A matter of perspective

Something has been bothering me of late, and you, dear reader, can help put my mind to rest regarding it.

As you all know, I never really think before posting anything about Egypt. My posts are usually emotionally charged and reflect my anger or disdain or cyncisim towards what Egypt has become over the past two years. I used to get attacked by people who accuse me of tarnishing Egypt's reputation, which I always thought to be bullcrap, because 1) Unless to expose our problems we will never truly confront them or try to solve them, and 2) what I write about what's going on in Egypt isn;t any different than what many arabic prominent blogger writes, Wael Abbas for example. The difference is, I am told, that Wael writes for egyptians and arabs, while my audience is a bit more, ehh, ecclectic. I always thought this line of reasoning- that we have to hide our problems from the west- was bullshit, and still do till this day. However..

Ok, so a couple of days ago I was sitting with a friend and reflecting on the last refrendum election, and how we have videos of forgery. VIDEOS. And they were broadcasted on TV, and everybody had seen them, and yet nothing freakin happend. The people were not botherd at all, while a similar thing in any other country would've probably brought the entire government down. The thing is, I told him, we are used to this shit by now. When we get shocked, it is not because of the act, it's about how brazen it gets carried out now. We always knew there was torture in egyptian police stations, but we never expected them to be so brazen to videotape it and share it with friends; we always knew there was sexual ahrassment of women, we never envisioned a mass sexual assault during the first day of eid of all times. We always knew they were stopping cetrian people from entering voting polls, but we never expected to see them get shot at by the police. We always knew there was poll rigging, but we never thought they would videotape it and show it to the world. All of this crap, we expect it, because this is Egypt. Things that horrify any foriegner from any self-respecting country wouldn't raise the eyebrow of the average egyptian. We are used to this. Heyah dih masr ya abla!

The thing that bothres me now, is this: How does the average foreigner, who never been to Egypt, knew nothing about it aside it being the land of the Pyramids, and who only got his image of Egypt from reading this blog, well, view Egypt now? I mean, I have been blogging for almost 2 and a half years now, and some of the people who started reading me back then continue to read me today. My question for you is: How do you, based on my writing and those like me in the egyptian blogsphere, view Egypt? 

Please let me know! 

Comments

  1. Andrew Brehm says:

    I saw Egypt basically as an uncivilised country ruled by a dictator who wants to remain in power more than he wants to hurt people.

    Now I see Egypt as a country that houses at least some sane people and is a more cultured than many countries in the world.

    You have improved Egypt’s image in my mind more than anything else in the last years.

  2. same here: Egypt was (is) an enemy and it is thanks to you and other Egyptian bloggers that I realize that society is Egyptian certainly not monolithic. Rather an improvement.

  3. Hello SM,

    I have been accused of the same thing but the only difference is that you write about politics, the government, and the like while I write about relationships and social taboos. We are accused of tarnishing an image of a country that we love and try to change – change takes time and a lot of effort.

    SM, with your credentials, you can live and work anywhere. Whether you like it or not, you chose to stay; you chose to try to make a difference. I know that at times you feel that all your effort is sucked in a ruthless desert of sand dunes but mother Teresa would have told you that the ocean will be less without your little drop.

    Egypt? How I view it? I love it no matter what.

  4. My answer is perhaps overly simplistic but it is this:
    I knew nothing of Egyptian politics and government before reading your blog. Your blog exposes the “good old boy” attitude that I just assumed was rampant in middle eastern politics. Bribery and favors. I am given hope for a better future for Egyptians and the middle east ONLY because I know that at least one Egyptian recognizes the folly of this and dares to speak out, at great personal risk. Perhaps one person will become two, two will become 4, 4 will become 16, and so forth. You are a spark to the potential fire, SM. I believe your “cause” is valid and just. God bless you for daring to promote change.

  5. It certainly has changed my oppinion of the Egyptian government. But then, reading the insights of blogs such as yours and knowing that there are people like you out there has given me hope, not just for the Egyptian people but the rest of the Middle East. If it were not for blogs like yours, most of my oppinion of Egypt would be formed by stories about the Muslim Brotherhood.

  6. Abu Kufr says:

    I once saw Egypt as a typically corrupt Arab state ruled by typically corrupt Arab leaders, inhabited by a combination of religious zealots, morons and sheep, as stereotypical Arab countries are.

    Sam, you’ve opened my mind. The invasions of 1400 years ago did not completely destroy free-thinking minds in Egypt. They didn’t destroy the will to live free of stupidity.

    Your fight is everyone’s fight. They just haven’t realized it yet.

  7. Politically speaking, Egypt is not very different from Venezuela, just you have more experience on dictatorship than us. On other things, there are more similarities than differences, even though yours is a muslim country and mine is mostly christian.

  8. I have been reading this blog for some time now. (Aprox. 1 year). I do not think badly of Egypt, and I certainly do not think badly of you. You seem like a sane guy, who tries to portrait what is happening, as unbiased as you can. Keep up the good work. People might understand som day.

    Steinar, 26m Norway.

  9. I have been reading this blog for some time now. (Aprox. 1 year). I do not think badly of Egypt, and I certainly do not think badly of you. You seem like a sane guy, who tries to portrait what is happening, as unbiased as you can. Keep up the good work. People might understand some day.

    Steinar, 26m Norway.

  10. Yes, these things are atrocious but the fact that they are being exposed to the population at large is very encouraging. Countries that are self-critical, where citizens expose despicable acts, will eventually force their societies to address them. Unfortunately, the news we get in the mainstream media is all bad, anti-western protests, harassment of minorities, terrorism ..etc .. Seeing all that makes one think Egypt is a hopeless place of intolerant nutters with no motivation to enter the modern age. Your blog has made clear that there are, in fact, reformers pressing for change. It has also prompted me to contact my politicians regarding human rights issues there.

    The pieces about regular daily life in Egypt are really interesting too and keep Egypt a very human place.

  11. I know a little bit of Egypt archeology and hisstrory of art, I read a few books discribing every day life in Cairo and Egypt, I had a copt egyptian teacher dealing with Egyptian stuff in history of art, I had egyptian customers…

    I came here during the “cartoon crisis”, found the site interesting, stayed there to defend my french positions, and I think this is an open-window to the world, only a person like you could manage it, in that way you let everyone to express whatever it is said, even it is not your opinion. and I think egyptians have a great sens of humor and a very good culture background

  12. I too didn’t know much before I started reading your blog, but I have to agree with the above – your blog makes Egypt look more sane, it brings it nearer to me. Your writing makes it easier to emphasize – seeing that somebody in egypt cares about these kinds of things makes it easier to care too.

  13. brooklynjon says:

    SM,

    Nothing you have written has surprised me about Egyptian politics, jurisprudence, culture, media, or police. The “dirty laundry” that you air is laundry that I always knew was there. I am not surprised. Not one iota.

    The only thing that surprises me is that there are people who see it for what it is. That there are people who would prefer to get on with their lives rather than revel in their hatred of Israel, Jews, the USA, and the west (not necessarily in that order). That there is even someone to talk to on the “other side” who – though we may not agree about everything – is nonetheless willing to actually consider reasonable alternative opinions.

    Oh, and the other thing that has surprised me a little is some of the discussion between Muslim and Copt, and between Arab and aboriginal Egyptian that I’ve read on this blog.

    Supression of free speech has gotten the Arab/Muslim world into the pickle its in. Sunshine is the best disinfectant.

  14. Although i left my home country on bad terms and sorta kassart olla at the airport, it’s great to discover that some sane ppl – like u- are still there and are loud enough..! I stopped reading the newspaper and decided to know the news from reading ur blog..!

    keep on doing what u’re doing

  15. As a country with an old culture that is somewhat overshadowed by orthodox Islam, economic weakness and overpopulation.
    Most people seem to want a change in leadership for some time now, but because of a relatively underdevelopt civil society its very likely that any change in government will strengthen the political islam rather then produce a healty democracy and liberal society.
    At least for the short run.

  16. Being able to critisize ones country is NOT a sign of weakness, it is a sign of confidence. The greatest countries in the world are the ones where its citizens openly strive for improvement.

    I have been to Egypt. I was moved by the friendlyness, poverty, open curroption (bying off cops), child labour, and beauty. Your blog illustrates a country that is in a very tough transition (when is transition easy) and demonstrate Egyptians to be intelligent and a tad snarky.

    I still worry that the Muslim Brotherhood will become stronger and take Egypt back 1400 years. But other than that, its nice to see Egypt becoming more open about its issues.

  17. Roman Kalik says:

    Your blog improved my opinion of Egypt, man.

  18. The only Egyptian guy I “knew” before was an exchange student sitting in one of my political science seminars here in Germany, talking about how Egypt has never lost a war against Israel, every bad thing stems from the Jews, etc. pp. Now I know there is at least one sane guy around to even out the odds…

    Western mainstream media never covers the stories you write on, so this is an interesting window into a different world. Even so, I am pretty pessimistic about the development of your country. Even after years of peace, they have not managed to build a decent economy and get rid of all the BS that happens in their government.

