AfriGeneas Writers Forum
Re: Elaine Lee, Wanderwoman
In Response To: Re: Elaine Lee, Wanderwoman ()
Thanks again for introducing us to Elaine Lee. Yes indeed, our connections seem to overlap.
Regarding my article on Egypt in Essence: I wrote it in the early 80's and was entitled, "Life on the Nile." The photos were of the Great Pyramid in Giza (which is nowhere near the Nile) and of a felucca sailor in Upper Egypt near Luxor named "Abdul Hamid." An Egyptian businessman said that it was the first article of its kind about Egypt that was published in a black magazine.
My trips to Egypt were during an interesting period. I was there before the Peace when Egypt was wearied by the war with Israel. Many people told me (some whispered out of fear of reprisal) that Egyptians were tired of fighting a war on behalf of all the Middle East. The next year when Sadat returned from his historic peace mission to Israel, I stood in the middle of Cairo listening to the loudspeakers throughout the city blaring Sadat's message of hope for lasting peace.
Egyptians are some of the warmest people that I've ever met. Greetings like "Heloooo Amrikanea", "Amerikann? Welcome!” Heloooo Mohammed Ali" (the most famous Muslim) would follow me wherever I went.
The Egyptians' euphoria for peace and prosperity didn't last long. The crushing economic debt of the war years, coupled with an outdated infrastructure and class system made it impossible for Egypt to deliver immediately on its promise of prosperity. I was there a few weeks for Sadat's assassination and wept for him and Egypt when I heard the news.
My article didn't include what I wrote above. But it did resonate with the admiration that I had for the Egyptians. It's ancient monuments and history are wonderful but its people are more so. Now I find it disheartening to read post-9/11 articles filled with hatred against Egypt and the Middle East and just as wounding...hatred against my America.
I'm troubled by the articles in Egyptian and Middle Eastern media accusing America of racism toward Arab people and pointing to our shameful history of slavery and the subjugation of Native Americans. Yes, that is a part of American history, but I won't be a pawn in their anti-American bias. At the same moment these accusers write of our past, Egypt discriminates against the black Sudanese refugees who've fled to their country for safety, imprisons homosexuals but not their supposed "straight" and married suitors, jails intellectuals; and let's not forget the continued "turn a blind eye" slavery in Mauritania and the Saudi and Arab governments who keep women in bondage.
As for our sad history of the Native Americans, our accusers should read more of today's news about our Indian cousins and their shameful exclusion and racism against people of African descent.
Neither of us is without sin, so neither of us should cast the first stone. The lesson that I learned from traveling is to respect the difference in people. If we impose or judge people by out cultural traditions, then why bother to travel?
Dera, as usual, you've brought out the writer in me.
PS. A hint for travelers: Make sure that you send yourself a postcard in your travels. Write about an incident, emotion, food etc. It makes a wonderful keepsake. I even send one to my pet!