The End of the Land of the Nile

I would like to apologize to my readers for the delay in getting this last blog out. I have been trying to think of how to end the blog and secretly delaying it as long as possible because writing this last blog means that I finally will put an end to this extraordinary experience that I wish would never end. But I think I have delayed long enough so here is my closing thoughts about my semester abroad in Egypt.

As you can tell from my previous blogs, Egypt is an amazing country. It is rich in history and culture and has so much to offer us. The country is continuously growing and changing. Since I left, politically, Egypt has taken some big steps internally and internationally against ISIS. I do not want to make this closing statement about politics, but all of you should keep up with some of the things Egypt is doing. They are such an important country and will be doing some very important things in the future.

Egypt is a place where you will see weird things at its finest. You will see way too many people on a motorcycle or in the back of a pick-up truck flying down the highway. You will see toddlers and babies in the front seat of a car or in the drivers lap. You will see people casually crossing highways while cars are going like 70 mph down the road. The door knobs on the outside of house or apartment doors never turn. It is normal to go through metal detectors and get your car searched by dogs to enter the malls. Cats are everywhere. People love to party on Faluka boats on the Nile River. You can see packs of camels caravanning on the side of the highway to the North Coast. Driving is a death sentence. It rarely rains and when it does everyone freaks out (kind of like Ohio when it snows). Shisha/hookah is like drinking coffee; it’s everywhere and it’s really cheap. The mall is a non-smoking place, except for every restaurant which is about half of the mall. And there are countless other things that I could go on and on about. Egypt has some pretty weird scenes.

AUC was more than I could have ever imagined. The students are so welcoming and the staff is so helpful. I learned so much from the classes and the trips I went on with the international office. I was able to experience all different types of people and cities. AUC is truly a great school with some much to offer its students.

Dubai was incredible. The city is one of the coolest cities I will ever go to. There is so much to do and see. It is so alive at all hours of the day and night. I had the best 5 days ever there. It is so beautiful. And where in the world can you go ice skating and skiing and then beaching in the same day? Nowhere. It pretty awesome.

I made memories to last a lifetime. I had fun; I made friends; I was able to serve the community; I traveled; and I spent quality time with my family. I could not have asked for anything more.

There are so many people to thank for making this the most amazing study abroad trip. I would like to thank AUC, the ISSA Office and the IPLs for their time and dedication to making sure that all the internationals including myself felt comfortable throughout the whole semester. I want to thank all the friends I made for the memories and the fun times we had. I can’t imagine how the semester would have gone without all of them.

Lastly, and most importantly, I would like to thank my family. They were my backbone. They supported me and helped me when I struggled. I cannot even begin to thank them enough for their hospitality, for taking me in and caring for me, for giving me a place to call home, for taking me out and showing me places, for cooking for me and getting me my favorite foods and cookies and cakes, for providing me with all of my necessities, and for always being there for me. And of course family dinners, arguably the funniest times of my trip.

I would highly recommend to anyone to go on a study abroad trip and of course I would advocate for Egypt. It is one of the most beneficial experiences you will ever have in your life. You will grow as a person and you will learn so much about yourself.

Thank you to the readers for keeping up with the blog. Thank you for letting my share my experience with you.

And with a heavy heart, my experience comes to a close.

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you…Hopefully, you will leave something good behind.”  -Anthony Bourdain

Egypt Corner

Christmas x2

For most of us in the U.S., Christmas is the best day of the year. We get to decorate our houses, spend the day with our families, eat lots of food, and give/get lots of presents. Well in Egypt Christmas is celebrated twice. So I got two days full of joy and cheer.

Here is some background information. The minority religion in Egypt is Christianity. And many of the Christians are Coptic Orthodox and follow the Coptic Liturgical Calendar. This calendar dates back to the Ancient Egyptians; therefore, they do not celebrate holidays on the same days as we do. January 7th is Christmas, and the Egyptian government has declared January 7th to be a national holiday. Because Christmas all around the world is celebrated on December 25th, many of the Christians in Egypt celebrate on both days.

Just as around the world Christmas has become very secularized, Egypt is no exception. On December the 25th, you will find people all around Egypt, no matter what their religion, decorating their houses, having Christmas parties, and exchanging gifts. The malls are decorated with Christmas music playing throughout the stores. You will find that all the way through January 7th, people will be joining in the festivities.

