Postcards sent through Ahram Online in 2016

Ayat Al Tawy , Menna Alaa El-Din , Marina Barsoum , Zeinab El-Gundy , Sherif Tarek , Ahmed Abd El Rasoul , Saturday 2 Jan 2016

From tuk-tuk driver, astronaut, trained pilot, comedian Bassem Youssef, puppet TV host Abla Fahita, to former minister, police officer, and an Egyptian volunteer helping refugees in Lesvos; see the postcards of Egyptians in 2016

A little refugee's teddy bear backpack, that washed up on a beach. Kagia Beach, Lesvos, Greece (Mohamed El-Dahshan)

1. From: Mohamed Fouad, MP

MP Mohamed Fouad "Al-Wafd Party"
MP Mohamed Fouad "Al-Wafd Party"

To: The newly elected MPs

Message: Do the right thing

Background: MP Mohamed Fouad of the liberal Wafd Party was among the new, young faces elected in the 2015 parliamentary elections. Fouad is an economic expert who used to live in the United States where he worked in several financial institutions. He won the poll in the working class area of Omraniya in Giza against huge competition from independent candidates. 

The first session of Egypt's House of Representatives will be held next 10 January 2016.


2. From: Mohamed El-Dahshan, a volunteer in a refugee camp in Lesvos, Greece 

Mohamed Dahshan, the photo from came
Mohamed Dahshan, the photo from came

To: A little refugee girl coming to the Greek shores 

Message: Dear little refugee girl who came to our camp on the Greek shore,

I know you’ve walked many roads and your feet still hurt. You’ve come so far already! And that boat crossing was so scary, I know. I wish I could tell you it’s all over, but you’ve still got a long road to go. Some people will be mean to you. I don’t know why. I think you scare them. I know it’s strange that little you with your pink backpack can scare all those grown-ups, but grown-ups are silly sometimes. But there will also be good people along the road.

For 2016, I pray that you meet many good people and few of the bad ones, and that you finally find a home at least as nice as the one you left behind.

You’ve been so brave and I’m so proud of you. Hug your parents and your brother for me.

Background: Nearly more than one million refugees, mostly from Syria, crossed the Mediterranean in hope of a better life in Europe in 2015, according to UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency. According to the International Organization of Migration "IOM," 3770 refugees and migrants died in the Mediterranean while attempting to cross to Europe.


3. From: Mohamed El-Sherif, a police captain

To: The Egyptian people

Message: I wish people would have a more positive attitude and excel in their respective lines of work. I also wish everyone would respect each other. That will counter the state of unrest that Egypt has witnessed. Bombings apart, those who for instance protest to call for the reinstatement of [ousted Islamist president Mohamed] Morsi should by now realise that he will never return [to power]. Instead of demonstrating, it would be better for his supporters to focus on what they do for a living.

Background: Police in Egypt currently face a number of challenges when it comes to terrorist attacks, which have killed several police officers and conscripts in 2015, especially in North Sinai. Most of these attacks are carried out by ISIS-affiliated Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis. Police have also been facing criticism due to human rights violations, from the shooting of leftist activist Shaimaa El-Sabbagh in January to recent incidents of police officers allegedly beating and torturing to death a number of detainees in several governorates. These incidents are currently being investigated by Egypt's prosecution.

Egyptian officials including President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi consider these incidents to be individual violations that do not represent the official policy of the police or the Ministry of Interior in Egypt


4. From: Khaled Ali, a tuk-tuk driver

To: Traffic Authority

Message: It is too harsh to confiscate an auto-rickshaw if the driver reaches an area where tuk-tuks are not authorised to roam. The owner in such cases is required to pay a fine of around LE7,000 to retrieve the tuk-tuk, and that's just too much. The process takes from 10 to 15 days. Many of these drivers are paying instalments for their tuk-tuks already, so that's a horrible nightmare for them. A fine that the driver would pay instantly would be much more suitable than confiscation – at least I'd still be making money after paying it. Sometimes I have to go outside the slums to make more money. For example, I live in El-Ezba [near Ahmed Oraby in Giza's Mohandeseen] and working there can only generate a little money.

Background: In July 2015, Cairo governorate officials moved to ban auto-rickshaws such as tuk-tuks in eight Cairo districts, including Cairo's downtown area, promising to impose a LE1,500 ($192) fine on violators and confiscate tuk-tuks until drivers provide ownership documents.


5. From: Akram Amin, Egypt's first candidate to become an astronaut

Akram Amin "Egypt
Akram Amin "Egypt's candidate astronaut

To: All Egyptian youth

Message: You must have hope and carry responsibility on your shoulders in order to make Egypt a better country in the future.

Background: Born in 1988, Akram Amin Abdel-Latiff is Egypt's first-ever trained candidate to be an astronaut for the NASA-sponsored space mission "PoSSUM programme" in 2017.


6. From: Bassem Youssef

Bassem Youssef
Bassem Youssef

To: Himself

Message: I would talk to my future me in 2016 and ask if things will get any better :)

Background: Despite the fact that his successful and popular satire show was cancelled and he has since left the country, Bassem Youssef had a quite busy year in 2015, including his hosting of the International Emmy Awards in November. In early December, the award-wining TV host said in an interview with US-based Variety that he might come back in a digital show. 


7. From: Abla Fahita

Abla Fahita
Abla Fahita

To: Year 2017

Message: Dear 2016, it is not you, it’s 2017 we’re all looking forward to. Be nice, be brief.

