Thursday, November 06, 2008

Cairo reflections

This is Cairo, its minarets, shops, horse drawn carts, bumper car traffic and children. Songs beckoning the faithful to prayer echo one another, each offering a different melodious voice. I never visited Baghdad before it was destroyed and tonight I wonder if it looked anything like this. Too much negative propaganda has been spread about the Muslim people. Here we are treated with routine respect, kindness, and smiles. Yes, the shop keepers want to take our money, some are pretty aggressive about it – just like tourist shops from New York to LA, but no where do people give change by slapping it on the counter or act rudely. People do their best to speak our language and everywhere, smiles.

No place is perfect and certainly Egypt is not. There are no safety nets here for children, people or animals. There is a lot of poverty, too few jobs. But one thing I wish everyone at home could see is that Muslims and Arabs are not at all evil – no way. At no time did I feel unsafe. Sentiments in the USA have become so twisted that even a checkered scarf on the cook-next-door Rachel Ray got the commercial pulled. Prejudice run crazy. That late night philosopher Bill Maher says that they don’t hate our freedom in the Middle East, they hate our cluster bombs. Too true. And who could blame anyone for that?

At 5:30AM on November 5 we heard horns honking and even a few shouts rang out as the election results were announced in the US. All through Cairo, when we were recognized as Americans, people say, “Obama!” with a thumbs up. The shop keepers whisper the name to us and smile. Obama. The name is like a password to instant friendship. Obama. Obama. Big smile.

Everyone is jubilant to see Bush & Co. step down. He does not understand, Shiama, a friend and secretary at the school, explains. Bush doesn’t realize how many innocent children and families he has killed looking for the few bad ones. Homes and lives destroyed. Neighborhoods just like the one I am looking out at from this balcony. People in Egypt are hopeful the new president will better understand.

This is another post 911 moment for us, I believe. Today the world is once again on our side. Waiting to see what the transition in government will bring. For now, the election has brought smiles, which seems like a good place to start.

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