Each family has different traditions that they take part in. Most of the time the family spends the day together and eats a big feast together. I will tell you a little bit about how my experience was for both December 25th and January 7th.

December 25th

On December 25th in my family and most others, Santa comes to town. Just like the kids anywhere else in the world, my cousins woke up early, ran into my room, and woke me up because Santa had left presents under the tree. After present are opened, I gathered at different family members’ houses for lunch or dinner or even just snacks. It is honestly not too much different from Christmas in the U.S. The only real difference is the size of family get-togethers. You can expect to have at least 30 people at a family gathering at times.

January 7th

Coptic Christmas is a bit different than what most people are used to. 40 days before January 7th, there is a fast that the Coptic Orthodox Christians take part in. During this time (and all other fasting periods during the year), people fast from all dairy and meat products. Essentially, we go vegan. On January 6th, everyone gets dressed up into pretty dresses and suites and goes to an evening mass at church. We fast from all food and water for 9 hours prior to midnight, in order to partake in Communion, which is considered to be a Holy Sacrament by the church. After church is finished, there is a big feast with every good amazing food you can ever think of on the table. And after being vegan for such a long time, the food has never tasted better. Now keep in mind that none of the eating happens till about 12:30 am. We stay up all night eating, laughing, and celebrating.

On the 7th, there is another big family get together with all extended family and family friends, no what their religion. There is even more food than there was the night before. It is a time to see all the family together once again. Everyone eats and catches up. Many people wonder the kids get double presents, and actually the answer is no. Normally, presents are given around December 25th, and money is given on January 7th.

This year on Coptic Christmas history was made. For the very first time, an Egyptian President attended the Christmas service at the cathedral where the Pope leads the service. It is common for famous actors and actresses to make an appearance at the service as a form of respect and acknowledgment. Never before as any of the former presidents come and acknowledged the importance of that day and that service. This year El-Sisi went to the cathedral in what seemed to be an unexpected visit. Pope Tawadros II stopped the service and met El-Sisi on the steps leading up to the alter. El-Sisi made a short speech that was televised, saying that he wants to see all Egyptians unite as one with no divisions between Egyptian Muslims and Egyptian Christians. It was a very momentous moment for religion in Egypt, especially for the Copts.

Here in the States I am fortunate to take part in most of these traditions through my own church. What made this time so different was thinking about and being part of “the real thing,” I guess is the best way to say it. We also heard about how full the church is for the Christmas service and how great the food is and how big the family gatherings are. And no matter how hard we would try to do the same types of thing in the US, my mom would say it’s just not the same. I had the chance to see where all my traditions came from. It was a very great experience.

I will be posting one last blog to rap up my experience in Egypt. I want to thank all those who have been reading this blog and giving me the opportunity to share this great experience!

Dubai

A city of lights, that parties all night and every night. A city full of foreigners, that has more shopping than you can imagine. A city with the tallest building in the world. Yes, I am talking about Dubai.

IMG_1058 IMG_1071

Dubai is a major hotspot of the Arab world. It is arguably the most developed city in the region. There are many reasons that make Dubai so famous.

  1. Its 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit in December and January. I went tanning on the beach.
  2. The malls are huge with every store you can imagine.
  3. The Palm. A manmade island that looks like a palm tree from up above.
  4. The Night Life. There is always a party to go to, no matter what night of the week.
  5. The Burj Khalifa. The world’s tallest skyscraper.

Let us start with the beach. I was in shock when I realized that it was December 30th and I was laying on a towel in my swimsuit soaking up the sun on the beach. It was so surreal. The beaches in Dubai are actually quite nice! The water was a bit cold. I went to two different beaches while I was there. The first was called JBR. It is basically the “boardwalk.” There are many shops and restaurants and ice cream places. And every time you look up, you can see people jumping out of planes and sky diving back down to the earth. The amount of people that was there was insane. Because of its amazing weather, Dubai’s tourist season is in the winter. So as you can imagine the beach was packed; well actually everywhere I went was packed…The second beach I went to was called Riva. It is a private beach on The Palm. Across the bay, was the Burj Al Arab. The Burj Al Arab is another very famous building in Dubai. It is said to be the world’s only 7 star hotel. At the top of the building there is a helicopter landing pad that has been transformed and used for a variety of events, such as tennis matches, ping-pong matches, and golfing.

