|Anti-SCAF graffiti on the government center in Tahrir.|
Election posters everywhere, each with a picture of a male candidate, with both his electoral symbol (a horse for Fatouh, scales for the Muslim Brotherhood's Morsy, a sun for Moussa, a ladder for Shafiq) and a cell phone number to call. So both those who are illiterate and those with iPhones can connect to the candidate. Everyone is talking about the elections, although those we hear from most readily are older men. This generation is a mix of national pride, cynicism, and a seeming need to assert Egypt’s greatness, its inheritance from its ancient history. The Tahriris (and our EYouth friends) almost all support Abu Fatouh as the most articulate and sympathetic to the revolution. The cynics don’t trust any politicians or feel resigned to the military continuing their rule. What is heartening in it all those is that this is democracy in action—people with the whole range of views, engaged in political discussion.
|Talking politics in Tahrir with a supporter of Shafiq. Tents in the background of those who are now camped out in the square).|
We have almost no interactions with women in public (besides our dear friend Noor who met us last night) and the younger people we have chatted with have been more interested in hamming it up for the fancy cameras we are toting around; there appear to be a healthy diversity of opinions, and two “camps” outlined in the early blog (with Moussa and Fatouh leading candidates for the more conservative and progressive responses to Tahrir). There will almost certainly be a run-off, with the top two vote-getters facing each other in the next round.
|The "river" of traffic.|
Our visit to one of the oldest educational institutions in the world, Al Ahzar Mosque and University, was a wonderful opportunity to learn about Islam and experience the history, peace, and tranquility of that space.
|At Al Ahzar Mosque, founded in 972 by the Fatamids.|
|Breanna, Mai, Amir, Shakur, Mohamed, Jerimiah, Oliver (front), Sam, and our guide showing as around the minaret at Al Ahzar.|
Spend a day in Cairo and you get a sense, that here, like many other parts of the world, there are more people than there is money. Economic pressures are clearly evident, and how Egypt will provide decent lives for its citizens without polluting the city even further is the real challenge of the day. Tourism is certainly a mainstay of the economy and as tourists we experience how Cairians have cultivated a persuasive and persistent set of sales pitches, often involving some story about a family member’s impending wedding or birthday, and always involving an invitation to have some tea. A few students have been sucked into conversations in which someone’s sister is getting married, or it is someone’s little brother’s birthday the next day, and then there’s some tea, and then something is brought out (some papyrus paintings on which your name is promptly painted making it worthless to anyone but you), and then you can have it at any price, and you get it for a special price, and so on. It involves a banter, a persistence perhaps driven by economic necessity, honed over the centuries, and we quickly having to develop the kind of good-natured resistance needed to have any money left for the rest of the trip.
|Conversations on the street in Old Cairo|
|Part of the traffic.|
|Dresses for sale before an ancient doorway in Old Cairo.|
Next up, off to the U.S. Embassy for a briefing, and then on the Economic Research Forum, to hear about work on addressing these economic challenges.