I have been remembering the OccupyLSX camp in London and that made me want to share what I am seeing here, as a man of peace, from the heart of Egypt, which is different from what I have seen on TV and what tourists see when they come to Egypt for a week or two.
I am in the dusty and windy city of Al Arish, 40km from Gaza in Palestine.
Life here is definitely a hundred times worse than the Occupy camp we lived in.
I have to eat bread which is picked up from the ground and more than 10 flys have mated on top of it. At all times 5-10 flys are on you and you have to keep trying to make them go away, and after a while you give up and let them eat whatever they have found on you, and then maybe they will go away.
Donkeys and horses pull carts and are used for every kind of transportation, the sound of them is everywhere and the smell of their poo and urine is almost unbearable. The dust is on everything you pick up, so if you wash your clothes by the time you bring them back to wear, they need washing again and you will give up washing them after a while.
Many people here are using cars and other motor vehicles very little, even if they own one. The other day at the terminal I was speaking to an old man who offered to help me get to Nakhal in South Sinai and I asked him “How old is your car?” and he couldn’t remember, and after looking at his papers we found out it is more than 40 years old. It was still going.
As I entered Egypt at the port of Damietta I founded myself going back in time to around 30 years ago. What I saw reminded me of very remote villages in Iran, which when I was young I visited with others to see how we could improve the lives of villagers. Here in the cities of Egypt, rubbish is everywhere and flys and smells and dust are everywhere. When cars do pass you need a shower straight afterwards, that is how much dust is going to land on you. I found it is unbearable to walk on the roads because of this, also car drivers and motorcycle riders use their horns all the time to avoid colliding with each other, so where there is traffic it is very noisy. I saw a glimpse of this in Romania and Bulgaria, but not to this extreme.
When people talk about ‘third world’ maybe they don’t know these bitter realities, it hit me hard after being away from it for more than three decades. And Egypt is way ahead compared with some other African countries, which makes me imagine that in those countries life is totally broken, and no wonder people hope they will get a better life after their life on this planet.
With the connections of the internet people have seen the western world – no wonder many want to go there and have and see and enjoy some of it before they die.
The only book I have seen here is the Koran, and the only music is Muslim. I have met a lot of people who want me to find them a Muslim woman from England for them to marry, so they can live in England. Some men here have four wives or even more and sometimes they make a joke saying that they would swap them for just one in England.
This is just a little of what I can describe and let you know.