A couple of years ago, I visited Egypt for the first time. Below is one of the pieces I wrote while I was there. My experiences might help one understand the harsh realities of life in Cairo. Keep in mind, I was an observer, and my experiences in Egypt are only a slight taste of the daily realities for Egyptians.
Convoy to Cairo?
[06 July 2009]
I am currently in Cairo, Egypt on my way to Gaza with Viva Palestina Convoy: US Aide to Gaza. The purpose of the convoy is to bring humanitarian aide to a population suffering from war and an international blockade. It is very clear that the conditions in Gaza are sub-human, and it is also clear that the blockade is heavily responsible for that. But after being in Cairo for just a few days now, it has been harder for me to grasp how bad the situation can actually be.
The worst living conditions I can possibly think of that might be prevalent in Gaza, I have already seen in Cairo. Unpaved filthy streets, open sewage, immense frustration and poverty, hunger and lack of clean water are just some of the obvious descriptions.
In the middle of the day or late hours of the night, children are out in the streets. Sometimes with their families, but many times alone. Some are in their teens, while many are very young.
One late night, past midnight, my brother and I were taking a walk in the upscale neighborhood of Mohandiseen. Just down the street from the Tommy Hilfiger store and around the corner from the Lacoste store laid two children under the age of ten. Despite the loud noise of the traffic and whistling of the traffic police, they were on the ground locked in a deep sleep. There clothes were so filthy, it blended in with the dusty floor. We stopped for a second. We look around. Their parents were nowhere to be found.
The next night with members of the Viva Palestina Convoy, we took a walk in the neighborhood of Giza, poor and populated, but “middle class” in relative to the rest of Egypt. In a bustling midnight street bazaar, we came across so many individuals and families of sadness that I cannot tell. But I have to tell of one man. Walking with his hands and arms, he lifted his body and dragged his legs to maneuver. His pants were ripped and full of dust. He finally reached his destination after a short struggle: The popcorn vendor asked him if he would like some popcorn for his empty stomach.
Though we are on our way to help a possibly much worse-off people, I cannot help but to think, where is the convoy for Cairo? Where are the homes and clothes for the youth? Where are the wheelchairs for the handicapped? Egypt may not be suffering from war, occupation, and an international blockade, but the people of Egypt certainly are suffering.
If it is this bad in Cairo, what about Gaza?