If it is not clear for anyone here yet, then I am based in Egypt. I live deep in its fertile rural bosom – rub, well, not really shoulders (because that would not be culturally acceptable) but at least exchange smiles and polite superficial greetings of how-do-you-do kind, with the Egyptian tradesmen and peasants and rural intelligentia around me, who are as truly and passionately Egyptian, as anyone can.
I see how they live, and hear about it, too, every day, all the time.
So, when my curiosity-driven googling, to learn what good or bad the world is writing about Egypt these days, brought me to the below piece in Die Zeit, I was abhorred to read the following lines and many more:
“Whoever travels through the most populous state of the Arab world and talks with politicians, social workers and diplomats…”
“Energy, water, doctors and teachers are already scarce…”
“If you can imagine that, you have a sense of how it is to live in Egypt.”
“Would not you try to escape from this horror country as soon as possible?”
“But also many Egyptians themselves think of emigration.” … a.s.o.
I am speaking about this piece here:
How many Egyptians think of emigration? 2 out of the 3 kibitzers the writer talked to? The younger ones may wish to see the world, who doesn’t. But elsewise, as much as I know, no resourceful Egyptian ever wants to emigrate!
Or perhaps someone without a real profession or without a taste for business, and briefly – to earn “big money” and return and be comfortable, which is only human. We all dream about being secured for the rest of our lives, I think.
But a true Egyptian loves Egypt, and loves everything about it, and does not love anything that is in any way different. A while ago a villager that we know, visited briefly. He lives in a well-to-do European country for the past 10 years or so, a man in his late thirties. Unmarried, because this is how long it took for him to work his way up and finally open his own bakery and be self-subsistent, so he could start planning a family.
No idea if the ladies around him there did not fancy him, or he did not fancy foreign food for the rest of his life (something the Egyptians are famous moaning about), but he came back home to find someone to marry and move back with him to that well-to-do country.
Well, he could not find one to marry and move with him to the well-to-do country, where his baking business is doing so well… We even tried with a couple of own relatives – one said she did not like his (somewhat heavy) nose, another said outright that she does not want to leave Egypt and move so far from her family.
You might think they would have jumped at the chance to run from the “horror country”, but no! Go figure…
I thought Egypt just achieved sufficiency in energy production over this winter of 2017? Barely but actually, in the range of 27000 or possibly 29000MW, and is now practicing energy exchange with neighbouring countries in trial amounts.
Water may be scarce, probably because it has been historically scarce, but like in every other subject, the real supply is probably improving, because despite what the writers in Die Zeit may think, this country is actually governing itself. It is tackling its shortages, and many at a time, just that very obviously these come in varying orders of importance. Perhaps the responses or measures are not 100% perfect each time, but is there a country where they indisputably are?
Medical service in Egypt is extremely comfortable – most doctors are accessible instantly and with a maximum 1 hour of waiting time, yes 1 hour and not 1 year, like it might soon be in some developed European countries
(judging by people’s online complaints). They are also available for all kinds of pockets – cheaper ones and more expensive ones, where the quality of help offered is not congruent with what it costs either. We have received better help cheaper, and paid more for some worthless advice – as always the quality greatly depends on the professional’s personal intellectual capabilites, which (like with the rest of us) – vary.
Education could be better, perhaps. But where couldn’t it be better?? Its effect beyond the free daycare, that it most importantly thankfully is, may be grossly overestimated, too. From what I’ve personally noticed, no bad school can spoil a good seed, nor a good school improve a bad one, which brings us back to the issue of Western educational systems and their own questionable quality. Because the alumni of some of the best universities in the whole world just lost the support of their whole country in the USA. Whatever they studied, or wherever, or with what results, apparently did not help…
About college students not able to speak English – a six to seven year old Egyptian kid often speaks 3 languages in of course limited vocabulary – Arabic, English, and either French or German. They start all these in the KG level at the age of four or so. The issue is, of course, that none of these extra languages are actually useful in the vast room of the Arabic language that offers pretty much anything one modestly may need. So if as young adults they actually do not speak anything than Arabic any more – why should they? In my time in college I studied, or was made to study, around seven foreign languages, and me, too, I have not found any use to most of them, and have dropped them one by one, until now I only speak my mother tongue and English, and in not so distant future perhaps Arabic and English, but then only because of my habit to read in English.
I do not know any girls who do not go to school, or do not go there so as not to travel disctances… The ones I know, from our village, attend colleges near Cairo, and travel once a week there and back, on their own, and stay in special hostels for girls during the week, on their own. But they do stay at home after marriage, to give birth to and raise the children while they are in the best age, and sometimes never return to their jobs, and then why would a family even pay money for an education that is mostly decorative simply. Lots of education in Europe is decorative, too, after all, and people are overqualified for the jobs that are in reality available, and too choosy, because people also tend to think that higher education brings about a higher status, so they study for the status, not for the knowledge, and get picky.
What is wrong with Egypt not going down the same path? A country’s educational profile should match its industrial profile – you cannot educate people for jobs that do not exist yet, or you will be creating structural joblessness and flame up gross discontent from unfulfilled expectations. Girls who grow up to be uneducated homemakers may not be a perfect outcome for the society, but it is a realistic one that for the time being at least does not waste communal or private resources onto dreams or illusions.
Btw, isn’t TV these days replacing the class teacher in many subjects and issues? I think in Egypt it is. The nightly talk shows, where the day’s events and issues get disected and deeply discussed, with a full spectrum of opinion and viewers’ input. You see – it does not need to be a house, a building, these days for a school and education to happen….
Is 3-4 kids too much?? I thought around three is a healthy minimum by those who can, for keeping the population mildly growing and not diminishing? Lifestyle developments are the best curbing factor in this issue – you can only give birth to as much as you hope to be able to feed and (especially) finance the education for. The tipping point perhaps has not arrived yet, but no doubt it will, soon, because the best knowledge we have about this world is, that we mostly develop all in the same direction. Only the position in the line, and the pace, differ.
But this nation also loves children, that is true, resulting in that children grow up surrounded with love, so they also grow up with strong, healthy psyches. Not all, but… on average? I think this is something where the “developed” world has a lot to learn from, and certainly nothing to ridicule – how to love our kids and make them feel.
Within the issue of fertile land I am fed up and tired of hearing about farm land disappearing because people are building housing on it… Beyond it happening against the laws and rules, where it does – are the German cities built into air, or is the land under these “dead” and impossible to cultivate? Human settlements are of course growing where the population is growing, but does the writer honestly miss eating vegetables grown in polluted city air, right beside a main road??
In Egypt, the serious agriculture has long ago moved out into vast desert areas, that are desert only until they are not watered, but thanks to sizable investments into irrigation infrastructure, they growingly are. The small green spots around cities, that may be disappearing, are now mostly used for household purposes only, to grow fodder for the family’s couple of buffalos or similar. Their product does not enter the wider trade or distribution.
I also feel that the climate change is having a possibly positive effect on the agriculture in Egypt, in that it (if possible) actually makes the climate here more moist. Increasing annual rainfall renders the deserts on average greener, on a (on average) larger scale than before. The importance of Nile water may be actually diminishing – worth thinking about, in any case. A quick web search btw shows that the researchers are highly uncertain what the trend will be – whether the rainfall decreases or increases.
“The reforms are affecting an economy which, in addition to its structural deficiencies, is in any case in an acute crisis…”
Is the writer here questioning the establishment’s own main authority on economy – the IMF? Seriously? Then lay the blame on its author, please… But Egypt is good, thank you! Perseverence has been very good, if accounting for the huge changes in a very short time. It may be because lots of the inflated items never were part of the “poor and suffering” consumer’s basket here anyway. Petrol prices do not concern you so much, if you ride a donkey and clover is still a dominating crop. But also let us all remember that back in 1992/93 the “new” European countries, like Estonia, overlived an inflation of roughly 1000% over 12 months… 1000% basically means that prices increased 10-fold. Not three times like some in Egypt now, or by one third like in general. Ten times, like in what costs 10 euros today would cost 100 euros within a year…
Imho those countries overlived the shock remarkably well and 30 years later are nearing the EU average. AND they did not have vast saved resources (as most surely is the case with Egypt), because only limited amounts were allowed to be exchanged into the new value.
It is inexcusable, I think, to have such a narrow outlook, or to remember so little, about such near history of Europe itself, while writing for such an extensive auditorium. Inexcusable and irresponsible.
“”The next revolution could be a hunger revolution,” believes the economic expert of the EU delegation in a balancing conversation.”
