for money, investments and trust. He said that a new area had started in Egypt where democracy and justice prevailed and that soon the people would be better off.

At the end of November he, respectively the Muslim Brothers, stroke. By issuing the constitutional declaration, Moursi empowered himself above law and jurisdiction. Hence, he contradicted a pillar of democracy and rule of way: separation of powers.

Since this time, Egyptians take to the streets: first to protest against this constitutional declaration, then against the Islamic constitution that was hastily knocked together and finally, to demand the bringing down of the Muslim Brother regime.

Meanwhile it is clear for everybody: it is not Moursi who rules but the Muslim Brothers. They govern with tricks, lies, specific disinformation, denunciation and ignoring all constitutional achievements.

On 5th December, Egypt saw brutal violence: Egyptians attacked their fellow countrymen near the Presidential Palace. It was a battle between incited Salafists and Muslim Brothers against opponents. Thanks to eye witness accounts and videos it is known what really happened. Protestors from the opposition were dragged out of the crowd and brought to the Presidential Palace; there they were brutally beaten and tortured. Police watched and did not intervene because they had no orders! The torturers received their orders by phone directly from Badie, the MB boss, and went inside the Palace to receive further orders. Doctors close to the MB refused medical aid (!!!), drivers of ambulances refused to transport the heavily abused to the hospital for medical care. A dentist was filmed while torturing; a suit is filed against him.

When asked why they beat so fiercely, a thug answered, they were told that the protestors were drugged, infidels and agents from abroad! Copts were attacked even worse. There is a video on Youtube showing such a group of thugs while doing their “training” in Cairo; their scaring figures reminded me of photos of the Mutshaheddin in Afghanistan.

The heavily wounded and bleeding protestors were captivated beside the Presidential Palace and handed over to the Police hours later; they had been armed. The prosecutor released all of them because there were no evidences. Yesterday or this morning, the newly appointed (MB) general prosecutor offset the prosecutor to Beni Suef and appointed a MB prosecutor; tonight, this decision was retrieved.

President Moursi didn’t show his face during 48 hours after these violent clashes. However, the MB leaders spoke. They said they had nothing to do with what happened but “confessions” of the captured were proof that they had to be detained and treated that way. They (the MB) also said that they would defend their President and their constitution – as if they were the government!

Ironically, it is thanks to an ex-ambassador that the West (especially the USA) gradually gets to learn about the violent actions; he as well was mangled and tortured; he was released only when his ID revealed that he was a diplomat.

Well-known oppositions, liberals, journalists, politicians and activist figure on a death list.

After tomorrow, a referendum about this controversial draft constitution will be held. Ballot boxes with Yes-votes have already appeared. Many Egyptians are excluded from the voting process because they cannot go to their home-governments.  In addition, Moursi enacted another law to limit the right to vote. The majority of the judges boycott to oversee the referendum – now military has to.

Today, a Copt was sentenced to three years of prison because of blasphemy. His “crime”: he uploaded the primitive video that mocks Prophet Mohammed on his facebook page!

This is Egypt after an uproar that demanded „bread, freedom and justice“ and that toppled its dictator: there is no separation of power, the police takes orders from the Muslim Brothers and the referendum on the constitution is made up to result in a Yes vote.

These are all signs of fascism. Europe is over it. Why do Europe and the USA support the MB by sending Billions of US Dollars and Euros? The daily news and reports, law changes and twists as well as the revelations by activists recall an inner film that I allocated to the past. Yet history indeed seems to repeat itself: fascism, National Socialism.

A friend told me that Egypt has to go through this. The activists will continue their task knowing that the referendum will result in a Yes. Today and tomorrow, information gatherings are being held all over the country where plain people explain to plain people why they should vote No. The activists don’t give up and continue spreading knowledge about justice and injustice, democracy and human rights like a snowball.

