No Great Thing

No great thing happens overnight.

After 30 years of a Mubarak dictatorship and a people’s more-or-less “bloodless” revolution . . . unless you count all those who were killed and injured by Murbarak’s thugs . . . overthrew the dictator and ousted his government there obviously will be upheaval throughout society. It would take a while for any country to settle down but especially a country as big, chaotic and diverse.

So a lot of people are waiting to see what happens. As you drive across Egypt to Cairo you see hundreds of construction projects . . . waiting. Egypt’s already huge population is growing by 1 million people every year, so it is a land ripe for foreign investment . . . all of which is now . . . waiting.

So if there are periodic flare-ups, riots and demonstrations along the way, times when Egyptians appear to be shooting themselves in their feet . . . this is predicable.

So we’re scheduled to be in Egypt once again this week . . . and send guests overnight to Cairo. Will this happen? Who knows? We await the decision of the suits in Santa Clarita. Maybe we’ll go to Istanbul instead. Maybe we’ll just become “the cruise to nowhere.” Who knows? Every day at sea is a new adventure and whatever happens the ship and staff roll with the punch so, regardless, our guests have an “excellent” cruise (to coin a word).

Some observations to put things into perspective . . .

As his 20-year dictatorship was teetering on the brink, Mubarak ordered the prisons opened and released hundreds of thugs into the mix to . . . guess what? . . . take full advantage of the disorder, loot and ride camels into peaceful demonstrations shooting as they rode.

Under Mubarak 2% of Egyptians were banking 80% of the country’s income. Obviously those folks aren’t happy to see their “traditional” way of graft disappear. The cruise terminal in Alexandria featuring useless miles of marble and an empty palace-like complex which inconveniently cruise passengers have to walk through to reach the ship . . . obviously this lavish, and totally unnecessary project was built by an “insider” providing the opportunity to siphon of millions of dollars while people in the neighboring slums lived in squalor.

Mubarak was profitable for a small, but powerful cadre of Egyptians who are decidedly unhappy about this unfortunate, democratic turn of events and who will do anything to see the revolution fail.

Mubarak and family are on trial in what is emerging as a poorly orchestrated show trail in which, like Egyptian elections in the past, the verdict is already known long before the trail is over. It was only after months of pressure that a trial was organized. Key military leaders who were blaming Mubarak for ordering them to fire on demonstrators are now singing a totally different tune. In true soap-opera fashion Mubarak is wheeled into the courtroom on a hospital stretcher. The best thing for Egypt would be for Mubarak to die while in hospital of some kind or another “natural” death.

Egypt’s military, about 800,000 strong including reservists, have long been one of the major power players in Egypt. Not only did the US support Mubarak’s dictatorship through the years but additionally supported and continues to support the Egyptian Army. Unfortunately US support of dictatorships around the world has emerged as the cornerstone of US foreign policy through the years dating at least as far back as Viet Nam.

When you drive to Cairo you see enormous, lavish, and I mean lavish, Egyptian Army hospitals, social clubs and hotels, all of which are supported by $3 Billion US dollars annually compliments of the US taxpayer, one can only wish a fraction of this amount was devoted to caring for US soldiers.

So now you have the Egyptian military attempting to steal the revolution. According to Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer,

“Those who trusted the Army now regret it. They regret chanting sloagans like: ‘The Army and the people are of one hand!’ Even the Islamists, who thought that the Army would support them in their desire to make Egypt the center of the caliphate, now see the error of their ways. All those who supported the military have realized that they were nothing more than pawns in a game against the liberals and leftists in the country. The [Military] Council, which promised to surrender authority after six months, has gone back on its word.”

Egypt is 90% Muslim, 10% Christian, but the Christian community here was founded by St. Mark himself and has great respect amongst all Egyptians including Muslims, all of whom like to praise the religious tolerance in Egypt. So while the Mubarak trial drags on, his supporters use thugs to foment strife especially now that Egyptian parliamentary elections are approaching, elections in which for the first time in 30 years voters will not know the results in advance. What started out as a peaceful protest resulted in a sectarian riot in which some 20 people were killed and hundreds injured, mostly Christians.

According to a 28-year-old Muslim, Maha Adel Qasim, who joined the Christians in protest, “We know that the military council is trying to sow religious strife to stay in power.” The roaming thugs, and the civilian police are known to be aligned with Mubarak forces. When people are impoverished it doesn’t take much to buy demonstrators and support.

We shall see . . . whether or not we go to Egypt on this cruise, whether or not Mubarak faces justice or walks, and whether or not democracy succeeds in Egypt.

Meanwhile . . . just to keep life interesting, the Greeks are planning another strike the day we do our turnover [not the ship rolling over, but guests leaving and new guests arriving] on October 22nd.

"It's not fresh unless it's really fresh!" Cairo meat market: you make your choice and animal is slaughtered and cut up while you wait.

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