Welcome to Egypt, This Way Please

This is the first of many rants from my private journal on my trip to Egypt last year. Learn more about the series here.

Baba and I landed in Cairo on the evening of May 19, 2011.

Baba’s requested wheelchair service was waiting for him right outside the airplane door, not the gate door like in Germany (for our layover), the airplane door which put my overly anxious father at ease. To be honest, the gentleman had an extremely professional and friendly demeanor unlike what I was expecting. He guided us through customs, “this way please”, where the officers were oddly polite following typical procedures with their questions. Then he guided us to baggage claims, “this way please,” where I remembered the one bag that wouldn’t show up.

I was maybe on 3 hours of sleep, exhausted from packing and repacking thanks to the odd agreement amongst airlines that believes you are well off on a long international trip with about 100 pounds and one carry-on. (To the people that come up with these stupid standards, good shoes and toiletries are not light!) I’ve been packing for over a month and somehow until the last minute I was still off by several pounds. The best part, I wasn’t just stressing over packing for myself, it started with stressing over shopping and packing for Baba too!

At SFO, there was a good 20 minutes of misinformation because Lufthansa was convinced I was going to Europe and not the Middle East so I should have LESS luggage… WHAT?! After that, was another good banter over one of my carry-ons being one too many. Really? Lufthansa asked for $250 if I wanted to have it checked! In the end I had to part with it because I usually take a while to get through security because of my hijab and Baba wasn’t being helpful at all. It was a tough decision to have to leave it behind even as Mama said she’d ship it too me. All I could think about was my favorite pair of heels I had packed in that carry-on specifically so they don’t get messed up in the handling of my luggage (I know, first world problems). For those who may or may not know, despite my ungirly dislike for shopping, I have a thing for shoes!

Back at the new terminal of Cairo International Airport (seems its only for EgyptAir flights), the gentleman handling my father’s wheelchair was kind enough to help out with our luggage, let me use his cell phone when my T-mobile international roaming decided not to be turned on per my request weeks in advance and wait before Baba’s nephews were able to get through security outside the airport to receive us.

The last time I was here was April 2001. I had an interesting experience, both good and bad. I enjoyed meeting new people and exploring Egypt’s treasures while putting up with constant verbal cat calling at the presence of my family members in public. I wondered then if Egypt would ever improve, change for the better.

I didn’t have a great first impression when after landing in Cairo’s airport then, everyone was harassing Mama and I to handle our luggage and be tipped for just offering to help. Customs were rude, acting like they were doing us a favor by letting us enter the country. Employees were plain rude if you weren’t deemed “important” or refused to tip for no reason. Bombarded by drivers fighting over offering you a ride even after you’ve said you were not interested.

This time was different.

No one touched our luggage unless we specifically requested it. Drivers only asked once, politely, and wished us well as they flashed a smile after we said “no, thank you.” The gentleman handling Baba’s wheelchair was a married man with kids, working this job because he actually enjoyed it. He didn’t once mention anything about getting a tip. Baba and I of course insisted on tipping him and taking down his number so that we can connect with him when my father was to fly back to California alone two months later.

On the hour or so drive to Baba’s farming country town of ElManzala where he grew up, I wondered if that airport experience was enough of an impression to judge if Egypt has changed for the better, different after the great revolution of earlier that year. Some streets were clean, others were not. Drivers were still driving crazy at one in the morning, yet they used their turning singnals. Homes were still being built, clothes were hung on clothes lines across balconies and roofs. Mosques and churches alike were colorfully light up. Cairo was wide awake, it never slept. And not one picture to remind the people of who used to run this place.

That put a smile on my face.

Day of Unspoken Heroes

Today is my day of unspoken heroes.

From the likes of Martin Luther King, the Arab Spring revolutionaries and the Occupy Movement protesters to those only known to a few of us. Yes we think and pray for them everyday, but today I ask you to repeat their simple acts of kindness, their inspiration, their generosity, their continued struggle and their love for others! Today is a day of service and I ask that you do so in their honor, in their name.

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In many ways these unspoken heroes had a part in who we are today and the least we can do is make today our day of unspoken heroes.

Thank you, Ms. Hala

URGENT! Donating to Libyan Revolutionaries

UPDATE: Please follow @HodaEmneina on Twitter as she is organizing several fundraising causes for Libya online!

As you all know, Libya’s uprising has turned extremely violent! Qadaffi’s government has been ruthless as it uses paid criminals and outside mercenaries to attack protesters across the country! No media is allowed in, coverage and pleas for support has been coming in from the people themselves!

It’s through them that we’ve learned that hospitals there (especially in Benghazi) are running out of blood and medical supplies to care for the injured. With the border of Libya and Egypt now being controlled by protesters, medical relief aid is being organized by doctors and hospitals there in an effort to help.

If you can donate to this medical relief aid please email Libyanaid@gmail.com & call +20227940518. If you’ve other sources, please pass them on!!

Thanks to all who are helping and spreading the word, your efforts are greatly appreciated by our Libyan revolutionaries!

In Search of #Jan25 Missing & Detained

Below is a message from fellow tweeter Ruwaydah as we try to collect and search for those still missing/detained since January 25th in Egypt. If you have ANY information on ANY missing or detained persons, PLEASE post a comment, email me or send Ruwaydah or myself a tweet ASAP! We’ll assure the information is sent to the appropriate people and news sources to help assist in the search!

This link has a list of those missing. Please check it to see if you know the whereabouts of any of those.

Thank you kindly, in solidarity

Ms. Hala & Ruwaydah

—–

This is a sincere call to all activists in Egypt to collectively help our Brothers and Sisters. In the past few days we have been united, Christian, Muslim, Atheist and agnostic towards a common goal to bring democracy, freedom and liberty within our society.