Tonight, I asked my taxi driver how business was. He replied that it went not bad as far as tourism was concerned. But referring to Egypt, it was very bad. He said, he was not afraid; this constitution was bad and they needed a new one, religion had nothing to do with it! They wanted to live and eat and he first was a human and not a Muslim. I was surprised about his statement because normally, taxi drivers belong to the less educated. I asked if he was a Muslim Brother and he replied, no, no! His religion was Allah and the one in his heart, but it had to stay out of politics. The snowball rolls…

Monday, December 10, 2012

Once again on the way to El Quesir

In November, we once again cycled to El Quesir, my cycling mate and I. The trip was quiet, the tail wind helped us once more and we arrived at our goal again after about four hours riding.

We had a shower and relaxed in a very simple camp. I can’t imagine how divers can endure staying here for a longer period of time, because the facilities are actually rather basic. There are reed huts covered with palm leafs, joint sanitary installations with running water; when we were there, there was a power cut. On the beach are huts as well and I imagine how romantic it might be, being in love, to spend a night in such a hut listening to the sound of the see… as long as mosquitos can be kept afar. The location is impressing and the view on mountains, desert and sea are gorgeous. Here are some pictures:

My desire for change and alternation, knowledge and culture pushed me to see more from El Quesir this time. I’ve known some time before, that phosphate was exploited here and that Italians had invested in the mining. I wanted to see the premises that were built by the Italians around 100 years ago (today, the phosphate mining is situated around 25km north of El Quesir). Two Germans who live in El Quesir led us through dusty lanes to the area.

We cautiously entered the mouldering factory hall with curiosity, surprise and amazement, peeked through broken windows, crossed the huge square between factory, administration, villas and the church. Nowadays, it’s a ghost city, hastily left as it seems; but I imagined how this place must have been bustling, Italian language and culture, Egyptian labourers, balmy evenings on the veranda with a glass of red wine, arduous heat in the day. The administration building still shows some stuffed dust covered hunting trophies exposed to decay. I was especially taken with a Tuscany villa: high rooms, verandas, a bright yellow façade, palm trees, a big garden, sea view… The only building that has been renovated and is still in use is the church, now Coptic. Here are some impressions:

I was delighted to have finally received some “brain food” and once more felt convinced, that this region has much more to offer than only sun, beach, sea and diving. This day was exactly to my taste: sports, culture, nice people and a fish dinner on the beach under a starlit sky to wrap up the day.

By the way, El Quesir used to be an important port in the ancient world and in the middle age, and here and there are discoveries waiting to be admired…

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Cities declare their independence

Several cities, among them Alexandria and Mahalla El-Kobra that has become famous for its strikes and has become an idol because of its steeliness, have declared their independence from a Muslim Brotherhood led Egypt and have chased away their governors tonight.

Hundreds of thousands are in Tahrir square in Cairo and in front of the presidential palace to protest against Moursi and the MB. They have at least achieved the postponement of the referendum.

Egypt is standing up, continuous writing its history on a long, difficult way towards democracy. And the Western media reports… nothing or only on the side. NZZ online, my “source of reference” speaks of “thousands” of protesting Egyptians. What’s the matter? What’s different from January/February 2011?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Clashes in Cairo

Again clashes in Cairo. These are once more the headlines that go around the world. Who is behind the clashes, cannot be learned from the media.

In spring 2011, Al Jazeera reported almost around the clock from the events in Cairo. Since the Muslim Brothers are in power, the channel exercises restraint. Why? Qatar supports the Muslim Brothers and Al Jazeera belongs to the Emir. However yesterday, Al Jazeera reported lengthily. It doesn’t only catch my eye that the Western media abstains from critics about the Muslim Brothers. They turn their coat…

Since the Muslim Brothers and Salafis protest, there are seriously injured and deaths. They have been brought in by busses, heavily armed. Opponents have been taken out of their groups and to the Islamists and there they have been beaten violently. Muslim Brothers and Salafis are the very “faithful” ones, those that hide behind the religion and who defend their “democratically elected” president with violence! They have announced it and they kept their word.

Where is the president? Yesterday, the vice-president announced that he would be ready for a compromise regarding the constitution. Why did he not show up by himself? Is he scared? Does he refuse to represent the MB’s line? Why did he have to meet the supreme guide of the MB? After all, he officially resigned from the MB, didn’t he?

