In Sickness and in Health, I’ll commit to you Egypt!!

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As part of my lifetime plan to discover the world, I packed my bags this August and headed to the mysterious Scandinavian countries where I was supposed to spend 3 days in Denmark as part of the journey. I was very pleased to uncover a piece of the world that is cloaked with a shadow of mystery and a number of unanswered questions in my head. Once I stepped foot in the country, I hastily unpacked and hopped out of the hotel to walk along the streets, next to the people, lingering in and out of the stores where the series of surprises began!


For the first time in my life, I experienced the feeling of being a cast away. For the first time, I knew what it feels to be treated like an unwanted guest. People in shops are intentionally not smiling and I personally have been through a situation where a shop seller was mistreating me after recognizing that I am a foreigner! I was deeply hurt and wanted to leave the country the very next day. Of course I cannot miss noting that the treatment of the airport officers over there is tourist-repelling; the least to say. As I knew from our Danish tour guide, Denmark has always been a “closed” country where foreign merchants used to live in ghettos of their own. This has led Danish people uncomfortable communicating with whoever is not a native citizen and they are still getting used to the idea of being an “open” country causing them and others a lot of frustrations.


As much as the experience was resentful to me, it was enriching and insightful. It shed strong light on a concept that I have been thinking about for quite sometime now; the love to one’s own country. Most of us have been raised in schools where we were “conditioned” to love our country under the premise that it is the best country in the world. As we grew up, began to experience the frustrations first hand, traveled abroad and compared, we realized that it is not the “best” country, that it is far from ideal and has a long road to go. Realizing this fact, we began to hold negative feelings, to lack tolerance for shortfalls and to stop seeing but the deficiencies. Some of us went to the extreme of holding feelings of hatred towards the country and others find that it is “en vogue” to call it bad names!


Don’t get me wrong, I am not here to claim that everything in the country is just perfect! I hereby attest that personally, I have gone through experiences with some government-related entities that left me mentally shocked, frustrated and disappointed. But allow me to clarify two points that – believing in them – made my sincere love to this country rise to a level that makes me every inch proud of being an Egyptian…


First point; we have to differentiate between “the country” and “the people” living in it. The country is where we were born, our territory, the land where we grew, received our education (or part of it), made life-time friends and went through experiences that shaped our character and made us strong. The country is our own image; the more we hold it high, untouched and treat it with the highest level of dignity, the more we are preserving our own personal image, holding our chin high and respecting ourselves. The people of the country on the other hand, are US including ourselves. When we talk about broken rules, bribes taken or buildings falling, we are referring to people from amongst us who chose not to follow or apply rules. It has become the norm to find a taxi driver swearing at the country that it lacks a strict traffic system and then almost immediately you find him breaking the first traffic light! What a dangerous mess we make when we confuse our country with its own people malpractices!


Second point; why can’t we just admit that our country is not the “ideal” one? What would happen if we announced out loud to ourselves and to others that yes, we have a long road to go, yes we are still building our selves and yes we have deficiencies? Life would be much easier and simpler on all of us if we stopped judging our country as though it is a highly developed one and started to acknowledge what it really lacks. Mind you, I am not suggesting that we procrastinate, accept the status quo and live happily ever after with the current situation. All what I am saying is that when we acknowledge where our country currently is, where do we want to get it and what is the gap, we would know from where to start and how to work together to close it. It would also allow us to speak about the country with confidence as we are not anymore trying to hide or “mask” a truth and then feel disappointed whenever the mask falls. I don’t believe that Japan became the country it is now by its own people swearing at it when it was completely destroyed. And please don’t give me the canned debate by saying that Japan is where it is now because it had a strong system. My counter argument to you would then be; and who sets and destroys a system: is it “the country” or its own people?


My point is simple; hold your country dear to your heart, acknowledge your own responsibility and work hard with the rest of your people to bring it to where you want to see it. Excluding yourself from the equation; blaming the other and degrading your own homeland is not going to do you anything but make you feel a stranger where you live as well as a cast out from others who question the integrity of people declaring their disrespect to their home country.


Arriving at Cairo Airport, seeing the dark-skinned hard working workers and greeting the customs officer after standing in a struggling queue brought a sincere smile to my face and a renewed vow to me that in sickness and in health…I love Egypt.       


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