In the process the Government has responded harshly, many dead, injured and dozens kidnapped. In order to help those kidnapped and in particular their families we are trying to get in touch with them. Unfortunately we don’t have their contact numbers, so we can’t get in touch with them.

If you know someone who is missing and is willing to talk about it to news channels, we urgently need you to get in contact with us. It is essential that those arrested/kidnapped are helped and not left alone.

Please leave a comment, or send an email. We are here to help those detained/kidnapped and we want to get them out.

—–

The following link below showcases an unidentified martyr from the Egyptian protests. If you or someone you know recognizes this person, please let us know so that we may try to assist.  http://bit.ly/g1iKc2

.الرابط التالي يعرض علينا شهيد مجهول الهوية من الاحتجاجات المصرية. إذا كنت أنت أو أي شخص تعرف هذا الشخص، واسمحوا لنا أن نعرفه حتى نتمكن من محاولة مساعدة

http://bit.ly/g1iKc2

Contagious Jasmine Revolution – ثورة الياسمين المعدية

Contagious Jasmine Revolution
ثورة الياسمين المعدية
By: Ms. Hala

 

It started with one youngMohamed ElBouazizi of Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia man. Mohamed ElBouazizi.

It started with one town. Sidi Bouzid.

It started with one nation. Tunisia.

It started with one day. December 17, 2010.

Mohamed Bouazizi, 26, was an unemployed college graduate. With limited prospects for employment of any kind, he took what he had and bought a fruit cart. It was his only source of income. However, the police was not so understanding when they either fined him due to permits or requested a bribe he couldn’t afford (conflicting reports), they also humiliated him. His cart was confiscated, destroyed before his eyes and in front of his humble customers. When following procedures in making a government complaint went to no avail, ElBouazizi was not able to bare it all. Not knowing simply what to do, ElBouazizi self immolated himself in Sidi Bouzid’s public on December 17, 2010.

ElBouazizi died January 3, 2011.

Tunisia, a tightly run police state in North Africa, has had the same president for almost 25 years. Zine ElAbidine Ben Ali. Ben Ali – who’s first name ironically translates to “the best of the worshipers” – was the nation’s only second president since it’s independence from France. Like other neighboring Arab nations, it’s a given that once one obtains power, they stayed in power for life. Their family & friends reap the benefits while the people struggle to obtain simple basic needs.

After Bouazizi’s self immolation, many of the Tunisian youth asked themselves, “how much longer can they live with such humiliation? When was enough enough?”

Tunisian Fist c/o unknownAnd the Jasmine Revolution begins.

Before long, Twitter, Facebook and other social media networks were ablaze with the young people organizing to have their voices heard. They, alongside their elder and younger generations, took to the streets chanting, striking and doing whatever it took to have their voices amplified. Despite the lack of journalistic broadcasts of their demands for their inherited rights and freedom, their voices did not go on deaf ears.

It took 29 days, clashes with police, enforced curfews and support for the world over before Ben Ali finally “understood” and fled to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Today, there is an Interpol warrant out for his and his family’s arrest for courroption, theft and crimes against humanity. Protests remain to ensure that Ben Ali’s dictatorship does not continue through his circle still holding on to their government seats.

Before ElBouazizi, there was Khaled Said.

c/o www.elshaheed.co.uk

Said, a 28 year old young man of Alexandria, Egypt, was brutally killed by police in public for unknown reasons (conflicting reports have stated that it was either due to Said posting a video online of these same police offices in a corrupt deal after a drug sting or that he defended such an individual these officers were after). Eye witnesses and individuals who tried to intervene state that the police men dragged Said into a residential building lobby where they brutally beat him. Even as he begged them for mercy, the officers banged Said’s head several times against concrete steps, walls & floor of the building. A very graphic picture of Said after the incident can be found here.

Said died on June 6, 2010.

After the story spread across the nation via social mediablogs and the people’s uproar of the well known and feared police’s treatment of Egyptian citizens, authorities finally issued for an investigation of the policemen to take place. They were only charged with unlawful arrest & use of excessive force.

60 percent of Egypt’s population, like Said, are under the age of 35 and have only known one president, Hosni Mubarak. After President Anwar ElSadat’s assassination in 1981, Mubarak was sworn into office. Since then, Egypt has seen a rise in unemployment (now around 45%), extensive censorships and many living on survival mode as poverty reached the millions.

Since his swearing in 1981, Mubarak has put Egypt under an extended emergency law. Under this law persecutions, tortures, beatings, jailing without trail and/or of being taken “وراء الشمس” (“behind the sun” is what Egyptians refer to when one is arrested for unknown reasons and never seen again) was allowed; and the nation lived in fear.

After Said’s death, much of the Egyptian youth asked themselves, “how much longer can we live in such fear? When is enough enough?”

With a few unsuccessful protests, other forms of protests via the internet took place since. The story of ElBouazizi made it beyond the Tunisian borders. The young people of the Arab world watched Tunisia in amazement, mainly via social media, and took notes. (See “Thank You Tunisia” for images)

Ben Ali fled Tunisia on January 14, 2011.

Egyptian Voice c/o unknown

Social media networks were already ablaze with young people of Egypt organizing to have their voices heard as well. A “Day of Rage” was organized to take place on Egypt’s National Police Day for them, alongside their elder and younger generations, take to the streets and do whatever it takes to have their voices as amplified as those of Tunisia’s own.

Egypt was diagnosed with the Jasmine Revolution on January 25, 2011. The rest is history being written.