Egyptians are fed up from dictatorship and hypocrites and will not give up.

Update: allegedly, Moursi will speak to the people today.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Opposition united

Yesterday afternoon and during the night, there were demonstrations in each of Egypt’s cities. I am impressed and enjoyed. The opposition has united and has made a clear demand on the president: to retrieve from the constitutional declaration, to call off the referendum and to appoint a constituent assembly representing all Egyptians.

When it became known that Moursi had left the presidential palace, people around me rejoiced, although it did not really mean anything.

I was also impressed by the march amidst women and men. Many held up home-made posters; the most common slogan was “go”. This was also the call most heard. “Down with Moursi’s regime” and “liberty” were others. The demands are the same everywhere, the slogans, sentences and chants did not sound different in Alexandria, Cairo, Luxour and Assiut from those in Hurghada.

What is going on in a persons‘ mind who at the beginning of his presidency of a country that is almost suffocating from its problems promises he would be a president for all, he would protect the demands of the revolution, he would improve the living conditions, fight against corruption and so on… and a short while after he turns out to be the worst dictator ever? Is this politics?
In Hurghada as well, more people took to the street yesterday. And they stood on the balconies. The young women in front of me waived about her posters and shouted “liberty”. I followed their eyes and saw those black veiled ghosts in the semi-darkness… I shivered… those ghosts up there showed their fists downwards. All the more, the women around me shouted: “liberty”.

What next? Will Moursi yield to the pressure or even resign? If he only yields to the pressure, then a small but important battle would have been won, though the way to “bread and liberty” remains long. In case he should resign: who or what follows? I can’t imagine that the bearded will give in. They fight tooth and nail to expand their empire. I hope Egypt does not give up.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Hurghada tonight

Media on strike

I was going to read the (Egyptian) news online. However, today are no news since several media are protesting with a one-day-walk-out against the continued restrictions on media liberties:


Ahram Online

Tahrir News

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Amidst the protest

Last Friday, the opposition has called for another protest and people followed this call all over Egypt.

I joined the protest in Hurghada again. The activists added a small red lorry to lead the protest. On top of it they fixed loud speakers and two or three men rotated in transmitting the chants. Flags, banners, posters and papers with slogans were handed out.

Some people observe me suspiciously. When my Arabic teacher S. arrives, I forget about it. M., one of my students is here and another foreigner joins. I’m not the only one anymore! I., another activist, remembers me and shakes hands with me.

The group starts: ahead is the lorry, then some men carrying big banners and the Egyptian flag, behind them we the women and at the end the men.

Women of all age walk next to me, in front of me and behind me, chanting full-throatedly. They hold up banners or flags, raise their fists in the rhythm of the chants. People step on my feet, push me from the back, from right and left. An Egyptian lady links arms with me and tells me that she knows that I am S.’s friend. This is my legitimation, I’m accepted.

It’s hot, much too hot for this time of the year and there is absolutely no wind. Most people are dressed according to the season – not according to the temperature – that means, much too warm. The respective odours linger in the air and mingle with the exhaust fumes of the small lorry.

Me too, I also step on other’s feet, smile, apologize, try to find a gap in order to avoid it. Yet now, a flag is waving around my head und I can’t see anything. Now and then, the march stops and I look back to take pictures. I discover another friend of mine and greet him.

Men make again a human chain around the protest march. I walk at the side to have more fresh air and freedom of leg movement. But I. appears and shouts “goa” – inside. Inside, in the middle of the group. I raise my eyes to the frontages: there are much more people on the balconies, they applaud and join the chants against Moursi, the constitutional declaration, the constitution and also against the Muslim Brothers. A companion shouts into my ear „dustour diktatoria“ – dictatorial constitution.

I leave the group for a moment to take pictures from the edge of the street. The group is somewhat bigger than on Tuesday. Someone on the side-walk is mumbling what this foreigner has got to do there. This affects me a bit, but this is typically Egyptian. I return to the group. Now, men hold a rope around the group.

