Egyptian spring

Just back from a visit to Cairo and Alexandria to garner background and color for the planned sequel to ‘The Wayward Spy.’

Pete Willows, book reviewer at THE EGYPTIAN GAZETTE and its sister publication THE EGYPTIAN MAIL, was a fine host and guide. It was great to meet the editorial staff, too–including the newly-appointed Editor-in-Chief Magdy Kotb, the chief editorial writers and senior subeditors. [I was ‘down there on a visit’, having worked on the GAZETTE in the mid-sixties.]

Surprisingly perhaps, Egypt hadn’t changed much since I worked there. The young people looked healthy, well-dresssed and are well-educated. There were no signs of outright poverty and, of course, Cairo traffic was as chaotic and fast and dangerous as ever. But the country’s infrastructure is in a bad state of repair [houses need a paint job, peeling stucco from elegant apartment buildings needs to be reaffixed etc., railway stations need a wholesale clean-up and reconstruction–except Cairo’s main terminus which deserves some international award for design and theme.

The nation is in a sort of limbo at present. The 100-member assembly drafting the new constitution is still arguing about a number of issues, including women’s rights. Deadline for the new constitution is December 12 and the Salafists [the extremest movement that emerged from nowhere in the wake of last year’s revolution] are fighting for the full imposition of Shariah law. But there’s no sign of impatience among the people and most people seem relaxed and happy about their Arab spring.

On the plane that flew me back to London, I read that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, had declared yet another plan for the construction of more houses and apartments for Israelis on Palestinian lands. His hopes of a Romney win were dashed soon after this latest piece of chutzpah, and I wonder if we will now see the real Obama stand up and fight for Palestinian rights. We shall see.