**The Dreaming is a term used by Aborigines to describe the relations and balance between the spiritual, natural and moral elements of the world.
I have arrived in Cairo alone. I am a day ahead of the tour that is supposed to take me on an educational tour of the Middle East.
At the airport a man from the tour company dressed in a suit is waiting for me in a limousine. I am seated and we are off to a hotel on the Nile…I drift to thirty years ago when I had arrived with my newly wed husband in the middle of Ramadan and were on our way also to a hotel on the Nile.
The roads are the same but the inhabitants on the road are different. I am stuck in rush hour traffic in Cairo. In the one and half hour drive to my hotel I enjoy the scenic route at a slow pace.
I notice unlike thirty years ago, most of the women drivers and passengers in the cars are in hijab (head covering). The second major change is that the Coptic orthodox churches are very prominent and have an “in your face” visibility.
Isn’t this the city of 2000 mosques?
Now traversing the highway it feels more like the city of churches. Every Coptic Church is lavishly lit up with neon sign crosses galore.
The third not inconsequential difference is popping up of the luxurious, handsome opulent buildings of the armed forces and the Government. They look elegant, solidly permanent with beautifully manicured gardens.
The driver points out in a cynical tone to a barricade where the entry road and all surrounding roads are barricaded “That is the road to Hosni Mobaraks palace”
I arrive at the Hotel and opt to pay extra to get a room with a Nile view.
The Bell boy (man) is extremely polite and engaging. He is of that indeterminate age somewhere between 35 and 45, strong enough to lift my luggage but has aged with the lines of worry and strife written all over his face.
We exchange pleasantries in the traditional Muslim way I ask about his family and he asks about mine. He tells me he has two sons and his eyes light up in the tired lined face. He asks me what sort of a Doctor I am, and then promptly shares his concerns about one of his sons and asks for advice.
He tells me wistfully that he does not get to see them awake as he travels one and half-hour by bus to get to the hotel at 6 am, and when he returns they are already in bed asleep.
He is of the few who are fortunate to have a paying job.
“Why don’t you live in Cairo?” I ask thinking about downtown housing at home.
A look comes over his face, “I cannot even dream of it” he says, a firm and accepting look on his face, unquestioning of the impregnable divide between the have’s and the have-nots and resignation to that fate…………….
That night at 9 pm he will take the bus for one and one half hour to his home in the outskirts of Cairo and his boys will be asleep.
That was before Jan 25, 2011.
I meet a young college student, who tells me that when she goes to the mosque for Jumma she is followed and later questioned as to her relationship with other Muslim political groups, she thus gave up going to the mosque.
For Eighty years the older generation of Egyptians stopped dreaming and kept adjusting to what ever oppression was foisted on them. The fatalistic cynicism that comes with atheistic thinking has overtaken them.
Others feel that either God has forsaken them or that God has allocated them oppression and more oppression and this is their fate. yet others feel that their only way out is to immigrate to another country.
However immigration to the most popular country in the world (USA) is not possible, as it does not want Egyptians anymore. Right wing TV News has already drummed into the mind of the American TV Watchers that Egyptians are Arabs and that is another word for terrorists.
However I was all wrong……….about every thing and everyone in Egypt. Historically Egypt has grown strong, steadfast levelheaded practical men and women in the past. Why not now?
What I did not know that unbeknownst to all, a generation of Egyptian men and women were growing up in the land of oppression, who were dreaming of a life of dignity. They had set their sights for a nation without oppression, without fear of no one except God and a lack of attachment to things.
With the New Year 2011, came the drawing of the first blood. The Dictator of Tunisia crossed the line and the public took him down!
On Jan 25…………..the generation of Egyptians who were dreaming decided to take action and make their dream come true.
To the horror of their elders who were well entrenched in the service of the establishment, these youth picked up the first stone to cast at the huge photo of Hosni Mubarak and the Egyptian dreaming morphed into the Egyptian Intifada…………….
I wonder if the sons of the bellboy at the Hotel will grow up with out the fear of oppression. Whether the girl I met will be able to go to Jumma at the mosque without being harassed, and whether for once in eighty long years Egypt will rise as a Phoenix instead of being held down in stone near the Pyramids of Giza and show the way to other oppressed nations?
Of course I may just be Dreaming in Egyptian…………
wow! an excellent comibination of your experience, with a good grasp of historical knowledge and an element of empathy for the humaness in others….. I hope your talent to capture the ambiance of the city and the experiences of others in a well wrtten piece is recognized and shared with others…