F.Y.I. All the following pictures were taken and edited by me.
Almost every year I go to Egypt to visit my extended family. I love going to Egypt as it gives me a chance to experience a different culture with very different customs than here in America. However, going to Egypt this year as a field researcher made me see things from a slightly different perspective than every year.
I guess that when I would go to Egypt I wouldn't focus as much on my surroundings as on family visits. Upon my return from this thirty day trip, I didn't feel as happy and rejoiced as usual. It was because this year I put on my "observing goggles" that I needed to complete my research. Of course I knew there was poverty, pollution, and extreme traffic. But, not to the extent that I saw this year. Here are my accounts:
Finally. We are here! I take a deep breath and I know I am in Egypt because it "smelled like Egypt". Some of you might be wondering what that even means! But all I can say is Egypt has a distinct smell. That smell was something I was accustomed too. It is an elegant mixture of cigarettes, heavy cologne, and car exhaust. Ew? I think not. Well, at least I liked it.
The newly renovated airport was a change since I had last visited. There was even air conditioning! However it was deceiving. As we started driving towards Cairo I noticed a change from the upscale air that I felt in the airport. Trash rapidly grew from small piles to huge mountains. No exaggeration. I turned away from the window as I saw two teenagers eating from the trash. I mean, I have heard that this happens but seeing it in person hurt me a little.
As the car pulled into the garage of our apartment I noticed a huge contradiction. Literally facing this "high class" building was a small impoverished community. However, what made me smile was a cute little fruit stand in front of the building which reminded me of the simple times-- before huge wholesale mega stores existed.As I was leaving for America though, it was physically bought down by a mob of men. I guess there was some sort of robbery that took place and people got angry. Fruit was flying every where. The story doesn't make sense but it seemed to me that the people in Egypt were taking their anger of what Egypt has become on Egypt itself! People were ruining their own home because they were angry of what it has become. It had become a cycle.
However after all that I somehow still convinced myself that Egypt's a great place to live.
The month that I had been in Egypt were not that of a regular vacation. Two of my family members from both my mother and fathers side had fallen ill.
After settling down in our apartment, my whole family began calling to welcome us to Egypt. Out of politeness I had to ask how each family member was doing ( now remember that I have over 50 cousins, and in Egypt people are closely involved with not just the immediate family but the 2nd, 3rd, and fourth cousins and family members). They said everyone was fine but hesitated when I asked them about one of my little cousins. It turned out her appendix had burst for a few days but everyone thought it would get better--people here like to think that everything will heal naturally. So, she finally got transferred to one of the better hospitals in Egypt. Sadly, her experience there was not the most pleasing. The Doctors cant communicate with the patients properly. they think too highly of themselves and were not even seen by the patient until the day of the surgery. The nurses simply took orders even if it wasn't correct what they were doing. My dad, a doctor, had to physcially step in and talk to the doctor, tell him how to do the surgery and made recommendations to my cousin on what to eat, and what to do after the surgery.
There seemed to be no sense of urgency in the hospitals. considered an easy operation in the US, the fact that my cousins appendix burst became life threatening and if my dad and not stepped in she could have died. When my uncle when to the hospital two weeks later, the same exact thing happened to him. Now imagine millions of similar cases where simple procedures become deadly situations for patients. Egypt may be in a better situation than many other african countries. However, it is not just or fair for the Egyptian people to live in such a way, afraid of doctors, and afraid to speak up for their rights. Egypt has ALL the resources but it needs to learn how to use them. That is why a reformed education is VITAL for improvements in Egypt to be made.
The core values and structure of a country diffuse and expand through the educational system of a country. If people are able to gain a unique educational experience that benefits them in a multifaceted way, there will be more innovative job opportunities, which will improve the economy and move it beyond the industrial phase which many underprivileged countries face. In Egypt, education and the work force go hand in hand. This is because the educational system in Egypt encourages students to invest in skills and majors “that help secure government and civil service jobs, as they are traditionally associated with better pay and benefits” (Dhillon). The government rewards students who are educated by guaranteeing them jobs. This does not give incentive for students to actually learn the information and care about what they are doing and the importance of their future jobs. There is no incentive because as long as they attend class, they will receive a job.
[i] Dhillon, Navtej, and Djavad Salehi-Isfahani. "Egypt’s Education System: Parents and Students Emerge as a New Force for Reform - Brookings Institution." Brookings - Quality. Independence. Impact. 1 Oct. 2008. Web. 03 Dec. 2011. <http://www.brookings.edu/opinions/2008/1001_egypt_education_dhillon.aspx>.
