Saturday, April 23, 2011

Personal report from Cairo

Fellow Revolutionaries:

I have boots on the ground in the New Egypt, well actually pink sneakers on the ground, but in any case I'm in Cairo. The "New Egypt" is a lot like the Old Egypt, except a hell of a lot worse.

During the so called "revolution" my husband was forced to move from the hotel where he has lived for the past five years (!) because it was literally located on the edge of Tahrir Square. He could hear the gun shots ricocheting off the building, so he departed to a relatively safer location. Of course, the shopping mall next to our new hotel was looted and burned to the ground during the "peaceful revolution," but at least you don't see Army tanks, barbed wire, and machine gun nests when you look out the window. BTW, during the "non-violent" revolution that was all butterflies and roses, over 800 (mostly young) people were killed, and thousands more were injured. Our current hotel is brand new, huge, luxurious, and totally empty, We are not only the only Americans in the hotel, we seem to be the only residents. It's like a scene out of The Shining, long hallways completely absent of people. No one in the gym, no one in the restaurants, no one in the lobby. Quite honestly, it's creepy.

A city like Cairo without tourists is just strange. And terrible for the economy. People here are truly suffering and unlike our great nation there is no government safety net. Virtually everyone connected with the tourist industry, the entertainment industry, or retail commerce is out of a job. The entire police force has been disbanded. Many government workers are out of a job Almost all the restaurants we used to frequent have closed. Shops are closed. Unemployment rates are skyrocketing while the Egyptian stock market and real estate prices plummet.

Meanwhile, political reality is starting to set in and most people now realize it will be many years before there is stability and economic growth, if ever. There is a great fear of a rise to power by the Muslim Brotherhood and also fear that the huge, unemployed, poor, illiterate class might turn on those who are educated and relatively financially secure.

The mood is strange here. On the one hand, there is great nationalism-- Egyptian flags crudely painted everywhere, references to the "New Egypt," a certain pride in having stood up to the regime. On the other hand, there is great fear and anxiety about what will come next.

Virtually everyone believes the Muslim Brotherhood will have a major presence in the new Parliament, but many fear their influence will be even greater than that. There's a fear of influence from Iran. There is a fear of civil war between the haves and the have nots. There is worry about the economy. Violence against Christians is worse than ever and increasing every day. The general public is starting to doubt the motives of the Army.

Meanwhile, anything and everything associated with the Mubarak regime has been burned down, jailed or looted-- even Daylight Savings Time has been cancelled because the Egyptians believe it was a "Mubarak conspiracy."

So, to sum up, regarding Egypt, as my late non-Arab mother used to say, " Too good it never was." But now, it's worse than ever.

Bobbi Leigh Zito

Pink Sneakered Revolutionary
Thanks Calabasas ACT for America

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