JBR

JBR

JBR decorated for Christmas

JBR decorated for Christmas

RIVA view of the Burj Al Arab

RIVA view of the Burj Al Arab

The world’s largest mall is called the Dubai Mall. There are about 1,200 shops inside the mall as well as the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo and the Dubai Ice Rink. I had the opportunity to visit everything there was in this mall. The stores are a mix of American stores, European stores, and very high class stores like Gucci, Prada, Burberry, etc. The Aquarium was one of the coolest aquariums I have ever been to. As you walk through the mall you can see the main tank of the aquarium with all the sharks, stingrays, and other big fish. The ice rink is also a major attraction to the Dubai Mall. Not only do children and adults skate around, but there are also ice dancers that dance and put on shows in the midst of all the others.

Dubia Aquarium and Underwater Zoo

Dubia Aquarium and Underwater Zoo

Waterfall in the middle of the Dubai Mall

Waterfall in the middle of the Dubai Mall

The Ice RInk

The Ice RInk

The other very famous mall in Dubai is call Mall of the Emirates. This has the same types of stores, but it is smaller. In Mall of the Emirates, they have the famous Ski Dubai. Ski Dubai is an indoor ski resort. It is pretty incredible. There is snow and hills that people are skiing and snowboarding down. My family and I had dinner at the Cheesecake Factory which has a view of Ski Dubai, so as we were waiting for our dinner we could watch all the people playing in the snow!

Ski Dubai from the Cheesecake Factory

Ski Dubai from the Cheesecake Factory

Ski Dubai

Ski Dubai

During the New Year the malls have a shopping festival where all the stores have huge sales. Almost every store I walked into had 50-70% off. As you can imagine every person was in the malls. They were so packed that you could barely walk through them. Every mall also has a taxi line. Since most people there are tourists taxis are extremely popular. There are specific entrances and exits for the taxis and there would be a line of people waiting for a one. I stood in a taxi line for almost an hour one night. But there is a whole system to this part of the mall. There are long lines of taxis and there is someone directing traffic. They let out a certain amount of people and then let all the full taxis go and start the whole process over again. It is very organized.

Another major attraction of Dubai is the Palm. This is a manmade island in the shape of a palm tree when looking from an aerial view.  The Palm has a variety of things on it.  Residential buildings, hotels and resorts, private beaches, entertainment, and clubs. One of the nicest hotels on the island is the Atlantis. Unfortunately, I did not get the chance to go inside, but the outside looked incredible. I spent New Year’s Eve on The Palm at a club called Eden. It was an open air club right on the beach. I was able walk from the club to the shore and watch all the fireworks of The Palm. It was pretty amazing.

The Palm from above https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CAcQjRw&url=%2Furl%3Fsa%3Di%26rct%3Dj%26q%3D%26esrc%3Ds%26source%3Dimages%26cd%3D%26cad%3Drja%26uact%3D8%26ved%3D0CAcQjRw%26url%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Fen.wikipedia.org%252Fwiki%252FPalm_Jumeirah%26ei%3DPlPIVLOzPM_9gwS-h4OIDw%26bvm%3Dbv.84607526%2Cd.eXY%26psig%3DAFQjCNGIPkVv4LtSACmnIZAU-YaUCywf9Q%26ust%3D1422501001226165&ei=PlPIVLOzPM_9gwS-h4OIDw&bvm=bv.84607526,d.eXY&psig=AFQjCNGIPkVv4LtSACmnIZAU-YaUCywf9Q&ust=1422501001226165

The Palm from above

Eden

Eden

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The night life is always alive. Dubai is known for parties, clubs, and bars. There is always somewhere to go. I went to one bar that was a roof top bar and you could see all of Dubai from the top. One thing I notices about the clubs overseas, in general, is the dancing and the music. The music is very clubby and technoy. And the dancing is pure fun. People love to dance and they keep it clean. Of my entire time abroad I did not go into a club that there was dirty dancing. It was so much fun. In Dubai, and all across the Middle East, they have dry nights where no alcohol is allowed to serve alcohol. On dry nights, there are house parties and the house parties get pretty crazy. People love to party in Dubai.

The view from a roof top bar I went to.

