Got published in the South Asia Pulse Online: http://www.sapulse.com/new_comments.php?id=3122_0_1_0_C   My parents had arrived in Cairo, Egypt in 1977.  They had been given a home by the company in Garden City and they had found out that it was the very same house that Anwar Sadat had been living in before the revolution.  A few blocks away was the Pakistani Consulate.  The building in which the Pakistani Consulate in Cairo operated was given to them by Agha Khan III.  The building was actually a palace which was later divided into portions.  Agha Khan III is buried is in Aswan, Egypt at the Mausoleum of Aga Khan.  My parents visited the Pakistani Consulate on many occasions, such as Pakistan Day, Independence Day etc. Since there was barely anything available, initially living in Egypt was not easy.  My father had to buy small things such as toothpaste from his visits to Kuwait.  This was a massive change for my family since in Libya, at that time, everything was readily accessible.  There was a time that our family’s housekeeper/cook bought about 3-4 kg worth of butter.  My mother was very astonished and asked her why she made such a huge purchase and told her it wasn’t necessary since our consumption wasn’t as much.  Her reply was “No Madame, it was necessary.  I don’t know when it will be available next.”  When the butter later on started spoiling, she then turned it into ghee to use.  It seemed that Sadat wanted to pay heed to the World Bank’s policies to be able to receive a loan from them; so Egypt’s debts could be relieved.  This was the result mainly due to the liberalization of the economy and ending the subsidizing basic food stuff.  However, when people started rioting, the state then reversed the position. Shortly afterwards, President Anwar Sadat had made the historic visit to Israel for peace.  In the west, many countries along with Egyptians lauded Sadat for taking such a bold step and encouraged it.  Many Middle Eastern countries, especially Libya; (who were the main supporters of Pan-Arabism) claimed that Sadat as a sell-out.  If you took Sadat’s side, you were a liberal dog.  If you opposed Sadat, you were a radical fundamentalist.  However, prior to him trying for peace in the region, he did make a surprise attack in 1973 called the Yom Kippur War.  So, therefore, the only way to get around was trying to instill some stability in the region through a treaty.  The very day Sadat went for his trip, his wife Jehan Sadat, kept a coffee morning with all the ambassadors’ and government elites’ wives just to keep calm, delay her nervousness so she wouldn’t have to constantly think of the dangerous risk her husband was taking. Eventually, the situation in Egypt was starting to get better.  Essentials were more available with proper price control.  The economy seemed to stabilizing along with the country’s international relations.  My family and their friends saw Egypt steadily progressing.  During that time period my mother had given birth to me and my eldest sister decided to name me after the first lady. However just a few months later, unfortunately the assassination of  President Anwar Sadat took place.  The Islamic Group; (al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya) was responsible for this;.  Their reasoning was that they were still enraged with the Egyptian–Israeli Peace Treaty Sadat had signed.  My family remembers seeing the parade on the television live broadcast.  My mother said “Everything all of a sudden in the parade went berserk; we didn’t understand what was happening.  The network all of a sudden turned on Talawat (reciting verses from the Quran), then they announced President Sadat had been assassinated.  The whole day the network played Talawat.  I also remember them showing Jehan Sadat running towards Sadat’s body and her yelling to the bodyguard “What did you people do?  What did you people do to him?”  My eldest sister recalls that when they showed everything on the local TV channel, our housekeeper (different from the one mentioned before) wept terribly as she sat in front of the TV and kept saying in distress “They killed such a good man, he was such a good leader, why did they kill such a good man?” My mother told me that she had a seen on the local television channels a true-story based tele-film/documentary.  In that tele-film, they showed that Sadat was telling his wife he didn’t want to go and he was feeling very lethargic a few hours before his assassination.  Nonetheless, his wife pushed him to go since he had to make an appearance in the annual victory parade in Cairo to celebrate Egypt’s crossing of the Suez Canal.  Little did she know that her husband would be killed. Hosni Mubarak had taken over as President while the whole of Egypt grieved.  A couple of years later my family and I moved back to Pakistan.  It took my family time to adjust, but they were happy to be back home.  However, till this day they all remember Egyptians as very loving, warm, welcoming and family people.  These people have a very rich culture and strong history, whom very exceptionally loyal to the people that they served.  Time and time again our Pakistani friends, who were with us in Cairo, would return to visit.  After some 15 years or so, one of them mentioned how it is again becoming very difficult for the common man there to buy certain food items, which were apart of their staple diet; for example chicken.  A couple of years later our second time housekeeper came to visit us with another Pakistani family that she started to work for when we left.  I still remember the warmth and love in her voice and gestures.  According to her, Egypt was no longer the same. I don’t remember anything about Egypt and of course Libya is all stories to me.  Regardless; there is a certain melancholy and a strong sense of relief for my family and I, when watching the revolution happen again.  Tahrir Square was where my parents strolled with my push-chair and my sisters walked on each side.  When we watch of what is becoming of Libya, our heart goes out to them.  All in all, we know and hope that they will get through this ordeal.  Like the Tunisians and Egyptians, similarly the Libyans, have the ability to discipline themselves to have unity.  When they need work done, they manage to keep all the social/ethnical/religious politics aside and keep faith. Unity, faith and discipline; the same fundamental principles Quaid-e-Azam had stated for Pakistan. When the situation has stabilized in Libya and Egypt, I’d like to make a small visit; just to see how fierce the desert wind blows and how strong the currents of the Nile Flow.

Advertisements