We, Egyptians, go to other countries either on short or long visits… to work or to stay… we have nothing but to respect the laws and traditions of those societies… we dare not go through the traffic lights… we dare not bypass the road lane… we dare not dodge between the cars… or go fast from the far right to the far left at the entrances of tunnels or bridges not paying any respect for the line of cars waiting to enter the tunnel or go over the bridge.
I can continue narrating the acts that we dare not do including using the toilette siphon after a certain hour at night, throwing away cigarettes’ ends in the streets, beating carpets on the balconies’ walls, pouring the dirty cleaning water from the balconies…etc.
Moreover, we excel at work abroad… we bear a lot of difficulties that if we bore them in our homeland, we would have been in another status… as the peasant leaves his fertile land that is gravity-irrigated and goes to work in a farm deep far in the desert… also, his work there in not only limited to cultivation and farming but extends to other tasks including guarding, cleaning and submitting to the employer’s orders without discussing… he is the same peasant that accepts to work in tiles’ factories or digging ground wells by hand in the worst conditions of hot and moist weather… if that peasant exerted half this effort in our fertile old land or the other newly-reclaimed one, he would have become better-off.
The same thing applies to the rest of higher-rank positions reaching to the engineer, journalist, doctor and university professor… as everyone is keen to commit to the rules, excel, and stir no troubles or excuses of not receiving a reasonable salary comparable to the effort he exerts.
Perhaps the only negative practice that Egyptians may have abroad is their lack of experience regarding what we can call “rules of existence in diaspora”… I here mean the inter-relations among individuals and families of the Egyptian community… and between the Egyptian community and the rest of communities… also with the authorities… as it was always said that the worst troubles the Egyptian may have in work or abroad come from his own fellow Egyptians… also that the Egyptians are not good at helping or supporting each other… things even went worse after January, 2011 revolution as the phenomenon became clearer when dispute and disagreement went to a level that does not distinguish between Egypt; homeland and state… and between the regime, government and political orientations.
The amount of negative acts that stick to us; Egyptians inside our country and that have to do with our daily behavior and our relation to what lies outside our homes starting from the door entrance… the place of the garbage bin or bag… the stairs… the entrance of the building… not to mention our relation to the street starting from the way of parking cars… piling dust next to the pavement… breaking traffic lights and rules… driving in the opposite direction… the way we deal with the humble police conscript standing in the boiling hot or freezing cold weather… throwing cigarettes’ butts and empty packets from cars’ windows along with used Kleenex, sandwiches’ plastic bags, fruits’ pealed skin especially bananas, mandarins and oranges… also, the audacity of some to spit and hawk from the window or by opening the door while waiting at the traffic light feeling no shame or commitment to the public hygiene while the car cassette is set loud with religious supplications or reciting Quran… or even ugly voices shouting uglier lyrics and melodies.
I have always thought and discussed with others over the importance of diligent hard work to change people behavior in Egypt… as miss-behavior has nothing to do with the economic situation or the social class… for example, one can see some driving a more than a million pound-worth car and wearing gold rings and cufflinks and maybe also gold necklace around their necks while they commit the worst acts of behavior.
The very logic question now is: can we pour tons of inks over tons of papers to publish newspapers, magazines and books and along with this spending billions of pounds over satellite channels to talk about democracy, Dawaa discourse and history eras starting from the time of Salah ed-Din to the time of July, 1952 revolution and Nasser… etc., while there is no real scientific and practical planning for a comprehensive societal cultural renaissance in a way that can make us behave as if Cairo is a Gulf country, European or American city where we can never think of committing something that may break the laws or customs?
In my opinion, this is an essential crucial case in our life as Egyptians… because the image we give to other non-Egyptians; whether our Arab brothers, foreign friends or those who are not brothers or friends but ordinary visitors who came as tourists or for investment… this image contains those outrageous behaviors that reveal the cultural and civilization deterioration we suffer today.
I wonder when the school teacher can accompany her class of the age range of five or six years in a journey to teach them ethics and rules of traffic in the street and how to deal with traffic lights, signs of pedestrians’ lanes and how to cross the square from one side to the other in a proper way… and how can that child who has been taught the ethics and rules of traffic affect his father the driver; either driver of a cab or a wealthy owner of a Mercedes car to pay his attention to his miss-behavior and ask him why he does this?
There are many other questions like when and how can we respect our homes, allies and streets… when will we respect our life and deal with our country as sacred?
Translated into English by: Dalia Elnaggar
This article was published in Al Ahram newspaper on June 29, 2017.
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