Cairo: the disappointments

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Cairo: the disappointments

In Cairo, just being normal is difficult. Maria Golia explains.


© Sarah John

Cairo should win an award as the ‘world’s best capital city’ for how well the people who live there accept the government lying to them. The capital of Egypt is keeping together and falling apart; it’s a paradox. Everything almost works, because people keep up their daily routines.

Many people have seen how the government have reacted to its many disasters: the military bombed a group of tourists in the desert last September (the government said the tour operator was responsible because they were in a restricted area); Alexandria flooded because the city drains had not been maintained last October (the government said the Muslim Brotherhood were responsible); the November 2015 Russian plane crash in Sinai (the government did not blame this on an ISIS bomb, even though the international forensic investigation proved this); the torture and murder in February 2016 of young Giuglio Regeni (the government said a gang was responsible and they were assassinated); and the continuing disappearances of hundreds of civilians (the government does not blame this on anyone, but says it is not happening).

So people do not have so much confidence in the leaders. Most countries try to defend their land, but Egypt has recently given some away (the Red Sea Islands of Tiran and Sanafir) to Saudi Arabia – a country most Egyptians do not like. The Egyptian government said the islands were never Egyptian, Egypt just looked after them, and they need them for the new bridge across the Red Sea. Some Egyptians think this bridge project is impressive, but most people in Cairo think it will be very bad for the environment. And if it’s difficult to cross the street in Cairo, how can they build a road through the Red Sea?

Egypt does not have popularity ratings. If they did, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi would probably have a low rating. But many Egyptians feel sorry for him. After his election, he was like a celebrity. But then came all the challenges and responsibilities. Sisi has cried seven times in the media: with family members of victims of terrorism; when people gave speeches praising him; on Victory Day celebrations while watching a video of himself asking Egyptians to help him fight terrorism; when asking Egyptians to support his decisions about relations with neighbouring Arab countries; and when remembering the dead Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz.

In June, after two years as president, el-Sisi went on TV and asked people to trust the ‘monitoring bodies and their procedures’ and said they should continue to fight corruption. But then, the government prosecuted the head of the Central Auditing Organization and sent him to prison for a year because he found out that there was corruption everywhere, and that 600 billion Egyptian pounds ($67 billion) were lost to corruption in 2015.

In June, an administrative court cancelled the agreement with Saudi Arabia to give them the Red Sea islands. But the people who were arrested for protesting against giving them the islands are still in prison.

Egypt now has a population of 91 million. This is very difficult because the country is a desert, the water resources are not divided up fairly, and there is not enough water for so many people. But Cairo still continues. People continue to work and live, often on auto-pilot. Sometimes there is not much hope. But each day without a great catastrophe is good. Many people in Cairo are thinking: is this a life?

Maria Golia lives in Egypt and wrote this:

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