The view from a roof top bar I went to.

The most famous thing in Dubai is the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. It is 2,722 feet tall with 163 floors. In the building, there are office, restaurants and residential floors. The main attraction for tourists at the Burj is called At The Top. You get to go to the 124th floor where there is a sky deck that you can look out over the whole city. I had the opportunity to go during sunset so I was able to see the city during the daytime sunset, sundown, and at nighttime. The view is much more impressive at night. You can see all the lights of the city and you get to see how amazing Dubai looks. During the daytime, you can see how small the city actually is and how much desert surrounds the area. The sunset is really pretty and there is an orange color that lines the entire city. The Burj is really amazing from the inside as well. On the way up, there is a video you can watch about how they built the building. There is also a segment that talks about how they filmed Tom Cruise run across the side of the building in the movie Mission Impossible. It is pretty amazing to think that he actually did run across the side of the tallest building in the world. You can also go to the 148th level known as the SKY level. I went to the 124th and I would recommend going to the top to anyone who goes to Dubai. It is truly amazing.

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Looking up from the 124th floor

Looking up from the 124th floor

Dubai from the top of the Burj Khalifa right before sunset

Dubai from the top of the Burj Khalifa right before sunset

Sunset at the Burj

Sunset at the Burj

Dubai at night from the top of the Burj

Dubai at night from the top of the Burj

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Overall, I would say Dubai is a great city. While there is a lot of fabrication to the city, there is nowhere else in the world where you can go to the beach and go skiing in the same day. The most interesting thing about the city is that most of development has occurred within the last 10-15 years, and it is still growing. There is a section of the city that they are building a mote around and they are planning on making an amusement park. There are so many plans for the city. It is a place you can do anything that you could ever imagine. It was one of the most memorable trips I have taken throughout my study abroad trip and I would recommend it to anyone.

Keep on the lookout for the last two blogs coming within the coming week! I will be wrapping up what Christmas in Egypt was like and will end the blog by writing about all the interesting and weird things in Egypt. Thanks for reading!!

The picture of The Palm was taken from: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CAcQjRw&url=%2Furl%3Fsa%3Di%26rct%3Dj%26q%3D%26esrc%3Ds%26source%3Dimages%26cd%3D%26cad%3Drja%26uact%3D8%26ved%3D0CAcQjRw%26url%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Fen.wikipedia.org%252Fwiki%252FPalm_Jumeirah%26ei%3DPlPIVLOzPM_9gwS-h4OIDw%26bvm%3Dbv.84607526%2Cd.eXY%26psig%3DAFQjCNGIPkVv4LtSACmnIZAU-YaUCywf9Q%26ust%3D1422501001226165&ei=PlPIVLOzPM_9gwS-h4OIDw&bvm=bv.84607526,d.eXY&psig=AFQjCNGIPkVv4LtSACmnIZAU-YaUCywf9Q&ust=1422501001226165

Egypt, the Gift of the Nile

Hi Everyone!

I would like to apologize for not putting a blog up sooner, but I have had finals for the last two weeks, whether through the form of projects, papers, or actual exams. This week I will posting a few different research papers that I have been working on this semester.

Today, I will post my final term paper for my Egyptian Foreign Policy class. I wrote mine about Egypt’s foreign policy towards the Nile Basin countries. The Nile River is the main source of fresh water for about 40% of Africa’s population. The biggest problem is the populations in each country are growing, and the water is depleting. Egypt has had a monopoly over the river and now they are coming into conflict with the other Nile Basin countries, especially Ethiopia.

This is actually was not aware of how important this problem is to the national security of Egypt till I began doing the research. Please read the document I have attached with all my work!

Enjoy!

Egypt, Ethiopia, and the Rest of the Nile Basin

The Religion of the Arab World

I have lived in the US for my entire life where the dominant religion is Christianity. I am a Coptic and Greek Orthodox Christian and I have never thought about what it would be like to be of a minority religion. I will not deny that being Orthodox is difficult in the US. Many people do not know what Orthodoxy is and some people do not believe we are Christians at all (which in fact we are, but that is another discussion). For the last 4 months, I have lived in a country that is predominantly Muslim and now I am the minority. The roles have been switched and I have decided that I will take advantage of it and learn as much as I can about the Islam.

