Cycling

Interesting Times

When I was a student at York University back in the late 1990s, a series of revolutions spread down through eastern Europe. Poland had been rumbling for years but in 1989 successive regimes crumbled. It was an exciting period of recent history but many students in York had their minds on other things. I remember the evening of the day the Berlin Wall came down in the junior common room of Wentworth College very clearly. We has two televisions, each tuned to a different TV channel. The massed ranks of students were crammed around one of the televisions, desperate to know what was going to happen next. About three students – all German – were sat in tears next to the television tuned to ITN’s News at 5.45. The massed ranks were more interested in the comings and goings on Neighbours on BBC1 than they were on the historic events in Germany…

Could we be seeing the first acts of a similar play in Middle East? First there was Tunisia and now Egypt. My 2013 plans to cycle the Eurovelo 8 route from Athens to Cadiz were already begging to be extended to a full circumnavigation of the Mediterranean; now, it is rapidly becoming obligatory to visit those countries in which fascinating things are happening.

I visited Cairo back in 1990 on a three-week visit to Egypt, shortly after graduating from York. We were three 21 year olds, friends from sixth form days and we arrived in the capital, made our way south via Luxor to Aswan by train and then headed east to Sharm el-Sheikh (which was, at the time, a scruffy resort on the Red Sea; I think it has changed somewhat since I was there), across the sea to Sinai and then back to Cairo via a crossing of the Suez Canal further north. I remember seeing the warships lined up in the canal as they made their way to the Gulf about to fight Saddam Hussein for the first time. At that time, Mr Mubarak had been in power for 10 years. He had taken over from Anwar Saddat who had been assassinated in October 1981, again, a moment I remember well as my brother argued with me and wouldn’t let me watch the TV to see what was happening.

So to revisit that country in 2013 would be interesting to say the least. I doubt if on a cycling trip around the Mediterranean I would make it as far as Cairo but it would be nice to think that in two and a half years time, Egypt had become a stable, durable democracy. One wonders what will have happened to Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Jordan and Syria by that time…

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2 replies »

  1. Was in egypt last year and had a rather interesting conversation with a Coptic Christian about the state of the Country. There are several powder kegs that Egyptians have to sort out before peace will reign, Extremist madrassas, Cairo has lots. Coptic uprisings (there are a lot more of them than the govenment will aknowledge- if it aknowleged the true numbers they would hold more power than most Egyptians would be comfortable with)(Arab ruled state).
    Problems with Countrys on some borders (Turkey(no border but.., Israel)
    A growing code of strict Islamic moral within the society (10 years ago a woman would be allowed in public without a head cover, now it is considered wrong) (this could be both veiwed as bad or good depending ipon your stand point)

    Watch this space… I doubt it will be bloodless what is to come.

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