Revolution has rocked Egypt, but the movement is not apparent through my taxi window in downtown Cairo. I see no protests, violence or military presence. Despite the steady stream of alarming headlines and travel alerts flowing from Egypt, calm prevails in the aftermath of the presidential election. I see people going about their lives, engaging in routine activities. Arab Spring uprisings started in Tunisia in December 2010 and quickly spread to other countries. But the world has followed the twists and turns in Egypt especially closely. With more than 80 million citizens, Egypt is the largest Middle Eastern country and an economic power. What happens in Egypt affects the whole region. During the next few days, I will step out of my taxi and meet Thunderbird alumni on the ground. I also will gather insights from Egyptian expatriates watching from afar. Their stories will provide new windows into Egypt and its place in the Arab Spring.
Part 4: Seven words on Facebook
Alumnus Khaled El Miniawi ’84 arrives at the Thunderbird European Reunion in high spirits. In the days before his Berlin flight, the Egyptian expatriate visited the Consulate near his Dubai home and cast a ballot in a wide open presidential election.
Now, as he mingles with former classmates at a welcome reception in Berlin’s Sony Center, he checks his smartphone for updates from Cairo, where polls have just closed. “For the first time in my life, I voted in an election without knowing the results in advance,” Miniawi says. “That is huge.”
Participating in the process has been momentous for Miniawi, a human resources professional in the financial services sector. “I used to feel like a guest in my own house,” he says. “Now I feel like I own it.”
Fittingly, Miniawi celebrated his vote on Facebook, the social media tool that facilitated massive protests against the old Egyptian regime. Miniawi’s status update on May 12, 2012, summarizes his emotions in seven words: “Great feeling: liberating, empowering … re-owning my country.”
Miniawi realizes democracy will not come to Egypt overnight, but he sees the peaceful election as a step in the right direction. “The genie is out of the bottle,” he says. “You cannot put the genie back in the bottle.”
He uses a farming analogy to describe the political environment, comparing Mubarak’s regime to a drought that depleted the Egyptian soil for a generation. “Now we are adding topsoil and layers of nutrients,” he says. “New life will come, but it will take time.”
Weeds also will come with the crops, but Miniawi says corrupt players who try to put down roots will have the fresh memory of Mubarak’s overthrow as a deterrent. Turmoil might persist for a season, but Miniawi sees a rich harvest in the future.
His Facebook post on June 9, 2012, is more subdued after voting in the presidential runoff, but Miniawi clings to his optimistic outlook. “Felt like being cornered to choose between eating rotten meat or drinking contaminated water … for what reason is this happening to my country? Anyhow, Egypt will prevail. Tahya Masr.”
EGYPT UP CLOSE
Part 1: Two trips to Tahrir Square (Alsherif Wahdan ’08)
Part 2: A mosque built with rubble (Amr Fahmy ’03)
Part 3: The Mercedes that didn’t happen (Mohamed Roushdy ’04)
Part 4: Seven words on Facebook (Khaled El Miniawi ’84)
Part 5: A cross to bear (Adel Labib ’83)
Part 6: Revolution, recreation and leisure (Ashraf Bassili ’00)