I know that many people at home know very little about the religion, and I think it would be ignorant of me not to write on this, keeping in mind that this blog is an outreach project. The blog as a whole is supposed to teach people about Egypt and the Middle East including the different aspects of life in comparison to back home. So the point of this post is to be objective and report on the core beliefs and a brief history of mainstream Islam. The point is not to dispute the beliefs against my own or to engage in a political discussion. Also I do not in any way call myself an expert, so I apologize in advance if I offend anyone or if I have misunderstood or misinterpreted anything along the way. I will not address all of the beliefs due to my limited knowledge, but if you have more questions, I would urge you to read or ask someone who will know more than I do.

Islam is about 1400 years old and a quarter of the world’s population from every corner of the earth are believers and followers. It is the third Abrahamic religion of the world proceeded by Judaism and Christianity. The main belief that one must completely embrace is that there is only one God and Mohammad is his prophet. Being an Abrahamic religion, Muslims believe in many of the Old Testament prophets. Jesus Christ is also regarded as a prophet. The main difference between Christianity and Islam on the beliefs surrounding Jesus are that of his death. In Islam, Jesus was taken straight to heaven by God, rather than dying on the cross and rising from the dead.

Mohammad is the last of the prophet and God appeared to him by means of the Angle Gabriel through revelations or visions. During these visions, Mohammad was given the word of God also known today as the Qur’an, which he memorized and passed down to his followers. The Qur’an is considered to be one of the greatest miracles, because Mohammad was illiterate and the Qur’an was passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth for about 200 years before it was written down on paper.

There are five pillars that Muslims are to follow. The first is the testimonial and believing that there is only one God and Mohammad is his prophet, like I had mentioned before. The second is prayer. There are five main prayers a day. The mosque is the place of prayer, although not every prayer must be done in the mosque. Friday is considered to be a holy day and people go to the mosque to pray and learn. In predominately Muslim countries, mosques are found quite frequently and they have speakers that are used to make the call for the five prayers every day. The third pillar is alms-giving, for those who are able to give a portion of their wealth. The fourth is fasting. During one month of the year, the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast for the daylight hours from all food or drink. It is considered to be one of the only thing the God specifically ask of His followers. The fifth and final pillar is the pilgrimage. For all Muslims who are able to, they are to travel to the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia at least one time in their lifetime. Mecca is considered that holiest city because it is the birthplace of Mohammad and where the first vision from God took place.

Islam spread very quickly following the time of Mohammad, and the Islamic state was born (please keep in perspective that this was during the mid-600s A.D.) After his death, came the Golden Age of Islam that lasted about 30 years. During the Golden Age came the four Rightly Guided Caliphs: Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali. After the Rightly Guided, came the era of dynasties that ruled the land until the Ottomans took control. There was much dispute over Ali becoming one of the caliphs. He was only accepted by part of the population and from this dispute came the biggest division in Islam between the Sunni and the Shi’a (who supported Ali).

There was no concept of separation between religion and government. According to one of my professors, the biggest assumption at the time was that life was governed by a specific set of thoughts—the Islamic way of life. This assumption was true up till the 19th century. Today, we see that there is a clear division between the majority of Muslims who have refuted this concept and those who still believe it strongly. This division is especially clear after the Arab Spring revolutions and the rise of terrorist groups like ISIS or DASH.

The concept of Sharia Law or Islamic law is also an important concept to discuss. A professor who I have this semester explained that Sharia Law comes from five main source—(1) the Qur’an (the sacred word of God), (2) the Hadith (the second most important book in Islam. It is a collection of stories and teaching of the prophet Mohammad that was passed down by man. It is not considered sacred.), (3) Consensus of the religious scholars also known as ishma in Arabic, (4) the use of logic and being able to compare similar historical situations also known as Qiyas, and (5) interpretation also known as ishtihad.

During the early times of the Islamic Empire, Sharia Law was a major drawing point in Arab political thought. Today, there are many conflicting opinions on how incorporated Sharia Law should be in the governmental laws.

Jihad is also a major concept in Islam. The literal translation is to struggle. I learned in a history class I actually took back home at UC that there are two types of jihad. The one we here most about through the media is the struggle between men that leads to fighting and “holy wars”. The second, more common type is the inner struggles people face. Unfortunately, jihad has a very negative connotation because of its use to justify acts of terror.

