.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Rantings of a Sandmonkey

Be forewarned: The writer of this blog is an extremely cynical, snarky, pro-US, secular, libertarian, disgruntled sandmonkey. If this is your cup of tea, please enjoy your stay here. If not, please sod off

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Right to Return

Disclaimer: I didn't write the following post. It was written by Nora Younes and it touched me by how beuatifully written it was when I read it on her blog so I decided- after taking her permission of course- to translate it and post it over here. The Translation doesn't do the post justice, but if you like it, then please drop by Nora's blog and leave her a comment. Thank you! Sunday morning in the American embassy to obtain an entry visa after being invited to participate in a conference for civil society organizations.. Complicated security measures.. The Egyptians working in the embassy are extremely polite and cordial.. The appointment has been arranged in a previous call, and the application filled over the phone, and paper requirements identified…a 5 by 5 picture with a white backdrop where the 2 ears are clearly shown…In the consulate building while checking my papers: “This picture won’t do. The size is millimeters less than 5 by 5. There is a photographer in front of the embassy and one in the Tahrir complex.”

On Isis street,* metal and cement blockades on every corner… A closed Bazaar.. A tiny door with no sign and 7 people lining up in front of it.. I realized it should be the photographer.. I stood in line on the street pavement…The room is 3 by 2.5 meters… The man uses a digital camera to photograph 5 people, connects the memory stick to an HP printer and the excruciatingly slow printing process starts and everyone has to wait.. He then takes on another 5 people, and so on.. A hustler in the middle of his hustle.. I started talking to the photographer.. His working hours are those of the embassy.. He rented these few meters from the Bazaar owner whose business got shot after they turned the area into a militarized zone and tourists rarely walk by anymore.
In line.. A woman in her late 30’s..wearing a short-sleeved beige suit with a very wide sailor-like collar made of light industrial cloths.. There is a stripe of dark blue lining the jacket and the sleeves.. The slightly slanted way the cloth is folded told me it was home tailored… Her shoes told of her current state… right in the middle.. not high enough for high heels and not low enough to give her comfort.. the heel is scratched from long walks and hitting the pavement.. her hair is black, dark and shiny.. with short bangs in the front and the rest is long.. It’s pretty obvious that she cared about how she looked today.. Heavy eye shadow, lipstick, a huge and short necklace made of intertwined white and yellow gold and a long gold necklace on which hangs a crucified Jeses, bow-headed.. Her hand clinged to her mother, an overweight lady in her 60’s, wearing a short-sleeved black dress, with her gray hair tightly tied to the back.. and a man I figured to be her older brother.. wearing big glasses and speaking the dialect of upper-Egypt.. Finally, a child I guessed was 11 years old.. The talk is about immigration.. and the tension occupies the voices.. I looked back at the cross.. Maybe they live in Shoubrah**, the necklace might came from a jeweler which her mom used to buy from on installements since her twenties.. the tailor of her suit could also be the one who tailored her college cloths.. or maybe she has a talented aunt who has a sewing machine at home. Everything in that family seemed old and familiar.. as if time had froze for them in the end of the 60’s.
The consulate building.. I started realizing the place’s dimensions and people’s movement with the repetition of entry procedures.. The Photographer had repeated my picture 3 times to show my both ears and failed.. He resorted his failure to my curly hair that keeps falling forward every time I put it back, an excuse which I didn’t really buy.. I decided to immediately leave if they comment on the picture.. Yet, they accepted the papers promptly and politely.. I handed in my passport in window # 2 and headed into a large waiting room.. I estimated 60 people inside.. My eyes widened as I walked in and I started to sob.
Through the speakers, few minutes separated American voices speaking broken Arabic: Samira Yousef Ghaly***, immigration window # 4 Mounir Habib Shohdy, window #12 Ahmed Imam Aly, window # 3 Wagih Naem, window # 7 Aida Tadross, window # 13 Hisham Saleeb, window # 5 Samira Yousef Ghaly again, window # 9 Soliman Naguib Sophie Mounir Nader Grees Iman Mahmoud Wedad Sabrah Nagah Saleeb Ansy Abadair Narges Georgie Amr Adel Mohamed Hassanein Samy Aleim Showky Barsoum Amira Zaky Ahmed Abdel Haress Janet Kamal Aly Zeidan Maryam Raphael Galleela Refaat I broke down completely
