The Big Pharaoh
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Monday, November 14, 2005

Syria: A Better Egypt?

My mother just came back from a trip to her native land Syria. It was her first visit to the country of her ancestors. She brought lots of yummy Syrian sweets to satisfy my sweet tooth. I also got a couple of handmade woolen pullovers.

She kept describing the natural beauty she saw and the jolly spirit of the Syrians. Then she said something very remarkable. She went on to tell us about something that drew her attention on Damascus’ streets.

“Girls wearing tight jeans and tight tops were walking freely without getting verbally harassed on the street. That reminded me of Cairo back in the 60s when we used to wear whatever we want even in downtown Cairo. It is true that many, if not most, of Syrian girls were wearing the head cover, yet those who chose to wear the tight jeans didn’t get the sexually motivated comments Egyptian men like to spew” she said.

In addition, she told me that liquor stores were displaying their products freely on the frontal view of their shops. In Egypt, many liquor stores prefer to do their business discreetly especially if they exist in a neighborhood that doesn’t really welcome their presence.

Just like Egyptians, she said the Syrians were extremely hospitable and always made sure you never leave their house without filling your stomach with their delicious food. It was during a dinner invitation when she met a prominent official of Syria’s national television. She later discovered that this person was Christian. A Christian occupying an important position in Egypt’s national television is an unthinkable thing here.

I see a lot of similarities between Egypt and Syria. Both were ruled by military dictators. Both countries are relatively poor with overpopulation. In addition, as a result of poverty and unemployment, a religiosity wave swept through both countries making the Muslim Brotherhood the most prominent opposition to the secular regimes in both nations. Yet if my mother’s stories were true and accurate, I can’t help but wonder about why she felt something different in Syria. I really don’t have an answer now but I will try to find out.

Update: Alif has been to Syria and he posted this comment:

In my visit to Syria in August 2004, I had noticed all of this and more, since I toured many cities and towns.Not only do people respect each other's private space, they are also noiseless!Imagine walking in a souq were everything is sold and bought and not hearing voice? not a vulgarity, not a call, not a loud occasional phrase.

In a city like Hama for example, don't dream of seeing the colour of a woman's dress. Everyone is dressed in coats (yes in August), in the hometown of MB.

But nevertheless, in every city, town and village, you can't, no matter hard you strain your eyes to notice, find garbage or piles of trash. you can literally sleep on the street anywhere and stand up as clean as you were, after merely dusting your cloths.

Every house, no matter how poor in some poor village in the mountain, is clean; By poor house here I mean a room or two that are used for sleeping at night and for living after packing the matrices at day.

A magnificent country.Under the surface of accepting the other (and there are lots of OTHERS in Syria) there is an unspoken air of weary anticipation, however.We'll see what will happen. Hopefully the best.

Re-run Elections Tomorrow

Tomorrow will witness the re-run elections of stage 1 of the parliamentary elections. The game will be mainly between the National Democratic Party (Mubarak party) and the Muslim Brotherhood candidates, and between the NDP and other independent candidates.

Given how the government exerted its full control over the results of last Wednesday, it won't be a surprise if they did exactly the same thing again. My predictions of the coming parliament are as follows:

- The NDP will hold the majority of the seats as we all anticipate.
- The government will allow the MB to win more seats this time. The MB know that very well and it's part of their agreement with the government.

The larger number of MB seats in the parliament will be an enough proof that the coming parliament is "representative".

Please take 2 seconds to answer the question of the poll.


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