On the state of Egypt
The new ‘infrastructural grandeur’ is covering an uncomfortable truth
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
After a few years, I have got the chance to visit Egypt again during the summer.
As soon as I left the airport I was struck by the large number of new infrastructures; there were bridges, tunnels and the still to be completed new monorail line, that will connect the capital with the new Government complex .
How good, how beautiful, is Egypt finally coming back to its glory?
Is it going to be able to finally reach the modernity of some of its Arab friends such as the UAE? As much as I enjoyed my ten days stay, a huge feeling of sadness hit me.
Beneath all this infrastructural grandeur there is a country that is losing its identity and forgetting its history; a man that is steering the ship towards indebtment and chaos, without a vision and without any other purpose than that of staying in power as long as he can. President Sissi -whose image is carefully cured by the immense propagandistic campaign that the Government takes on through pictures and posters in every corner of the country, along with full control of most TV channels, journals, and Media outlets- has taken on a huge personal challenge to modernise the nation through these big investments (most notably the expansion of the Suez Canal). No matter how most of them are actually useful projects to modernise the country and to solve the important problem of overpopulation and traffic -especially in Cairo- they are also just another mean that the Government uses to cover all of its dirty laundry.
Beneath all this infrastructural grandeur there is a country that is losing its identity and forgetting its history
For instance, one of the most notorious example is the despicable work of the National Security Agencies. They continuously target human rights defenders, opposition politicians and other activists through unlawful summons, coercive questioning, extrajudicial probation measures, criminal investigations and unfair prosecutions, adding them to the “list of terrorists”.
Besides these criminal measures though, what has really upset me was that, while the country is getting into more and more dept, there is still around 27% of the population (nearly 30 million people) that are left under the poverty line.
While the President is building new infrastructures and modernising the country, there is a third of the population that is already left behind.
Namely, the barefoot taxi drivers, convinced that if the football national team was to qualify for the World Cup, each Egyptian would receive enough money from the Government to live the rest of his life on a beach. Others are men and women willing to sell anything on the streets just to bring food to their children. Some are young people, who dream of reaching the ‘promised land’, that we simply call Europe.
While the President is building new infrastructures and modernising the country, there is a third of the population that is already left behind
On the other hand, there is a 3% of the population who holds around 85% of the wealth, and it is composed by men and women who thrive in the huge richness that Egypt has to offer. They are able to exploit it as well, or even better than any capitalist in the Western world.
They are the ones that live between compounds protected by 24/7 security and shopping centres, sending their children to overly expensive International Schools.
They seem to live in a completely different world, estranged from what is happening outside, and totally oblivious of what it means to be Egyptian, of what Egyptian culture is.
They are apparently unaware of all the people that, through literature, art, philosophy and politics have made this country the mother of the Arab World.
Plus, there is a great part of the population that forms the Middle class. Once the pillars on which President Nasser wanted to build his idea of a socialist Egypt during the 60s, it has been weakened through time and is now reduced to those who would like to enter that 3% and the ones who fight to not fall under the poverty line
3% of the population who holds around 85% of the wealth, and it is composed by men and women who thrive in the huge richness that Egypt has to offer.
While taking off from Cairo Airport with a huge sense of bitterness, I asked myself: Where are those people who rose in 2011 to break those barriers and chains that are now stronger than ever?
When will the Egyptians take on the streets again to finally take what is theirs and avoid committing the same mistakes of the past? That time will come, as history teaches. It might be tomorrow, or it might be in 30 years, but the Egyptians will take on the streets again to take the system down, and the World will stand still and watch closely. Despite the power that the Gulf countries hold right now thanks to their immense resources, the Arab League meets in Cairo, not Riyadh; Israel-Palestine talks are held in Egypt, not in the UAE.
Egypt is, and will always remain, the keyholder to the Middle East.