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.

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