    But anyways, keep up the good work :)

    P.S.: Does anyone here know of an Iranian blogger who writes in English?

  19. MTwildcat says:

    I just recently discovered your blog and have been reading it every time i get a chance. The media here in the U.S. is pretty self-centered. You have to go out of your way to get any news that doesn’t pertain to us in some way. Reading your blog means I can get information that is not biased towards my own country; i can read of real people, not just the good PR statements the news tries to feed me. I don’t think badly of Egypt. If anything, reading this blog has made me connect more fully with the politics of the region and the people who live there.

    I think your blog is refreshing and animated. You write of politics in a way that…engages, yet informs. Keep on fighting. Write. Someday, the world will have to stand up and take notice. You will have done that.

  20. Dr. Bendova says:
  21. Well… Egypt – country with great history but with uncertain future. Land which should choose its own way but probably it will choose between fundamentalism and dictatorship.

  22. Hi. I’m from Ireland. My best friend recently met the Taoiseach (i.e. Prime Minister) and made fun of him to his face and the Taoiseach just smiled back (what else could he do?) Reading your blog it seems to me that Egypt has one foot in the past and one in the present.

    The mendacity of Mubarak and the Brotherhood is like communism in Eastern Europe except that no one in Poland believed the lies that government fed them whereas in Eygpt Islam (kill all the unbelievers!) and lack of education and brainwashing – and the sting of having lost three wars to Israel – has been successfully channeled into anti-Western war fever.

    So it’s up to people like you to helpspread reform. Though I think the West could do a lot more. There should be an intellectual assault on Islamism. If it were up to me I’d have thousands of books translated into Arabic and smuggle them into Mideast states.

  23. PyramidView says:

    While your blog has not changed my view of Egypt, I live here so I can see what things are like, it has increased my hope and frustration. I have hope because now I know that this country has people like you. I’m frustrated because so many others refuse to acknowledge or be outraged by events here. I want to shake the people I speak with and scream “Why doesn’t this bother you!?!”

  24. Aardvark EF-111B says:

    “How do you, based on my writing and those like me in the egyptian blogsphere, view Egypt? ”

    The Truth, and nothing but the Truth, god help us all!!!!!!

  25. SM,

    The people who say you are tarnishing Egypt’s image simply have no clue how wacked the Middle East, Arabs, and Muslims look to Westerners and have looked for the last 50 years. You think we haven’t noticed how the life and mindset of the M.E. (including Egypt) has devolved in the last few decades? Your critics think that until you started writing, we’ve never heard of the Muslim Brotherhood or how bizarre is the POV of the newspapers.

    That’s the reason why Western nations have been content for the whole region to be run by one form of dictator or another, while they were horrified by Franco’s regime in Spain (as an example). You and certain other bloggers have proven for me that sanity can spring from the darkest corner of Ludditism. You’ve also demonstrated the extreme difficulty in and extreme necessity of reforming the region.

    You’re not tarnishing Egypt’s image. You are brazening it.

  26. Melissa in NorCal says:

    You have made me hopeful that we can have peace not with just Egypt, but all the Middle East. You have been a model for friendship and someone I like to surround myself with. Even with your outburst last week, I still think you are one of most special people on the planet. Egypt, well, I’ve learned a lot about it from you. This Coptic guy at my work, he claims that all the bloggers in Egypt are babied rich brats who only hang out in internet cafes far rom poverty and violence. I disagree with him. I think you represent your society.

  27. Egypeter says:

    Interesting question Monkey.

    As the son of immigrant Copts and having read your blog since its inception I think you and your blog are extra-ordinary. Sandmonkey, all you do, is provide a REALISTIC picture of what is going on in Egypt. I’m a news junky and I have found that this blog is the BEST source for news on Egypt. And then when you throw in your patented Egyptian smart-assness it just make this blog a “must read”. People are just jealous, jealous AND stupid. And God forbid Jews, Israelis, Americans and Imperialists like your blog and not the lunatic fundementalists, right?

    And then others complain that you’re “tarnishing Egypt’s image.” B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T. I can’t understand that. That drives me crazy! This term needs to be eliminated from the Egyptian lexicon. As if Egypt’s image is sparkling?! Lol. The only thing that “tarnishes Egypt’s image” is the actions of most Egyptian officals and the Muslim Brotherhood.

    Oh, and here’s another conclusion I’ve recently come to; I will ALWAYS support Muburak (or his son) over the current opposition. Always!

    I’ve sadly realized that there is zero secualr political opposition (Muburak throws them in jail) to the NDP and that the only alternative right now is the Ikhwan. Egypt is currently in a struggle for its life and the consequences of a Muslim Brotherhood victory over Muburak/NDP shakes me to my soul. Who wouldn’t take the lesser of two evils?

    God bless this blog and I hope you keep fighting the good fight!

  28. I read you in order to get additional insight into your part of the world, not so much Egypt per se as the arab world as a whole. However, when you post pictures, I find myself studying the surroundings, the buildings, the cars, the shops, the decor, what have you, to see what kind of life you all lead. You can tell a lot about a person by their possessions and a lot about a society by it’s infrastructure (or lack thereof). I don’t “see” enough of Egypt. I mostly read but rarely see. It’s as though your part of the world exists behind a curtain that I am not allowed to pull aside and look behind. Switching gears, I worry about you though. That seems funny to me. I don’t know you from Adam. Wouldn’t recognize you if you walked into me but I read about the blogger who was sent to prison for insulting the government, among others (“insults” for Pete’s sake) and I think to myself, this guy’s gonna get nailed sooner or later. That would be a very sad day. A lot of bloggers sugar coat shit or ignore reality completely or just aren’t worth the time but you seem to be a straight shooter and I really appreciate your sense of humor. Switching again, I wonder about altruism in your society; how prevalent or how rare. What is one willing to do for the sake of others, not just family. I get the distinct impression it’s ingrained into your society that it’s every person for themselves. I wonder.

  29. juicyfruit says:

    To not expose something for what it is has the horrible chance of remaining corrupt or becoming worse. You cannot improve anything unless you face its issues. You bring the issues. You have a vision of what Egypt can become! My view of Egypt has drastically improved since reading your blog. Nothing is perfect, not even the good ole US of A. You keep up what you’re doing and keep bringing me the ‘realness’ of Egypt at it’s finest! You’re my personal Reuters, man!

  30. Sandmonkey,

    You’ve done nothing but improve my opinion of Egyptians and Middle-Easterners, generally. Through your writing and that of your visitors, I’ve had the opportunity to watch rambunctious, playful, goodhearted people deal with the good, the bad, the ugly, the funny and the weird in their respective countries.

    Those who think that you tarnish the reputation of Egypt by exposing bad acts of the police and the government are simply wrong. Indeed, when elements of your government and certain Muslim clerics were busy trying to convince the whole world that Muslims are rage-filled lunatics, you proved that most Egyptians know how to take a joke — err, cartoon. (Thanks also to Freedom For Egyptians, good job!)

    It’s true that you haven’t yet won any big changes with respect to the way police treat people in their custody, or in election reform, but change will come if you continue to expose the abuses, because (as you have already demonstrated) the people of Egypt are generally sane and decent.

  31. Curiously, I have always had pleasant personal experiences with Egyptians. The most enjoyable conversation I ever had was with an Egyptian professor at a Bavarian’s garden party. Smart and meticulously polite.

    The best blog exchanges I have had have been on this site. Lots of thinking people come here. If this were a coffee shop, I would visit every day.

    Egypt as a country strikes me as being like Mexico with small differences: lots of corruption, the cops are as likely to bust your head and steal from you as the criminals, and you can’t criticize the president without landing in jail. Day to day life is pretty much the same: people trying to live as best they can and enjoy life when they can.

  32. It sounds like Egypt is slowly rotting and the people won’t do anything about it as long as they can blame their problems on someone else. Maybe this is as good as it gets for Egypt. Usually when people in the region decide to change things they end up doing a bunch of retarded and destructive shit that destroys their country. By doing nothing Egyptians are actually accomplishing something.

    I think you guys are handling the Endarkenment quite well. Egypt may be in rough shape but it is still better than most of the countries near it. If you are feeling bad about Egypt you should just have a beer and laugh at other countries.

    For example: It isn’t illegal to laugh in Egypt like it was under the Taleban. Egypt is probably better than New Orleans pre-&-post-Katrina. Somebody somewhere in Egypt has done something right unlike palestine. You are not a nation of around six million people living next to millions of people who want to kill your children. It isn’t Iraq, lots of people doing things there. You are not a Jr. country like Canada, or as many know it America Jr (nobody would call Egypt Jordan Jr). Millions of people don’t die everytime there is a slight change in government. Egypt is still probably the best country in Africa.

