Reflections of Home


A friend of mine called me from Egypt a few minutes ago to say that I had been “spotted in Maadi”. Yes, I was in Egypt for a very very short time. My friend went on to ask me about my impressions of the country. He wanted to know if I thought things were “good or bad”. My brief reply was: it’s not good, it’s not bad, it just is.

You see, I learned a long time ago if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. And, if you don’t like something change it, and if you can’t change it, change your attitude. Yes, traffic was a nightmare, the exchange rate is a disaster, but the weather was amazing, the views of the Nile were breathtaking, and as usual being home with my family was the most precious gift of all.

I tried to tell my friend that when it comes to Egypt he shouldn’t worry too much. Worrying won’t change a thing. Yes, the country is going through a social and cultural transformation that much I saw, and economies are up one day, a mess the next. This just is.

My friend was also clearly dismayed with the reality that so much in Egypt had changed. True, but since we can’t go back to the good old days, since we cannot change reality, we can change the way in which we see that reality. Nothing is ever hopeless, transformation is a process, and as life happens there are tons of ups and downs. And, as Egypt changes, there will be moments where we will all be on mountaintops and moments where we will all feel that we are in one deep valley of despair.

The discussion then veered off for a few minutes on corruption and the fate of people from the old regime. My friend talked to me over and over about how so many people we looked up to turned out to have no morality and that they had not only dishonored themselves, but the dignity of our country. Yes, maybe so, but those individuals have now become ghosts of the people they once were and you can count them into the category of the walking dead. At least for now.

And, if Egypt had its fair share of people in government that had no shame then it is best to remember those people that we do look up to and who have left behind a lasting legacy. Let me name a few for those old enough to remember:

Mamdouh Salem,

Salah Hamed,

Hamed El Sayeh,

Abde El Razak Abdel Maguid,

Aly El Salmy

Hasaballah El Kafrawy

Samih Talaat

Abd El Azim Abu El Ataa,

And, of course Ahmed Fouad Sherif and those like them. Of the current generation, Ahmed Darwish is a person who too is worth honorable mention.

All of these people I cited above have various things in common, they were/are all highly educated, successful professionals, but honorable men above everything else. And, honor is simply the morality of superior men and dishonor is basically the reflection of the immorality of inferior men. But, in today’s Egypt, it is not the dishonorable men we should fear the most, we also need to fear those honest officials who don’t know what they’re doing. Amateur hour seems to be Egypt’s biggest Achilles’ heel at the moment and this remains true as much today as it was decades ago.

Until this changes things will go back and forth from being bad to a steady state, an “is” so to speak, for an undefined period. To survive this we will all have to change the way we look at things, so the things we look at change enough in our minds for us to manage day in and day out. The ability to delude ourselves may be the most important survival tool we have today, but we need to look past today and imagine the possibilities of tomorrow without eliminating the possibility that there is an outcome other than persistent failure.

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© Khaled F. Sherif, 2020

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