Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Some Thoughts on Egypt's Revolution

The revolutionary events in Egypt over the past few weeks have been extraordinary in terms of their global repercussions. They also have implications for me personally -- the first demonstration in Cairo's Tahrir Square took place the day after my wife and I had put down a deposit for a week's tour of upper Egypt in May.

We've been in Egypt before. We visited about 30 years ago, shortly after the historic Camp David Accords had been signed. We remember the optimism and hopefulness of the people at that time, and the positive regard they had for the U.S., particularly for President Carter. We were treated very, very well during that trip, and it certainly was one of the best we have ever taken. Unfortunately for the Egyptan people, Anwar Sadat was assassinated not long after he signed the accords, and the reign of Mubarak snuffed out their optimism and hope for the future.

Our first visit to Eqypt was a great trip with one exception. We arrived in Cairo very tired and extremely jet-lagged. I think it was late in the afternoon, and we transferred to our hotel, a brand new Holiday Inn near the Great Pyramids of Giza where we stayed for a few nights before heading south. We were on a TWA tour which was very thorough, well organized, and which wasted no time in getting to the good stuff. Our first morning after arriving was to be one of the highlights of the trip -- visiting the Great Pyramids, the Sphinx, and some important sites outside of Cairo. Unfortunately our alarm failed to wake us at the appointed hour and the hotel wake-up call never came. We finally got a call from our tour leader asking if we weren't going to join the group for the day? We threw on some clothes and rushed to the waiting bus with only a few candy mints for breakfast, not even a cup of coffee. Needless to say, we can barely remember what we saw that day.

Our goal this year was to revisit some of those monuments, this time while wide awake, and also spend some time in historic Alexandria, which we did not see on the first trip. We scheduled this week in Eqypt at the end of a longer trip to Jordan & Syria -- note, no possibility of jet-lag while viewing the Sphinx! Also, rather than being on a lock-step group tour, we've arranged for a car, driver, and local guide to take us to those places on our own personal itinerary.

We haven't canceled any of our plans in Eqypt, nor in Jordan & Syria, and we won't unless it seems absolutely necessary.

When we describe this to people we get pretty strong reactions. Some are wide-eyed that we would even consider going to the Middle East at all, let alone after the recent developments. Others are very encouraging, and think that it would be an excellent time to visit these places, assuming some stability and lack of violence, because the people will once again be optimistic and hopeful. Given the economic dependence of many common citizens in these countries on tourism, they are likely to welcome visitors very warmly -- in fact, going ahead with our trip is perhaps the most direct way of helping people and showing support for them. Americans in particular should perhaps show support, given the democratic goals of the protestors. [Please feel free to weigh in on this with your own comments -- anonymously if you prefer.]

We'll see what happens in the next several weeks. We certainly live in interesting times, don't we?????


DoctorMcLovin said...

Sounds fascinating on so many levels.

PaddleDoc said...

Best of luck with the trip. I've been looking for news about Egypt as the TV coverage is all about Libya. It looks like things are more stable and they are sorting out the constitution and term limits etc. Good for them, they needed a change and it does look hopeful for now.