    If you really want a laugh go read the article about how gay Saudi Arabia is. It is the gayest country on earth.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/prem/200705/gay-saudi-arabia

  33. When I was a child my father took me to a museum in Denver to see a traveling exhibition on Egyptian artifacts. I was fascinated, and knew I wanted to visit it when I grew up. As an adult I learned about the radicalism of the Muslim world, and vowed never to go to any Islamic country. I would be vulnerable in places of such violence and without freedom and rights.

    I have learned a lot about the politcal corruption of Egypt from your site. I thank you for putting your neck on the line to share this information with the world.

    So basically, I view Egypt as corrupt, radical, rich in history and culture, but one harsh place to live. At least it has one cool ass Sandmonkey in it.

  34. sis from the usa says:

    I would not like to visit Egypt. But I would go to Jordan. :)

  35. Avidbuff says:

    Before coming here (your blog) I had considered Egypt simply as another muslim state whose culture had long ago surrendered to the sands of arabia. Now I see that Egypt still struggles for its own identity. Your humour, and audacity astound(ed) me. I was completely ignorant of the MB and only passingly familiar with the corruption of Mubarak’s government. You have brought both to light.

    But then I think.. Egypt produced SM. Any country that can do that doesn’t suck.

  36. SM, most people who read this blog will understand that a peoples politics are not always what makes them good/interesting or just a positive force in the world. I for example, am from Turkey and do not agree with a lot of my countrymen. In fact, my opinions are radically different. But that doesn’t mean that I would want other people not to like my country.
    Similarly, from reading your blog, I got the impression someone who holds similar values to me thinks that Egypt is a country worth fighting for. I think that is something you should be proud of. Stick to the truth that you hold most dear and i’m sure that good will come from it.

  37. SM, most people who read this blog will understand that a peoples politics are not always what makes them good/interesting or just a positive force in the world. I for example, am from Turkey and do not agree with a lot of my countrymen. In fact, my opinions are radically different. But that doesn’t mean that I would want other people not to like my country.
    Similarly, from reading your blog, I got the impression someone who holds similar values to me thinks that Egypt is a country worth fighting for. I think that is something you should be proud of. Stick to the truth that you hold most dear and I’m sure that good will come from it..

  38. You give us news about Egypt that we would not be able to read otherwise. Good or bad news. What reality is. Reality seen with a realistic eye. Thanks Sandmonkey.
    We love people like you. Sandmonkeys and not ostriches.
    You also give hope for Egypt. The more SM there is the better it will be. Because Egypt is worth fighting for.
    Cheers!

  39. My fundamental impression has not changed, but it is so much richer for your efforts. Like so many others have said, Before = backward country with uneasy balance between fundamentalism and dictatorship; After = backward country with uneasy balance between fundamentalism and dictatorship +sane people.

    People like yourself help to put a face on the Muslim world beyond the flat media extremes that we are subjected to hereabouts, which usually means either the “mullahs good, America bad” view (aka the Religion of Peace), or the Islam Must Die! view. You, I can relate to.

    Do not waver in your belief that keeping dirty laundry from the outsiders is the lowest form of bullshit. It took Chernobyl to get the Soviet Union over that hump.

    Sunlight is what the roaches hate the most!

  40. I have to say S/M that after reading your blog I view Egypt more favorably. I have always known that Egypt has its problems. Yet when I read your postings, I understand that there are people like you who are trying to do something about it. This is encouraging. I now understand that there are more than Islamic zombies in Egypt and that maybe you can make a difference.

  41. carey94tt says:

    The fact that you can present your views openly (psuedo) speaks volumes about the privileges you do have.

    When you go silent is the day we loose hope in Egypt.

  42. Your continuing blogging does show that there is some hope. In other ME states you may have been put in the jug by now.

    By the way, your command of English is shameful. That is to say it puts to shame many native English speakers.

  43. I view it as a place you need to get out of. Come back to me my little love dumpling :)

  44. frannie in the USA says:

    SM – I’ve been reading for, it seems, a very very long time (at least 2 years) – I read your blog and Big Pharoah who isn’t blogging right now (and I read Iraq the Model for Iraq news). I visit your site three or four times a week and catch up. I didn’t know much about Egypt before, and so I don’t think “less” of Egypt now. You, BP, the Fadhil brothers at Iraq the Model, and others are providing an incredible window for those of us here in the U.S. and elsewhere. You are making a difference. Change is slow – but I believe with all my heart that intelligence and sanity will win out in the end. I am amazed and intrigued by your point of view, how easily you communicate in my language while I cannot fathom yours, by your feelings and emotions and those of the people you write about. For all its problems, Egypt seems a magical place, full of history and wonder. PLEASE DON’T QUIT BLOGGING. I need my thrice-a-week “fix”.

  45. SM,
    I’ve been reading you for a long time. I honestly would not have known about the problems in Egypt if I had not read your blog. Now, my world view is basically this: most middle eastern populations are not fit for liberal democracy and probably won’t be for a long time. Liberal democracy demands a certain level of reason and rationality, fairness, justice, etc. Something like 95-98% of the population have to agree on the basic social contract in order for modern democracy to work. These things are not happening in Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, or basically anywhere else. There is a rise of nearly the opposite: There is a rise of Islamism–both from “extreme” Sunni and Shiite movements. Basically, the whole middle east population is a total loss at this point. Not gonna be fixed for a generation or two. Got to change the thinking. When will the people “get it”? …. Another prediction is that things won’t change until the oil runs out. That’s when the shit hits the fan. That’s when everybody realizes that free minds and free markets are the only thing that can work.

    I have, however, learned that there are just absolutely wonderful people in Iraq, Egypt, and other places. People with a lot of great thoughts, with enormous compassion, and terrific humor. Blogging is a fabulous gift to the world.

  46. I guess I thought of Egypt as a boiling, but very mixed pot…I did not think it was quite as extreme as say, Iran or Syria, but I have always heard good things about Egyptians from folks who have visited there.

    I guess you have helped me realized that Egypt is far more troubled than I thought she was…and far more diverse than I had thought…

    Overall, I think you present a very positive aspect of Egypt…that it is not just a bunch of bloodthirsty screaming maniacs…but a varied people…

    I have to say that I did not realize Egypt was as repressive as you demonstrate…but I have long felt it will be Iran and/or Egypt that makes or breaks the ME…esp. Egypt with her enormous size, population and potential power. As bad as the current government is…I still, unfortunately believe, that whatever revolution or evolution occurs is Egypt is going to end up just like what happened in Iran…the BIG promise…then Big lie and then the Big screw job.

  47. Serpah:

    Iranian blogers in Eng:

    http://thespiritofman.blogspot.com/

    There is a VERY well known guy writing out of England…somebody here knows who I am talking about..He is syndicated and is world know…I have his site on my other comp.

  48. Been readinig this site for…well, seems like forever. My basic view of Egypt has not changed – an ancient land full of great deeds in the past, and the hint of them for the future.

    Your blog has given me a little window into the world of someone living the here and now in Egypt. Including your opinions on comtempary politics and events.

    Although I am very fond of your site and like you as a person I doubt we would get along in real life. I am pretty apathetic when it comes to politics and you seem quite galvanised by it. Which is all good, of course.

  49. Well, Sandmonkey, you give me hope for a better future for Egyptians, and for the greater Middle East. Those who think you are bringing shame on your country are the ones who are bringing shame. I truly hope young Egyptians with your outlook outnumber those who would prefer to pretend there is nothing that needs to change. I think most Westerners can smell Arab Nationalist BS from half a world away. You are a breath of clean, fresh air. There ain’t no flies on you.

  50. Umrao Jaan says:

    SM, I have not read the comments above so might be repeating some of the sentiments above. Anyway, here are my $0.02:

    You should not draw conclusions about a whole country based on just ONE blog!!! That would be mighty daft. It would not be very different from Islamic fundies who think that all Americans are debauched etc. because of what they see on MTV.

    Both the US and Egypt are large dynamic countries and are not monolithic. What you present of Egypt is just one facet. Yes, things are screwed up with the government, just as they are in ANY country in the world. But unless those problems are highlighted, how can those issues be addressed. So you are NOT doing Egypt’s reputation any harm. On the contrary, by highlighting them you demonstrate that there are people in the country who care about it deeply and maybe you are at the forefront of bringing those changes you so dearly desire.

    So carry on the good work:))

    PS – I have never visited Egypt but, after Turkey, your country is on the top of my “must visit places” list. And your blog has not changed my desire to visit Egypt one bit.

  51. Wow – what a large question. I’ve been reading your blog for about 1 1/2 year now, and to me you represent more than Eqypt. You prepresent “arabs”. Maybe that’s just sad commentary about me, but you’ve by far helped me get a POSITIVE perspective on “the middle east” and it’s people.

