Hassan Hassan has never been the patriotic type. In fact, for most of his life in Cairo, he's felt out of place. But yesterday something happened. Yesterday, Hassan found his home.
The last week has been an exercise in every emotion on those charts they give you at AA meetings (I read about them once and saved a copy so I could figure out how I felt about things while still continuing to drink a lot). Anger, happiness, hope, defeat, overwhelming sadness, great bursts of hysteria followed by great whoops of depression. It has been confusing, overwhelming, tiring, funny, insane, exhausting, frustrating, crazy and every other emotion you can think of.
I moved here from Jeddah about 12 years ago. Armed with a mattress, four bags and broken Arabic, I never wanted to call this place home. In that, time Egypt has taught me every emotion under the sun. It has taught me to yell at the top of my lungs. It has taught me to laugh incredibly loudly. It has taught me how to survive a week with LE20. It has taught me how to cross a road without even looking. It has taught me to hustle. It has inspired me and bought me down. It has taught me to roll with the punches and even throw one myself. It has taught me how to talk back, think fast and when to give up. I have loved and hated it. Loved the way the sun shines down on you in just the right way in May. Loved that you always knew a joke was just around the corner. I have hated that in equal measure. I have loathed the inefficiencies and the frustrations. I have screamed and cried quite a few times in traffic/government offices/the bathroom of my countless jobs. I have hated the sheer effort, energy and determination and tireless work that everything you do takes. But I have also loved reaping the rewards. Knowing that everything you did meant so much more because doing it was so difficult.
Since 2011, I have lived in an Egypt that I do not know. I will be the first person to admit I had nothing to do with any of the revolutions (I have been to Tahrir once). I wouldn’t recognise Itahediya if you paid me. So I claim no role in the revolution. This was in no way shape or form my fight. For a while it wasn’t even my country. I simply lived here. Begrudgingly. Angrily. Out of place and scared for my future. Egypt belonged to someone else.
But over this past week, 33 million people who all felt the same took to the streets. They did so with gusto and humour. They went down with their flags and their chants and their hope. It annoyed the crap out of me, not going to lie, but sometimes my iron clad cynicism would break and it made me smile. Something was changing. We were getting something back. Reclaiming something that we’ve been trying to pinpoint for God knows how long.
As the euphoria settles down and everybody argues about democracies and coups and who did what when, trying to define what just happened, I don’t think a label matters. I don’t think we need a headline for this one. I think we need to remember how we’ve felt this last week. I hope that when we’re stuck in traffic for six hours, we remember how this felt. I hope that when it’s a hot and sticky day in mid-August and all the cabs are being cunts about the AC, you remember how you felt on July 3rd. I hope that when you’re applying for a visa or visiting a government office, you remember the Egypt that we’re working for. I hope that when the stupidity and the ignorance and the dirt and the pollution and the frustrations and the brown and the garbage get to you, this time you do something about it. I hope that this unity doesn’t dissolve. I hope that all of the initiatives and the NGOs and the ‘give back to Egypt’ Facebook groups last longer than three months. I hope we remember exactly how proud we were last night.
I’ve always struggled with calling Egypt home. This wasn’t my place. My place was somewhere else. Over the past two years, I have felt this more than ever before. But yesterday as the military made that speech, with the Pope and the Sheikh and the glittering hope of it all, something happened. As Amr Adib, who I usually loathe, held up the flag and started crying and I started crying and my sister started crying and my mum started crying and my dog jumped up on my lap and we were suddenly all clapping and screaming like lunatics, it dawned on me; I was home. Egypt, with all of its frustrations and dirt and poverty and craziness and chaos will always be the only place I can call home.
Welcome home, guys. Welcome home.