Monthly Archives: January 2012

Egypt: Unfinished business of the Revolution

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It’s been a year since the revolution started. It’s been a year and it seems that nothing was changed: military rule, corruption and the power of former officials is still in place. People are disappointed and wish the military to leave.

Some of my friends feared that the second round of violence on Tahrir could destroy the country completely. Some went to the square, others stayed at home.

I was conflicted, just like my roommate. We both wanted to go and see it with our own eyes, but at the same time we did not want to act like silly tourists and go there out of sheer curiosity. So we kept walking around, calling people and asking who could join us. And … we failed. The day ended up in our living room filled with memories from the year back: the fear that you can almost touch with your hand, countless amounts of weapons and armored people, despair and vulnerability. I never experienced anything like that in my life.

A year ago I was in Budapest watching this Tahrir madness on Al Jazeera. By that time I did not even plan on moving to Egypt and staying here for a while. And here I am …

It is definitely a great thing that there was no violence on Tahrir yesterday. No one wants to repeat the Libyan scenario; people seem to have more sanity than a year ago. However, all these revolutionaries are disorganized and a bit too idealistic. No one has a clear plan of what’s going to happen after – and this is the biggest challenge. There is no leader and no common idea. People claim they want to have a democracy, BUT they have no common understanding of what democracy is. I believe that politics and religion should not be combined, that they are clearly separated. Otherwise it will not be a democracy, but a failed state – just like Russia. Well, Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis have a different opinion …

Tahrir, 25 of January 2012

Tahrir, 25 of January 2012

Pre Protest Day

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The Egyptian Revolution Will Continue Until Victory

It all started a year ago. People said “enough is enough” and never left Tahrir. Someone is always on Tahriri protesting. Protesting became fashionable here; even the truck drivers protested against regulations aimed on limiting their access to the city during the day. The logic: if you don’t like anything – just go protesting.

Well then the shit hit the fan and the majority voted for Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis in the parliament. But this happened later.

Prior to that people were optimistic about the future of the country, the people and everyone’s well being. However, it seems to me that people have differing opinions on democracy and rights in general. Some people would like the government to grant the freedom of speech in the country while others are looking for the ways to prevent their women from wearing tight jeans and going anywhere without a husband’s permission. There is no clear understanding and common grounds between the liberals and religious people: they simple are looking for different things.

Tomorrow is going to be a big day: people will go marching on Tahrir, just like they did a year ago. I was supposed to go to work tomorrow [despite the fact that it is going to be a national holiday], but they cancelled it last minute.

Nobody can say for sure what will happen tomorrow: bloodshed, peaceful protest or nothing at all. However, no one wishes to repeat the Libyan scenario.

Some funny pictures on the first parliamentary session in Egypt:

Freezing Cairo

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Light Rain in Cairo, Egypt By Bakar_88

Light Rain in Cairo, Egypt By Bakar_88

Cairo is freezing these days. I haven’t been THAT cold for a long time. Who would have thought? The temperature remains stable: +15 during the day and +8 at night. The houses are not heated, well, they were not designed to keep heat in winter and stay chill in summer. Local residents do not seem to be bothered by the cold. It feels like the Russian autumn: it is not cold yet and the heating season has not started .

Some people around me suppose that if they stay in a heated room, and then go outside on the cold this will make them sick. Therefore, having a heater can be dangerous. The logic is similar to the following: some people believe that by having sex with a virgin they can be cured of AIDS.

Last year I was freezing in Hungary; I was too broke to afford paying for the Russian gas in Europe. I could afford switching on the heating for a couple of hours a day, however, it was very warm at work and at the university – so I was hiding there. here? I am freezing at work. Cairo is experiencing severe shortage of heaters at the moment: you cannot find them anywhere.

Offices in Cairo are not designed for heating, in fact people are not in favor of using the heaters. That is why people in offices wear coats, sometimes even gloves. People wear as many layers of clothes as possible. I bargained for a heater – so now we have one at the office, even though it is not strong enough to make any difference. Well, at least I can keep my hands warm – but this does not help with my constant state of hibernation.