    Before I read your site, I would NEVER have thought of traveling to the middle east; now I’m not so sure anymore. Before “the monkey” I was about to stereotype every arab/muslim as brain-dead and death-seeking monsters who the world would be better without. You’ve clearly helped me understand, that I was WAY wrong.

    I see no religious mumbo jumbo here; but I see religion is important to you. I also see a nation in turmoil slowly being taken away from it’s people – not so different than what’s going on here in the states just at a much faster paste in Egypt. Many years ago, I watched how tourists were bombed and attacked in Eqypt and it definitely made up my mind never to vist. Your reporting doesn’t help but it has changed my perspective. In some ways it’s given me more hope; but it’s also showed me how desparate and almost impossible the situation is.

    I see Eqypt as a country with a lot of poverty which leads to bad religion which again leads to bad “management”. I see a country who doesn’t seem to be able to start going in the right direction, and who is stuck in the mud sinking deeper and deeper with every move. I feel your desperation and I see a great man who chooses to stay (and fight) instead of running away. albeit that “great man” got a big dent with your “beating the doc” story.

    But through your intellect and analysis I see hope. And somehow I feel privileged to witness the roots of what I hope is the change that will bring Egypt on the right tract. Maybe then I will be able to visit the country with the most history – if it hasn’t been destroyed by then :(

  52. I used to have several Egyptian friends in the US, but we lost touch after a while.

    How does reading your blog affect my view of Egypt? I empathize a lot more with Egyptians in general, and I still harbor some kind of hope that Egypt could evolve at some point.

    The mass media love to cover election rigging, terrorism, bird flu, torture, etc. in Egypt. The loudest Egyptian voices in the mass media are, in fact, those of terrorists and their sympathizers. But the mass media never humanize Egyptians. Whether Egypt likes it or not, Egypt is being represented in the media by its worst elements.

    Reading your blog frequently shows Egyptians in a better light. SM, you are rational and you are honest. When was the last time rational, honest, ordinary Egyptians appeared in the western mass media? Who do we see? The MB. Police beating demonstrators. Thuggish politicians. Al Qaeda terrorists. Brainwashed idiots. Demagogues.

    Even when you are decrying police torture or the assault on women, you are still communicating a message that is good for Egypt: “there are honest, patriotic, sane people here too. Don’t write Egypt off as some kind of disaster area.”

    Even if I know intellectually that you guys are out there too, your silence would leave only the crazies and the thugs talking. That would create exactly the impression that Egypt needs to combat.

  53. Zvi-

    “The mass media love to cover election rigging, terrorism, bird flu, torture, etc. in Egypt. The loudest Egyptian voices in the mass media are, in fact, those of terrorists and their sympathizers. But the mass media never humanize Egyptians. Whether Egypt likes it or not, Egypt is being represented in the media by its worst elements.”

    I think you make an excellent point. I hear Arabs bitch about how the West protrays them…yet I see worse coming from their own.

    To me…sites like SM and many others has been a very POSITIVE experience and overall, has greatly improved my view of the Muslim world.

    SERPAH-

    If you have not read “Reading Lolita in Teheran” you are really missing something. Also…Perisoplis (Spelling is bad I know).

  54. Your blog truly provides the most honest portrait of Egypt. There are many other good English-language Egyptian blogs I read, but they are all members of a community with unwritten laws (1. blame israel 2. blame the US). Obviously the rules apply quite often, but always tracing it back to Condi or Olmert dehumanizes Egyptians as mindless savages forever victims of oppression. Arabist all too often falls into this neo-Orientalist mindset, in the same way that American progressives were neo-Colonialist when they thought they needed to liberate Iraqis with western feminism and gender equality.

    Your portrayal doesn’t fall into these traps. You criticize the US and Israel only when it’s deserved, which makes your criticism far more convincing. Instead of trying to shed a good or bad light on Egyptians, you portray them as humans and that’s why I type “www.sandmonkey.org” into the firefox address bar every morning.

  55. Hey SM! Unanimity of applauses!
    Hmmm… some regimes would love to have this kind of results after “elections”…
    SM how do you feel today?
    And, no kidding now, please continue blogging.

  56. Tarnish the image of your country? BULLSHIT!!!
    It’s Mubarak who is doing much worse than image-tarnishing to Egypt, criticizing him and all the things that are wrong with Egypt is the only way to solve the problem.

    That said, I think that you definetly should be saying what you have to say to Arabs in Arabic — that’s far more important that saying it to people abroad (what ‘s stopping you from doing both?)

    I disagree with a lot of what you say — but I am still really grateful this website exists and wouldn’t want it to go away!

    Do I want to visit Egypt? Not really, all the people I know who’ve been there loved it and hated it. Arabs get terribly hassled going in (especially Palestinian young men– which, unfortunately is a category I belong to).

    Please write in Arabic!! what you have to say is important!
    And I would be very very interested in your views on the possibility of a third way (ie something that is not Pro-American dictators and is not Islamic Fundamentalism) and how Egyptian (and Arab) politics could change.

    Sorry I digressed a bit!
    rabbina y2aweek!

  57. The Frenchman says:

    SM, I have been to Egypt a couple of times, but could never draw an accurate opinion. It’s quite simple, although I will admit that there are some areas where Egypt might be a little more severe than other nations, the fact is that corrupt govt’s are a systemic problem globally and Western nations are by no means exempt. In addition, the assumption that exposing the corruption somehow leads to punishment is completely false. Western govt’s pick a fall guy and the problems are swept under the carpet. I am going to forgo providing specific names and govt’s.

    We are still suffering the cost effect, but over the last few years in the US, the oil industry has been raping the American people. After a 6 month spike in gas pricing, we read the head of Exxon gets a ridiculous bonus and that Exxon is reaping record profits. There is an uproar, congressional investigation, but not a single result from any of it. Western govt’s have learned that if you make a stink loud enough, the ” people ” will simmer down and get bored and move onto the next outrage. The days of real marches that changed govt are long gone.

    It is heartbreaking that you face some of the issues you face in Egypt, so this does not miminize the loss of a single persons dignity or life, but Egypt is not alone and I for one have always thought of Egypt as more sophisiticated then most of it’s neighbors. And no one can discount it’s importance in modern civilization.

    Unfortunately, because of Islamic fundamentalism, a number of very modern, free thinking Arabs are forced to live under a dark cloud of assumed dark ages, but for anyone in the West who bothers to scratch deeper than the surface, it doesn’t take much to see that the peoples of the Middle East and Egypt have more in common with us in the West then they do differences. We all want to live in peace and raise families.

    I wouldn’t worry too much about what any of your readers think of Egypt. Any who chose to believe the hype and only pick the bad, are of very little importance to you anyway. There are many many of us who think outside the box and do not make generalizations about your country and it’s people.

  58. Tom Katt says:

    I see many comments regarding your government… and certainly I think they are not helping. But as you suggest in your article, your people as a whole do nothing (I am not talking a few demonstrations here and there).

    Actually I tend to viewthe entire ME in one light… a population that cannot govern itself, fights among itself, and ulitmately requires some form of strong-arm rulers to keep everybody in line.

    Most depressing of all may be that no one I discuss this with has much hope of improvement…

  59. My aunt and uncle traveled to Egypt about 20 years ago to visit the ancient tombs and other historical sites. The pictures they took were gorgeous and they raved about how wonderful the country was. I’m glad they went while they could. As for me, I don’t think I’d feel right about going to Egypt. It appears that foreign tourists are protected by state security, but it would feel wrong to financially support a regime that is squashing its own people so much.

    Egypt has been an ally for my country (the USA) and generally a moderating influence in a dangerous part of the world. However, the decades of Hosni Mubarak’s rule have done nothing to enhance the chance for democracy in the Middle East. By crushing the moderates, he’s made it impossible for them to stand up to the Islamists who I fear will one day gain control. Attempting to create a way for his son to succeed him is just nauseating.

    I really enjoy reading this blog, but I am worried for your safety as well as that of your fellow bloggers in Egypt. You have great courage in standing up for the right of free speech and what you have to say is very thought-provoking. Please do your best to stay safe within the path you’ve chosen. Take care.

  60. hey there..how ya doin??
    am ra3′da friend, loby remmber me ? :)
    anyway bro u’ve been tagged.. :)
    ciao

  61. hi sanmonkey…
    I lived in dubai for the better part of mi life and I want to start a blog on wht really goes on… wht ppl see are the palm islands and the tall hotel not the plight of the millions who have to work to make ends meet… you are an inspiration… granted dubai isnt a democracy but this seems to be a better to openly crticise the goin ons…
    cheers n keep the spirit of free speech alive…

  62. Let’s just say the Egypt is very lucky to have you there.

  63. Let’s just say that Egypt is very lucky to have you. :-)

  64. I’m a foreigner who speaks Arabic and lives in Cairo. Your blog has provided me with information 1) of things I figured were happening but had no other way to find out 2) of things I had no clue were going on and 3) things that happened to me or friends of mine and we now know we are not alone.
    People appreciate honesty and you give out out raw by the handfuls. The only thing left to say is – Thank you!

