In Egypt, you always hear a variation of this phrase: “Egypt is bigger than anything”, it doesn’t matter whether the context is as serious as regional politics or a mere football game. Egyptians truly believe and think that Egypt is bigger than anything. And this is the soul of what makes Egypt, Egypt.
Egypt – in my view – is a land of striking contrasts. Egypt, along with Ethiopia, are probably the only two countries in Africa that existed before the British and the French decided so. It is not just political borders drawn by colonialists as it is the case of most other countries. On the other hand, Egypt has not been ruled by an Egyptian for more than 3 millennium until Mohamed Naguib took power.
Egypt was the center of all political and social movement in the middle east in the past century. When Egypt embraced liberalism in the early century, the whole middle east went liberal. When it went anti-colonialist, the whole region followed. When it embraced pan-Arabism, the whole middle east was after Nassir. And when it went fundamentalist, the whole middle east went fundamentalist as well. Like it or not, it all starts in Egypt, for good or for worse. This is in contrast with an apparently very stagnant political life that – in recent history – has no mention of any revolutions, no coup d’etat and a huge number of divine leaders who ruled until death.
In Egypt, in Cairo, we used to go to Arcadia mall – a luxurious mall at the time – located on the glamorous Nile just on the back of one of the poorest parts of Cairo, Rod El farag. They co-existed in absolute peace that only a foreigner like me would spot the irony of the situation. Differences like this would put any country into flames. But Egypt is unique. You might argue that this is a sign of weakness and stagnation, well, I think the pyramid-shaped society played a big role in preserving the good times of Egypt as well as the bad ones. But also I think that one of the main reasons that Egypt never collapses, is that Egyptians truly believe that Egypt is bigger than anything.
Here is the downside of this notion: Egypt is bigger than anything, but not necessarily Egyptians.
Years of dictatorships made Egyptians forget the soul of this statement. It is no longer implied that Egypt actually means Egyptians. Egypt – subconsciously – was redacted to Mubarak and his regime, the same way that Sudan was redacted to the NCP and Libya to Alkaddafi’s family and Iraq to Saddam etc… it is not because of a global conspiracy, it’s simply how dictatorships function. They have to rip off the soul of their nations in order to exist.
I find it extremely disturbing when some educated Egyptians blame the Mossad for the crime in Alexandria. This is just a joke. Egypt has been going in decline constantly in the past 20 years, you’d constantly read and hear about calls to treat Christians as second-degree citizens, calls that point them as the enemy when they suffer from the same suppression and humiliation. Instead of facing these issues, the state dealt with those calls with the only language it understands: Oppression. Guess what? That only made these calls louder and louder.
In times where no rational political, social or artistic voice was allowed to prosper, the alternative was ugly underground racist religion-men who filled young people’s heart with hatred. Now it’s starting to backfire, but Egypt is simply too great to fall down. It’s more central and more pivotal than anyone can imagine.
Back to my first statement about Egypt being the land of striking opposites. Despite this gloomy picture, Egypt will not fall. It’s not because it is preserved by Koran as some claims (hint: God doesn’t interfere in our terrestrial shit), it’s because it’s preserved by Egyptians who have a belief bigger than Mubarak, bigger than politics, and even bigger than religion, they believe in that: They are bigger than anything. It’s this kind of confidence what makes a nation what it is. And despite all the regime’s attempts to get rid of this confidence, it’s just too deep and too rooted that it will survive.
I know it’s very hard to see any good in an accident like the one that happened in Alexandria, but I hope that this slap into the face of Egyptian society – especially the educated middle class – this slap will make it wake up to preserve their country. There is no doubt that this class is the majority, but it’s about time that it also becomes the loudest voice.
Egypt is NOT bigger than anything, Egypt is just a drawing on a map, a flag and an anthem that changes every era. It is Egyptians who make Egypt what it is, if you are killing them then you are killing Egypt.
Christians and Muslims both get humiliated by the security forces daily regardless of religion. Their money is stolen by Ahmed Izz regardless of religion. They both stand in lines for bread regardless of religion. They burnt in Upper Egypt train regardless of religion. Do you still need a hint on who is the real enemy?
Save Egypt, for it might be the last line of defense against radical stupidness.