News / Middle East

Egyptian Camel Riders Hope They'll Have a Say

Elizabeth ArrottJaphet Weeks
GIZA, Egypt - Egypt's political transition has hit more snags, with the ruling military council entrenching its position even as it promises to hand power to a civilian leadership.  But one group in Egypt still holds hope that change will come.

Egypt may be in flux, but out on the sands of the Giza Plateau, the Great Pyramids are a reminder that history is a long, slow process.

​Hany Mohamed El Sawi is a desert horseman. Sitting in an open hut offering shade from the scorching sun, el Sawi says Egyptians will be able to overcome anything. “We are a steadfast nation,” he says, 7,000 years old and “we're still standing.”

Many horse and camel riders at the Great Pyramids backed presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq as good for business, Giza, Egypt, June 17, 2012. (Y. Weeks/VOA)Many horse and camel riders at the Great Pyramids backed presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq as good for business, Giza, Egypt, June 17, 2012. (Y. Weeks/VOA)
x
Many horse and camel riders at the Great Pyramids backed presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq as good for business, Giza, Egypt, June 17, 2012. (Y. Weeks/VOA)
Many horse and camel riders at the Great Pyramids backed presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq as good for business, Giza, Egypt, June 17, 2012. (Y. Weeks/VOA)
El Sawi leads tourists through the desert by horse and camel. It's a family business, generations long. But since a revolution rocked Egypt 16 months ago and deposed long-time leader Hosni Mubarak, he and his fellow riders have seen their income all but dry up.

Tourists have stayed away, afraid of the instability and lack of security.  Even Egyptian customers are fewer, as the economy declines.

Which goes to explain why in the presidential vote that ended Sunday, many like el Sawi threw their support to the secular, old guard candidate Ahmed Shafiq.

He says Shafiq is on the scene - he understands tourism, he'll make it work.

El Sawi's relative Ramadan, who owns one of the family's stables, also voted for Shafiq. Even though Islamist candidate Mohamed Morsi gave assurances he is pro-tourism, Ramadan worries a Morsi victory would be another blow to his business.

“He doesn't like tourists to visit our area. Our country. Not only our area, our country. We hope Ahmed Shafiq wins. Not Morsi. If he wins, this area, maybe all the horse was killed,” said Ramadan.

As he walks through the stables, the horses seem healthy and content.  Often good businessmen, the riders are thought by many to be a conservative group, never more so than during the height of the uprising last year.  Horse and camel riders took to Tahrir Square wielding whips against anti-Mubarak protesters, solidifying their reputation as supporters of the status quo.

But el Sawi insists that the revolution was huge step forward for Egypt.

He praised the fact that now there is democracy, he can cast his ballot for whichever president and parliament he wants.

Unlike others, el Sawi says he does not mind that a Mubarak-era court dissolved the first post-uprising parliament last week. He says he will just vote again.

Despite the power struggle between the ruling military council and its Muslim Brotherhood opposition, back in the stables, Ramadan also imagines a future in which regular Egyptians have the final say in who runs the country.

“After four years, if he doesn't do good things for all the country, not only for us, for the country - we'll change him. This is everything in our hands,” said Ramadan.

With the events of recent days, Ramadan may seem overly optimistic. But then, these riders are taking the long view.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
June 22, 2012 11:07 AM
There's something that readers need to be aware of. Mubarak's National Democratic Party leaders paid these people to attack protesters in Tahrir Square last year. They promised them that they would reverse the orders given by Zahi Hawass, their arch-nemesis, to keep them from accessing the archaeological site to conduct rides. Fast forward to the elections, the reason these people are voting for Shafiq is he promised to fulfil the promise that was made last year, and Shafiq has the audacity to claim he had no role in the camel battle!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs