There were songs, chants, flags, fireworks—our favorite street had suddenly transformed into a platform for celebration. Twenty-four hours earlier, it had been bombarded by cameras from international stations reporting on the “chaos” in Egypt. Two years earlier, the world watched as Egyptians chanted and fought for a new government. There was blood and there were tears, but at the same time there was a budding hope that the world could not see. In the words of the great Shakespeare: “Though this be madness, yet there is method in it.”
Having only been here for a month, I have already been asked dozens of times if it’s really dangerous in Egypt. Aside from the occasional exaggeration or bias of the media, one of its unavoidable fallouts is that it can never truly convey the underlying effects of huge political changes.
On January 25, 2011, the Arab Spring reached Egypt, leading the young, the old, the poor, and the rich to protest for the ousting of then-president, Hosni Mubarak. After he stepped down, members of different political parties nominated themselves; the winner being Mohammed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. In June 2013, Egyptians protested once again for secularism through the removal of the new ruler. Although a new president was elected a year later, these three years have not been easy. The world has done enough reporting and analyzing of the political situation in Egypt, and has not focused nearly enough on the emotional and social effects of the revolution.
It is easy to complain about Egypt; it’s hot, loud and can get pretty crowded. But then there were songs, a huge number of songs written about how beautiful Egypt is. However, when January 2011 rolled around everyone suddenly became a patriot. The radio and the TV screens sang about Egypt’s warm streets and its sparkling Nile, flags hung from windows and alongside buildings and danced to the gentle breeze. One really does need to lose something in order to know what it’s worth—and it took us hundreds of lives, thousands of injuries, and years of protests to realize how much Egypt is worth.
Suddenly, everyone became a politician. Prior to 2011, no one cared much about discussing politics. After realizing that our voices could actually be heard, however, avidly bickering about current events has become a vital aspect of every gathering. It doesn’t matter how much you know—everyone has something to say. Egypt’s history can easily be divided into revolutionary eras that start with a protest and end with a change in government or constitution. It is as if every once in a while we need to look back and realize that it is time for change. It was an awakening, a sudden realization that every voice mattered, and it made the biggest difference.
We united. In January of 2011 there were nights when the streets were too much for the police too handle, so the men of each neighborhood would gather at the gates of buildings or houses to guard their loved ones. People from different backgrounds and histories would gather every night in fear and bravery to do anything they could to help.
The two dominant religious groups, Muslims and Christians, the latter composing an obvious minority, had in the past faced conflicts or disagreements. However, these problems melted away as everyone united for a bigger purpose. Even today, we pride ourselves on the fact that Christians would gather around the Muslims to protect them as they prayed; or that the Muslims stood outside churches during services to avoid any unwelcomed trouble.
Today, Egypt is peacefully easing into new changes, which include a new president. Unlike neighboring countries, however, Egypt has not faced extremist groups like ISIS. Left delicate and healing from its wounds, Egypt would have been an easy target to terrorists or extremists. However, it is what the media doesn’t show, the emotions, the patriotism, and the hope, that has protected Egypt from foreign intervention. The media could report and write and photograph, but they would never be able to capture the fire that has grown inside every Egyptian’s heart. Egyptians are mad; they are madly filled with love and dreams for their nation, and it is this methodical madness that is protecting Egypt today.