I am also particularly annoyed by the general genuine misunderstanding of the fact that a girl from Russia (the coldest country in the world) is constantly cold here. Many people around me suppose that Russians are all frost-resistant by default. And I’m tired of telling them that many Russians wear t-shirts at homes during the winter since it is very warm in people’s homes. Instead, I began asking them in return: why are they (hot Egyptians) using air-conditioners during summers, because Egyptians [following the same logic] should be heat-resistant?? Although another post should be dedicated to the ways people use air-conditioners here …

Only in Egypt

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There are many things you can find only here. I guess local residents never even thought how random certain things are in here.

First of all, let’s talk about food. Only in Egypt you can find a sandwich with French fries or mashed potatoes in it. Egyptians also put beans in a pita bread and eat it, just like that.

Let me tell you about a special dish that Egyptians crave for: it’s called Kosheri. Kosheri is a dish of all kinds of carbs: lentils, rice and pasta. I will never understand how people managed to put all these carbs together. It is also made with garlic and tomato sauce.

Kosheri

Well, judging by the name I figured it was something Jewish. When I expressed my guess to the people at work they were all surprised and claimed it is a traditional Egyptian food. Wikipidea saysthe following:

Food enthusiast Sami Zubaida says that kushari is a variant of Indian kitchri, brought to Egypt by British troops in the early 20th century. Other theories suggest that Kosheri may have been popularized by Egyptian jews, stemming from their kosher dietary requirements.

I believe that this “food enthusiast” was just too ashamed to admit that this dish is of a Jewish origin and made up a story about its Indian background. People at work did not really know what Kosher means and I had to explain it to them. Some of them said they will not eat Kosheri any more, never again 🙂

I guess it is just a very cheap and extremely nutritious food. However, after eating this many people do not really feel well and need some time to digest.

Another example of a “Traditional Egyptian” recipe: macaroni béchamel. When someone first told me that it was Egyptian, I could not stop laughing.

Many more adventures to come …

New Years Eve in Cairo: randomness and no snow

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Egyptians light candles during New Year's eve in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt. - ASSOCIATED PRESS

This New Year’s Eve was pretty unusual for me: no snow and Christmas trees, no fireworks and endless champagne, no traditional food and Russians around. It was all kinda casual in Egypt, but very special for me.

I could not fully avoid the traditional food; otherwise it would not be a New Year’s Eve for me. I could not ignore the president’s speech either, even though it was translated in Arabic by Russia Today. I also listened to the national anthem. It all seemed very different and unusual: palm trees outside the house and the lack of snow.

In the meantime, something unusual was happening on Tahrir square. People there neither protested, nor fully celebrated. I believe it is not a celebration unless everyone has a bottle of champagne and fireworks scatter in all directions. Religious leaders on stage also seemed a bit random. Well apparently this is the Cairo style celebration.

Thousands of Egyptian Muslims and Coptic Christians attend a celebration on New Year's eve in Tahrir Square in Cairo, as they remember those killed in the revolution that ended the long reign of president Hosni Mubarak. AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI

At the same time, two random news keep haunting my mind.

First of all, Egyptian security forces tormented offices of various NGOs in Cairo. Later on local authorities expressed desire that NGOs should stop receiving foreign funding, US funding precisely. This inevitably means a death of human rights NGOs in the country, since it is very hard to seek for funding within Egypt. It reminds me of the Russian authorities: they also blame Russian NGOs for taking money from the States and being pro-US. Well at the same time they all forget how they breach human rights that should be protected under the law. I believe it does not really matter who sponsors these NGOs unless they do their job well. I myself studied at the American University in Budapest, sponsored by the renown American-Hungarian billionaire George Soros. Russian authorities tried to demonize Soros in Russian press countless times. Well, so now I am an American spy just because I studied in this university? Total random bullshit.

Second news comes from Russia. A Muslim republic of Dagestan on the Russian Caucasus was not going to celebrate New Year in schools on religious basis. Religious leaders said this holiday goes against the Koran, while all the children should study Koran. I believe children should be left alone and if this holiday brings a smile on their faces then let it be. If they are happy to get a present from Father Frost and read a small poem in return – why not? Last year a bomb hidden under the Christmas tree took lives of several little children. Anyways I would pretty much support an idea that children should decide themselves (let’s say at the age of 15) what religious believe they wish to follow. Imposing religion on little kids seems just wrong to me.