Concerning women, I want to make sure that it is clear that it is not required by Islam that women are veiled with the hijab or cover their face with the niqab. It is done by choice and interpretation. In Middle Eastern countries, the hijab and the niqab are quite common.  There is a debate on whether or not the veil and the niqab are a violation of human rights. In countries like France they have made it illegal to wear the niqab. If you are interested here is a very interesting debate between two Muslim women and their conflicting views on situation in France.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJiAMVvwmno

Before I end this blog post, I want to make sure that you readers understand there is a difference between Islam as a religion and Islamism, the political ideology. Islamism and Islamists represent Islam as a political strategy which very much of the time is an extreme and radical view of the religion. Above, I have discussed Islam as a religion disregarding the political forces that are driving the western media today. There is a distinction between the two and I think that is very evident in the Arab Spring revolutions, particularly in Egypt. It took only a year or so for the Egyptian people, who are again predominately Muslim, to oust the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist political party, from power. There is a false assumption, specifically in the West, that all Muslims are Islamist. I personally have never believed this, but after living in Egypt, I know that without a doubt the assumption is wrong.

There is a very interesting debate that took place in Oxford earlier this year that I would encourage you all to watch. It is a bit lengthy, but it shows the two main opinions on Islam: the general Western opinion and the mainstream Muslim. The debate is to answer this main question: Is Islam a religion of war or a religion of peace? I learned a lot from it and I know you will no matter what side of the debate you support. If you do not have time to watch the whole thing at least watch the speaker the starts at about 40:20. This part of the video was circulated by some of the friends I made at AUC. I think the speaker does a very good job at distinguishing between Islam and Islamism.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=joNTLaGE0wU

I hope you all learned something from this blog. For those of you wondering, I got most of my information from classes that I have taken, people I have talked to here in Egypt, different tours that I have taken while here, and from the debate I told you all about.

I think it is important that we as educated people learn as much as we can about the world around us. I also believe that no matter what religion you believe in or if you do not believe in one at all, we should all learn about each other. And learn about each other in an objective sense with as little bias as we can. It doesn’t matter if you are atheist, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. We should be interested in understanding and respecting one another.

Thanks for reading!

An Eventful Weekend In Egypt

For those of you keeping up with the politics in Egypt, you know that this past weekend was an eventful weekend. There were a series of Muslim Brotherhood protests on Friday and on Saturday, the final verdict for former Pres. Hosni Mubarak was announced.

It was a known fact that Islamist including the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis were going to protest throughout the country against the military government in power on Friday. I was told by family, friends, AUC, and the US State Department to stay at home as much as I could for the weekend. There was a notion of ambiguity whenever the topic came up. There were so many rumors that were circulating. Some of the alluded to fires being set and violence to break out. The reality was that no one knew exactly what would happen or how bad it could get. But the government was ready for anything. The military was given permission to shoot openly if they saw it necessary.

Here is a small background on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood has been deemed a terrorist group by the Egyptian government and has been forbidden. The group has a very radical interpretation of Islam that the majority of Muslims do not agree with. After the revolution in 2011 and the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt had its first “fair” and “democratic” elections that it had had in decades. (I put fair and democratic in quotations because on the contrary to what the Egyptian government and other nations, such as the US, had advocated, the elections were most definitely not fair. There was and still is much corruption in the system and the election was rigged.) As the result of the 2012 elections, a Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohamad Morsi, was elected as president of Egypt. Morsi pursued an Islamist agenda and the Egyptian people were outraged and once again rose in protests and ousted the president for a second time. Today, anyone who claims to be a member of the Muslim Brotherhood is to be arrested. Of course, people do not openly claim that they are supporters, but there are still within the country.

So what actually happened this weekend?