Oh, beware us of those kinds of “EU experts” and the HR departments (of usually quite limited intelligence, because HR unfortunately is rarely a preferred career choice for a top mind) who hire such! Beware us also of the ingenues who belive the aforementioned experts, or lighthandedly circulate the whatever warm air may have passed the mouthes of those (deep sigh) “experts”.
Btw I might mildly consider serving as such “expert” (=pocketing what they are paid, monthly) because don’t I write well out of nothing?? B-) 🙂 🙂
…which is what in my opinion and in my experience is expected from an EU kind of “expert” or consultant or advisor or other similar. And not much else.
Egypt, instead, is most famously the country that is a world leader in obesity. It may signal that the eating habits or perhaps the lifestyle, are not the most forward-looking, but on the other hand: when people so grossly overeat,
then they cannot possibly be heading towards a national famine… The ones I happen to know, and they are not few! are so bored with the constant oversupply of food in their lives, that they refuse to consume any food that is perhaps too easy to obtain. They do not buy and drink milk – no! They buy almonds or other such mutty matter, where the price for these just tripled, and they extract a kind of “milk” from these and agree to consume this kind of milk, only. They also do not go near any table sugar – no! and not because the sugar price tripled, too,
but because why eat the triple-priced sugar, when it is possible to replace it with ten times more expensive honey? (This is actually a lovely trend because our tiny family happens to produce honey, so these now are very sweet times indeed. Who bought and consumed perhaps a kilo per year, now purchase 20kg at a go, and come back for more after a few months.) Aso, aso.
There are the remote villages, of course, where life indeed may be simple or – “primitive”. I remember when a group of in-laws from a top European welfare country came to visit forefather’s birth land, i.e Estonia, and onto the postcards that they left for me to post, they had scribbled: “Life primitive but very lovely here.” The village where they stayed only had local sewerage at that time, and no water toilets, so they certainly were not wrong. In an otherwise developed country.
So, you see – remote areas are not a specifically Egyptian problem. They are a general world problem resulting from that we humans quite often stubbornly live where we prefer to live, or where we happen to live – where life happened to us – and not where it makes sense to live.
The truth about the Egyptians is that they are extremely frugal people. I do not wish to whine much, but true penny-pinchers, really! They may not buy shoes for their kids, not because there is no money for the shoes, but because they see no pressing need for this, to be honest. Generations of good-hearted female visitors to the country have fallen for this, I think, and hauled over containers with washed and pressed pre-loved shoes and garments left to be recycled – because they see kids running barefoot in the streets, but this because the parents of the kids prefer to save the money for something lasting instead. The statistics is just out, btw, on how immensely theatening to the environment is our Western habit to buy too many clothes too often, and throw them out all too fast… Or what is wrong about running around barefoot? In my childhood it was considered a healthiest-ever practice, and btw it feels heavenly. So liberating!
In parts of Egypt near Nile, I have also heard that, toddlers run around with bare bottoms and are simply washed up in the Nile when “number two” happens, and released to run in the sun again. Again pretty healthy in this climate where too much of diaper wearing inevitably will lead to a rash, plus that, as we know, the produced and used diapers never decompose. Who seems to lurk behind may actually have advantages when the forerunners are running in a wrong direction.
All this does no mean that the people are poor! They are simply saving their money for what is really important – like to build homes for their kids, or pay for their continuous education, or perhaps invest in a piece of land or property. Almost every generation lives and saves for the sake of the next generation – the children and grandchildren. Which is why through the troubled post-revolutionary years – now but a distant, uneasy memory – consumption never stopped, and therefore jobs and incomes never stopped. All of it got paid for,
by Egyptians to other Egyptians, with saved-up cash from the pocket.
The issue of succession. I do not know, have no idea really, who will replace the present Egyptian government or president, when the time comes. We can only trust that the Egyptians will figure it out somehow, the way they usually somehow figure out, what the best decision for any time point is. And they do not seem to falter from the track, much.
But I am reading with growing wonderment about the various changes to governments in Europe. Where they are heading, because they are like taking line from Egypt…
This is a post by an irresponsible blogger who can afford to write tongue in cheek because this here is not an official medium and I do not pretend I am an expert. But I am, usually, pretty sharp anyway. Mild googling was used to check that I am not outright lying to you, although at times I may present what is at best an optimistic speculation.