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A Life Experience in the Land of Pharaoh and Moses

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On a Revolutionary Road
By Raudah Mohd Yunus
Freelance Writer- Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
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Extreme wealth on one end and unimaginable destitution on the other told me more about the inequality with which Egyptians had to bear daily.

Having struggled a long way through my high school years, I chose Egypt as the destination for my medical studies – a decision I never regretted. Despite odd remarks about Egypt I had received from friends around, following my heart was my way of doing things.

The six years spent in the 'land of prophets' was a crucial point in my life as a young adult, which brought about a big paradigm shift, making who I am today. Though I had been blessed with the sight of many other countries, Egypt was most desirable and incomparable for its unique combination of people, history, culture, natural beauty and national aspirations.

First Encounter

Putting my feet on Cairo as a typical Malaysian nineteen-year-old girl with previous exposure to the western world only, I was shocked to learn what 'Egypt' meant by the first impression: overcrowding, noise, dust, dirt, no traffic lights on the road, flats built so closed to each other that people could barely breath, and  daily street fighting.

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Alexandria was a relatively calmer city of four million people, smaller, and much more beautiful.

Equipped with complete ignorance about Africa and the Arab world, its culture, geography and language, I had enormous difficulty to adapt. Part of me was quick to judge my early decision, but part of my heart was so full of curiosity and confidence that there was more than what my eyesight could grasp at that point.

I moved to Alexandria after spending roughly a month in Cairo, a vibrant city packed with 20 million inhabitants (equal to almost the entire Malaysian population!), and there was a sense of temporary relief within me. Alexandria was a relatively calmer city of four million people, smaller, and much more beautiful. It is the second most important city after Cairo, and the former capital of the country.

Since Alexandria is a city along the beach, one can never get enough of the beautiful Mediterranean sunset and its cool breeze. What made me happier were the newly built 13-storey Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the biggest library in the Arab world and only 200 meters away from the apartment building where I was staying. Hundreds of tourists from all over the world flock to the spot daily.

Miseries

The relief was temporary. As time went by, things began to unfold before my eyes, disturbing me deeply. I saw poverty on the streets of Egypt, a strong current of westernization against a defenseless, oppressed people, economic injustices, prejudice against the so-called Islamists and blatant hypocrisy and limitless corruption in the ruling elite.

Extreme wealth on one end and unimaginable destitution on the other told me more about the inequality and sufferings with which the Egyptians had to bear on a daily basis.

Reports of arrests and torture on political activists as well as Islamists who dared to reveal the rampant corruption taking place within top officials became more regular.

Any heart with unaffected simplicity would be equally torn as mine. However, the strong will and determination of the Egyptian people reassured my belief that Egypt was not only destined for, but deserved something great.

In the 4th year of my medical studies there, food prices doubled and house rent increased by almost forty percent. Panic gripped the country. Drastic increase in crime rates was obvious.

Reports of arrests and torture on political activists as well as Islamists who dared to reveal the rampant corruption taking place within top officials became more regular.

My daily trip to the lecture hall was greeted by groups of demonstrators at the University main gate, mainly comprised of students and young people who were confronted by robotic policemen in black, big trucks.

Knowing the local language helped me communicate with people and understand many topical issues. My regular Arabic classes in Mandara, a small town 40-minute of driving distance from the campus area, and my involvement in discussions within the University circle shaped my understanding of this great country and strengthened my knowledge of Egyptian and regional issues.

Mixing with mainly the middle class people who were both educated and lively, I was deeply fascinated by their sense of unity as Muslims and Egyptians, positive minds and high aspirations despite the despicable condition of their country. Egypt at that time may have appeared dead, but Egyptians were full of dreams and hopes.

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Eighteen days of sacrifice was worth making. Precious blood was shed and struggle continued; until victory became imminent.

Praying for Change… Strike of a Revolution

In 2009, I graduated from Alexandria University and left Egypt with tears, leaving so many meaningful memories behind. I hugged my tearful Arabic teacher, Egyptian friends and neighbors and waved them goodbye, not knowing whether I would ever return to the blessed land. I kept to myself the thought that something great would happen and that Egypt would fulfill its destiny, fearing I might be wrong.

God Almighty had His own plan and His will triumphed over all. On 25 January 2011, I was shocked by news of chaos and mass protests in Egypt. My family and I prayed to God so that common people were protected as they were generally the most vulnerable victims in such situations.

Mixed emotions hit me day and night; part of me wanted the tyrant regime to be defeated mercilessly and face justice, but part of me feared public safety and foreign intervention. In eagerness to oust Mubarak and his ruling party, no one wanted another Iraq or Afghanistan.

Eighteen days of sacrifice was worth making. Precious blood was shed and struggle continued; until victory became imminent. A tyrant dictator who once seemed invincible was defeated forever. The world watched in silence and awe. Perhaps to cover up their decades of complicity and hypocrisy, big powers which were once allies of Mubarak hastily congratulated the revolution and hoisted the flag of democracy. One lesson which was not perhaps learnt yet was: hypocrisy does not remain hidden.

The road to success is not short and easy. As what the country is facing now, with Mubarak gone there will be many challenges and obstacles ahead to build a new and better Egypt. But again, sacrifice will be proven worth making.

I feel proud to have been part of Egypt, now a free nation. And I have full confidence that for this blessed land will use its resources proficiently and will become truly prosperous.

After all, it is both the land of Pharaoh and Moses. When Pharaoh is gone, Moses rules. When falsehood is defeated, truth stands supreme.

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