We are from Alexandria..My daughter now has the American citizenship after winning the green card lottery 9 years ago.. In the beginning she lived with my relatives who immigrated shortly before her.. She then shared a residence with 3 other Egyptian girls.. Now she is married.. But the church wedding was here, in Alexandria.. I travel and come back every year in order to get the green card and be able to bring the rest of my children.. I have a daughter who is married and unemployed.. and another who is a doctor but suffering... I also have a son who is a business student in Alexandria University… No, the recent incidents of Alexandria isn’t the reason.. It may strengthen ones heart as we eventually leave the country, but we have been having it rough for a long time now.. I am currently retired I was a general manager in the internal revenue and taxes authority but that was back when times were still good.
Nora Younes, window # 7 A glass separator and phone set on the right.. I felt extremely repulsed.. I wanted to go back to my seat next to the Egyptian lady. “Do You speak English?” “Yes, I do” “Please put your second right finger on the red light to take your finger print. Now the second left one and don’t press too hard.” “When shall this end? I have to go back to work” “30 minutes maximum.. Please go back to your seat and we will call you for the interview.”
I looked for my friend but couldn’t find her.. I took another seat between a veiled woman and another with black shiny hair, short on the front and long every where else.. She was in a short-sleeved striped shirt.. and seemed very nervous.. “Do you think they will grant me the visa?”, I asked her “why wouldn’t they?” “Because the relatives I have there aren’t close ones: my mom’s cousin and her children”.. She pointed to a plastic paper wallet resting on her lap: “I brought them a signed and stamped letter from work, and my salary stump…You think that’s enough?” I felt confused… I asked her if she had anything to come back for, she replied “Yes, my husband”.. I took a deep breath.. she asked “What’s your name?”.. “Nora”..“Nora what?”..“Nora Younes”.. she didn’t find in my answer what she was looking for.. I asked her: “and your name?” “Janet” she said.. I didn’t need to ask any further.. In this small waiting room of the homeland they are the majority, temporarily.. for the Great Exodus had already started years ago.. and I don’t think it will stop any time soon.
With heavy steps I took my car out from the Omar Makram Garage as I thought of Rasha Sabry.. My lifelong friend who left to catch up with her sister and her aunts and was shortly followed by her parents in a year’s time.. I ran home to frantically look for the telephone number of Doaa who lives in Moqattam as if there was only few hours left before she goes as well.. The years suddenly shrinked.. Is this anything like when the Jews left Egypt in the 50’s? Damn it.. why did they go?.. and why are the Christians leaving now?.. The country’s native citizens are leaving it to the settlers!!! No No NO.. The Egyptian society is losing its most beautiful attribute.. diversity…Goddamn it.. who’s next? the secularists and the communists and.. and… Panic sets in.. I have to do something.. How do I stop them from leaving? How to bring back those already gone? Can we bring back Egypt’s Jews as well? Where is Egypt? What’s happening…What’s going on??!!! By Nora Younes * The street on which the American embassy is located in Cairo. ** A predominantly christian neighbourhood in Cairo. *** All christian names are in red.


At 11/07/2005 07:36:00 AM, Anonymous Nora said...

I can not thank you enough for the courtsy, effort and concern..
I hope the piece deserves what you gave..

All respect

At 11/07/2005 10:02:00 AM, Anonymous Lily said...

wow! powerful!

At 11/07/2005 11:20:00 AM, Anonymous Karim Elsahy said...

Well done both of you.

At 11/07/2005 11:44:00 AM, Anonymous Drifter said...

This is an incredibly touching post, it really did hit a nerve... it is quite sad to say it but i am an Egyptian Christian and what has been going in my mind for the past few days is that the only way out is for us to leave this country... I can see the day when my Muslim friends would tell their grandchildren we used to have a Christian friend when we were young (just like when grandparents say nowadays that they used to have Jew friends in school before they all left Egypt)....

At 11/07/2005 02:55:00 PM, Anonymous Peter-Australia said...

