Egypt

02/13/2011

Wedding Celebration in Liberation Square

“Arruz” the woman kept saying in Liberation Square today. She was clearly excited about the “arruz”, and as much as I wanted to share her excitement, the Arabic word meant nothing to me. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the Arab world, but that word just never came up. It was not the scene around us she was excited about. It wasn’t the celebration of new freedom, or a revolution that succeeded, or the neo-natal Democracy rising from the suddenly rich Egyptian soil. She had something altogether different she wanted me to know about.

 

Joe was off shooting some locals who were painting an ornate metal fence with paint they had bought and brushes and rollers donated by a local civic club.  The government, or what’s left of it, played no role. Earlier I had asked one man, who was wearing a suit coat and carrying a brief case, why he had stopped his day to paint a fence that was clearly the province of the government, and he said “because Egypt belongs to me now. The fence is ours and we must take care of it.” 

 

Thousands joined in. They painted buildings and polished statues and washed grime that had grown unchecked for a generation. It was a nation washing that man right out of their hair and in all my travels I have never seen people working so hard and  smiling so broadly. But it had nothing to do with “arruz.”

 

In a lot of countries, its not very difficult to find someone in a crowd who speaks enough English to help out. But its not that way in Egypt. Education, one of the key gripes of the revolution, is restricted to a select few and even for them is hardly world class. Of course, there are times when a translator is unnecessary. There are times when all you need is to be lead by the hand.

 

One of the rules for men in the Muslim world is that you never touch a woman who is not your wife. Ever. You don’t shake their hands or pat them on the back or help them over a puddle. In Pakistan and some other countries, it’s a good idea to avoid eye contact if you would like to keep your eyes. Sometimes a woman who has had experience with the west or is not particularly religious will reach a hand out to shake yours, but its smart to wait for that gesture before you offer. I have never before been grabbed virtually by the scruff of my neck by a Muslim woman and marched as if to the principals office.

 

Frustrated with my obvious ignorance, the woman in Liberation Square did just that. And I marched until I saw it. Arruz.

 

It means wedding. In the heart of Liberation Square, in the middle of a revolution that empowered and transformed a nation, in the final moments of one reality or the dawning moments of a new one, a couple had decided to  make the holiest of vows to see this new world in together.  The bride wore white and a smile as wide as the Nile itself. The groom wore a black suit and his pride in his new family and new nation as clear as the dawning day. And none of that needed a translator. Just a woman with a strong hand and an unyielding faith in her country’s future.

 

Arruz. Pretty sure it means wedding. Meet the couple in my 11:00 report on Sunday.  

02/12/2011

Jim Dolan in Egypt

The bridge over the Nile was so packed with traffic, both cars and people, that we worried for a time about collapse.

 

Horns blared and flags waved in the final cacophonous moments of a dimming day, the final day and the first day and a day like the world has rarely known. The bridge almost seemed to sag. What could possibly hold up beneath the weight of all that hope?

 

Egypt is just now a giddy nation. It is so easy to get all gushy and romantic about this. It was brave beyond words and bold and righteous and it was so dramatic. But the people of Egypt are no more capable of free elections tomorrow than I am of striking out Derek Jeter on two pitches. They have no parties they have no infrastructure, they have no candidates, they have no history of running anything but pretend elections, shows for the camera’s that were more fiction than reality.  And, even if they could field a decent field of candidates and parties, take a look back through history and count how many military’s have ever voluntarily given up power just because the people wanted it. Few, but that’s what will have to happen here: the military runs Egypt now and they will have to usher in this ancient nation’s modern era of openness, if it's to happen. I’m not sure where the smart money is on this, but I do know they’ve been in charge for a day and all the camera gear Joe and I brought to Egypt that was confiscated under the old regime is still impounded under the new regime. They don’t want the world to see what’s going on here anymore than Mubarak did.   

 

So from this reporter, a salute to the bravery of a nation that today can raise its children to its shoulders and tell them with confidence to look to the horizon and a future as bright as it has ever looked. But to those who thought the hard part was getting rid of Hosni Mubarak, be aware that Democracy is harder still, and crossing the rugged terrain from here to there will take the will of a nation and the patience of a saint. And it will require the strength of steel - a steel strong enough to carry the weight of all the hope this country has invested in the future.

 

That bridge over the Nile, so loud and joyful and teeming with optimism, still stands, by the way. Strong steel for a suddenly muscular nation that this week chooses its destiny and all the work that goes with it.

Jim

(Below is Jim's report from Friday on Eyewitness News at 11pm)