‘Tell Sisi!’ Egypt’s messages are loud and clear
By: Abdel Latif el-Menawy
I haven’t been able to visit my family in my hometown for quite a while. The recent Eid al-Fitr holiday was an occasion to make this visit. It was a chance to take a trip down memory lane. City residents’ visits to their hometowns have for a long time been an occasion for those residing elsewhere to send messages to the authority in the capital. It doesn’t matter if these visitors from the city are of real influence in the capital, but their mere presence in the city is considered a communication privilege.
This is an old habit of townspeople. Despite modern means of communication and the various media outlets – which have turned into a wide spread, controlling monster – there’s still the habit of conveying one’s voice via residents of the capital, especially if the latter have real contact with decision makers.
I personally experience this every time I left Cairo to visit my hometown.
But this time was different. The messages they conveyed were a mixture of hope, worry, anticipation and suppressed anger. I noticed that all these messages began with the phrase “tell Sisi.” Each message carried a certain tone but even as tones differed, all messages implied hope in Sisi and his ability to govern. This hope however did not prevent people from expressing anger – which are restrained by many positive feelings towards the president currently felt in the country.
‘We want to know’
“Tell Sisi that we love him and that we accepted the increase of fuel prices although they were a direct cause to the increase of all prices. Tell Sisi not to believe statements from government officials who say they have been able to control price increases or that merchants have promised to have fixed prices. The cost of living has become very high. Tell Sisi we can tolerate more than this but on the condition that our hopes are fulfilled in the future. Tell him to instill hope in us for what lies ahead. We can tolerate power cuts, but we want to know who is responsible, when the problem will be solved and how it will be solved. We want to know.”
“Tell Sisi hospitals still suffer and we still suffer. You solved the problem of doctors (going on strike) but hospitals’ services are still as bad as they were. There are hospitals in Egypt that deserve attention other than the Qasr el-Aini Hospital which the prime minister visited more than once. There are other hospitals across the country’s towns and cities. There are also other hospitals which are far from the capital which if are not fixed, attempts to reform the health system will not succeed.
“Tell Sisi the plan to build more than 3,000 kilometers of road is an important and great project but we are asking him to look into the situation of existing roads with reports he commissions himself. Tell Sisi to try traveling on the ‘coastal international route’ which has parts as long as 100 kilometers are with no lighting and no evidence of maintenance being carried out. It’s a real death road. And they call it an international road, so what about other roads? The Cairo–Alexandria desert route should not be the only focus. Let’s establish new roads. This is important but before that let’s save whatever roads we have. Let’s save lives being wasted and let’s save the bleeding economy.”
The messages haven’t ended yet.
Abdel Latif el-Menawy is an author, columnist and multimedia journalist who has covered conflicts around the world. He is the author of “Tahrir: the last 18 days of Mubarak,” a book he wrote as an eyewitness to events during the 18 days before the stepping down of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Menawy’s most recent public position was head of Egypt’s News Center. He is a member of the National Union of Journalists in the United Kingdom, and the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate. He can be found on Twitter @ALMenawy