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It has been observed that Egyptians tend to react differently from other people. It is neither better nor worse, but it most certainly is unique. This unpredictability has baffled many observers and has managed to foil many plans. Although it is thought that only another Egyptian can predict how some would react, yet even that does not work out right a great deal of the time.
When under stress Egyptians usually react bizarrely. They would usually not do the usual. Anywhere else in the world when gunfire is heard people run AWAY from it. In Egypt we run TOWARDS it, because something is happening and we want to know what. If there is a bomb found somewhere and the bomb squad is called in to dismantle it, they can hardly reach its site from the crowds that have gathered to watch it being dismantled!
So this hijacking of a local Egyptair flight to Cyprus was no different. Aboard were mostly ordinary Egyptians commuting between Alexandria and Cairo. It is a very short trip and feels more like a bus ride than anything else. But when the plane was hijacked Egyptian reaction was, as usual bizarre.
One of the passengers who were hijacked relayed the following reactions after they all came safely back to Egypt.
One of the passengers on finding out that they were being hijacked immediately got on his cell phone and started calling different members of his family and gleefully telling them, “I’m abducted, I’m abducted!” No details, just shouting it on the phone, hanging up and calling someone else to tell them the same.
Another passenger who was asleep, suddenly woke up confused by all the commotion, asked what was going on and when he was told that the plane had been abducted and that they were heading to Cyprus, his immediate reaction was: “No! That’s no good! I have no internet coverage there”!!
A third gentleman called his wife, told her the situation and tried to quietly explain to her that he has a bank account that she and the children know nothing about. The rest of the conversation had to be shouted over the telephone as there was so much noise she kept asking him to repeat the name of the bank and its location. This gentleman might have opted to stay in Cyprus after the problem was resolved.
Yet another passenger got really angry because while coming on board he was not allowed to take with him a frozen chicken and kept griping that it is not fair, they let in someone with a belt full of explosives but confiscate his chicken? He wants his chicken back!
This last passenger complaint seemed to have tipped the situation from pathos to bathos. The whole atmosphere changed from fearful tension into one of camaraderie, where passengers, flight attendants and hijacker started taking selfies with the different mobile phones and where the air hostesses relaxed and everybody started having a jolly good time.
On the ground the situation was no better. Though a hijacking of an Egyptair flight could be turned into a touristic disaster, yet the majority of the people could not contain their glee and the number of jokes circulation on social media ranged from absurd “love in the air” jokes to some really extreme political ones. One of the latter was that the hijacker was a veterinary surgeon who was Morsi’s personal physician and who opted to hijack a plane out of Egypt in protest to the extinction of all the ducks after Morsi ate them all. It has been a running joke about Morsi and the number of ducks he consumed, ever since he was President.
This whole situation could have toppled the government, but because of all the unbelievable contradictions, because of the bizarre reactions, it has turned from a potential tragedy into one rather long running joke, causing unbridled hilarity among the population of Egyptians.
Could anyone have predicted that?
Not in a million years.
31 March 2016

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