I walk deep in thought amidst the group to Sekalla. I do this to support Egyptians and not to interfere. I do this because I know what all is about and how difficult it will be for Egypt. Last week, I wrote “continuation of the 25 January 2011”, even before I knew how Egypt would react on Moursi’s decree. Meanwhile, the draft constitution, hastily assembled mainly by Islamists, was voted over and a date for the referendum is scheduled. Judges are on strike, protests continue, UNO and EU put pressure. Intellectuals, politicians, ex-presidential candidates and activists fight united against an imminent dictatorship which would restrict the people’s lives even more.

My feet hurt from the many blisters from last time, my legs from the hours-long march. I compare with Western Europe: democracy, state of law, legal security, separation of powers, and compliance with human rights… We all have this and it is taken for granted. We make use of it without being aware what it really means. They also had to be fought for and achieved. Even today, they have to be observed and preserved carefully.

And here in this third-world-country that is mainly known as a sunny destination for diving and beach holidays as well as for its unique historical treasures? Where tourists relax from their hard labour in gorgeous hotel resorts? There is nothing, absolutely nothing. But people know what they want and they are ready to fight for it. This is why they take to the streets. This is why the iconic Tahrir square is once more filled with hundreds of thousands of protesters. They will not give up before having reached their goal.

Someone beside me calls my name. It’s my friend B. who walks on my right and is part of the human chain. I’m glad to see him and we talk a while. We’ve arrived in Sekalla and on both sides of the street people stand side by side. It was like this all the way – unlike Tuesday.

The march turns at Arouse square and I leave the group, say farewell to my acquaintances.

I remember as how one of my students had to form a sentence with the German verb “möchten” (to want): “Wir möchten Demokratie” (we want democracy). I wish that my students soon will be able to form a sentence with “haben” (to have).

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

„Erhal Moursi“

„go ارحل يعني!“ and „no ارحل يعني“ („go“ (in Arabic) means „go“ in English / „no“ (in Arabic) means „no“ in English) and other funny chants could I hear tonight.

On my way to Dahar, I was surprised to see that people in the street and in shops continued their routine. I arrived at the big round-about in Dahar: still nothing. I walked towards the courthouse and there I saw them: a group of protesters, starting their march. I took out my camera to take pictures from the posters and people, deciphered an Arabic banner… and heard somebody calling my name: my Arabic teacher S. in the first row!

From that point on, I was one of them. We walked to the big round-about and further all the way through Nassr Street and to Sekalla, and still further till the “Central”. Again and again the group halted and chanted at the top of their voices and with megaphones “we are the people”, “go Moursi”, “you (the Muslim Brothers) are Egyptians as well”, “the people demand the purging of the system”, “Muslims and Christians are one”, “we don’t want the Muslim Brothers” etc. The demands were accentuated by tambourines and hand clapping.

Women held their hands or linked arms with each other, tried to stay close to one another. As soon as we were about to drown in the crowd, S. pulled me and her friend forward, there where there was more space. The men hold their hands forming a human chain to protect us from traffic and other surprises. Passers-by stopped on the street and the side-walks, came out of shops and buildings, stood on balconies and joined with quickly designed card-board-posters. They joined with kit and caboodle. I carried a small child for a while so that it could rest a bit.

For sure, I was the only foreigner. A woman on my left asked me if I knew what all was about? Hm… yes, roughly… I’m an ignorant foreigner, am I not?

However, what I did not know when I went out, is that I’d walk six or eight km in sandals. I have blisters and my legs hurt. The blisters will disappear, the memories won’t.

And what about the rest of Egypt? Protests everywhere…

Continuation of the 25 January 2011

What began on the 25 January last year will most probably continue today: all over Egypt, demonstrations are to be held. It is not one of these small “Friday of…” demonstrations but there is a lot of anger, fury and disappointment and the protesters – seculars and liberals united – have clear demands. The live-transmissions from Cairo show already now a huge crowd. They demand that Moursi (meanwhile called “Moursollini”) retrieves the constitutional declaration, the Ministry of Interior be purged from the remnants of the old regime, the innocently imprisoned protesters are allowed their rights and a constituent assembly representing all Egyptians.

