The Awakening of Egypt

By Mohamed El Mokhtar

What we are witnessing is no less than History in the making: a revolution is now underway on the shores of the Nile. Yes, a revolution and a real one. Under the majestic shadows of the Pyramids, the wind of freedom is, at last, blasting. A mesmerizing popular uprising is occurring live before our eyes. Its venue is a memorable land. It is the place of the Holy Mount; the birthplace of Moses; the glorious home of Joseph; the Crown jewel of the Ottoman Empire. It’s the cradle of many civilizations; the source of many cultures and traditions; the receptacle of many beliefs and religions; the country of many peoples. It is the graveyard of the Pharos; the burial place of countless Emirs and Queens.

It’s undoubtedly, and by far, the most important Arab country; the only one spanning the Middle East and the African continent; the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. It’s Egypt. Yes, Egypt! Mother Egypt! This proud Arab nation thousand times steeped in history is finally breathing the refreshing air of freedom; unshackling the chains of serfdom. What an amazing sight! Egypt is opening her graceful eyes after a long period of coma; she is waking up, in trance, after a grim season of inertness; she is finally recovering from her chronic lethargy; her legendary apathy.

The abrupt awakening of her lesser or rather younger sister of Numidia took her completely by surprise and strongly shook her deep-seated sense of pride. The winds blowing from Carthage triggered a tsunami on the shoreline of Alexandria and its waves shook the foundations of Giza. Thus, a new dawn is rising above Mount Sinai slowly illuminating its holy surrounds. Something expected for so long, and hoped for by many, in the Arab world and beyond: the awakening of a giant; a great nation; a nation that suffered, quietly and undeservedly, for so long. Egypt is today venting its pent-up anger over decades of political indignities. She is venting her frustrations over thirty years of humiliations and torture. She is loudly complaining about decades of corruption and nepotism. She is expressing her frustrations over a long reign of injustice and hypocrisy; a long reign of cowardice and vileness. She is venting her fury over an unbearable tyranny. She wants to put an to slavery; to bid farewell to autocracy.

To truly comprehend the meaning of the events unraveling now and be able to assess their potential ramifications, one needs to really understand their historical significance. It is a whole order that is now crumbling. It is a whole foundation that’s being terribly shaken. This subterranean quiver is the prelude to a long-awaited end: the fall of pagan idols. It is an ugly legacy  inherited from retreating Europeans powers. The transformation, after their independence, with the help of Western powers, and in few cases the Soviet Union, of most Arab countries into security and police states was, in many aspects, a new form of colonization. Instead of white men in French or British uniform, it was their local lackeys who continued the task of maintaining the state of fragmentation and subjugation prevailing today in the Arab world; hence, the continuation of oppression and the denial of freedom for Arab citizens whose basic rights have been trampled upon for so long by unscrupulous despots.

To maintain their illegitimate power and preserve this rickety order, these tyrants relied solely on foreign support, American in the case of Egypt, for they completely lack any legitimate base. They derive their current longevity only from their subservience to foreign masters.

Abhorrently indulging the paranoiac whims of Israel or appeasing, by all means, its endless schizophrenic security concerns was, besides sucking up to every occupant of the White House, the only work Mubarak was ever good at. That predisposition to lowliness was his only bargaining card for staying in charge. The Egyptian people never freely elected him.

Therefore, he does not, nor did he ever, represent but himself or the narrow interests of his foreign puppeteers. He is a lackey of the lowest kind; a puppet by any standards. He is a dishonor to Egypt; an affront to Arabs. He is desperately trying now to cling to the republican throne to the last breath for, without legitimacy, he has no legacy to speak of. Without power, he will become just another disgraced tyrant; or even worse, a wanted felon. Without power he couldn’t for one day avoid the wrath of popular anger. Thus, he will not budge without putting a fight; a desperate fight.

Assuredly, the masses peacefully demonstrating in the streets of Cairo, Alexandria or Suez are fighting for nothing less than their dignity. They are demanding bread and freedom; not just bread. They want to see the end of flagrant disparities; the end of the squandering of resources. They want the immediate departure of the thieving ruling family. They want more freedom, more justice and less inequity. They want the end of elections riggings; they want the end of impunity and special treatments. They want true democracy.

In other terms, they want to be able to exercise their universal human rights without harm or undue constraint as free men and women. “They want, as the Palestinian intellectual Rami Khouri eloquently put it, to have a say in the decision making process shaping their system of governance, defining the values from which derive their domestic and foreign policies.”

But this cri de coeur sounds hollow in the deaf ears of the ailing autocrat. How pathetic!

To get an idea about the pettiness of character and the thuggish nature of Mubarak’s regime, one needs nothing but look at this spectacle: whip-swinging and club-wielding thugs galloping, in horses and camel-backs, around Tahrir square, in support of their mentor, charging violently into the crowd of peaceful demonstrators. What an ignominy!

The scene summarizes itself the true nature of the assailed tyrant: cynicism and  mythomania. He even confessed that after him there would nothing but anarchy. “Either me or the chaos,” such is the maxim of many despots; the mantra of every Arab tyrant!

– Mohamed El Mokhtar Sidi Haiba is a political analyst. He contributed this article to

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