Updated: Sep 15, 2021
Personal, political. Isn't everything in life personal and political?
This is particularly so for me because I am Egyptian. My mum is Egyptian, half of my world is Egyptian and lives in Egypt. In Cairo. When the 2011 Egyptian Revolution happened I was at Uni, in the UK. I was studying History and International Politics. My classes suddenly started changing and lecturers started saying 'The Arab Spring'. In class people would say hey aren't you Egyptian? Is it safe there? It never has been has it? And I would think about my family and the beautiful country that makes me whole.
The ba'aal at the bottom of our building who we got our hot cheetos and bebsi in glass bottles from. Gentle Amu Ali, the ancient falooka man, friends with my dad for 40 years. Is it safe there? The breathless calm at the centre of the Nile. I would think about my cousins, young, living in it. I would think about the koshari stand on Tahrir Square that did the best tomato sauce. The hole in the wall at the end of my street, selling pirate copies of Amr Diab tapes that I would buy each year to listen to on my walk to school. Then summer of that year came and my parents went to Egypt, as they have done every year since my mother left. Is it safe? To be with people you love? Curfews and viral videos of people banging on saucepans. People missing. Whispers through text. My heart as heavy as a Giza stone.
Is it safe there? Has it ever been? What are you comparing it to? Is anywhere safe? What is safe? I began to loathe those classes at uni. I chose those subjects because I love stories and people. But it didn't feel smart to hypothesise about things happening in real time, to real people. It didn't feel smart to learn from experts who had never, and would never go to any of these places or care to speak to people. We learnt about primary sources, which weren't as important as academic opinions.
Is it safe there? Is it beautiful? Is it home? Stories from Egyptians about the Egyptian Revolution. It's not about footnotes, its about feeling. Revolution is about shifting the narrative. This is personal, and political. As everything is in life.