The Muslim Brothers called for a counter-protest for Sunday. They have cancelled it wisely. Same did the Salafists. However, this does not mean that they will not mingle with the crowd or lie heavily armed in wait in side streets.

What the old regime did in January and February 2011 in co-operation with the Military and the Ministry of Interior, is being done now by the MB in co-operation with the Ministry of the Interior (I ask again: where is the Military?). There are many footages, videos, photos and evidences about the violence against protesters or randomly picked-out passers-by. The MB are digging their own graves at full speed.

May there be a miracle!

Monday, November 26, 2012

In a foreign land but not foreign

Wonderful tomatoes, big, red, juicy, fruity and fresh. The dark skinned black curled vendor dressed in a brownish-grey kaftan is shouting with all his might “tamaatiim kwuissa bi talaata gineh!” Flies bustle about, sit on the flawed and overripe fruit and vegetable. Here and there incense sticks are burning in order to chase away the flies. The ground is bumpy and slippery from the juices, the remains of the vegetables and fruits, squeezed tomatoes, guavas, grapes and the kernel from the pomegranates. The hustle in the fruit and vegetable market is big, the shouting loud.

In the midst of this oriental confusion, oblivious of all around me, I chose tomatoes without being unsettled by the hustle and the shouting. One kilo? No, I better take one and a half; they are eaten away so quickly. One kilo doesn’t last until the next shopping in a week’s time.

Something softly touches my arm. The nasty poking of the beggar women that begs day after day in the market to make her living? No, that’s different. In amazement, I look into the direction from where this touch comes from and smile: it’s a Swiss lady who lives here, who comes across my way frequently! What a surprise, we met some days ago at a completely different occasion. We laugh and talk naturally about tomatoes and salads. Over there, the salad is only three pounds, she claims, and bargains a better price for me. Then, each of us goes our way that is so different from what our common language might let speculate.

In a foreign land… but not foreign. More and more frequently, I occasionally meet acquaintances in the street, in a café, in a shop or in the bus – it gives me the comforting feeling of not being foreign anymore.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Moursi overrules the state

Moursi’s Thursday’s constitutional declaration has put himself above the separation of powers, above jurisdiction and above the constitution (that does not even exist at present). Online media call him now “pharaoh” since he virtually has declared himself infallible – and this even retroactively!

When I got to know this Thursday night, I couldn’t get off my eyes from internet, waited for reactions. I asked myself, if the Egyptians would put up with this as well. Yet the reaction came right away: the constitutional court declared to defend its independence to the bitter end. Then I went to bed because Friday early morning we cycled once again to El Quesir – that meant to stay without news all day.

In a breath, Moursi also dismissed the general prosecutor (he tried to do this already a month ago) and swore in a new prosecutor. Probably to appease the people, he decided to reopen the cases against Mubarak and the members of the old regime as well as those responsible for the killing of protestors. By doing so, he pretends to protect the revolution… The one that was stolen by the Muslim Brothers?

The Egyptians don’t put up with this, and yesterday, all hell broke loose. Protests by the opposition have been announced anyway, yet Moursi’s doing added fuel to the fire. The revolution continues and people finally fight back again. Many have realised meanwhile that the Muslim Brothers are also liars and Moursi is only another face for dictatorship. Since January 2011, nothing has improved for the people.

I was rather disappointed about Hillary Clinton’s praise for Moursi for his brokering a truce between Hamas and Israel. This made him boisterous and self-confident. The USA is supporting the bearded. For how long? As long as the MB accomplish the balancing act between being Hamas’ friend and respecting the peace treaty with Israel. This can’t go on for long.

By the way, I wonder: where is the military? Many really believe the fairy tale that Moursi has “disempowered” the military. How long will they accede in this play and when will they show their true face again? If the MB were serious with enforcing the revolution they would long ago have made accountable the real power holders and profiteers!

