A Flat for Mohammed
Ten years ago, one of our sons, Colin O’Neill, and I were walking across the Qasr el Nil bridge in Cairo late at night from Tahrir Square — Liberation Square — to the island of Gezira in the Nile. As he began the story:“We were approached by a couple of guys about my age who looked as if they were selling something. Actually, they just wanted to talk — in English and French. They were cousins, both of them language teachers in private schools. The four of us, leaning out over the bridge, talked for almost an hour.”When I told them I was writer, the older one, named Mohammed, who was 26, asked if I was like Charles Dickens. “Not quite,” I answered.Then he said: “I have read ‘Death of a Salesman.’ Is that what America is like?”“Yes,” I said. “That is not all we are like, but that’s part of it.”They were well read, to say the least, but they were frustrated young men. Not angry. Frustrated by their place in a country they loved. Mohammed earned less than $30 a month. His rent, for a room he shared with another teacher, was more than $30. He made ends meet by giving private lessons to the children of rich people.He pointed to the Nile Hilton on the river bank and said: “Though it is in my country, I can’t go in there. I mean I can go in, but a coffee costs almost more money than I make in a week. The dollar is all that counts now; money is king. But it is hard for someone like me to exist here. I want refreshment, to sit with my friends, to marry, to have a flat, but how can I do these things?”Things got worse, not better, for Mohammed over the next decade. Everything became more expensive in a decidedly corrupt country as the authoritarian rule of President Hosni Mubarak turned into a cold dictatorship — with help from the United States, which was essentially paying Mubarak billions of dollars not to invade or harass Israel. Of course, we asked him, nicely, quietly, to liberalize, to give his people a break, but the important part of our role was our world strategy. We needed Mubarak, we thought. To hell with young Mohammed.
© 2011 UNIVERSAL UCLICKWait, before you go…
If you're reading this, you probably already know that non-profit, independent journalism is under threat worldwide. Independent news sites are overshadowed by larger heavily funded mainstream media that inundate us with hype and noise that barely scratch the surface. We believe that our readers deserve to know the full story. Truthdig writers bravely dig beneath the headlines to give you thought-provoking, investigative reporting and analysis that tells you what’s really happening and who’s rolling up their sleeves to do something about it.
Like you, we believe a well-informed public that doesn’t have blind faith in the status quo can help change the world. Your contribution of as little as $5 monthly or $35 annually will make you a groundbreaking member and lays the foundation of our work.Support Truthdig
There are currently no responses to this article.
Be the first to respond.