Omar Samra is reaching for the moon. He was the first Egyptian to ascend to the summit of Mount Everest. He was also the first of his countrymen to climb the highest peaks on the other six continents. Soon, he plans to go even higher. In 2015, Samra is set to become the first Egyptian in space.
Over the past three years, Tahrir Square has become a symbol of revolt, the scene of countless political protests and, too often, violence and bloodshed. If a bold new vision succeeds, the neighborhood around the square will soon be buzzing with innovators and entrepreneurs, a symbol of Egyptian economic progress.
Saudi Arabia made its first-ever submission of a film for an Oscar at the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood. Wadjda, which was submitted in the Best Foreign Film category, failed to earn a nomination, but it made history as the first feature movie to be filmed entirely in the country.
Rather than working on clearly identifying and recognizing problems, many Egyptians seem to prefer a different approach based on denial, and pointing fingers at others. This reminds us of the proverbial tale of the ostrich burying its head in the sand.
Since the January 25 Revolution three years ago, we have witnessed five changes of government, yet citizens are still complaining about government performance in general. What is it that other nations do, and do well, that Egyptians can learn from?
A political prisoner freed. An affidavit documenting police abuse. An audience with lawmakers. When Egyptians rose up in 2011, human rights campaigner Heba Morayef dared to hope that such incremental accomplishments were giving way to freedom and democracy. But the dream didn’t last for long.
As I was turning thirteen, I packed up everything I had to embark on a new life in Tehran with my Iranian mother and stepfather. In 1999, I left behind everyone and everything I knew in Los Angeles, including my American father.
The official unemployment rate in Egypt rocketed to 13.2 percent in the first quarter of 2013. The news added to the gloom of Egyptians complaining that the country’s economic fortunes have taken a nasty turn for the worse since the January 25 revolution.
Two and a half years after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak, a year after the election of his successor, Mohammed Morsi, and after Morsi’s sudden ouster and the appointment of an interim president, Mansour Al-Adly, head of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court, in July, the country is still searching for its identity.
In March, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced that 20,665 Syrian refugees had been registered in Egypt by the international agency. The figure startled researchers at the Center for Migration and Refugee Studies (CMRS) at the American University in Cairo (AUC).
The United Nations General Assembly was on the eve of its historic vote to recognize the State of Palestine. But, for this Palestinian American, it was no cause for rejoicing. “The facts on the ground,” she told a packed lecture hall at the American University in Cairo (AUC) in November, “have killed the possibility of two states.”
What is President Barack Obama doing in Middle East? What should his policy be? Three former U.S. policy makers took a crack at those questions in “After the Arab Spring,” a forum held by AUC’s School of Global Affairs and Public Policy in February a few week’s after Obama’s inauguration for a second term of office.
A long-serving former head of the Migrants Branch of the International Labor Organization W.R. Boehning once wrote that, “The history of mankind is a history of migration.” Egyptians, better than most, know the value of Boehning’s insight.
Middle East Studies is a curious field. Unlike more sharply defined traditional social sciences, it may appear to be an arbitrary collection of disciplinary approaches studying an arbitrary collection of countries. It often finds itself in cross currents that mirror the politics—and passions—of the region it examines. The Middle East Studies Center at the American University in Cairo recently hosted a panel of specialists to engage in some self-reflection that seemed particularly apt in the midst of the Arab Spring: “Why Middle East Studies? A Discussion of the State of the Field.”