Coming to Cairo has been a definite lifestyle adjustment for me and, I assume, most of my teammates. Cairo is such a strange place to me that after 2 weeks I still do not quite know what to make of it. Cairo is a modern city, but only in the sense that it was not a city during the time of the pharaohs. From the early 1800s until 1952, it was ostensibly ruled by Egyptians (Mohammad Ali’s descendents), but was actually under the control of the British. But even then, Mohammad Ali, the father of modern Egypt, was Albanian and his descendents were not of real Egyptian stock.
In 1952, Gamal Abdel Nasser and the Free Army staged a relatively peaceful coup d’etat, ousting King Faoud, a drunken puppet for the British. Things were looking up for the Egyptians in the first few years under Nasser’s rule. Cairo modernized, the economy flourished, and Nasser built the high dam at Aswan (in southern/upper Egypt). Unfortunately, the longer Nasser was in power, the more dictatorial he became. People who became dissatisfied with his government were quickly thrown in prisons and tortured. This treatment of dissidents and lack of public input led to an Islamist backlash against the state. Of course, these people were thrown in prison too.
When Nasser died (of natural causes), his successor, Anwar Sadat enacted policies to distance himself from some of the harsh circumstances created by Nasser. Sadat let the people out of prisons, lifted some censorship and even allowed the existence of different organizations. But, when people started criticizing Sadat through these mediums, Sadat threw everybody back in jail. He was in charger of Egypt during the Six Days War and Yom Yippur wars, and was crucial in making peace with Israel and actually recognizing Israel as a state. These political actions made him a traitor in the eyes of some Egyptians, and in 1981 he was assassinated.
Hosni Mubarak succeeded Sadat and still rules Egypt today. Under his government, many other political parties and ideologies are banned, such as the Muslim Brotherhood. Although he has worked with the parliament to change the constitution, the new constitution still has loopholes that allow Mubarak to squelch all opposition.
To this day, there is still an air of foreign imperialism in Egypt. The Egyptians may have ousted British control in the 1950s, but they seem to have replaced them with the Russians for a while, and now the Americans. America gives so much foreign aid to Egypt and sends so much tourism that Egypt is partially dependent on America for their survival.
Foreigners seem to possess extra rights here above and beyond those granted to the Egyptian people. When foreigners get themselves in a pinch with the law, they generally can flash their American passports and get a Get Out of Jail Free card.
Also, when walking down the streets, people shout, “I love you America.” But when I stop and talk to the Egyptians, I hear a different story. I hear the story of how they think Bush has screwed them over, how they feel that America has only supported policies in Egypt that will benefit America and be detrimental to Egypt. I do not know how valid or invalid their points are, but it is certainly something that begs further investigation.