Their (the MB’s) greed will break their neck sooner or later. Hopefully sooner…

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Before the press conference – typically Egyptian

There is a festival in the (only “real”) shopping mall of Hurghada. Italy and Egypt are the theme and I am also invited to the press conference.

As I usually do, I get on a microbus and get off at the Go-Kart parking because from there, it is less far and more convenient to walk to the mall’s entrance. There is neither sand nor are there broken sidewalks and hence, it’s safe, even for high heels. Hardly having walked a few steps, one of these small city trains comes by that you can see almost in every European or American city, guiding tourists criss-cross past sights, souvenir shops and through narrow alleys. The driver gives me a short glance and I beckon him to stop; I sit down on the bench at the very back, looking towards the following cars. I almost fall off the bench in curves and the people in the cars are grinning at least as amusedly as I do. It was a first for me and I’m already looking forward to the next ride.

In front of the cinema entrance there are a stage and a few stalls. I am walking towards them and – ftttt! – the lights go off and the complete scenery with parking, stage and stalls are in the dark. Typically Egyptian, I think and am smiling good-humouredly into the dark.

However, the blackout lasts only a few seconds and stage and stalls are again brightly lit. The parking not yet, but the numerous police cars are unmissable. There are even brand new fire engines… I’m wondering if these are the same as I saw at the recent Mohamed Mounir concert. And while admiring the marvels in red and white I ask myself if they have ever been used – either in training or in an emergency. They simply appear too clean, somehow as impeccably as in Switzerland.

The press conference with a buffet afterwards should start at 7 pm. Mind you, Hurghada’s governor, the tourist minister of the Red Sea governorate and others shall speak and I’d like to see these personalities, especially I’d like to listen to what they have to say.

Shortly before seven, I enter the iced cinema hall, where the press conference should take place. The Italian hostess, the Italian organiser, an Egyptian minister, an Italian dance group and friends are present, as well as a fistful Egyptians. Have an hour later, the first Egyptian journalists show up  - neither hide nor hair from the governor or his entourage. After 45 minutes, head phones for the simultaneous translation are brought in and passed to some few illustrious guests.

Meanwhile we get to know, that a demonstration is taking place outside. What for or against what remains unknown, but it is taking place on the red carpet over which the governor should step. I also learn where to buy hygienically clean meat and in which supermarket the shop assistant tastes the food with the same spoon with which he serves the customers. Sometimes, waiting makes sense! – I’m glad that I understand all different kind of languages.

Shortly before eight – one hour late! – the governor gets announced. And suddenly, police men and personalities by the score roll in. The most important persons can be easily discerned by the high number of police men, the submissive gestures of the surrounding people and the perfectly fitting suits of the stout men. Pardon my irony!

The hostess welcomes everybody – in Italian. The governor has his say, first in English, then in Arabic with simultaneous translation – which can obviously not be understood by everybody due to technical problems – then again in English. The tourism minister and the other gentlemen don’t even try in English and the microphones don’t work properly. What I understand from the Arabic is, that every single one thanks for the event and emphasises on the importance of tourism for the Red Sea governorate.

This is where my patience snaps. It is too cold, too unprofessional and I renounce the continuation including the buffet. I take flight outside where the night temperature matches with the iced cinema hall and order a Shish Tawouk (grilled small skewer with spices, wrapped in pita bread) in order to warm up.

While eating and looking around, I see more police cars and the governor’s car with the number plate “RS1“ (Red Sea 1). It’s a long time since I’ve seen as many police cars as this – although there are permanently police controls with a large muster of police at any possible and impossible places and times.

I quit this “typically“ Egyptian event. It was my pleasure! And tomorrow and after tomorrow I still have the opportunity to admire singers, fashion show and dancers. I’ll get myself informed about the press conference from the media (Al Ahram and Egypt Indipendent were present with journalists and banners) or somehow else…

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Away from the daily routine

Cultural live in Hurghada is a bit dreary. There are lots of bars, cafes, restaurants, night clubs, beach clubs and discos.

That’s not enough for more ambitious minds. There is no theatre, no classical music, no ambitious cinema, no reading and so on.

