Felucca-time is old Egyptian time. The felucca is the traditional Mediterranean wooden sailing boat. Going by felucca to the Temple of Philae (relocated from its original site due to dam changes) near Aswan brought it home to me. The patched sails, the easy sailing skills of the older father and younger son, the varying speed that small or good wind gives, going with the current, the sense of silent, silky smoothness of water and wind, as versus the punchy, buzzy raucousness of the usual and ubiquitous clapped-out motor boats. All this was amusingly offset by the young sailor moonlighting with his incessant cell-talk and texting. And Old Nile Time must have been amazing, the time set by seasonal inundations, all changed by the making of dams, as the inundations are no more. This has of course created many problems, the first being the traumatic change in peoples’ ancient lifestyles. One of these is the continuing rising of Lake Nasser, where the Nile’s waters gather apace, another, the need for ‘modern fertilisers’ now the inundations no longer bring natural fertilisation to the critical arable lands, the immense production of which thus partially and seriously offsets (some say) much of the energy created by the dams.
Nostalgia aside for real or imagined different kinds of ‘Egypts’ experienced in time past, the present Egyptians struggle with the modernisation of their ancient heritage. One of the unusual rumours that is about (Luxor at least) is that The People will be asked in certain areas (mainly urban) to stop wearing the gallibya, the floor-length loose garment worn by both men and women. Up in Cairo and Alexandria it’s less commonly worn, the ‘western-European’ style of clothing increasingly more popular. The natural outrage that this elicits is phenomenal. However, it is as nothing to the anger of the people as regards the unfairness of their economic and political system (unless you happen to be in the august presence of the ruling elite and their favoured followers, all usually well employed, as versus the majority). It’s a people-bomb waiting to blow. The recent events in Tunisia have indeed made many wonder how Egypt might be influenced, as President Mubarek has been trying to settle his (generally unwelcome) son on his hidden pharoah’s throne. One feels the seething distress and anger, but we must of course back off and watch The People find a way, or not, to make it better, hopefully with little or no bloodshed. But it has been the same all through Egypt’s very long history, the righteous anger and distress of The People, long before modern Islamic fundamentalism came to pass. In all modes of time-passing, The People have suffered.
It makes it hard to speak platitudes or niceties, let alone pearls of wisdom. Watching the young eager and determined faces of Tunisians trying to find a way out of their own maze, I remember my time there in the 80’s. A lot of them would not have even been born. I almost want to be back there, with them, on the streets. I suspect a lot of us old leftover lefties must feel the same. We are afraid for them, we may root them on but if we do, we do it with our hearts in our mouths, we know at what cost, just as the young Nawal El Saadawi did on the streets of Cairo years ago. We might wish we could speak and write Arabic (I started and then lapsed, as with Russian, years ago) so we could show our solidarity with their Hope. They want what we think we have, and what many of them think we have: freedom of speech, lack of censorship, democracy, end of dictatorship in government, genuine opportunities to work and feed their families. But some of us know how flawed our own institutions, our own ‘states of the union’ really are. We are all still working hard to not only keep but upgrade what we have, whilst some (supported unknowingly or knowingly by different segments of the electorate) are working busily to take advances away from The People. Our Coalition Government in the UK is a case in point. Those of us who supported the Liberal Democrats, even joined the party in the absence of a True Left let alone Any Left, watch with growing pain wrong-footed attempts, all done with the hue and cry of lowering DEBT, to solve problems, whilst the ‘financial sector’ and the wealthy (why blame just the bankers?) get wealthier, as the middle-classes and the poor get poorer.
Isis remains veiled. So She needs to, in a Dark World, especially in the Black Land (Egypt), but Her Light shines nonetheless; it escapes from behind Her Veil. In countries such as Egypt, she remains to the majority as simply an ancient idol, one too many misguided tourist-cum-pilgrims come to ogle. But She lives deep down in their genetic memories: The Great Mother/The One with Countless Names: originally more likely Aset, She was a goddess in Ancient Egyptian religious beliefs, whose worship spread throughout the Greco-Roman world. Worshiped as the ideal mother (of Horus) and wife (of Osirus) as well as the matron of nature and magic, She was friend to slaves, artisans, and downtrodden.
The Downtrodden. The People. She awaits Their Call, Their Remembering. Our Call, Our Remembering.