Background: The funny, bigger-than-life, eccentric Puppet TV host reached stardom in Egypt after a bizarre year in 2014 when she got her own weekly show on the privately owned CBC in 2015. Now Abla Fahita is on vacation, getting ready for the third season of her popular show.


8. From: Baher Mohamed, a journalist 

Baher Mohamed
Baher Mohamed

To: Journalists worldwide behind bars

Message: My dear fellow journalists behind bars, your steadfastness is inspiring the world. Your jailer is scared of your pens and cameras. You are not forgotten... journalism is not a crime.

Background: Baher Mohamed and his colleague Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, Al-Jazeera international staff, were included in a pardon by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi last September where 100 prisoners including political activists and protesters were released. A TV producer who worked with several international networks, Baher Mohamed was sentenced to three years in a retrial on charges of aiding the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and was handed an extra six-month term for his alleged possession of a spent bullet casing.

According to the Egyptian Press Syndicate, 32 journalists, including 14 syndicate members, are currently imprisoned, 20 of whom are jailed in cases related to their work.


9. From: Salwa Gad, a tourist guide

To: Tourism minister

Message: Dear tourism minister, in 2016 I wish that you would increase marketing for tourism, as you have started to do. People working in this sector have been suffering for the past five years, especially tour guides. Many of my comrades have switched careers due to the lack of work. We hope that more tourists come and visit Egypt so that we can work like we did in the old days.

Background: 2015 was a tough year for the tourism sector, which is trying to recover from blow after blow. In September, eight Mexican tourists were killed by Egyptian security forces during a trip to Al-Dakhla oasis after being mistaken for militant fighters. 

In late October, a Russian airliner carrying 224 passengers from Sharm El-Sheikh to Saint Petersburg, Russia crashed in the desert in Sinai, killing everyone on board. As the ISIS-affiliated, North Sinai-based militant group Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for the crash, several countries, including the UK and Russia, decided to repatriate their tourists and cancel flights to Sharm El-Sheikh until they confirmed security measures in Egyptian airports.  


10. From: Father of martyr Mohamed Ayman Showika

To: His son

Message: Dear Son, you are a great honour to your country and to your governorate Damietta. We are all extremely proud of you here. I hope that all young people see you as a role model and take what you did as a lesson in patriotism for all Egyptians. I know for a fact that the number of young people in this country is huge, so I am asking them to be loyal to their country and always look to you as a role model. I would also like to thank Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi. He is indeed an honourable man and I call on all Egyptians to work with him for the interest of our country, Egypt.

Background: In early December, Mohamed Ayman Showika, an Egyptian Armed Forces conscript, grabbed a militant who was about to detonate a suicide belt. Showika sacrificed himself to save eight members of his unit from the attack in North Sinai. Egyptian security forces have killed hundreds of militants in the past three years in its war on terrorism. 


11. From: Mohamed Bargash, head of a syndicate for farmers' rights

To: President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi of Egypt.

Message: A meeting with farmers in 2016 is crucially important and urgent.  We farmers are deeply wounded. We have problems with every group in the country. We hope that you work towards preserving our dignity.

Background: According to Egypt's Ministry of Agriculture in 2015, only half of Egyptian farmers own 15% of the agricultural land. In 2015, new subsidies were imposed on wheat and cotton.


12. From: Historian and former minister of culture Emad Abu-Ghazi

Emad Abu Ghazi
Emad Abu Ghazi

To: Aya Hegazi

Message: I’d like to direct my message to the young Egyptian Aya Hegazi, who has been in detention pending trial for over 500 days just because she tried to present a project in the service of her country. I’d like to tell her, “Every night has its dawn.”

Background: Aya Hegazi, an Egyptian-American citizen, was arrested along with her husband for allegedly running an NGO that recruits street children in downtown Cairo to participate in illegal protests. Hegazi's family denies the charges.


13. From: Actor Ahmad Kamal

To: The noble Egyptians

Message: To all the noble Egyptians, young and old, and across all fields, you are the unfading, honourable hope.

Background: Kamal stars in Daoud Abdel-Sayed’s latest film, Qudrat Ghayr Adiya (Out of the Ordinary).


14. From: Dancer, actress and director Reem Hegab

Actress Reem Hageb
Actress Reem Hageb

To: Fellow compatriots

Message: May we remain devoted to achieving the rights of our families, children, our country and the oppressed, this year and every year. May our knowledge ripen, our intellect deepen, our sympathy grow gentler and our blessings more abundant, this year and every year. May we grow more capable of realising our interests, rights, and collective duties, this year and every year. May we grow more capable of uniting together to realise our duties, despite our differences. [Uniting to realise] a decent, secure and free life. May we continue to try and strive for prosperity, justice, and beauty, this year and every year. May we always think and re-think, and try again and again, this year and every year. 

Background: Hegab stars in Daoud Abdel-Sayed’s latest film Qudrat Ghayr Adiya (Out of the Ordinary), as well as the monodrama Paranoia, which was presented in Hanager Theatre in 2015.


15. From: Squash world number one player Mohamed Elshorbagy

Squash player Mohamed El-Shorbagy
Squash player Mohamed El-Shorbagy

To: His brother Marwan Elshorbagy, Squash world number 11

Message: He is a big reason for my success in 2015 and being with me in my ups and downs; he is my biggest supporter and he is my role model... last month we both became the first brothers in 25 years to make it to the top 10 together and I am just glad and lucky to have an amazing brother like him, and I hope 2016 will be successful for both of us and we will achieve more together. 

Background: Read Ahram Online's interview with Squash world number one player, Mohamed ElShorbagy.

*Nahed Nasr contributed to this piece


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