Conversations

Mohammed from Cairo, late 20's or so. We met Mohammed (and no, this is not an alias, there are so many Mohammeds in the Muslim world that both interviews being with men of the same name is not even a coincidence) in a bar in Alexandria, Egypt. He was a young, educated professional who spoke perfect English. In Alexandria on business with an extra evening to keep himself entertained, he started a conversation with us that soon turned into a lengthy discussion about politics, society, culture, and much more. In became apparent that he had well thought-out ideas and opinions, so several drinks later we posed our questions to him.

1. What's the best thing about Egypt?

That's a tough question. I think I would say it's the kindness of the people. We're very emotional with each other. We form attachments to neighbors, colleagues, and friends are friends for a long time. We do so much for each other. If I went away for a year, like you have done, I would miss my friends very much - both my friends from work and my old friends. It is normal for Egyptians to have this strong attachment. The family bonds are very strong too.

We have been talking now for two hours or so. If I spent this much time talking with an Egyptian like this, we would exchange numbers and promise to get together again. And we would do it too. I don't think most people in the world would do that.

2. What's the worst thing about Egypt?

The worst thing is the same as the best thing. This kindness, the emotion, makes the Egyptian people believe anything because they are not as rational. They are swayed by their emotions. This can be a little dangerous as it makes illiterate people trust anyone and anything. They are easily convinced. Just a good speech by the president will make people vote for him for example.

3. What's the best thing about America?

The kind of development reached. The level of democracy. It's not 100% democratic - it is not 100% free from corruption, I'm sure there must be some - but it seems that most money is spent to help the people. For example on research & development, developing cures for illnesses, going to space. I think this is all due the power of the people under democracy. They are not stupid or powerless so the people tell the government that it is there to make the lives of the people better.

4. What's the worst thing about America?

The seclusion of Americans from the rest of the world. This seclusion sometimes turns to ignorance of the world. I once told an American guy, you're going to love this, that I was from Egypt. He said, "that's in India, right?"

You know, is it true that Americans call all foreigners living in America resident aliens? - They think a person is either American or an Alien. All the rest of the world is seen as alien and I think that's very weird!

Julie
5/10/02
Alexandria, Egypt

   
 
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