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Thursday, 22 February 2018

Loving Egypt, a newfound zeal

A rather surprising but gratifying change is occurring among Egyptians: they are exhibiting their love for Egypt in a distinct and zealous fashion

Azza Radwan Sedky , Tuesday 23 Jan 2018
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Most Egyptians have probably always loved Egypt; that is a given, but they also have taken Egypt for granted; they complained, criticised, and chose to focus on the negative.

Not anymore. Demonstrating devotion -- by focusing on what Egypt offers, by defending it unabashedly, and by cherishing its hard workers and great achievers -- is becoming a common denominator among most Egyptians.

Posts and articles in social and standard media highlight the best of Egypt as the country's people turn the page to find beauty in everything Egyptian: its pivotal geographic location, magnificent beaches, tourist resorts, and sunny forecast; its history with its one-of-a-kind monuments; and, today, its swiftly unfolding mega-projects and expansive road networks.

As for its athletes, Egypt hails and glorifies these men and women and their achievements as in no other times. We acknowledge that Egypt has the best football players, squash players, and swimmers. That is beside athletes who excel at fencing, Taekwondo, javelin, weightlifting, and many others.

Even the simple things, the things that would have never caught attention before being photographed, posted, and then reposted online. The packed-to-the-brim souqs, the vendors selling their stacked-on-the-curb vegetables; the carts covered with vibrant red carrots, turnips, and beetroots; and the simple peddlers with grilled sweet potatoes and corn on the cob, and prickly cacti pears are all looked upon with positive sentiments.

More importantly, Egyptians are proud of Egypt’s current effort to emerge from its recent rut -- proud of the improvements that are visible for those who want to see.

And they preface all this with hashtags such as #come—visit—Egypt.

Of course, the whiners -- those who find fault in every achievement while exuding negativity -- remain steadfast in their discontent, but these ones have always existed; nothing new there. Even today these complainers still ask if Egypt has given them anything, and whether Egypt should be given anything in return.

However, it is the new breed of Egyptians who prefer to focus on the best that the country offers. These types are different and actually worth focusing on.

So why are Egyptians suddenly exhibiting their love for Egypt? Why do they find it picturesque and exotic? Why do Egyptians fume on the defensive when western media highlight the negative but never mention the positive?

This newfound zeal is not out of nothing. It is the result of many events, stacked chronologically one on top of the other -- events like the rungs of a ladder. Each rung takes Egyptians a step further up towards the state in which they find themselves today.

January 25th initiated this movement by giving Egyptians a voice. It allowed them to speak out, care, and demand improvements if nothing else. Then the despair associated with ex-President Morsi’s year of reign told them that they were about to lose the Egypt they knew. The worry and utter hopelessness translated to allegiance and loyalty to their about-to-go-astray homeland.

Two stormy years were followed by another Egyptian grassroots movement, this time encompassing all Egyptians —- a movement that the world, today, still cannot fathom -— June 30th. They succeeded and the exhilaration associated with this triumph brought out even deeper emotions that Egyptians hardly knew they had.

And they watched as other countries sank to the abyss, failing to emerge. It is the demoralising scene in Iraq and Syria that told Egyptians to appreciate Egypt and what it embodies: safety, security, and hopefully a better future.

And, no doubt about it, President El-Sisi’s apparent and transparent dedication to Egypt is infectious. He insists that Egypt comes before all, and Egyptians are reciprocating with the same contagious feeling.

When President El-Sisi began his now trademark speech closing “long live Egypt, long live Egypt, long live Egypt,” Egyptians were slightly surprised and a bit embarrassed. At first repeating the slogan didn’t come naturally to them, but in a matter of a few months, Egyptians followed El-Sisi’s suit and repeated “long live Egypt” unperturbed. Now it is acceptable to show one’s sincere emotions towards one’s country.

This love is not manifested in mere words and sheer photos but in actions as well. An unequivocal surge in generous giving never seen before has emerged. Just tell someone that a person is in need, and a torrent of donations flows. Dozens of hospitals and projects have been established as Egyptians donate freely and determinedly.

Then when western media choose to degrade all that Egyptians hold dear, Egyptian ambassadors in the West offer rebuttals, the Egyptian State Information Service responds, and ordinary Egyptians, livid, pounce back. They are also bemused by the complainers who would repost such articles.

When foreigners talk about what they will miss after they leave Egypt, Egyptians respond with what they missed without realizing when away from Egypt. And when the Egyptian diaspora becomes nostalgic, it is comprehensible. And when some call Egypt “Om el Donia,” AKA, “the Mother of the World,” it is said with true feelings.

To all this, we should applaud.

We may have stumbled quite badly to reach where we are today, but we are inching slowly towards where we want to be. True, it is not solely by endearment that a country develops, but without this heartfelt and sincere affection a country cannot develop.

The writer is an academic, political analyst, and author of Cairo Rewind: The First Two Years of Egypt's Revolution, 2011-2013.

 

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