I went camping this last weekend, to a few desert spots (
that are amaaaaaazing might I add). And I was immediately
reminded of ECLA (an experience in a German University), as the way the bedouins live, are the exact stereo type some people had of how we lived. Except for the for the fact that they mostly drive wranglers... and NOT camels. :)
A very old ‘Falah’ (peasant) approached my cousin and I. We were on a
bus with the locals (by peasants I mean farmers, and
Bedouins) heading from the oasis back to Cairo.
So with our Jansport backpacks, sleeping bags, and layers and
layers of clothing, we looked, to them like 'khawagas'.Foreigeners.
So they'd crack a few jokes about us, and we'd blurt
something in Arabic, and all would go quiet.
This really old man walks up to us. Typical Egyptian, 'falah'
farmer or peasant, with you know the sort of permanent deep
tan that's pinkish brown. VERY sunny. Round small face,
wearing a 'emma' or turban around his head, the off-white in
contrast with the brown cap it's secured with. And a few
strands of short white hair, peep out of the emma, snow white
hair in strong contrast with the color of his face.
He has wrinkles, lines at the corners of his mouth and the
corners of his eyes. And is wearing a VERY white scarf in
very strong contrast with the dark grey of his 'galabiya' or
gown like attire they wear flaring at the wrists and on the
His hands are clean , his palms are very white, but have the
shape and etches of someone that's worked with his hands
alot , and probably with alot of soil and water.
He generally looks very clean, impressively so, but there's a
little soil under his hands, indicating, he probably still
lives on agricultural land.
He might be missing a few teeth as his lip has a slight
wrinkle to it. LIke there isn't enough support to keep it
stretched to it's proper size.
Poor man. But clean. Hardworking. And very very proud. As is
the nature of most 'falaheen'. Obviously also, pretty old.
His face isn't that wrinkly, but based on the conversation,
I'd give him a little over 6 decades. But bearing it well.
Good health Good shape.
He walks up to us.. shakes his head ( In disgust or
disapproval) at the conductor, who just asked us to pay a
"Think your foreigners.." he says throwing his chin at him.
" Just because u look clean.." he says looking at us.
By clean , he means well dressed, or decent. something like
"aaaaahhh yes.." very deep sigh.
"this is what we've amounted to in the end" looking into the
" and do you know why " he asks waving his pointy finger at
us (dangerously close.. we're sitting down , and he's
standing up in a very crowded isle)
And so he started.
he started about how our values stemmed from our religion,
and now that the values were deteriorating, which could be
amendable, the religion was being corrupted and sculpted as
well. which should be unacceptable.
And thus with a long list of examples...We were losing it. We
were losing, pride, value, and identity. We were losing
culture, and we were losing religion. the one thing that was
strongly, divinely unchangeably ours. We were a people
"they complained when we were colonized" he said.
"But the British were a good folk... There were the nasty
ones.. but we have worst examples of the powerful exploiting
the week even now. At least then we could say we were
colonized... Now they take the bad examples the British
showed us, and hang a huge sign untop of them
It ISN'T EVEN AN ARABIC WORD! ITS English.. and of course, you
could translate it in French.. but it has no roots in Arabic"
Now he went into what sort of society we should have been..
socialist something, but he was completely against claiming
to be democratic. Because it was a system that a group of
people came up with as the best way to govern themselves. we
are not that group of people. The system DOES not apply to
us. Instead we claim it, making it look like we are not
capable of it, when we're really NOT trying to achieve it, and
give other people the opportunity to come in and tell us how
to do it right. Giving them the reigns, quite too often.
By now he was getting quite worked up.
" At least then there were colonizers...Now we can't see them
anymore, but they ARE there. and stronger than ever. And as
for us. WE are our worst enemy."
The frequency at which his finger was wagging was getting
faster and faster and the peaks and troughs actually smaller.
Occasionally he would even get on his tip toes to stress a point.
Then he quickly changed the subject..
" The British are a good folk. It's Tony Blair I can't stand"
At this point me and cousin had to giggle.. how'd u know
about Tony Blair old man. and with very little IF ANY
English, how can u pronounce his name so well.
he misinterpreted our giggles
" ELLA!!" (But ofcousre)
"but it were up to me... if they take me to him... I’d tear
him to peaces!" Slashing his pointy finger in the air in a
diagonal movement arm stretched out then carried in till it
hit his chest.
Then he went into how Britian had become America’s Tail. So
that even our enemies, or ... our 'threats' ( but not exactly
our colonizers) had become pathetic. even they couldn't do it
right. Making us even weaker, to see England, or the states
at that point a power at all. Even an idiot would see the
flaws when listening to them speak.
" the systems applied are all wrong to begin with! These
people have to stop. Have to think about their origin, about
how they should live, and how they ought to and what sort of
system best works for them.. for what goals.. and apply them.
no more borrowed systems'.
Silence. a far away look into the abyss...( u can add
whatever music u deems suitable)
Then he turns around and says "El watan da ghaly ya welad"
"EL WAtan" literally would mean nation. But in Arabic it also
means country. Now country is not just ' a country' but the
word has so many deeper meanings in Arabic.
When u say watan, it's such a BIG word. it means, nation and country, and belonging, and who I am, and something to fight for, and
something to die for, and something to build. It's a realy
powerful world, very political and very emotional. And it's
not synonym or alternative for any other word, it is a
concept, and not just a term.
'da' is like 'is' or 'this one is'. 'Ghaly' means, literaly
speaking, expensive. But also precious and very valuable. "
ya welad" is 'oh children'.
so it was something like "one's nation is very precious
He said it once, very strongly. then, and without taking a
breath he said it again, stressing on 'ghaly' so it was 'el
watan ghaaaaaaaaaalyy', then again, but quietly and more
sadly 'el watan gha-ly' the hyphen is where his voice broke.
So then this very little, very opinionated, very proud, hard
working man, started crying. His eyes welled up with tears,
and he looked away until he was done with him.
" I'm not blaming el 'rayess'" (which indicating president,
but literally means, captain or leader) " God knows the man
has enough on his mind.. and the welfare of a country is no
easy task... but should he just stop and think about what's
really missing.. should all his advisors and ministers think
of what these people need to be worth something again.. to
live up to the value of their religion, and to their value of
their country, so rich in culture in heritage, in land, in
minerals, in people, in kindness.. if only he could realy see
what's really falling apart"
he sniffed. and the bus stopped suddenly.
His whole face, and not just his mouth, broke into a very
sudden, very sunny smile.
"Hope I didn't 'edwesh' (to create noise in) your minds or
We shook our heads 'no' very quickly. still wide eyed, awe
stricken, dumfounded and very touched.
“Khodo Balko men nafsuku..” ("take care")
and with that he got off the bus, and didn't even
wave to us as we pulled away.