“Conditionality Confusion”

May 7, 2009

Matt  Axelrod has another good post on the US’s non-conditioning of aid to the Egyptian government. Controversial and very interesting. Check it out on the Foreign Policy Association Egypt blog.

Gates’s Trip to Egypt

May 5, 2009

Matthew Axelrod has an interesting post about Defense Secretary Gates’s trip to Egypt. Check it out on the Foreign Policy Association Egypt blog.

Salaama Ahmed Salaama Translation

April 26, 2009

Check out my translation of Salaama Ahmed Salaama’s piece “Barren American Policies” on the FPA Egypt blog here.

Interview with FPA

April 24, 2009

Check out my and the other Foreign Policy Association Egypt bloggers’ interview here.

Joseph Nye on the Ivory Towers

April 16, 2009

I really liked this piece from Joseph Nye of “soft power” fame in the Washington Post. I remember reading an article during my undergrad by Lisa Anderson, now the provost of AUC, about how academics and policy-makers need to do a better job of working together. Here are some quotes:

Scholars are paying less attention to questions about how their work relates to the policy world, and in many departments a focus on policy can hurt one’s career. Advancement comes faster for those who develop mathematical models, new methodologies or theories expressed in jargon that is unintelligible to policymakers.

Yet too often scholars teach theory and methods that are relevant to other academics but not to the majority of the students sitting in the classroom before them.

I definitely think this can go both ways, and policy-makers sometimes ignore academics for the wine-sipping, elbow-patch wearing snobs that they are. Academics complain so often about American policy, which they have a right to do, and which they should do. But how about using that Harvard PhD to actually help the US make better policy decisions?

An Egyptian View on Americans

April 15, 2009

I had to slip into the Semiramis Hotel in Tahrir this morning because both the ATMs at the old AUC campus as well as the printer in the computer lab were broken (I still don’t like the new campus and want ALI and CASA to move back to Tahrir). I went to the business center, which by the way is not a good place to print things unless you want to spend 6.5 Egyptian pounds ($1.15) per sheet.

Anyway, the guy working there, Tamer, told me he had lived in Delaware for 10 years. His English was really good. Egyptians often ask me what I think of Egypt, so I asked Tamer what he thought of America. “It’s a country, just like other countries,” he said. I asked him what he meant by that because he kind of smirked when he was saying it. He said that Americans are really ignorant, more so than Europeans. I asked him in what way. He said that “Americans think that the government and police here just beat us up all day long, and that we all ride on camels, and that we kill women here if they refuse to wear the veil.” I asked him if people really said that to him, and if they had maybe been joking. He said yes they did, and no they were not.

Now I know there are ignorant people in the USA, just as there are ignorant people everywhere. And I know that Americans may be more ignorant of certain things as a whole than people from other countries might be as a whole, as I have ranted before. And of course I can’t speak for all Americans nor can I presume to know what all Americans think or feel or know about. I don’t think this guy was lying about his experience. Maybe he was exaggerating a bit, but I certainly find it surprising, and disappointing, that in his ten years in the US this is the kind of stuff he heard, or the kind of stuff people were saying to him.

So that’s just a view from the other side.


April 4, 2009

Here’s a link to my post on the Foreign Policy Egypt Blog about Al-Masri Al-Youm insinuating that AUC is spying for the DOD.

Coming to America

February 2, 2009

I just wanted to quickly share something that I hear often from average Egyptians I meet on the street.

Today we went to our local “Fuji film” store to scan my writing homework to send to my professor. We spoke for a minute with Osama, who works in the store and is probably is his mid to late twenties and is unmarried. He asked where I was from in the States and then told me that he has family in California. He said they have been there for forty years and are happy but do not have very much money. I asked him if he has every visited the US. He said no, rubbed his fingers together in the universal $ sign, and said he wished he could go.

Again, the socio-economic culture in Egypt does not afford many of its citizens the opportunity to leave the country for the US or Europe to either work or to “start a new life.” At least half of the Egyptians I meet-those who are not students at AUC-want to move to the US or Europe in order to work, but are completely financially incapable (the majority of students who go to AUC have either already been to the US or likely have the financial means to go) . It is easier for Egyptians to go to other countries in the region, most often the Gulf, to earn money and then come back to Egypt to start their own businesses, help provide for their families, etc. The New York Times and other papers have written extensively on this.

Anyway, it feels akward sometimes to come from such a privileged place when I am speaking with friends on the street whose unattainable dream is to move to my country.

Good Luck Barack

January 20, 2009

I want to wish President Barack Obama the best of luck on this historic day. I am proud of our democracy.


The Shoe Incident

December 15, 2008

Most of the Egyptians I have spoken with today, despite the fact that they either strongly dislike or hate President Bush, did not think what happened at the press conference yesterday was appropriate. In fact, the majority of them said it was “ayb,” or shameful that an Iraqi reporter threw his shoes at the President.

In Egyptian and other Middle Eastern cultures, the bottom of one’s shoe is an extremely dirty thing. No pun intended. Showing the bottom of one’s shoe is considered insulting, so people here do not often cross their legs lest they show the bottom of their shoes. Slapping or hitting someone on the back of the neck is also a very nasty insult, and likely to lead to a serious streetfight. But the worse is probably hitting someone on the back of the neck with one’ shoe, or throwing one’s shoe at someone, which is kind of a combination of the two because one is not only attacking someone else, but with one’s shoe, no less.

I found this interesting because I would not have been surprised had a lot of people supported the reporter’s actions. I get the sense that people here appreciate when someone stands up to the US, especially to President Bush, even if it is just symbolically (or even if they miss). Not necessarily because they hate the US, but because from the other side, it probably seems like the US is a bit of a bully sometimes.

So the fact that this cultural norm overrode this common feeling I thought was interesting. I think most people saw through the pettiness of that action, despite what they think about the American President or the War in Iraq.