  65. Canadienne Errante says:

    #32: Who calls Canada “America Jr.?” I’ve never heard it called that in my life although Americans occasionally enjoy offending Canadians by calling our sovreign nation “the 51st state”. We have a unique history, literature, culture (e.g. bilingual) although like everyone else in the world we are inundated with American pop culture. But, guess what, a lot of supposedly American pop culture icons like Celine Dion and Mike Myers are actually Canadian. Oh, and it looks like the USA is catching up with us as far as bilingualism is concerned. There are signs all over the city where I live (and packaging) in both English and Spanish. It’s a little funny: in Canada English conquered (and then coexisted with) French, but here English is being conquered by Spanish. Interesting.

    To get to the topic at hand, I never thought much at all about Egypt until I read Sandmonkey. And based on what I’ve read, I wouldn’t like to live there. I was particularly struck by SM’s comments about how much better life USED to be for women in Cairo, how they could travel by bus in a mini-skirt without being groped. And now even women clad from head to foot are considered rape-worthy, most memorably in the mass sexual attacks during Eid. This would seem to be a pattern for the Middle East.

  66. I thought Egypt, was a cosmopolitan very modern country, until I started reading your blog. I found out that the Islamist have started to take over and you folks are welcoming the 7th century with open arms. :(

  67. annamouse says:

    As an American that has never been to Egypt I would love to visit but know that probably in my lieftime that will be inpossible. Between the crazed religious fanatics and the government you describe I’m afraid that Egypt isn’t a safe place for me to visit in the next decades. It really bothers me that your country has been around for so much longer than most others and that things are as messed up as they are? Not much hope for the rest of us!

  68. Barb, a Kentuckian says:

    SM, you and your fellow bloggers are definitely improving the image of Egypt. Egyptian bloggers are refusing to allow a bandaid to be placed over something that needs surgery. Through you and your fellow bloggers’ eyes, I see a nation of highly intelligent young people struggling to be free, which is every human’s God-given right. No one has the right to deny another human being their freedom. Because of you and the other bloggers, I know in my mind and in my heart that Egypt will become a free nation. Through your writings I see a nation of thinking people who are indeed civilized. The Egyptian bloggers are the sanity of Egypt.

  69. The impression you’ve given me is that Egypt is run by a dictatorship, only a couple of steps removed from Ba’athism, playing off Islamists and the West against each other to maintain its power over a largely ignorant people that is demoralized to the point of apathy. Also a regime-loving state media and an independent media that is even more lowbrow than ours here in the states. Only a narrow sliver of intelligentsia maintain any kind of vibrant culture.

  70. I perceive Egypt as a country who’s “moderate” dictatorship is more destructive than I would have ever imagined. I am shocked at how much Egypt has regressed culturally from previous decades. I perceive Egypt as a country that, like all countries in the Middle East, seems to follow prevailing trends of Islamification. Finally, I see Egypt as a country with some great people like you, Big Pharaoh, and FFE who are trying to change that. Of course, I still see Egypt as a country with a tremendous amount of fascinating history and I still imagine that in Egypt, like most everywhere in the world, people are still just trying to get by, take care of themselves and their families, and do the best they can.

  71. Also, dude, that “Tararam” song rocks.

    :-D

  72. Dear Sandmonkey

    When some people accuse you of ‘tarnishing Egypt’s reputation,’ I think they really mean to caution you on treading the fine line between constructive criticism and the potential to dehumanize ‘Arabs and other minorities’ within the Middle East. It’s this negative aspect of your entire blog that has the potential to arm extremist groups in the west (which are a lot more common than you think).

    Here in Australia we have two rightwing ‘redneck’ radio stations (stations 2GB and 2UE) which almost unceasingly continue to attack Moslems and Middle Easterners hour after hour (not recently mind you, for over 6 years > 2GB has been reprimanded 3 times now for ‘inciting violence against Middle Easterners’ / one more and it losers it’s license to broadcast). This coupled with the onslaught of negative media coverage on TV serves to paint a cruel caricature of Moslems and Arabs (so in essence we are seen as only Terrorists or oil suppliers).

    I’m not saying that blogs such as yours should not exist, what I am saying is that blogs such as yours should go out of there way to paint a balanced picture e.g. more positive aspects of the Middle East or perhaps I mean to say the positive human condition of Arabs / Moslems and other minorities. I think had Arabs gone out of there way to do this two decades ago in the west, travesties such as Iraq would not have happened (would the coalition of the willing been able to invade Iraq if it had the same image in the world as France or the UK? Answer > no).

    Also, I really, really, really, really don’t approve of having a link to MEMRI ‘s website. It’s run by an ex Israeli Intelligence Officer who has a strong commitment to Zionism. The organisation has set up shop in over four countries, targets government institutions / politicians and is dedicated to portraying Arabs and Moslems in a negative light. Again all this relates to how we are portrayed in the west, supporting such an organisation makes the Middle East vulnerable to military aggression (Iraq could easily happen again to any other country in the Middle East).

  73. David-

    “Also, I really, really, really, really don’t approve of having a link to MEMRI ‘s website”

    Everybody has an opinion…SM…keep MEMRI!

  74. >How do you, based on my writing and those like me in the egyptian blogsphere, view Egypt?

  75. Marie (Germany) says:

    During “Submission”, the text got lost somewhere…

    In short, I very much appreciate your blog!

    I am afraid, the only (horrible) alternative to Mubarrak is the Muslim Brotherhood. These relgious fanactics would throw Egypt back to the Middle Ages and bring closer OBL’s dream of a caliphate.

    The US alone gives billions of Dollars each year as aid to Egypt. The fight against corruption should have priority, but would it be successful if people are poor? This “illness” is present in all Middle Eastern countries and the Magreb states.

  76. David-

    “Also, I really, really, really, really don’t approve of having a link to MEMRI ‘s website. It’s run by an ex Israeli Intelligence Officer who has a strong commitment to Zionism. The organisation has set up shop in over four countries, targets government institutions / politicians and is dedicated to portraying Arabs and Moslems in a negative light. Again all this relates to how we are portrayed in the west, supporting such an organisation makes the Middle East vulnerable to military aggression (Iraq could easily happen again to any other country in the Middle East).”

    Maybe the BEHAVIOR of board sections of the ME have bit to do with the negative image…You are in Australia…not Saudia…right mate? I am thinking this has to have something to do with you enjoying free speech, free press, relative safety, right to vote?

  77. Ranba Ral says:

    My view of Egypt has been that there are some sane and cool people there, but the society at large is corrupt and a bit nutsy. My dad was over there with USAF on and off through the 70′s and 80′s (whenever you guys were playing our side of the fence in the Cold War isntead of the Soviet’s), and that was his take on Egypt from his time there. Can’t get into specific details because I don’t want to make mistakes on the storytelling.

    Basically, you reinforce this idea. You fill the bill of the sane cool person, but write about the nutsy insanity about you.

  78. BrooklynJon says:

    David,
    ” I think had Arabs gone out of there way to do this two decades ago in the west, travesties such as Iraq would not have happened (would the coalition of the willing been able to invade Iraq if it had the same image in the world as France or the UK? Answer > no).”

    So you think Iraq was invaded because of a lack of positive information about the human condition of Arabs? I want to be respectful, but lines like this make it a little hard.

    Do you think, maybe, Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, support of terrorism, demonstrated willingness to kill hundreds of thousands of his own citizens, use and development of WMD, flouting of the UN, purposeful destruction of the Marsh Arabs’ natural environment and culture, cynical use of his own people’s sufferring, and corruption of the humanitarian oil-for-food program had nothing to do with it. So we’d say, “sure he’s gassing the Kurds and burying Shiites in mass graves, sure he took money earmarked for food and medicine and spent it on gold doorknobs for his palaces, sure he had losing atheletes killed in iron maidens and raped women for sport. Still, the trains run on time, and the bars are open late, so let’s give him some slack.”

    And let me also assure you that France’s image in the USA is not what’s keeping the Yanks and Brits from invading. It’s the fact that the French, annoying as they may be at times, are basically reasonable world citizens, in exactly the way that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was not.

    And if you think it’s some anti-Muslim animus in the west, please do a little research on Serbia and Kosova, and how we kicked some Christian ass for the sake of a bunch of poor Muslims with no resources and absolutely no way of ever making it worth our while.

    And yeah, SM, get rid of MEMRI. Even if it’s accurate and useful, it’s run by someone who has the temerity to believe that uppity Jews ought to have their own soverign national home like everyone else. The nerve of that guy!

