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Cairo 'Looks Like a Hollywood Movie' to Egyptian Student in US

  • Jessica Stahl

Ahmed El-Selawy came to the U.S. from Egypt in August to study political science and international studies at American University (AU) on a State Department Near East and South Asia exchange.



In the past few days he has watched his hometown of Cairo erupt into protests and chaos.

Ahmed, who interns at VOA, was nice enough to sit down with me and chat about what’s been happening back in Egypt, and what it’s like to watch it from here in the U.S.

Here is our fascinating conversation:

On finding out about the protests via Facebook
So I got those events and people saying, ‘We’re going to protest on the 25th of January.’ Everyone was so excited. That’s when I started to get a background on what’s going on in Egypt.

And then that’s how I followed it. The statuses of my friends, their pictures. Because a lot of my friends went to the protests, so their pictures, their videos, what they write – that’s how I was keeping in touch with what’s going on.

Until suddenly one day they disappeared and I discovered that the government just blocked everything – Twitter, Facebook and all the communication possible.

On trying to stay in touch with friends and family
I talked with my family, but not for a long time. My mom was like, ‘Everything is fine.’ She doesn’t want me to get worried or panic or whatever. So she told me everything is fine, everything is safe here. But I didn’t really believe her. So after the call instead of feeling better I felt worse.

People are just worried over there because there’s no police, no one is feeling safe, there is no order – it’s very chaotic.

About my friends – I just talked with one friend of mine. The rest I seriously don’t know how I could communicate with them. Because I couldn’t reach their mobile, because at some point I couldn’t even call them on cell phones. But now things are getting better – I heard Facebook is now working in Egypt today.

On feeling like he's missing out on history
It’s very bad. I feel like people there are really making history. That’s what the next generation will be talking about. What’s going on, I feel like it’s a big thing. So I feel like I’m seriously missing out a lot of things.

I really wish that I was there. I guess I would have a better insight, I wanted to be with my family, with my friends to just live every day with them – day by day, moment by moment.

Because here when I see the news and what’s going on, I feel like I’m an outsider. Even when I talk with my Egyptian friends here in the US, the way we see it, we just don’t believe it.

We made some jokes about it because we don’t know how to comprehend that this is going on in our country. When we see tanks in Tahrir Square, in our streets, and what’s going on, we feel like, wow, that’s not happening. It looks like a Hollywood movie or something.

On teaching fellow students about Egypt's politics
AU, they’re very political. There are a lot of politically active students. So everyone when they know that I’m Egyptian, they just discuss with me the politics, what’s going on there. Because they ask me who’s Mubarak, what’s the regime, what’s the problem, what’s the demand of the Egyptian people. Because they’re trying to understand what’s going on there.

So I try as much as I can to give them a simplified story of what’s going on there and what people want.

On what this means for his own future
When I came to the US I thought just studying here at American University, I tried to have a lot of experiences as much as I can from my classes, from my professors. I felt like the more experience and the more knowledge I’m going to take that will increase my probability of having a good job back home. So that’s what I tried to do.

...

I don’t know the impact of this uprising on the economy yet, but I have a feeling it’s not going to be so good. The employment opportunities will be less – much much less.

And I wanted to work with the government, actually. I wanted to work with the foreign affairs for my country. So I’m not sure how this will happen, how things will go.

It’s a very unpredictable situation, but let’s just hope for the best. Let’s hope when I go back home in May everything will be stable and my Egypt will be back again.
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