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Postcards From Egypt: The Heart of Egypt – Part 1

The Nile

Egypt, also known as Masr, is one of the most ancient countries in the world. The Egyptians are a people as proud as their country is old. The native people here can trace their lineage all the way back to Noah. One of Noah’s grandson’s, Mizraim, migrated and ended up living along the Nile River in what is now known as Egypt, and the name Masr originates from his name.

Through centuries of change, the heart of the people has stayed the same. Over 1300 years ago Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, who lived from June 661AD to 714AD, had this to say about the Egyptians while classifying the Arabs in his will:

“They are the killers of the tyrants and they demolish every unfair nation. If someone with good intentions came to them, they carry him as a mother carries her son, and if someone comes with bad intentions to them, they eat him as the fire eats the wood. They are a nation of patience and strength, but don’t underestimate their patience and kindness because if they loved a man from their hearts they won’t leave him except that he has a crown above his head and if they hate a person, they don’t leave him except that they chop his head off. So be aware of their anger because if it ignites only God can put it down. Treat them well and take from them their soldiers, because their soldiers are one of the best in the world and be aware of three things:

1. Don’t touch their women, because if you do they will eat you as the lion eats its prey.
2. Don’t touch their land, because if you fight in it, its mountains will fight you.
3. Don’t touch their religion or they will burn your world.”

This is still very true even today. Patience is one of the greatest strengths that the Egyptian people have. They will take and take and suffer great loss and say nothing, and will endure hardships and trials to a fault. This last January was not the first protest in Egypt; many others have happened before, but were generally not very large as most people feared retribution from a government known for its brutality. The difference between now and then is that now the Egyptians’ patience has run out. It took over 30 years of corruption and oppression for the people to finally say “enough is enough”.

Yet in this time of unease, no matter what the media may say, Egypt is one of the safest places in the world, no matter what your race, sex or religion. Some may say that since I live here as an Egyptian (I wear traditional clothes and a hijab, as I am Muslim) that I am treated differently, so we’ll look at Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton. She came to Tahrir Square on March 15, 2011, at the height of the revolution. Yes, she had bodyguards (she doesn’t go anywhere in the States without bodyguards), but do you think a few armed men could have stopped thousands of angry people if they had really wanted to hurt her? Also, Senator John Kerry visited Egypt on March 20, 2011 and also walked through Tahrir Square and stopped to eat some Koshary from a local restaurant. The truth is, the Egyptian people love Americans, Europeans, Jews, basically any foreigner from any country. They just may not like the government of the country you come from (not many people like their own governments these days), but they’ll love you especially if you show them respect and kindness.

Before I moved here, I lived on the edge of Shasta Lake City, just off Oasis Road by the Oasis Fun Center. I would not have sent my 9 year old to go play there alone; it’s just too scary these days. So it freaked me out when my fiancé, at the time, sent my daughter with his niece (she was only 4) down to the market the second day we were here. Kids here play outside and run to the store and their parents don’t give it a second thought, even if it’s after 9 p.m. They are safe here, and people know that. It took me a few weeks to relax because that is not something I would ever do in a city of less than 11,000 people, but here where there is almost 2 million where we live, you only have to worry that they may fall and get hurt. You know normal hurts, like a scraped knee or a bonked heads; not sexual assault, abuse, kidnapping or murder. As I write this it’s almost midnight, and if I needed to go get something from the local market right now, I’d be safe to walk there alone. This is Egypt.

Robyn Payne (aka Asmaa Ahmed) was born in Weaverville, California, and was raised in Mountain Gate. She graduated from Central Valley High School in 1988 and has lived all over the country since then, but always ended up back in Redding. A year ago she left Redding once again and now lives in Ain Helwan, Egypt, just south of Cairo, with her Egyptian husband and his family. She’s always enjoyed writing stories and poems and is a “just for fun” photographer

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