Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Egypt – CV. My Years at 12A Rue Khantaret Ghamra – Strolling Through The Streets of Cairo (1 of 5)

The so called foreigners who lived in Egypt, and were eventually forced to leave, will tell you that their life was idyllic. They will inform you that they enjoyed a high standard of living; for instance, they paid an insignificant rent for their nice apartments, and had at their disposal absurdly cheap labor. All of which is true; at least to the extent that a human life can be problem-free. But, of course, humans, wherever they may be, will always have their share of sickness, death, and other heartaches. I have already outlined the many difficulties my own family lived through.

This part, however, concerns itself with the Egyptian people, the individuals you will meet as we stroll together through the streets of Cairo.

A good guide, before beginning his tour, will always provide you with the proper context. So what should you know before we take our walk?

Egypt in those days was two solitudes. To begin with, you had the very wealthy Egyptians who owned vast tracts of land passed on through the generations, and they rented the land to the fellahin (peasants). Next, you had the Egyptian middle-class who, to varying extent, enjoyed a good standard of living. Finally, you had people who, even though they were born in Egypt, were considered outsiders; without generalizing, they had a wonderful life.

The other solitude was the overwhelming majority of Egyptians who lived in grinding poverty. They suffered from what was then known as the three curses: Poverty. Ignorance. Disease. When you add to that the explosive growth of the population, you have a scenario that the Western mind cannot comprehend.

In 1900, Egypt’s population was 10 million; by 1947, it had doubled to 20 million; by 1978, it had again doubled to 40 million. The 1996 census revealed that Egypt’s population has reached the 60 million mark. And the merry-go-round keep going, for by 2006 there were 71 million Egyptians. If this trend keeps up, we will reach 80 million by 2011, 86 million by 2016, and 93 million by 2021. But this is only part of the story.

While Egypt is a vast country, only 5.5% (the narrow Nile valley and the Delta) is habitable; the rest is desert. But the desert (or at least part of it) can be made to bloom, it has happened in other countries (e.g. Israel). But, before that happens, large sums of money will need to be invested; even more important, the will to effect changes has to be present. Will it happen, and can a calamity be avoided?

The other issue is one of population distribution. Some areas are densely populated, whereas others have low population density. For example, the governorates outside the Nile valley are sparsely populated whereas lower Egypt governorates have a high population. Urban areas are preferred and therefore are bursting at the seams; as well, not surprisingly, their infrastructure is barely coping. But the worst example is Cairo.

Everybody and his brother wants to live in Cairo. Masr, as it is called, means Egypt; actually, the correct name for Cairo is Al Kahira, but to the ordinary Egyptian, Cairo is Egypt, for it is at the center of his world. Cairo is also a runaway train, it barely functions, for if you include the suburbs, its population is about 17 million. It is the most populated city in Africa, and it ranks 16th among the most populated cities on the planet.

However, my narrative goes back some 55 years; a time when Egypt had 20 million inhabitants and Cairo had a population of 3 million. So let us go back in time and amble through the streets of Cairo.

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