The Inexorable March of Time
by Edna Anzarut-Turner

A Jewish expat from Egypt who left during the second exodus mentioned a love/hate relationship that she had for the country of her birth, and thought that I had similar feelings.

Thankfully,this feeling does not exist for me, as my family and I always considered ourselves foreigners in a foreign land...a land which at the time was bewitching and enchanting.

Once I left Egypt, my life filled with more tangible and important events, the satisfactions of which far outweighed the importance of our once naive unrealistic and intoxicatingly mythical existence in Alexandria and Cairo.

My husband and children insisted they wished to visit the Egypt of my youth. There were flight from Lod Airport to Cairo, at the time we were holidaying in Israel.

Laurence decided to buy tickets, and we left very early in the morning for Cairo. The moment my spouse my children and I set foot in Egypt about 25 years`ago I cleansed myself of all the mixed feelings of betrayal that had nebulously and intermittently intruded in my life after the second exodus..

I surveyed the scenes at Cairo Airport - it could have been any airport in any part of the Moslem world. Women cloaked in black gallabiyahs, their hedjabs over their head and a yashmak covering their face.

They were squatting on the ground here and there in circles holding on to large straw baskets; with their children wearing similar Arab garb.

I had landed in a transformed country, and I found absolutely nothing that was even remotely familiar or recognizable

We took a taxi to the Nile Hilton Hotel, and were herded into one very large room with cameras that were not even hidden..and although we complained that we wanted the two rooms that we had rented and paid for, the five of us were forced to sleep. all together in that one large room for the first night.

We were then given rooms on the top floor.

We hired a taxi, and were driven round Cairo - it was unrecognizable. We took a taxi to the pyramids..and finally saw a familiar sight - gamoosahs...

We were followed everywhere, as I and my parents and family had been in the 50s.

Fortunately, our sense of humour took over...As we adults were being followed, our teenage children trotted single file behind the man who was following us...giggling and then laughing uproariously when the poor 'spy' realized how farcical the whole episode was. He could not help but join in the laughter. It really was incongruous.

We all heaved a sigh of relief the minute we left Egyptian soil.

We left behind the tangible feeling of political oppression which dominates present day life in Egypt.

We left behind the suffocating pollution, the balconies on the verge of collapse, the construction workers who, like beasts of burden, lugged heavy baskets of bricks on their bowed shoulders.

We left behind the stifling pall of misery that toxically pervades what had once been The Land of Egypt, famous for its agriculture, its beauty, its architectural treasures, and its intellect.

Over half a century has elapsed since the second exodus

Many are those who have affirmed they are never homesick for a country where they happen to have been born, and have left over fifty ago. This is quite plausible, and to be expected. People move on and adapt elsewhere...

They adapt to the ways and possibilities of a country where they were given a chance to live in peace and more often than prosperity..because yes indeed...all those that left Egypt half a century ago prospered and were happy elsewhere.

This said..the Egyptian culture, was a very rich one indeed, historically, artistically and archaeologically as it melded several civilizations.

However, in order to survive, culture has to go on growing and developing..and I am not so sure that this is the Egypt cracks down on the freedom of writers poets and artists.

How sad! Egyptians as a people have always been endowed with great talents...but these talents have been crushed to smithereens by politics.
Although Egyptians in general were usually kind and generous, warm and understanding..but I watched helplessly as these wonderful attributes changed to hate, racism and bigotry...and trust tears come to our eyes...not to any of us....when we recall the Egypt that we left...or when we hear Egyptian Arabic in the streets of the western democracies where we all live.

There is an English saying : Once bitten..twice shy!!! and every single one of us was "bitten"..and so I trust that we can be forgiven for being twice shy...but that is how it is! Egypt's loss! not ours! au contraire.

Not a single one of us would like to return and live in present day Egypt. We have made our secure and happy nest elsewhere, and thank God a million times for His kindness towards us.

We grew up, we got married, had children and grandchildren, and I am so thankful that not a single one of my children or grandchildren will either have their phone bugged, or be followed, or have to look behind them when they speak about Israel or anything else for that matter.

Freedom of choice, freedom of thought, and freedom to write or say anything they want is the gift we were able to give our children BECAUSE we left Egypt.

Part of me still retains some affection for the people of Egypt...and feelings for what the country looked like before Nasser destroyed and suffocated its life and soul......

....and before the inexorable march of time that changed such pristine areas- Gardens of Eden all, like El Alamein, Sokhna, Hurgada, Sharm el Sheikh etc...into glitzy copies of Disneyland!

I have said goodbye to the Egypt of my childhood and early youth..and moved on towards FREEDOM..happiness and prosperity in another country that I love with all my heart! A country I and all my family call HOME!

Edna Anzarut Turner
July 2008

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