May 12, 2011

Alexandria, from Diversity to Strife

While I was checking the news this morning, trying to find anything unrelated to politics, I stumbled upon an interesting article about how the -social- identity of the city has dramatically changed several times in the last 100 years. Unfortunately, it is still related to politics but indirectly, but I found the subject very rich for commenting and feedback...So here is the link to the article so you can read it before proceeding to my feedback:

Letter from Alexandria: Grasping for the past, falling into the future. Sonia Farid, AlArabiya

It's full of smart hints, and stating the obvious. As an architect from Alexandria, and I know just a little about the glorious history of my city, I think the author is right about Nasser indirect involvement in the establishment of Israel, and destroying the diverse social layers the city once had.
I was born in the 80's, 2 years after my family moved from Cairo to Alexandria, so cosmopolitan Alexandria was just a fairytale that I always liked to read before bedtime. I read that Alexandria beaches were limited to the elite; in the meantime, I only see flocks of half naked people in their underwear raiding the beaches and worse, blocking cars traffic. This created a black and white image in my mind, a conflict, a contradiction that has no single common in-between. and this image really fosters a belief that cosmopolitan Alex never existed, it's Utopia, it's Atlantis!! and it's even documented by a lot of stories, books and novels made about the city, my favorite of them is "The Alexandria Quartet," I think that this trilogy affirms what I mean.

I got some books about the treasures/monuments in Alexandria, and I managed to visit some of them that are out of the tourist maps! In these places (like the Greek area in Shatby which is limited to foreign researchers only & the Jewish cemeteries in the Latin district, many tombs were destroyed,) there I found few remains, fragments that formed a solid proof to the cosmopolitan city I used to read about. I think we really need more history education than ever.

I'm a kind of a person who doesn't like the past, or more in precise, to be drown in it. So I think speaking of cosmopolitan Alex is as what I said before a fairytale.

Of course, I witnessed all the latest three sectarian events mentioned in the article, and they are all painful. I'm a moderate, or more liberal, Muslim, and what's happening to Christians in Egypt reminding me of what happened to the Jews 60 years ago! I agree that the city has gone too much conservative than before, even more conservative than Cairo! I remember when I was in college, at the first year, most of my girl friends were unveiled, but by the 3rd year, there were only 3 or 4 Muslim girls unveiled, and when they got married/engaged I lost contact with them along with the 5 years good/bad memories! They even refused to send me MY pix because they appear unveiled in them! Veiled or not that's not the case but it's an indicator that shows how the community is closing the doors of diversity and becoming an introvert rather than an open one, a prey to all kinds of strife, misconceptions, and misunderstandings (remember when Khedive Ismail said: تفتح على البحرى) which means being an open community to the west? I'm glad he died before he witnesses this. We are digging deep in history and resurrecting the evil spirits of the strife that Alexandria was famous for at the beginning of Christianity

Sometimes I blame the extremists for that, other times, I blame poverty, but the premier criminal here is ignorance which was created by decades of living in the dark, an era of no education. And please do not go through politics because we all know it's a dirty game, though it has the biggest share in the mess. I think the best may be the only way to restore the image of a cosmopolitan city is through creating a "global city" by fostering the education and spread the knowledge. ( I see the term global is more accurate and suitable to our time now).

I've been to the Easter mass in St. Mark church this year, it was my first time to share the feast experience with my Christian friends; it was joyous, and festive, just like our feasts. It was a great experience that I'd love to have again. It was a gathering of some people, peaceful, friendly, and happy people; they simply want to live their normal life in peace. After all they are humans, Egyptians, and Alexandrians.

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