Thank you for sharing this post with us Sandmonkey. I have left a comment at Nora's Blog sharing my thoughts. It reminds me of the Irish Catholics of a past century leaving their homes believing their only hope for a future lay in another country. The scars don't heal easily.

At 11/07/2005 03:27:00 PM, Blogger gatorbait said...

Nora, good luck, let's hope you get here soon. We cannot wait to have you here. Egypt's loss is our gain.

Yes, I know a little about the bureacracy at State/ICE as well.

At 11/07/2005 05:28:00 PM, Anonymous Tina said...

Sam, that was really worth the effort, thank you so much for translating it for us.

Egypt will be poorer for losing these good people, it has to stop. You should not have to leave your own country, the land where you were born, the land that you love, just because of how you worship God.


You will be a much welcomed addition to our country.

At 11/07/2005 05:50:00 PM, Anonymous Alaa said...

eh you people are clueless (sorry can't resist bashing sandmonkey readers).

Nora is not leaving Egypt for good, she is just getting a visa for a visit, and just in case you where wondering she is not a christian.

Nora is far from leving, she is actually thinking of how to convince people to move back.

At 11/07/2005 06:28:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Getting a visa to the US isn't easy these days. Applicants must prove to the satisfaction of the American consulate or embassy that they will return to their country of origin. They must prove that they have significant family ties (children and spouse), a regular paycheck, home ownership preferred. Prior travel abroad with a history of returning is advantageous, as is employment in an industry with favorable balance of trade with the US. Even then, many are denied entry for no discernable reason.

I hope that the status of being a Christian in Egypt helps some of these desperate souls escape their persecution.


At 11/07/2005 06:58:00 PM, Blogger Twosret said...

Employees of the American Embassy are polite and cheerful? I didn't read that did I?

I don't know anyone in Egypt that had such a good experience with the US embassy or the British embassy.

At 11/07/2005 09:44:00 PM, Anonymous Vox P. said...

Nice post !

bridget from my experience in Lebanon, and contrarily to what many Muslims think, the Christians don't have a special status when applying for visa - which is a good thing.

At 11/07/2005 09:58:00 PM, Blogger Russ said...

That was a beautiful piece. Good luck with the embassy, ma'am. I know from personal experience that our visa procedures can be terrible at times...

as to why they are leaving, all I can say is that, from what I hear on a weekly basis from friends (not the internet, though that merely adds to the pile), the marvel to my ears is not that Christians are leaving, but that any Christian could bear the thought of staying.

At 11/07/2005 11:04:00 PM, Blogger The Sandmonkey said...

Ya 3ammy bash bera7tak. mazonnesh eno beihemohom. ;)

At 11/08/2005 03:21:00 AM, Blogger forsoothsayer said...

if it helps...i'm actually returning to egypt from the west :) maybe offset the balance a little. if i'm going to be discriminated against anyway, i prefer to be an invivible rather than visible minority.

At 11/08/2005 09:56:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fuck both of you guys. You want to know why the Jews were kicked out. Half of them were fucking spies. They sold Egypt out, the place they once called home. The Americans did the same thing to the Japanese during WWII. So when Egypt was fighting Israel, the Jews were considered a threat. Get over it you dick heads.

At 11/08/2005 10:23:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And Muslims aren't leaving Egypt also. What a misleading article. And who are the settlers. Is she calling Muslims settlers. what a pile of crap.

At 11/08/2005 01:11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear anon -

Please provide names, ages, and dates of egress for Japanese or Americans of Japanese descent kicked out of America.

Please provide names, ages, description of acts of sabotage, and dates of convictions of Jews for spying against Egypt.

Thank you in advance ...

At 11/13/2005 01:19:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This whole blog is clueless. I've dealt with you well at:


How old are you, anyway?


At 11/16/2005 08:57:00 AM, Blogger EarlW said...

DrM, YOU are the clueless one. Crawl back into your hole.
"I've dealt with you well". Perhaps in your mind, but not in the real world.
What does his age have to do with his ideas? Deal with the ideas or go away.

At 2/28/2006 01:52:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

EarlW, age and knowledge has plenty to do with. Stay you neocon infested sewer if you cant face reality.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home