The Islamists throughout Egypt demonstrated in different parts of the country including Cairo and Alexandria. It was the first time a big demonstration has occurred since the revolution in 2013. The Salafis called for a “Muslim Youth Uprising” on their facebook page. (We find that the use of social media is a reoccurring theme that we have seen in the two past revolutions in Egypt as well as in the rest of the Arab Spring.) Many social gatherings were canceled such as sports practices and meetings. Many churches also canceled their services for the whole weekend. Starting on Thursday night, security forces were deployed into Cairo and other cities around the country. As the Islamist stormed the streets in Tahrir, Alexandria, and other cities, the government was ready. The supporters marched through the streets carrying the Quran protesting against the current president and government of Egypt. Some violence broke out and it was reported that more than 100 people were arrested and 3 military officers were killed. In North Sinai, 6 army officers were injured. About 6 bombs were defused and 1 bomb went off near Tahrir Square, but there were no casualties because of it. Fortunately, this did not amount into a huge protest like that ones of the past and like the rumors that circulated had alluded to. But many officers and professionals believe that this will not be the last time that the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafis, and other Islamist will rise in violence against the government. In fact, the English class that I teach tomorrow night has been canceled by the organization I am working with because there are rumors that there will be another set of protests tomorrow. Only time will tell what will come next.

Please refer to the links below to the news stories that I got a lot of my information concerning the protests:

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/11/egypt-tightens-security-salafist-protests-2014112861348838826.html

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/11/28/world/meast/egypt-violence/index.html?iref=allsearch

The second event that took place in Egypt this past weekend was the final verdict of the murder charges against former President Hosni Mubarak. During the 2011 revolution against Mubarak, over 800 protesters were killed. Unfortunately, only documentation for a little over 200 of them was available and taken into consideration in the court. Mubarak, the minister of interior at the time, and six other aids were linked to the killings and were put on trial for these charges and others. On Saturday, the judge dismissed the case and the charges against the people involved on a technicality. Mubarak is not completely off the hook though; in May, he can found guilty of embezzlement and was sentenced to three years in prison. Due to some heath issues, he will be on house arrest till the end of the sentence. It has been said that the case will be appealed, but we will see if any other evidence can be brought forth.

So now that the biggest case against Mubarak has been “resolved” how are the people reacting? There are mixed reactions. If you watch the videos from the news reports, you will see that that people in the court room were extremely happy about the court’s decision, but you will also see the upset that the swept across the nation and the people. People assembled in Tahrir again on Saturday, but this time because of their dismay with the results.

There is this big question that is being discussed about the effectiveness of the revolution, especially after the court’s decision on Saturday. Many people feel that the current regime has not changed much since Mubarak and is only an extension of his own regime. We discussed this in my Egyptian Foreign Policy class today. My professor brought up an interesting note. The policies of Mubarak were not all bad. He had some good policies. The current regime under Al- Sisi has not yet fully developed and there is much ambiguity as to which way he will lead the country, but you cannot deny that were are many similarities between the two. They are both associated with a military rule and many of Al-Sisi’s policies have not changed. In fact, my professor mentioned that some of the policies are even a bit harsher than Mubarak’s. A girl in class brought up a conversation she had with a representative from Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Arabian compared Egypt to his own country saying that there is no freedom of speech in Egypt. He implied that while in recent years the people have voiced their opinions and concerns, but freedom of speech is only been fabricated. In his opinion, it is evident, especially after Mubarak’s trial, that the Egyptians’ opinions have not and will not be taken into consideration.

My professor brought up another really good point to consider in all of this. He said that for the last 5,000 years, Egypt has been governed by a central government. The state itself and the institutions of the state have always prevailed. He said that while the regime may collapse, the state does not. The state continues to move forward and the system does not change; the leadership changes. Basically, he was saying that the state and its institutions are strong and will overcome those who misuse it. The people just need to recognize this and have faith in the state that has been there for the last so long.

So there are some big questions that will be answered over time. The reality is that it is too early to be writing the history and the effects of Mubarak. And it is definitely too early to judge the revolutions and Al-Sisi. This is another waiting game. Only with time will we be able to analyze what actually happened. Only with time will we be able to judge the effects of Mubarak, revolutions, Morsi, and Al-Sisi.

Please refer to the links below that I consulted while writing the section on Hosni Mubarak:

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/11/egypt-judge-dismisses-charges-against-mubarak-20141129853635899.html

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/12/01/world/meast/egypt-mubarak-trial/index.html?iref=allsearch

This is just a little update on the politics going on inside Egypt. I would highly recommend that you do some reading for yourselves and make your own predictions. It is really interesting and definitely worth your time.

Thanks for reading! Come back next week to read about some more about this amazing country! I only have about a month left here, so don’t miss out on what’s coming

Fayoum

Hi Everyone!

