A British-Egyptian woman’s journey in the motherland
LONDON - Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has announced that Egypt and China were working on a 3-year plan to maintain stability and prosperity in Egypt. Egypt, regarded as the heart that beats through the Middle East and containing endless opportunities with the Nile flowing through it, is also home to some world’s most impoverished people.
Egypt has always been a blessed land with invaluable riches and historic brilliance, incomparable to most other countries. Even though this is a place rich with culture and landmarks, it holds little wealth respective to its financial state. Unfortunately, the individuals that inhibit this great land are the ones paying the expensive price of living in such poverty.
As I started my journey in Egypt, I remember looking up towards the blinding ball of fire that stared back at me and the rest of the people in this ever-shining country. Having been in the United Kingdom for most of my life, it amazed me how much the sun came out and shone over this highly populated country. A part of me couldn’t help but feel sadness and a longing to stay just a bit longer in this magnificent country of wonder.
Having spent the first days of my trip in the hustle and bustle of Cairo, I was ready to indulge in a more secluded and peaceful environment. Just an hour’s drive from the capital is the remote region of Ain Sokhna. Surrounded by mountainous landscapes, it seems like a world away from the chaos of Cairo.
As I settled into the five-star resort, I looked out of my sea-view balcony. I couldn’t help but appreciate the natural beauty of deep blue sea and golden sand that was just metres away from my room. Breathing in the crisp sea air was a huge contrast to the polluted smog I was inhaling just the day before.
My four days in Ain Sokhna were a slice of heaven. I felt so privileged and lucky to spend a few days of my trip in such a breathtakingly beautiful place. From the astounding scenery to the unwavering service of amenities and cleanliness, my time in this place of paradise will never be forgotten.
The main purpose of this was to interview Egyptian icon Mama Maggie, deemed the “Mother Teresa” of Egypt. The bulk of her work is among the most unfortunate in Egypt living in extreme poverty. I, of course, had to travel to one of these remote areas to conduct this very special interview.
As soon as the car entered the region where we meet Mama Maggie, I unintentionally held my breath, both from the smell and the anticipation. Piles of waste and rubbish lay in the streets, making it hard for cars to get from one end of the road to another. The sight and smell of the area was a complete juxtaposition to what I had been immersed in just a couple of days ago.
We stepped out of the safe hub of our car and attempted to cross the street among the piles of waste and rubbish. I couldn’t believe my eyes. How could places like this still exist in our modern world? How is it possible that just a few hundred kilometres from here is a place of luxury and pure indulgence?
I couldn’t get my head around it. It was a shock watching young children play in the dirt of the street, compared to the children I had recently seen playing in the clean, golden sand.
“I look around at these orphans with no home or money and I am happy to see them so rich in spirit. I gave up my riches and privileged life to serve those that have nothing and be like them, and I have never felt richer,” said Mama Maggie. A philosophy I feel many Egyptians live by: to be rich is to have good health and happiness rather than a full bank account.
The rate of poverty in Egypt is 35%. A recent study called “Money Isn’t Enough” states how cash transfers are not the solution to the poverty problem in the country. “Cash transfers cannot cover the majority of the poor but the government has depended on them as a selective support system to cushion the effects of the inflation that came with lifting subsidies on water, electricity and fuel,” the report reads.
On the plane back home, all I had on my mind was the contrast and divergence of life I had just witnessed and experienced in my trip. How could the same country hold such riches and such scarceness on the same land?
The wealthy live by one extreme and the poor by another. As I gazed out of the window onto the country that left so many questions on my mind, one thought left an imprint on my conscience — the blazing sun never fails to shine brightly on the people of this wondrous place, both rich and poor.