A New Beginning بداية جديدة
It’s back to Um al-Duniyya once again. Despite the revolution and the vast amounts of patriotic people-power paraphernalia hawked by touts in Tahrir Square, not much has physically changed from my last visit a year ago. It’s still hotter than Hades; the clamor of car horns still deafens my ears; eight lanes of cars still crowd five lanes of traffic; Egyptians still bring their heckling A-game and most of all, I’m still ‘Welcome in Egypt’.
Contrary to the connotations of the above commentary, I’m glad to be back. Walking out of Cairo International Airport felt like coming home. I’ve missed being an Arabic language nerd with my boxes of vocabulary flash cards. I’ve missed shwarma bi-fragh (Chicken) and fool bi sugu` (Sausage). I’ve even missed the banter with touts and shop owners.
Furthermore, despite the lack of visible physical changes, it is obvious – after just a few hours on the ground – that there are new currents influencing Egyptian political life. People feel empowered; they are smiling more; there is a sense of hope in a society where none had existed before.
There are also large political questions that have yet to be answered: How has the army defined its interests? Will it continue to rule behind the scenes or recede to a lesser role after the elections in the fall? How has the Muslim Brotherhood defined its interests? Will the Brotherhood fracture in face of a broad pallet of political options? How will Egyptians respond to any a stagnated economy and rising food prices? Can Egyptian society reduce the rising sectarian tension between Copts and Salafists? Can April 6th and the Khalid Sayi`d movements broaden their constituencies?
I invite you to join me in discovering and debating the answer to these questions as the year progresses and hope that you tolerate the immanent deterioration of my English language.