  79. Dear Howie

    This is the second time you have attacked me over the link to MEMRI. I’ll point you to an article by Brian Whitaker called ‘Selective MEMRI,’ which can be read from the Guardian Unlimited at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/elsewhere/journalist/story/0,7792,773258,00.html

    I’d have no problem with MEMRI if they showed equal measures of positive interviews / news clips as they did negative. In short, it is a parasitic organisation that nestles itself to government bodies and purports to explore, even-handed, the Middle East. You’ve taken such an offence when other readers have simply read my piece, considered my point of view and went along their merry way, so I’m wondering are you associated with them? Or is it that this ‘free speech’ you talk about only applies to people who agree with you.

    Secondly, the negative image of Arabs / Moslems in the media I was talking about doesn’t have a counter weight of positive images. No, this doesn’t have to do with our ‘behaviour’ in the west, but does have a lot to do with the relative complacency of Arabs / Moslems / other minorities to tackle extreme right wing bodies and put the alternative mainstream view ‘out there’. Although, I’ll add things are slowly starting to change with the likes of Al Jazeera English and the ever growing ranks of Middle Eastern Blogs (which Sandmonkey is a respected member of). However, these actions by the Middle East are reactionary i.e. 9/11.

    Thirdly, to understand anything in the Middle East you need to wade through at least a century of history (which the vast majority of people aren’t prepared to do). The current predicament Egypt is in has a lot to do with British, French and American Imperialism and a combination of extremist Moslems groups (e.g. The Moslem Brotherhood, al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya) filing themselves through the ranks of Government bodies and Academia. Prior to 1928 Islam wasn’t in the sorry state it is now, it hadn’t yet met al- Banna and his motley crew. Hell, how many would know about Hoda Shaarawi and her feminist movement in the 1920s and the disbanding of the veil. How many would know about the Pan Arabism movement that unified Syria and Egypt into the United Arab Republic (the movement that the west went to great pains to destroy because it would have united the 22 Arab countries into a Economic and Military block). You talk about ‘nutsy’ dictators and people yet you fail to comprehend, on purpose, the symbolism of personas like Nasser who’s funeral was attended by over five million mourners, more so than Umm Kulthum or Hafez.

    You want to talk about Saudi Arabia and its lack of freedoms and free speech but what you don’t want to talk about how the West thwarted Nasser’s plans to topple the Saudis. Truth be told the west loved Suadi Arabia because it was and still is an ideolgical barrior to Nassers secularism. Now you have to live with it. You had your chance to support Nasser’s incursions into Yemen and the gulf states but you decided to keep the Orient divided so you could conquer it. The west held the power over what ideology prevailed in the gulf states but now you don’t. Instead you’ve created a monster that will go unchecked because you have to now deal with the emerging powerhouses of Russia, China, Iran and Brazillia (which are all hostile to the west).

    In conclusion, what I want to reiterate and point out is three things. Firstly, a balanced view (both positive and negative, a great example was by blogger The Modern Pharaoh in his piece ‘A FEW BEAUTIFUL THINGS ABOUT EGYPT’). Secondly, Context, you can’t understand the mindset / stuggles of a people without first understanding their history. This is clearly demonstrated by ‘Howie’ and his mention of Saudi Arabia and lack of free speech and rights but no mention of how and why this came about. Which leads me onto my last point ‘Cause and Effect.’ When trying to understand Mubarak and his stuggle with the Moslem Brotherhood and the balance of power you must first understand the relationship between Sadat. Sadat allowed the Moslem Brotherhood to penetrate Government Bodies and Academia because he was living in Nasser’s shadow. Nasser did what he did because of the countries experience with the British backed King Farouk and the corruption that exisited therein i.e. the 1948 Arab-Israeli War (token forces sent, faulty weaponary = General Neguib / Nasser Free Officers Movement).

    I could go on ladies but I’m tired and have other things to do. BrooklynJan I’ll get back to you on Iraq. You need a history lesson and an indepth look into the Iran-Iraq war and then the causes of the Iraq-Kuwait war and the subseqent atrocities. It’s simple to scratch the surface and pick and choose things we want to remember but lets not forget the tag line the USA used when Sadistic Saddam when over to the states ‘WORLDS ONLY FRIENDLY DICTATOR’ you jokers had no problem taking his money when he was splashing it around on charities and other NGOs. I think the problem arised when Sadistic Saddam along with Syria and Iran changed what currency it choose to sell oil i.e. FROM PETRODOLLARS TO PETROEUROS. Before then it was ok for SS to do as he pleased. Yes, get rid of the link to MEMRI and get PROACTIVE and start an alternative to it.

    Also ‘Howie’ I’ve lived in Egypt, Sudan, Morocco, UAE and Europe not just in Australia.

  80. (For some reason my comment hasn’t come up on IE > I think it’s because of the GU link so here it is again without the URL embedded)

    Dear Howie

    This is the second time you have attacked me over the link to MEMRI. I’ll point you to an article by Brian Whitaker called ‘Selective MEMRI,’ which can be read from the Guardian Unlimited at:

    I’d have no problem with MEMRI if they showed equal measures of positive interviews / news clips as they did negative. In short, it is a parasitic organisation that nestles itself to government bodies and purports to explore, even-handed, the Middle East. You’ve taken such an offence when other readers have simply read my piece, considered my point of view and went along their merry way, so I’m wondering are you associated with them? Or is it that this ‘free speech’ you talk about only applies to people who agree with you.

    Secondly, the negative image of Arabs / Moslems in the media I was talking about doesn’t have a counter weight of positive images. No, this doesn’t have to do with our ‘behaviour’ in the west, but does have a lot to do with the relative complacency of Arabs / Moslems / other minorities to tackle extreme right wing bodies and put the alternative mainstream view ‘out there’. Although, I’ll add things are slowly starting to change with the likes of Al Jazeera English and the ever growing ranks of Middle Eastern Blogs (which Sandmonkey is a respected member of). However, these actions by the Middle East are reactionary i.e. 9/11.

    Thirdly, to understand anything in the Middle East you need to wade through at least a century of history (which the vast majority of people aren’t prepared to do). The current predicament Egypt is in has a lot to do with British, French and American Imperialism and a combination of extremist Moslems groups (e.g. The Moslem Brotherhood, al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya) filing themselves through the ranks of Government bodies and Academia. Prior to 1928 Islam wasn’t in the sorry state it is now, it hadn’t yet met al- Banna and his motley crew. Hell, how many would know about Hoda Shaarawi and her feminist movement in the 1920s and the disbanding of the veil. How many would know about the Pan Arabism movement that unified Syria and Egypt into the United Arab Republic (the movement that the west went to great pains to destroy because it would have united the 22 Arab countries into a Economic and Military block). You talk about ‘nutsy’ dictators and people yet you fail to comprehend, on purpose, the symbolism of personas like Nasser who’s funeral was attended by over five million mourners, more so than Umm Kulthum or Hafez.

    You want to talk about Saudi Arabia and its lack of freedoms and free speech but what you don’t want to talk about how the West thwarted Nasser’s plans to topple the Saudis. Truth be told the west loved Suadi Arabia because it was and still is an ideolgical barrior to Nassers secularism. Now you have to live with it. You had your chance to support Nasser’s incursions into Yemen and the gulf states but you decided to keep the Orient divided so you could conquer it. The west held the power over what ideology prevailed in the gulf states but now you don’t. Instead you’ve created a monster that will go unchecked because you have to now deal with the emerging powerhouses of Russia, China, Iran and Brazillia (which are all hostile to the west).

    In conclusion, what I want to reiterate and point out is three things. Firstly, a balanced view (both positive and negative, a great example was by blogger The Modern Pharaoh in his piece ‘A FEW BEAUTIFUL THINGS ABOUT EGYPT’). Secondly, Context, you can’t understand the mindset / stuggles of a people without first understanding their history. This is clearly demonstrated by ‘Howie’ and his mention of Saudi Arabia and lack of free speech and rights but no mention of how and why this came about. Which leads me onto my last point ‘Cause and Effect.’ When trying to understand Mubarak and his stuggle with the Moslem Brotherhood and the balance of power you must first understand the relationship between Sadat. Sadat allowed the Moslem Brotherhood to penetrate Government Bodies and Academia because he was living in Nasser’s shadow. Nasser did what he did because of the countries experience with the British backed King Farouk and the corruption that exisited therein i.e. the 1948 Arab-Israeli War (token forces sent, faulty weaponary = General Neguib / Nasser Free Officers Movement).

    I could go on ladies but I’m tired and have other things to do. BrooklynJan I’ll get back to you on Iraq. You need a history lesson and an indepth look into the Iran-Iraq war and then the causes of the Iraq-Kuwait war and the subseqent atrocities. It’s simple to scratch the surface and pick and choose things we want to remember but lets not forget the tag line the USA used when Sadistic Saddam went over to the states ‘WORLDS ONLY FRIENDLY DICTATOR’ you jokers had no problem taking his money when he was splashing it around on charities and other NGOs. I think the problem arose when Sadistic Saddam along with Syria and Iran changed what currency it choose to sell oil i.e. FROM PETRODOLLARS TO PETROEUROS. Before then it was ok for SS to do as he pleased. Yes, get rid of the link to MEMRI and get PROACTIVE and start an alternative to it.

