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On the other hand Egyptians have some of the most infuriating habits. Whenever you ask a question you nearly always never get a straight answer. Nearly is a standard answer to most yes or no questions, and it is up to the one doing the questioning to fathom if it is a yes or a no! If you ask, “Did you go into the room?” and the answer is “Nearly”! To me this conjures up the image of one foot inside and one outside the room, but it usually means yes. But saying yes is too definitive in this unsure world.

Nothing is ever definitive, as only God knows what will happen. The stock answer to any question about any action to be taken in the future is usually “If God is willing”. So: “Are you coming to lunch tomorrow?” “In Shaa Allah”, “Are you taking this course next year?” “In Shaa Allah”, “Are you getting married next week?” “In Shaa Allah”.

This total dependence and trust in God is taken to extremes. People hear about a bomb that was found in the neighborhood, they all rush to see the experts dismantle it. They crowd in and try to get a better view of the bomb being dismantled, and when they are asked, “Are you not afraid it might go off and you get killed?” And of course the answer is “In Shaa Allah nothing will happen”.

Egyptians are the only people who put absolute and blind trust in an all protecting, all loving God who takes care of them and keeps them safe. And when He doesn’t it is because it was previously ordained that that was this person’s destiny. Even the language used is sometimes bordering on the ridiculous. At the height of chaos in Egypt when there was no police and there were a great many crimes committed, especially in Upper Egypt, people started taking it into their own hands to stop these criminals and sometimes they went further and tried and executed them on the spot. One such case where a gang of criminals burned and looted a whole village, the residents got together and went after them, and when they were caught they were beaten to death. One interview on television with one of the residents asking him what happened, his exact words were: ”We beat him until God’s will was done”!!

Egyptians are the only people in the world who, on hearing gunfire, run TOWARDS it not away. Part curiosity and part a supreme lack of self-preservation, because that is God’s duty not ours. This attitude quite often results in the most bizarre behavior. How else could we justify the bomb squad experts dismantling bombs without wearing any sort of protective gear? What is the justification of allowing civilians to crowd around the expert dismantling a bomb? God will take care of everything. And it is quite true, God is very prevalent in Egypt. How else would you account for leaving your house in the morning, going through Egyptian traffic, getting to your destination, finishing your work then going through traffic again and getting back home in one piece, EVERY DAY!! God takes care of His children.

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Egyptians love children, they are the center of their existence, the gift of God, every family’s backbone. The more children one has the stronger his family clan and the bigger is God’s gift. There is a saying that every child comes with his/her own income, that God will send the money to take care of that tenth child because it is God who sent him to his parents. This was mainly the stumbling block to preaching contraceptive methods. It is God’s will. We are now reaching 91 million Egyptians and going strong.

Egyptians are very laid back and relaxed, some take this as being lazy but that is not the case. The temperament of those working in agriculture is one of a slow, plodding pace that doing something slowly is always better as you do it more accurately and take your time to do it well. There is a saying in Arabic “Safety in slowness, regret in hurrying”. But then there are those who take on the other extreme and do everything in such a hurry and just finish first, no matter how the job is done.

Contradictions are a very large part of the behavior of Egyptians. And this is one of the reasons why many a non-Egyptian could not understand or even predict Egyptian behavior or reaction. Reactions could be either one extreme or the other, but the one consistent thing is that it won’t last too long. The constantly changing mood of Egyptians makes it very difficult to keep abreast of their demands.

Pride in being an Egyptian is something every true Egypt feels. Lately Egyptians have been shocked into realizing that some of their fellow citizens do not have that pride, nor do they feel the engulfing love of the country which most feel. These were the ones who were brainwashed at an early age into worshipping another God, an entity called the Muslim Brotherhood. They were brainwashed into believing that they were better than the rest of the people because they had been chosen to carry out the will of God as told by the Guiding Council of the Brotherhood. To them Egypt does not exist, only the dream of a global caliphate.

Religion had always played its part in the lives of Egyptians, since ancient times. But lately the emphasis had been on extremist teachings of a rather grim version of Islam as advocated by the very right wing Wahabi sect. Poverty and lack of education contributed to the number of poor, ignorant Egyptians who were swayed by the austerity of these teachings. Though a large number of Egyptians fell for these ideas, the majority still has this irrepressible joie de vivre that makes it practically impossible to follow this type of order. Those who follow these Wahabi teachings are suffering a great deal of internal conflict as their genes dictate certain behavior while these teachings enforce a certain life style totally alien to their nature.

Along with the other aspects of behavior of agricultural communities, Egyptians lack any sort of ambition. This is woven in with the fatalistic view that God will ordain what is best and that we only get what he allows. Side by side goes this very strange contentment with just the basics, and sometime not even those. This might be seen as a kind of apathy, but it is deeply rooted in an absolute belief in divine justice.

When all the pros and cons of the Egyptian character are weighed, I think it is fair to say that the pros outweigh the cons. Nobody is perfect, but Egyptians seem to have most of the characteristics that make up a good human being. Gentle, peace-loving, life loving people who are artistic, funny and love their children and their land, who are kind and generous, very emotional and quite imaginative and innovative.

 

22 Sept 2014

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