Yet now are feast days (Eid el Adha) and there are exceptions.

El Gouna
I was in the Marina in El Gouna, where live bands play music, comedians cause you laughing and artists thrill with their skills. In El Gouna, the crème of the Egyptian’s society romps about (tourists from all over the world as well, of course) and it did me extremely good to see neat, civilised, well-dressed people. I couldn’t get off my eyes from an elderly man with huge old-fashioned glasses and a horrible hairpiece. Where have I seen him before? When a young man had a photo taken shaking hands with the elderly man, I asked my colleague, who this was. Moufid Fawzy, a TV presenter, interviewer and journalist, who had his own TV show that was critical towards the old regime. And this here, pointing to an elegant gentleman, is a famous Egyptian actor… I smiled and somehow felt good and cosy, a bit like at the Côte d’Azur in summer. The smart yachts some meters behind us and an immaculate starlit sky intensified this feeling.

Sahl Hasheesh
This is another wonderful place outside of Hurghada, where I’ve recently been to a festival. The exceptional thing there is the setting: the event takes place in a captivating oriental building with water gardens, sea view and an astonishing starlit sky.

Mohamed Mounir live
Was it the most beautiful experience? Yesterday, Mohamed Mounir - the “king”, as Egyptians call him – gave a concert in Makadi Bay, about 25 km outside of Hurghada. When I got to know it, I wanted to attend by all means; I love Mohamed Mounir’s voice. He has a special status with Egyptians: he is aware of his responsibility as a famous and popular star and his songs deal with all the present problems, call for temperance, patience and solidarity. His music neatly combines traditional Egyptian instruments and rhythms with Jazz, Reggae and African rhythms. In addition to that comes his strange voice singing in Arabic and Nubian.

I went with low expectations and was all the more surprised: there was security; there were ambulances, a fire engine, chemical toilets and food booths. The parking ushers made big efforts and most of the cars were parked correctly. The stage décor, light- and stage-show and cameras were as it is supposed to be at big concerts. Remarkable? Somehow yes, since I’ve seen only little quality in Hurghada up to now.

Again, the setting was exceptional: a huge sandy place, lightly sloping towards the stage, outside a holiday resort a bit uphill, starlit sky, an almost full bright moon and a cool breeze.
Yes, it was the most beautiful experience I’ve had since I settled down in this country three and a half years ago: for two hours I forgot daily life and enjoyed the music, fireworks and the peaceful ambiance…

And shortly before the end of the concert we quickly went to the car to avoid the upcoming traffic jam.

Albeit, I stayed away of the crowd and that was good; as I got to know today, unfortunately, there were again harassments.

El Gouna, Sahl Hasheesh and Makadi Bay have lots in common: they are groomed, expensive and far away from Hurghada – being without car. I was invited by friends and colleagues and I joyfully accepted.

Away from daily life – it did me extremely good and I’m still dreaming…

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Cool Man

As I do so frequently, I’m standing at the roadside, waiting for a microbus. As usual, a taxi stops although I haven’t given any sign. I let the driver understand, that I don’t want to take a taxi.

But hej, what’s that… there’s great music resounding from the car! No Qur’an recitation, no Arabic pop music... it’s: Gipsy Kings and Reggae. I smile and tell him, that his music is great.

I should come in only because of the music; he is on his way home anyway, it’s the end of his shift. No, I don’t want to and give him the sign for: no money. He insits, but I refuse.

Soon later, I get on one of my beloved microbuses, get off in the banking district, settle my business and 15 minutes later, I’m standing once more, as I do so frequently, at the roadside… waiting for a microbus.

Yet, who stops again in front of me? The same taxi driver with the same cool music! He is smiling and says that this is destiny. I agree and get on the taxi. We have a nice chat about music and Hurghada’s taxi-mafia and lough a lot. Reda speaks English rather well, his grey hair is done in a ponytail and on top of it he wears a baseball cap. Before I get out at the Marina, I take his telephone number for the next time. This time, my ride was for free.