    Also ‘Howie’ I’ve lived in Egypt, Sudan, Morocco, UAE and Europe not just in Australia.

  81. I love David’s rant. Crazy + stupid = best enemy ever. Long live Nasser!

  82. To ‘Mikek’

    It’s simple to label people ‘Crazy + Stupid.’ It’s harder to actually come up with a constructive argument, which I’ve gathered that fools such as yourself are incapable of doing.

    I don’t ascribe to blind Idealism of Nasser, in fact I’m very critical of him (his socialist policy crippled Egypt’s economy and I have never agreed with the expelling over one million Arab Jews from Arab lands with nothing but the shirts on there back). However, I am prepared to take the time to understand the context he was in (world wars 1 and 2, and the constant incursions of Imperialism into the Middle East, read up on the French / Algerian war and analyse the relationship between Ben Bella and Nasser for a start).

    ‘=best enemy ever’

    Yes, I guess people like me who take the time to understand the root causes of extremism and intolerance are your enemy and this is simply because our solutions don’t include the indiscriminate carpet bombing of civilians / extremist alike. Or perhaps it’s because people like me don’t ascribe to the notion ‘that the only good Arab is a dead Arab.’

  83. BrooklynJon says:

    David G,

    I believe you are putting words into people’s mouths here. I don’t believe that the only good Arab is a dead one, and I’m unaware of anyone commenting here who thinks that. That’s pretty offensive, if you ask me.

    And you can spare me the assumption that I don’t know anything about the history of Iraq.

    And I also note that your list of ME countries lived in curiously omits Israel. I think your ME knowledge would be more complete with a year or two there, complete with lunch at pizzerias while wondering if the chunky guy with a coat is hiding a bomb.

    I agree that westerners would be advised to learn ME history in general, and the history of Islam in particular. I wonder if you think Arabs should learn Jewish history and the history of western civilization, as well.

    As for MEMRI, I do not doubt that they have an agenda. However, they provide an insight into something that would otherwise be unavailable. They translate media that is presented only in Arabic into a language that is available to westerners. Why? Well, obviously most westerners do not speak Arabic, which represents a barrier to understanding the Arabic world better. Would it be better if someone without an agenda chose what was translated? Of course. But who, absent an agenda, would bother?

    As an example, I couldn’t care less about Finland, one way or the other. I could launch a service translating Finnish media, but why on Earth would I bother? I suppose I could find an Arabic-speaking person who did not have an axe to grind about ME issues (implausable, but possible). How could I motivate such a person to do all the heavy lifting in terms of cranking out translations? Absent that, MEMRI is the only way to docment the perfidy of saying one thing in Arabic and another in English. It is also the only way to document the Palestinians’ incitement of their youth to anti-semitism.

    If you want to argue that their translations are faulty, I’m all ears, as I can’t assess that myself. If you want to argue that they’re translating things that shouldn’t be translated, I’m not interested.
    The Arab media need some disinfecting, and sunshine is the best disinfectant.

  84. Sunday, April 15, 2007

    Hi Sandmonkey,

    How do you, based on my writing and those like me in the egyptian blogsphere,
    view Egypt?

    Having just visited Egypt as one of those millions of tourists who descend
    upon your country each year, the perspective from the tourist point of view
    is that Egypt is a wonderful place, with an incredible history and culture
    unmatched anywhere in the world. We had a very good experience there,
    without any major problems, and left the country with a generally good
    impression. Clearly many other people agree, as the the number of tourists
    increases significantly each year and is one of the most important sources
    of revenues for the country.

    However, for us (and many others, I’m sure), this is only half the story.
    When we travel, we also like to get to know a little more than just the
    standard tourist attractions (although in the case of Egypt, these truly are
    amazing–the pyramids of Giza are really one of the wonders of the world,
    ancient or modern. They left us breathless, humbled, and in awe of the power
    and abilities of those ancient civilizations).

    Thanks to your blog, we also have a much deeper understanding of the whole
    political situation and its impact on the lives of Egyptians themselves. We
    also got to speak to other Egyptians on the trip, and some of them did speak
    or hint at the same things you write about.

    So people do know what’s going on, and it appears they do care. But the
    situation is difficult to change, and is going to take a long time.

    How do we view Egypt? Well, frankly, it’s still “3rd world”. We lived in
    Mexico for several years, and would say it has many of the same problems 3rd
    world countries all over the world have: corruption, abuse of power, bad
    politics, lack of transparency, weak judicial system and rule of law, poor
    infrastructure, etc. And that it’s going to take time for these things to be
    corrected and improved.

    The good news is (in our opinion), there’s a lot of hope for Egypt. Yes, I
    know you’re very depressed about all the recent happenings. Seeing abuse by
    the police, attacks on women, poll rigging, and little or no outrage about
    it, certainly is very sad and probably makes you want to throw in the towel
    and bail.

    But it’s precisely people like you, who risk a lot to speak the truth and
    bring these problems out into the open, who will eventually turn the tide
    and help bring Egypt to better times in the future.

    As mentioned, Egypt has a huge tourist industry. This is a good thing, as it
    means the country is getting locked in to international contact and norms. I
    think it’ll help push the government into acting more responsibly, as more
    and more people will not want that cash cow threatened by bad publicity and
    having the image hurt. (Just look at the opposite extreme–anybody
    interested in a relaxing tourist holiday in Zimbabwe? Don’t think so…)

    Yes, they may “crack down” on people who speak the truth (ie, you)–but I
    think this is a losing battle. (You’re in a slightly better position than
    some of your fellow bloggers, as having appeared several times on CNN makes
    it a bit more high-risk for them to arrest and imprison you. Still, the risk
    is there, and for sure you’re a very brave person!)

    Anyway, just our two euro cents worth; again, many thanks for all you do.
    Keep up the great work! And we’ll be looking forward to offering you our
    Spanish hospitality should you ever find yourself in our country (which,
    despite being “old world”, still has it’s problems as well, thanks to Zapatero “our own Mubarak”–I think even worse). We are also extremely cynical, snarky, pro-US, secular, libertarian, disgruntled persons against censorship, socialism, communism, nacionalism and “nazionalism”, dictatorships, separatism, fascism, teocracy, corruption, etc. You know, all kind of everything. See ya!

  85. And let me also assure you that France’s image in the USA is not what’s keeping the Yanks and Brits from invading. It’s the fact that the French, annoying as they may be at times, are basically reasonable world citizens

    like that ?

    http://img356.imageshack.us/img356/4367/francophiliebrklynrx7.jpg

    sorry, it’snot our fault if your people see “luxe” as an anoying phantasm

  86. BrooklynJon says:

    Nomie,

    I don’t get it.

    bj

  87. BrooklynJon says:

    Nomad,

    I’ve been watching that building go up. In fact, I remember gazing onto that empty lot as a kid and wondering why there wasn’t a building there. But I don’t understand what it has to do with France.

  88. I picked the picture from a New-Yorker’blogger, ; a few days ago, he was visiting Brooklyn and made a few photos ; he left that one with this commen t (I rassure you, he writes in french, but he is 100% pure blood american) :

    “Évidence de francophilie publicitaire dans le marketing d’un nouvel immeuble résidentiel dans l’avenue de l’Atlantique à Brooklyn – cette « francophilie » peut aussi énerver” (last sentence should be read as a self derision tone )

  89. reading your blog makes the people in the middle east seem human and gives hope that somehow, someway the country will survive and grow into the present as opposed to the idiocy that goes on over there now

    thank you

  90. To BrooklynJon

    BrooklynJon

    ‘And I also note that your list of ME countries lived in curiously omits Israel. I think your ME knowledge would be more complete with a year or two there, complete with lunch at pizzerias while wondering if the chunky guy with a coat is hiding a bomb.’

    It also curiously omits New Zealand, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Canada and many other countries. I understand your point about living there but I’d rather not risk receiving the experience of being strip searched, getting a beating from police for being Middle Eastern or getting shot or blown up by the crazies roaming the streets (I can experience all these potentialities and more for free in Egypt and none of these things at home in Australia).

    BrooklynJon

    ‘And yeah, SM, get rid of MEMRI. Even if it’s accurate and useful, it’s run by someone who has the temerity to believe that uppity Jews ought to have their own soverign national home like everyone else. The nerve of that guy!
    My comment prior to this was ‘It’s run by an ex Israeli Intelligence Officer who has a strong commitment to Zionism.’

    What I meant and the context this should be taken in is this. Zionism has many faces. The one the Middle East sees is the one like the extreme right-wing Israeli who murdered Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin because of his peaceful orientations. So in retrospect I misused the term Zionism / Zionist (This is because Zionism has always looked at the people of the East as inferior, including Arab Jews). What I should have used is something like ‘extreme right wing’ or the like. Also, I’ll add I believe any case against Zionism (specifically tied to the definition of a ‘homeland for Jews in Israel’) ended after the expulsion of Arab Jews from Arab Lands.