A couple of weeks into my visit in Egypt:
I was hoping to visit the National Council for women while I was in Egypt so that I can interview someone on women's rights in Egypt. It took me a week to find their location. The Internet had directed me to a different address than the local address book. I soon found out that the NCW's building had accidentally gotten burnt down during the revolution because it was next to the National Democratic Party headquarters which was set on fire by protesters.
So, after locating their current office location, my mom and I took a taxi to the location. My mom came with me because it is quite dangerous for a woman to take a taxi alone in Egypt. they don't take women seriously so they could either rip me off or do something worse. After getting off from the taxi, we had to walk ten minutes through small, cramped streets in the 100 degree weather to reach our destination. The streets were unclearly marked so it took us many trial and errors to find the building. We walked up exausted and sweaty into a small, stuffy, un-air conditioned one room apartment which had become the new residence of the NCWs workers. Out of breath I asked them where I could find someone to interview about the status of women in Egypt. Many of the women simply stared while others simply ignored me and went back on Facebook. Ironically, it was a man who had stepped up from the shadows and claimed to have an authoritative role in the NCW.
Mohammed Abdel Salam, an involved public relations member, was able to discuss with me the NCWs relationship with CEDAW and the NCWs goals. He described how women are not as discriminated against like in the past. After that he said that he had not received my email but instead gave me a new email address where I can send all my questions. I later got a response with the answered questions. However, they have not answered any of my other emails that I sent.
[ for the questions and responses to my questions please refer to the " Interview with NCW Q&A " tab.]
It was extremely diffuclt to get in contact with them or even locate them. I can only imagine how tedious the proess is for women in Egypt who need assistance. Ironically, even the most educated women of Egypt have never heard of NCW nor know their specific goals or aid to women.
People in Egypt, as well as outside of Egypt, believed that the revolution was truly successful and that all their wishes will soon be granted.
I was there at the time when Shafik and Morsi were running against each other for presidency. People had the choice between a military dictator or a Islamic radicalist. Both were worse than each other. Some swore of another revolution if Shafik won, and others said the same if Morsi won. However, coming out from a successful revolution did not that everything will be magically fixed. It will take Egypt many decades for the positive affects and goals of the revolution to be enforced. For now people will have to settle with what they have.
Morsi won and promised the people change. He didn't seem too radical in his speeches. Foreigners looking into Egypt feared Morsi and his radical views. On the other hand, people inside Egypt were worried about everyday life and surviving. they want a president who will create change. However, Morsi cant simply create this change alone and he himself has to realize it. Morsi must learn to humble himself and stay faithful to Egypt...not politics! So far, he seems to waver between his commitment to the Muslim Brotherhood and his commitment to his own people as well as Egypt's relations with the rest of the world.
Although Egypt seems to be in turmoil, it has so many secret treasures that build the pathway for a big part of Egypt's income, tourism. If Egypt dedicated the same amount of money and care it does into some of most amazing destinations, and placed it into the streets, buildings, and sanitation where everyday Egyptian citizens live, Egypt would be extremely cleaner and neater than it is currently. Some of these amazing destinations are the Giza Pyramids, Sharm el Shiek, Ein el Sokna, and other resorts scattered around Egypt.
Egypt's history, culture, and natural beauty needs to be reinvigorated and reminded of to the Egyptian people instead of just hidden to the rich and foreigners. The following pictures is Egypt at its best:
The people of Egypt are not happy with their situation. A lot of them look to more developed countries and wish Egypt was at their level. They say, "I don't want to live here". Everyone wants to escape. But that isn't the solution.
I want to one day go back to Egypt and give me helping hand. People have warned me that it would be a nightmare if I worked there. They keep telling me that I will live a much more comfortable life if I simply stayed in the US and became a lawyer there. However, if I was given the opportunity to be educated properly and learn about all the different things occurring in the world, WHY should I just stay in my sheltered world. shouldn't I use my knowledge to advance societies. Should I help those who werent given the same opportunities? That's the thing. Wake up everyone!!! If things are bad you don't just leave it and go. With those who have the money to escape your own country, with all your resources, you can be the change that your country needs.
Through my experiances in Egypt, I have realized the importance of UN programs such as CEDAW. It can be a means for people to help societies progress. It can be the extra "push" that the country needs to move forward. It can be the connection between the governemnt and its citizens.