The Big Pharaoh
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Saturday, April 17, 2004

I have been getting several questions on the comments column. I will briefly answer as many as possible.

What could you tell us about the Muslim Brotherhood?
They are the strongest and most organized opposition group. The group itself is outlawed but they have managed to seize control of several professional syndicates. They do not use violence today even though they have used it in the past. Most terrorist organizations grew from their philosophy. I like to call them the Ayatollah Khomenei of Egypt. They feed on the frustration of the masses. I hope to write more about them in the future.

What do you make of the cancellation the Arab League Summit in Tunis?
As all nations, Arabs have different agendas and they never seem to agree on anything.

do you know if there are any other in-country Egyptians blogging in English?
No, I don’t know of the existence of any Egyptian blogs.

What do most other Egyptians think of the war in Iraq?
Look at the blog below

What is it like to live in a country with so much history?

Fascinating. Egypt’s historical phases are as follows: The Pharaohs, Greeks, Romans, Christian, and Islamic. Each phase has its own wonders, the pharaohs are the most popular of course.

How is Mubarek regarded?
In the absence of any concrete data, I cannot tell you of his approval rating for example. I can tell that many are upset with him because of the devastating state of the economy and the other social problems, but many consider him the safety valve of Egypt. I personally like the guy because he is a strong balanced man of peace. His peaceful character and strength made me not mind him staying forever.

Has tourism recovered after the attacks there?
Yes, tourism got 2 blows: the Luxor massacre in 1997 and 911. I think the numbers are up again. However, the economy is still suffering.

How is the proposed Israeli withdrawal from Gaza viewed?
I ceased paying attention to the Palestinian/Israeli crisis because I’m fed up. Now Iraq is everything to me. I guess from what I’ve heard so far, Arabs are angry that Bush accepted the fact that some Jewish settlements can remain in the West Bank and that no refugees can come into Israel. I tend to totally agree with the second issue, but for some settlements to remain in the West Bank, Israel has to offer some compensation namely an equivalent piece of land out of Israel.

Do Egyptians support a UN sponsored caretaker government for Iraq after June 30?
Yes, the government stated that they would like to see more UN involvement.

How do Egyptians view the prospect of a free and democratic Iraq?
Only businessmen thought about that. The average citizen reads doom and gloom everyday from his daily papers.

Has trade with Iraq increased since the fall of Saddam?
I don’t think so. In fact Egyptian businessmen complained that they have been sidelined. The only noticeable win is the license to operate a mobile phone network in central Iraq. Egyptian telecommunication giant Orascom won the bid. I hope more business comes to Egypt as the situation stabilizes.

What one thing could the American government do to make the lives of ordinary Egyptians better?
Iraq Iraq Iraq

A quick question, did you study in the US, in particular the midwest?

No, I’ve only been to the US once in my life. I went to California and literally adored it. My hotel was next to Disney Land, what else can I ask for?!

Is Egypt going to have such a show (American Idol)? what is your pop culture like?
Yes, we have a program called Star Maker. Young singers perform in front of a panel of experts who decide upon the best voice. Viewers can vote as well. The good thing about Egypt is that you do get a lot of pop culture and it is much more “open” than Saudi Arabia for example. Tourism is the country’s main source of revenue; we cannot afford to be closed. Young people love to enjoy life, watch football (or soccer), and annoy girls on the street. In the past, guys did not look at veiled girls out of respect. Now, since more and more girls are getting veiled, they are no longer exempt.

I would be interested to know what is behind the feeling of hostility towards the US amongst the Egyptian general population.
That’s a question that can take books and books to answer. I’d say it is a mixture of: supporting Israel, supporting government that is not so democratic, and the press. Most Egyptians would cite supporting Israel as their main reason. Others who are politically active such as the religious fanatics will add supporting dictators (that is funny to me because those guys cannot be anything but dictators if they ruled). In addition, religious fanatics have another reason: Americans are not Muslim, they are the only superpower, then they must be evil (that is an issue I want to address in my blog). Then you have a crazy conspiracy minded press that adds wood to the fire. Again I repeat, getting Iraq right is a crucial element in beginning to address those grievances.


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