Monday, July 29, 2013

Laugh In The Dark

A couple of little old ladies (ok, one of them was me so maybe the "ladies" part is an exaggeration) were having lunch yesterday at the new Lebanese place on Road 9 in Maadi. (Al Balad is nice food, a little pricey, but good.) Anyway, we were talking and my companion told me that at every single shop where she'd stopped that morning the workers within were bursting to talk to her about all the advice Egypt seems to be getting from governments abroad. The gist of each outburst was "But none of those people have been here! None of them has seen their businesses go under because there's no power/gas/clients/money! None of them have had to listen to the crazy religious jabber of people who think that the age at which a girl marries is more important than the security of our hospitals!" There were variations on the theme, but essentially that was what she was hearing, and being a nice woman originally from Pennsylvania but also a 25 yr resident in Egypt, they really wanted to understand where all this was coming from.

The problem was that my companion felt the same way. As she put it, how could Pakistan, for heaven sake, where people get killed in horrible sectarian violence all the time, stand with a straight face and criticise the "coup/revolution/junta"? Neither of us are happy with the situation as it stands, especially since if people start running down streets away from mobs or CSF forces, us little old ladies aren't very fast. We make terrible revolutionaries.  Over olives and bread, I had a thought and it was that as much as what Egypt is doing in terms of our social/political growth (hopefully) and change (certainly) scares us Egyptians, it is TERRIFYING most of the rest of the world.

In my search for thought-provoking articles for my Facebook page, I follow people who comment on events worldwide, and one of the remarkable things I've noticed is that the general discontent level worldwide is rising. This is accompanied by a rise in conservative-unto-fascist thinking as many people retreat in the face of their worry and confusion (which is a whole other topic but it is feeding into the general divisiveness in Egyptian society), but many governments around the world must be really worried that if crazy, chaotic Egypt can get a ton of people (and I will not get into the question of just how many but it was a hell of a lot) into the streets, what would happen if THEIR people did it! This is a very sobering thought because no matter what form of government is concerned, the fact is that no army or police can really deal with a situation if literally millions of people simply walk into the streets and refuse to leave. So far, most places have not been driven to the point of distraction that Egypt was, so it hasn't happened, but the fact that we've done it means that it can be done. I'm quite sure that this is a lesson every government is hoping that their people don't notice or learn.

I think that, while being aware of others' opinions is not a Bad Thing, being overly concerned with them is debilitating, especially when the ship of state is sailing uncharted waters. Please forgive the nautical metaphors but having spent some years helping to skipper a sailboat around the Mediterranean, the image is the best I know.  The reality is that we don't know what is going to happen here. The MB seem to be digging in their heels and refusing to accept the political world that the majority of Egyptians are currently willing to be living in, which means that the military goal of clearing Raba'a and Nahda is going to be very difficult to achieve. And the recent allowing of "emergency" powers to the military AGAIN! is troubling to many of us who remember all too well that the military have kept a subtle but firm hand on our government throughout all since 2011, much to the detriment of the people. Will Tamerod be able to pull off another coup/revolution/whatever against the military should everyone realise that we are being steered back to 1990...or will the threat be enough to keep the military somewhat in line until we have some sort of real  opposition party? We simply don't know but we can't stand still. We must move on.

Friends in the US and Canada who read alarmist headlines contact me constantly about possibly returning to the lands of sanity (in their minds, but not mine), but I'm here for the long haul. Life these days reminds me of a carnival ride I went on when I was about seven in San Diego. It was called Laugh In The Dark and you sat in a small car that went through dark tunnels where skeletons and the like would pop out at you around corners or fall almost into your lap. It was terrifying and I believe I went on it three times that day. This is all utterly mad, but I wouldn't miss it for the world.

copyright 2013 Maryanne Stroud Gabbani


Mary Ann said...

I enjoy reading your posts for the "other side of the story"... we do only get to see one side on the news here. It looks dangerous, but I know life must be going on behind the scenes, just as you write.

Boxie said...

Thank you for posting your thoughts on the subject. Ever since I did a short stay in Cairo where I lived in garden city, and saw the start a second time, I have been wanting to follow the news in Egypt. I really hope that people will get something good out of all this and not just heavy handed people. Inshallah have a good day.

Nancy Colwell said...

I live in the USA and I would rather be in Egypt lol. No one here whether they be Republican or Democrat like what is going on politically in this this Country. Our President is a joke, Congress is a joke. I have always been an Independent and both parties sicken me. Can a revolt happen in the US? You can bet your Egyptian pound it could!

Maggy Patrick said...

Hello Maryanne,

My name is Maggy Patrick and I work for ABC News' World News with Diane Sawyer. We're working on a piece about the clashes there and how daily life is effected. If you're interested, please email me at


Gabriella Kadar said...

Maryanne, August 15th today: yesterday was a terrible day in Egypt. Back in July I was guardedly optimistic that these things wouldn't happen. It's hard to tell exactly, but it seems the 'security forces' are the police. I hope it's not the army.

Keep safe.

Maryanne Stroud Gabbani said...

This has simply been a godawful week. For the life of me I can't imagine why the military government (and right now it is essentially the same old villains that we were trying to get rid of in 2011 but everyone is so delighted to have sent the MB packing that they refuse to notice) ever allowed the MB to set up camps at Nahda and Rabaa. Can you imagine someone letting 3 thousand people camp out in midtown Manhattan? Would anyone, even students, be allowed to set up a camp and shoot at people from NYU? Not for a moment. So why was this allowed...I can only imagine a private military/security scenario. This, of course, makes the actions of the police in removing the protesters even more objectionable although in a way that most people aren't talking about.

The MB are not angels, especially at the top of the heap, and the military regime, I'm convinced, has no interest in the good of the Egyptian people. They never have before. I've seen the press, the government and a lot of people that I though much smarter than they seem to actually be whipping up a frenzy of hatred against anyone connected with the Muslim Brotherhood, which simply isn't fair. I've also been quite disappointed with some of the later ventures of the Tamarod youth which have similarly been tinged with hate.

I can only hope.

Mrs. Reese said...

Hi Maryanne! I came across your blog online, and have loved reading about your experiences in Egypt. I am a first grade teacher in Colorado. My class will be "traveling around the world" this year by receiving post cards from different countries. We study Egypt near the beginning of the school year, and I am in search of a kind resident of Egypt who would be willing to send our class a postcard with a few interesting/unique things about Egypt and what the schools are like there. If you would be interested, please email me at Thanks so much!

Maryanne Stroud Gabbani said...

Hi Mrs Reese,
I've passed on your note to a couple of friends who are teachers here in Cairo as 1) there aren't many postcards out here in the boonies, and 2) I think that post cards from other kids might be even more enjoyable. Hopefully they will pass on your email to other teachers.

Mrs. Reese said...

Thanks so much! I really appreciate that!

Vinnie said...

You are our window to Egypt, as a westerner you are uniquely place to witness events first hand and give your unique and unbiased interpretation. Egypt is going through its most turbulent phase. Some times I wonder if Pharaos could come back and save this great country.

Hyman said...

This is fantastic!

Lauren of Arabia said...

I'm glad I have come across your blog. Its always nice to read about the different perspectives on what's going on these days in Egypt.