Saturday, January 28, 2012

A snapshot of 27 January 2012

Most parts of the country saw more demonstrations yesterday against the SCAF and for an immediate handover of power to a civilian transitional government. SCAF is openly denounced as “liar” and activists show videos as footage because the “couch party” (the “silent majority”) still trusts the SCAF’s slogans. The Muslim Brothers gave in to the protestors’ pressures and removed placards for the celebration of 25th January. There is actually nothing to celebrate. Nothing at all.

There were no brawls, no stone throwing and no gun shots, but there was violence. Violence against women: an unknown number of women were individually surrounded by a group of men, their clothes were pulled down and they were sexually harassed! This seems to be a further strategy of the democracy adversaries and the protectors of the regime to intimidate protestors. They don’t seem to have understood that this strategy does not work: the more there is pressure, violence and intimidation, the more the activists will make themselves heard.

In the meantime, I had a chat with a friend. Inevitably we also spoke about the country’s situation. This friend decided in December 2010, short before the uprising, to open his own shop with cotton scarfs designed and handmade by himself. Since then, he is looking for a shop. Hurghada has quite a number of empty shops, even in good locations. Yet unbelievingly the rents are still absurdly high. This is why my friend still could not bring himself to open his own shop.

„Sometimes, I would like to leave Egypt“ he told me. It would be easy for him: he has relatives in the States and in Canada. But he does not want to because “I love Egypt, it’s my country!” He is worried about what there is to come. He thinks as well that the elections have been forged and there is an agreement between the SCAF and the Muslim Brothers. According to his opinion, there is no difference between the previous parliament and the present one: both are dominated by one power (before it was the NDP, now it’s the Muslim Brothers’ party) and the minority just shuts up. I am not sure if this is now the case. We’ll soon see.

His mobile phone is ringing for the fifth time. It’s his brother: a chance for a shop. We leave the café and walk for about half an hour along the promenade under a wonderful starry sky to his brother’s shop. He will come after the football match… Life must go on, even here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

One year of revolution

While I was enjoying my winter holiday at home, Egypt of course continued its path. In the parliamentary elections (lower house) the Islamists - I lump them together – got over 70% of the votes.

So here they are sitting: in the first more or less democratically elected parliament, those bearded men without moustache, wearing traditional robes like at the times of prophet Mohamed. Although I should be used to seeing those men (and the covered women in black – not in the parliament of course), I still get shocked when I come across them.

This parliament met for the first time yesterday and before yesterday and immediately put the cat among the pigeons. Some added their own statements to the official oath: they did not want to contradict Qur’an; they would only act in a way that was permitted by God; but some also commemorated those who gave their lives for the Egyptian Revolution. A member of the Muslim Brothers was nominated as parliamentary speaker whereas one year ago, he was imprisoned (as a Mubarak’s regime’s enemy). The members of the parliament harshly criticised the country’s leaders, the SCAF. However, at the same time, they replied to the SCAF’s felicitations by thanking it for their role during the recent months! And the members of the parliament clearly confirmed their commitment for the revolution that has to go on and that they would stand up for democracy in Egypt. I am just wondering, how Salafis and democracy shall match …

To commemorate the uprising one year ago, the SCAF has announced celebrations and 25th of January should henceforth be a national holiday. Actually, it was a holiday before, namely in honour of the police. It was exactly the police day that was chosen for the first demonstrations. The activists, however, don’t see a reason for celebrations and the strongest political power – the Muslim Brothers – do both: they celebrate with the SCAF and will be present on Tahrir square. This is a nice example explaining how they could come that far!

Tantawy announced yesterday, that the emergency law would be abolished „with exceptions“. What a nice gesture – but anything else than clear-cut. In addition, around two thousand political prisoners should be released. Many more thousands however are waiting for a fair trial. One of the released ones is a blogger who was on hunger strike for more than four months and was even sent to psychiatry.

Marches are announced from all directions towards Tahrir square in Cairo; already last night it was packed with protesters and early this morning, the first ones are already there. More marches are planned in other cities across Egypt – hardly to celebrate as the SCAF has ordered.

It’s been one year now. I very well remember how people spoke about protests across Egypt on 25 January. “Not in Hurghada”, was one comment. This one was right. „It will finish as quickly as it started“, „Mubarak will not allow this to happen“, „impossible“, “nothing, definitely nothing will change”. Those were other statements of Egyptians. I met them with disbelief. Their comments were wrong.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

„Haramy“ as farewell and welcome

In the late afternoon before my departure to my home country, I was walking towards the main street. When I reached the asphalt street, I saw a dozen of upset people gathering around. My surprise was big enough since I’ve never seen so many people at once in Magaweesh! My doorman and his colleague came running behind me and greeted me. I asked Hosni what it was about over there and he answered “haramy, haramy” – a thief, a thief.

A thief? In the middle of the day? Meanwhile, I joined the people. There were foreign residents and Egyptians: mothers with their children, elderly persons, men in suits, doormen in kaftans and turbans. Stuck to the wall of a building under construction were some doormen. I asked the owner about what had happened. Their house was burgled while they were at home, she told me. The thief had been filling their bags with their belongings such as clothes, passports, money, jewellery and… when they heard some noise upstairs. The thief tried to escape but was caught by the attentive doormen.

There he was, crouching down, backed to the wall, surrounded by an upset crowd. It’s not my way to be curious and to look on, yet I wanted to see a real thief, have never seen one before. Like a child… I hesitated, lingered, tried to catch a glimpse of this face, could not imagine how such a person might look like. The police came and dragged him into the police car. There he was – I was disappointed. A skinny, helplessly looking man in his twenties... or maybe younger. Poor guy, by all means. But he is allegedly a well known burglar.

Pondering about, I went away and realised that I always keep my windows open, even when I leave my flat…


And today, after my holiday, I went to the shopping centre to buy some food. When I was standing near the cashiers and ordering something, I suddenly heard loud men’s voices. I looked into the direction of the voices and saw how some men ran after another man through the hallway. “Haramy, haramy!” As quick as a flash did security men and customers react and ran towards the hunt. An electric device fell noisily on the floor, the man slipped and fell down, the security men bent down over him, gripped him at his arms and legs and carried him away… In the middle of the day, in a shopping centre, in the late afternoon when the shopping rush hour starts?

My eyes filled with tears… Another thief… quick reaction of the people – regardless of the place, Egyptians quickly react… I’ve never seen thieves before… Should I feel safe now that I know about the people’s speedy reaction and attention? Or unsafe because I’ve never witnessed any burglaries or met any thieves before?

I am back in a part of the world, where life is a bit tougher and a bit rougher. My holiday at home, in the snow, in paradise are definitely over.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Winter magic

Snow crystals are glistening in the sun,
softly covering trees and pastures,
lending them a festive dress.

The air is cold and clear,
waterfalls have halted and
are awestruck in the cliffs.
Only the beck is happily plashing and purling on.

Snow covered mountains rise in front of a blue sky
until clouds and fog let them disappear
and snowflakes dance from the sky
or a storms reshapes the winter world.

Soon, my winter holiday is over…

Sunday, January 1, 2012