First off, I want to apologize for the delay in this blog. I am a delegate in the Model Arab League (MAL) and our conference has been this week. It has been one of the most interesting experiences that I have had while here in Cairo. It is a four day conference with students here from other parts of the world. I am a delegate on the Economic and Social Council, representing the observer participant of the International Labour Organization. Before joining MAL, I was very unaware of the intricate politics of the region. There was so much I did not know. I have learned an immense amount of knowledge about the Arab States through this organization. It has been a great learning experience.

Today, I wanted to tell you all about one of my favorite trips I have taken while in Egypt to Fayoum. Fayoum is located about two hours south of Cairo. It is an oasis city in the deserts. At one point in time, the area was covered with water, but the water dried up and the land has now turned into desert. There are still remains of the ocean in the form of lakes, waterfalls, and fossils, which we got to see.

The first stop was Lake Karoun. This is one of the biggest saltwater lakes in Egypt and is known for duck hunting. There are hundreds of duck on the lake and there are fishing boats all along the shore line that are especially for fishing and hunting ducks. The lake has an interesting legend associated with it. There is a character that is present in both the Bible and the Quran that is said to have rebelled against Moses and for his punishment God ordered that the Earth swallowed him up in this lake.

Lake Karoun

Lake Karoun

The second place we went to Wadi Rayyan. It is the home of two natural waterfalls that flow into a lake. It is the home of many species of plants and animals. Unfortunately, the water is not that clean but it is really beautiful.

Wadi El Rayyan

Wadi El Rayyan

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Wadi El Rayyan

Following Wadi Rayyan, we drove through the desert for a while and stopped at Magic Lake. There is a reason why it is called Magic Lake. It was one of the most gorgeous things I have ever seen. It is a lake in the middle of the desert and the blue water shimmers in a way that makes it look almost unreal. We had a chance to stop and walk on the shore line and play in the lake for a bit.

Magic Lake

Magic Lake

Magic Lake

Magic Lake

The most popular site to stop at in Fayoum is Wadi Hitan. This is where many whale fossils have been found. It is proof that at one time the land was covered by water. There have been discoveries of many different whale of all different sizes. The tour guide said that many of the whale found had little legs. Archeologists say that the whales found are part of the evolution of whales. They believe that at one time whales had legs and as time went on there was no need for legs so they evolved without them. The whales in Wadi Hitan are the missing link per say to their discoveries. Also in this area there are fossilized Mangrove roots, a water plant that grew in the area. On the mountains of sand you can see a dark rim that lines the middle of it. These black lines are the water lines of the ocean at its original height. Right now, the entire display is about a half a kilometer or so around the desert, but not all the land has been excavated. There is still so much to discover.

Wadi Hitan--Whale Vertebrae

Wadi Hitan–Whale Vertebrae

Mangrove Roots

Mangrove Roots

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We had traveled to Fayoum in 4×4 SUVs, which came in really handy while riding through the dunes of the desert. This was my first time to ride through the desert and it was pretty awesome to say the least. We also got to sand board which is like surfing but instead of on water it was on sand. It was pretty intimidating at first, but it was super fun.

Driving through the dunes!

Driving through the dunes!

Sand Boarding!

Sand Boarding!

Why was this my favorite trip? My answer to that is because this was what Egypt really looks like. I have been to so many sites; all historic and beautiful, and show a piece of Egypt. But the reality is that Egypt is mostly desert. The only places that are densely inhabited are around the Nile River and the seas. The desert is the biggest piece of Egypt that I felt I had not experienced yet. The desert is huge. It is a massive amount of space that covers so much of the earth. You can look on a map and see the deserts all around the world, but you will never really understand what it is like until you are standing looking out at nothing but sand. And then you come the oasis and you see bodies of water in the middle of nothing, in the middle of the desert. It was incredible. As we traveled from place to place around the area, I realized how big the earth really is. I realized how beautiful it was. And I realized how much evidence there is of the world before us. Every place has its own stories to tell, whether through fossils, oases, legends, or people. It was definitely a trip that I came out of appreciating the beauty of the earth and its creator.

The Oasis

The Oasis

Miles of Sand

Miles of Sand

Desert Sunset

Desert Sunset

Thank you for reading this week! Stay tuned for more interesting topics to come!