This also is Hurghada!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

On the road to El Quesir

The sun is rising from the sea, the air is still fresh and streets are empty. We are cycling… out of Hurghada, up to the checkpoint and passing by the well-known junctions: Makadi, Soma Bay, and Safaga.

Since I’ve never been to Safaga, we drive through the long-drawn-out village and what belongs to it. Our saddle has become a cinema chair to watch the scenery: vegetable stalls and shops, in front of which men dressed in kaftans stand, walk, read the newspaper and women dressed in black balancing their shopping on their head, alternate with typical local coffee shops, run down schools and buildings. Garbage is everywhere and I remember Egyptians being excited about how clean Hurghada was. Europeans judge differently though.

We continue cycling. The streets lead us up and down across the foothills of the Red Sea Mountains. Its usually golden-yellow colour has changed into a grey-black since we let Safaga behind us. Like a dark grey stripe, the asphalt strap lays unrolled in front of us for many kilometres and gets lost somewhere in the shimmery horizon. The ascents offer us variations and motivation: after having reached the peak with the tail wind, we pedal even stronger and plummet down eagerly in order to cross the next well in a dash and to climb the next ascent with less effort. The street is ours alone since we left Safaga.
“Isn’t it a bit dangerous?” was a justified question by friends whom I told about our plan. No, it isn’t because a) I don’t go alone, b) we leave early in the morning and c) we have an escort vehicle.

Emad, our driver, goes along with us in a caring way: he stops at open spots, supplies us with cold water, takes pictures and unmistakably enjoys the air condition and the high-quality Hi-Fi of my cycling mate’s car.

Still cycling. The grey-black mountains have withdrawn; the well-known golden-yellow colour dominates. The scenery is monotonous: no hills, only gentle elevations. It is very hot and although I keep on drinking water, I never have to relief myself (which was not a good indication as I had to learn three weeks later). I eat an apple, some date biscuits, some nuts. I can’t eat a lot whereas my mate is continuously busy with eating.

The air is glistening in the heat. I can’t stop looking around, I take in the view of this strange, captivating scenery, which it still is for me although having lived here for more than three years. My eyes wander towards the sparkling sea and I discover… cyclists?... people on two wheels?... mountain bikes?... I fear having a hallucination or seeing a fata morgana. I call attention to Michael and yes, he sees them as well, they are real. We stop, shout and wave. They come towards us: mountain bikers from a hotel nearby biking with their guide. We are far more excited about seeing other bikers than they are. We don’t meet like-minded people as easily but contrarily are rather exotic in and around Hurghada.

A short while later, the road merges into one lane only and the asphalt strap follows close to the sea and the fine sandy beach. Now and there people enjoy themselves with a bath in the sea. We continue cycling towards our destination and come closer to a transhipment point for phosphate. A huge phosphate cloud cloaks us. A cargo vessel is being loaded with phosphate and lorries loaded with the precious dust start their journey to Cairo. I imagine the conditions under which the workers do their labour here and that sooner or later, they all end up with a black lung.


It’s getting hotter, sweat and dust sticks on the face, on arms and legs. We continue cycling silently, every one of us being busy with his/her thoughts, impressions and sufferings. A short exchange of words cheers us up. Mountains and hills become more varied and I feel again this longing for mountain biking in the Red Sea Mountains one day in the future.

We pass by the mining company which means: 15 km to go till El Quesir! I send a sms to the General Manager of the Hotel Mövenpick to announce our arrival. Shortly afterwards, we arrive at the hotel entrance and let Emad take another picture from us.  Tired but proud and full of joy we stow away our bicycles and after a shower, mingle unobtrusively with the hotel guests. Moving between shower, beach, bathing, eating and swimming pool is almost a bit tiring - we want to enjoy the beautiful hotel facility ;). Thank you Mr. Mehdy.
At dusk, we get on the car and go home with plenty of exhilarating impressions and heavy legs, with above us a beautiful desert sky full of stars.

It is thanks to Michael that I could undertake this journey. At present, this trip is not recommendable for a single woman, yet together, further trips are possible. For me, this signifies a new quality of life.

Key data: 130km, 4 hours cycling, tons of water