    BrooklynJon

    ‘I agree that westerners would be advised to learn ME history in general, and the history of Islam in particular. ‘

    May I ask why Islam in particular? Now who’s making assumptions. Do you think I’m a Moslem? All I’ll say is I belong to the two largest and distinct minorities in the Middle East. Which is to say I’m not Arab per say (although I sometimes refer to myself as an Arab for simplicity), you can file me under ‘other minorities.’ There are several other people’s narratives in the Orient that need to be learned not just Islam.

    BrooklynJon -

    ‘I wonder if you think Arabs should learn Jewish history and the history of western civilization, as well.’

    I think Arabs should learn their own Arab Jewish history. People like you in the west think that Arabness and Jewishness are antonyms (which is why you phrased the question above as you did). There was a time in the Middle East Psyche when Jewishness was associated with the Orient and not Europe. What you need to understand is that not every one of us who are of an Arab Jewish background wants to be lacquered in Hebrew and then sent off to complete a course in Yiddish so we can assimilate into your Israeli European Jewish anti-utopia.

    BrooklynJon –

    ‘As for MEMRI, I do not doubt that they have an agenda… If you want to argue that their translations are faulty, I’m all ears, as I can’t assess that myself. If you want to argue that they’re translating things that shouldn’t be translated, I’m not interested.’

    Like I said before, I’d have no problem with MEMRI if they balanced what things they choose to show. If for instance MEMRI went to the breeding grounds of extremism, that is, they went to the leper colonies in Egypt, they showed the squaller that countless millions live in and showed you how easily the poor could be exploited to do the biddings of the extremist I’d have no problem . This would at least give you some context e.g. how hopelessness can lead to suicide bombings. What MEMRI does instead is finds the worst possible images / quotes in the ME and distributes them to Government bodies, essentially to people unlike yourself who don’t have time to balance or put in context the things they are viewing. I am not the only one who shares this concern. I’m not saying don’t show these things, I’m saying these things only represent a keyhole view to the ME. What they need to do is show more and not dedicate the entire organisation to Islamic Extremist views.

  91. It is refreshing to read a blog like yours SM. I am an Egyptian who shares your worries and most of your opinions, and I’m glad someone is taking a lot of time and making a lot of effort to expose the reality and challenge the status quo. It is this critical mindset that we need at all times. I’m Egyptian, living in Egypt…but indeed you have changed my view of Egypt itself because I do not meet many Egyptians with a similar mindset (although I am aware there must be many). For everyone else, you maybe interested in also checking out this forum: http://community.gopharaohs.com/index.php?act=idx
    This is not an ad, it is a football (soccer) forum that many Egyptians from all backgrounds participate in, including myself. You might want to check out the General Discussions and Politics sections for interesting stuff..

  92. BrooklynJon says:

    David,

    “It also curiously omits New Zealand, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Canada and many other countries.”

    But of course, these are not in the ME, other than KSA.

    ” I understand your point about living there but I’d rather not risk receiving the experience of being strip searched, getting a beating from police for being Middle Eastern or getting shot or blown up by the crazies roaming the streets ”

    If you visit Israel, you will discover that your fears are not based on reality.

    “This is because Zionism has always looked at the people of the East as inferior, including Arab Jews”

    Um, no. I know Arabs like to say this. I assume it’s based on the imperfect treatment the hoardes of Arab Jews got after they arrived in Israel with nothing but their shirt on their back. But then the Hungarian Jewish community didn’t exactly get the welcome mat from Ben Gurion, either.

    “May I ask why Islam in particular? Now who’s making assumptions. Do you think I’m a Moslem?”

    You think I believe westerners should learn Islamic history because I believe you to be Muslim? Don’t you think that’s just a little bit grandiose? I think we should learn Islamic history because I choked on the dust of the World Trade Center. Because I got stoned by Palestinians. Because I was on a train that was sabotaged and derailed.

    “There are several other people’s narratives in the Orient that need to be learned not just Islam.”
    There are many interesting people in the Orient. In the past 15 years or so, I’ve taken an interest in the various groups, but sometimes it’s not so easy to find out the info. Come to my house sometime, and I’ll show you my Druze textiles, Armenian tiles and pottery, Pakistani rugs, and glassware from the old Venetian Jewish community. The Assyrians fascinate me, although I don’t understand their internal politics. However, as far as the average Joe westerner is concerned, it would be best to at least understand Islam. But I do wonder if those middle easterners who complain about westerners’ lack of knowledge about them, actually care to know about the west, other than what’s in the movies.

    “What you need to understand is that not every one of us who are of an Arab Jewish background wants to be lacquered in Hebrew and then sent off to complete a course in Yiddish so we can assimilate into your Israeli European Jewish anti-utopia.”

    What makes you think I’m Ashkenazi? I’m well aware of the history of the Jewish Arabs, and their generally historically good relations with their Muslim and Christian brethren. It seems that Arabs (particularly those Muslim and Christian brethren) don’t seem to know so much about western history or Jewish history either preceding Islam or in Europe. And, BTW, Yiddish is not only not an official language in Israel, it’s generally not understood by anyone at all. Arabic, on the other hand, is an official language.

    And, incidentally, yes you misused “Zionism”. Zionism (as I’m sure you know) is just a belief in Jewish Nationalism, centered on Jerusalem. I freely confess to being a Zionist. But the actions of the hard right wing disgust me.

    As far as MEMRI is concerned, have you actually gone to their website? They have Muslim crazies, and Jewish crazies. They also have voices of sanity within Islam. Most importantly, they document the appaling incitement to hatred that appears on children’s television. Sure going to a leper colony would be an eye-opener, but they’re a Media organization. They do not make their own films. They just translate stuff so that westerners can see it and understand it.

  93. Ulla Grymer says:

    Hi!
    After I have been to a seminar with youth from the opposition in Egypt I got very interested in your country and your political system. What I read on your blog reminds me of all the things the guys learnt me about Egypt and give me a chance to easily know what is going on in Egypt.

    The average Dane don’t know much about what is going on in Egypt – except as you write, we know the pyramids and the beaches, but actually the Danish media has recently used the Egyptian bloggers in their articles and programs. So what you guys are doing is worth a lot to make the world realize that Egypt is more than just pyramids!

  94. as an egyptian id like 2 say dat egypt is the shitties place on earth ; changing the constitutin before the presidetial votingz by makin a terrorism law that states dat any “police officer cud imprison u 4 12 months jus for anything” will help the presidents son to win di votings so dat the presidents son wud get presidency and any1 hu tries to stand infront of his son will be pcked up from his home ” ur a terrorist “. well im afraid now dat any11 wud come arrest me after what ive said :D

  95. brooklynjon says:

    abcas,

    Would you be so kind as to translate that into English? I’d love to read what you are writing, but I’m afraid I don’t speak the language you wrote it in.

    bj

  96. David-

    Did I attack you? Sorry…that is not right for me to do…I felt like I attacked your ideas…not you…

    I respect some of your points…others I do not..but I do think you are trying to puzzle this stuff out and I respect that also.

  97. Hi Sandmonkey, I have been reading your blog since pretty much the beginning and I visited Egypt in December 2005 for 10 days. Your blog is a like a maginifying glass window to what I saw with my own eyes and takes me back to my visit and being in Cairo, like when Ramses was moved, it was so cool to see the pictures, and when you visitied the pyramids and posted your picture of the camel with a santa hat! I appriciate what you say and sometimes get very worried for you. Your blog makes me more informed, about the “real” Egypt be that as it may and I continue my sponsorship of my Egyptian daughter, through the Save the Children charity.,I do hope to visit Egypt again, for longer someday. Sandmonkey,this is a very important blog , Keep bloggin, stay safe and are you going to visit Pamalukk? (i know i spelled it wrong) while in Turkey?

  98. From Egyptians’ blogs I gather that Egypt sucks big time. But it also has some amazing people (those who blog!) therefore not all is lost. :P

    But I wouldn’t want to be an Egyptian woman. Eeeeek no.

  99. You should ban this David guy. He’s really crashed the party.

    Rule #1: Never suggest Westerners are guilty, in any way, shape, or form, of the mess the Middle East is currently in.

  100. brooklynjon says:

    Stevie,

    Even though I suspect you are being tongue in cheek, I have to speak out against banning anyone, or at least against banning anyone who isn’t abusinve and threatening.

    I personally miss eee’s incoherent, hate-filled rants.

    bj

  101. I would say, illiteracy & corruption is Egypts problem, in addition to the extreme harrasment of females. I lived there for a year myself.
    However, Egypt was screwed long before the colonial powers came, building an empire on slaves couldnt last. It cant be blamed on Western powers, Egypt has to save themselves, instead of sitting around waiting for others to come. Same goes for the Palestinians, which the Arab rulers have abandoned over and over.