THE BEST-KEPT SECRET OF MUBARAK’S EGYPT
17 February, 2011
THE BEST-KEPT SECRET OF MUBARAK’S EGYPT

While watching jubilant crowds in the streets of Cairo, I recollect my trip to Egypt several years ago. In Cairo, Alexandria, on the banks of the Nile River I found a gloomy impoverished country, with pockets of utter, unbelievable misery and overall backwardness. I wondered whether life had ever changed in Egypt since pharaohs. Poverty was shocking, but I discovered something more haunting, humiliating and oppressing.


One can get used to physical deprivation, butsurvival in a despotic, fascist-like regime can

make suffering more intolerable. In Egypt, I discovered a police state much resembling the Soviet Union of my lifetime there. Egyptians, like the Russians before Gorbachev, were afraid to speak freely with foreigners. Hordes of the tourist police agents filled all sites of attractions I visited: More policemen then tourists, and one could only guess how many more agents in plain cloths were added. For some visitors that could be a blessing, a salvation from pickpockets, rapists, etc. In a country dependent on tourism such precaution seems reasonable. But its prime mission was to fence off Egyptians from the outer world, and distance foreigners from the Egyptians. Like in the USSR of my time, they were treated as ill-intentioned enemies. Only some brave and reckless individuals dared to speak with me. They would address me in a street initiating a conversation which we prolonged in a park or in a cafe, with revelations concerning their personal hardships and misfortunes. All conversations would end with a plea: Can you help with some American dollars? Political issues were never touched, and it was hard to understand the real identity of my interlocutors. I learned among other things that Egyptian taxi drivers were obliged to report by cell-phone to the police when driving foreigners: Where from and where they were going; with what purpose; did they have contacts with the locals? My official guide was really a nice guy. He invited me to his small private apartment giving me a chance to watch the life of a professional in Cairo. That night he treated several guests, including a couple of West-European friends. We were drinking whiskey, a forbidden fruit in Egypt where even beer is bought only in special shops after showing your foreign passport. That night was one of the best memories of my stay in Egypt. But I was well-aware that my new friend had to report all about it: Otherwise they would take away his permit to work with foreigners. And, naturally, in our conversations we carefully avoided political issues: Every word of it was recorded on tape. I discovered a quiet street near my Metropolitan Hotel with magnificent palaces and villas. Did they belong to Foreign Office, Parliament, Prosecutor’s Office? Each house had a booth at the entrance and several guardsmen, but no identification. I asked a group of officers guarding one of these palaces was it a ministry or a private mansion. No answer followed: They pretended they didn’t understand my question in English. I was confronted with angry hateful faces. There was the Police Museum in Cairo’s Citadel.  I went there with a question: How strong was the police force in Egypt, all branches of it? I didn’t mean the police informers: In dictatorships, their number is really shocking, but what about the officially revealed figures? The museum official looked at me with amazement: Did I really expect him to disclose the best-kept secret of Egypt? He thought I was crazy. I wonder what all these people are doing now, while Egypt is celebrating liberation.

 

Print
Other Stories
The two sides of Georgia
On my first few days in Tbilisi, I stumbled across these two contrasting slogans. One is a testimony of open-mindedness and tolerance,
Mentally Ill or Not?
“The brain is wider than the sky.” Emily Dickinson.
Shall We Dance?
“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” Friedrich Nietzsche.
Are We the Same or Just Getting Better?
Georgian-born Mancho Busse has been working in hospitality business for many years by now. Her husband, Robin Busse, works for the State Department of The United States,
Eco-Friendly Habits: How to Clean Your Off-Roading Vehicle Responsibly
Irresponsible waste disposal practices continue to have drastic effects on the environment.
 5 Techniques for Finding Your Inner Creativity
Whether you’re a writer, artist, or even a marketing executive, you’ve probably had days where you felt completely uninspired.
A suitcase full of wine and a heart full of memories
I left Switzerland and arrived in Tbilisi on December 28.
Five Reasons to Visit Georgia in 2017
If you've been searching for a unique place to vacation in 2017, the beautiful country of Georgia holds some hidden treasures.
PROMISING FUTURE OF COLLABORATION
“All roads lead to Rome” – states one of the most famous medieval proverbs. It’s fascinating to think how much the narrow streets and glorious walls of this eternal city have seen.
It’s Not So Bad, Chaps- Just Look at the Yanks: Ogden on Comparable Politics
Electoral fever is dying down in Georgia as it ramps up in the United States.
 “Moral Inversion” - Pre-election period in Georgia
Georgian pre-election period can be classified as “Moral Inversion”, a notion first put forward by Michael Polanyi.
America’s Trump Card
Like it or not, the name of the 45th American President will most likely be Donald Trump.
Clock is not counting down, it is adding up!
On Saturday for the ceremony in Charleston, instead of wedding gifts, the Managing Editor of Georgian Journal, Will Cathcart
A Protectionist Perspective: Ensuring A Georgian Future
Unlike many of my compatriots, I view my country as a sentient creature, a single organism. The mountains
Back in BSSR
"I remember that when I was a schoolgirl, they told us we have to be ready to give our lives for the motherland.
Thank you, father, for saving me from USSR!
On the 11th of October, the population of Belarus has elected Alexander Lukashenko to serve his fifth term
The EU Getting Squeezed in Georgia
Recent polls have shown that the EU is less and less popular in Georgia. The reason is that they
What is Georgia’s Military For?
There are two possible uses for Georgia’s military. The first would be to fight a war with an external threat or by its existence, to deter
Protohack
Last weekend I went to a hackathon in San Francisco called Protohack. In the former Soviet Union, people tend to think of hacking
European Migrant Crisis: The good, the bad and the liar
“I call an animal, a species, an individual corrupt, when it loses its instincts, when it prefers what is injurious
Refugees in Georgia
The people of Syria see the Assad regime weakening, and considering who may take over and what they might
David and Goliath: A Realpolitik Rendition
A Conservative Contrarian View on Georgia’s Geopolitical Dilemma
The Bleeding of Rustavi 2 - Our New August Surprise
When the powerful have to make something happen that they want few people to notice, they issue the statement late in the afternoon
The Good Neighbor
In 2012, Georgia was promised to witness what ex-Prime Minister Ivanishvili called “a new age.” It would be achieved by “restarting”
Independence, Institutions and Corruption
People talk about Georgia choosing between Russia and the West as if Georgia ended up at a soccer game and, well, since we’re here we may
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Exchange Rates
GEL Exchange Rate
Convertor
12.11.2018
13.11.2018
USD
1
USD
2.7146
2.7166
EUR
1
EUR
3.0800
3.0602
GBP
1
GBP
3.5325
3.4900
RUB
100
RUB
4.0430
4.0131
Other Stories
GEL Exchange
USD
1
USD
2.7166
EUR
1
EUR
3.0602
GBP
1
GBP
3.4900
RUB
100
RUB
4.0131
November 2018
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30