Sunday, March 27, 2011


I heard that Peace Boat was the first cruise ship to visit Egypt since Egypt's revolution began, less than one month earlier.  We were not allowed to enter Egypt freely, but instead were required to join tour groups.  All of our buses headed to Cairo in a convoy.  I don't think this requirement was anything new, but the many military tanks we saw along the highway are probably new since the revolution, as the country is now under military control.
The great thing about being among the first travelers back is that there were few tourists at the pyramids, and we had them much more to ourselves than could ever normally happen.  The down side was that the souvenir hawkers and camel ride vendors seemed to have saved up a month's worth of energy to expend all on us.
A few days ago in Athens I was amazed by the ancientness of the Acropolis and Parthenon.  Built more than 400 years BC, they were the oldest human sites I had ever seen.  But they are new compared to the pyramids at Giza, completed around 2,600 BC.
We visited Tahrir Square where much of Egypt's revolution took place, and then we met with two of the young people who were part of the revolution.  They told us about some of the reasons for the revolution.  These included:
  • having the same ruler for 30 years
  • poverty (60% of the population lives under the poverty line)
  • poor health care (because of a lack of hospital beds, many patients sleep on the floor)
  • police violence
  • human rights violations such as lack of free speech, and an "emergency law" which allows people to be jailed for opposing the government, for example in a blog or newspaper
The young revolutionaries felt very good about conducting their revolution in a peaceful way.  Because the media was controlled by the government, they did much of their organizing over Facebook and Twitter, and this was successful even though only six percent of Egyptians have access to the internet.
Since President Mubarak stepped down, Egypt has been under military control, and the military will run the country until elections are held in September.
When asked about the situation in neighboring Libya, the revolutionaries expressed their disappointment that Qaddafi has not stepped down, but they spoke against foreign military intervention.  "We do not need another war in the world," one of the revolutionaries said.  "Who knows if those countries will pull out after overthrowing Qaddafi?  A revolution can be done peacefully." 

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