The Washington Post

Egyptians in U.S. moved by news from home

All week, Mohamed Marzeban has been “living inside the screen,” unable to drag his eyes away from his television or computer and the mesmerizing sight of hundreds of thousands of Egyptians demanding the ouster of longtime President Hosni Mubarak.

Marzeban, a 37-year-old doctor who lives in Alexandria, Va., and other Egyptians in the United States have been on an emotional roller coaster as they have watched streets they know so well become scenes of massive protest.

“I was in a state of disbelief,” said Marzeban, who travels often to Egypt and doubted that his countrymen would ever muster the energy to confront Mubarak. “I couldn’t keep tears away, because I see all this destruction happening, but yet I was so proud of the people of Egypt . . . for them to start defying this sort of dark, evil power, it’s a heart-throbbing thing to see. It’s unreal. The only other place to see it is in a Hollywood movie.”

In McLean, Aly Gamay and his family were monitoring the TVs scattered throughout their house. One was tuned to CNN, another to al-Jazeera, a third to BBC, with family members calling out if anything big happened.

“Seeing this, we feel it’s probably the end of the current president,” said Gamay, 59, who owns food and vitamin companies and watched the enormous Tuesday protests online from his office. “Because it’s too many people, and it’s not in one city; it’s in about 15 different cities.”

For days, cellphones and the Internet were shut down in Egypt, and only Egyptian landlines were left for communicating with relatives and friends.

“I was worried,” said Mahad Ibrahim, 35, of Alexandria, a Somali American who was a recent Fulbright scholar in Egypt and described it as one of the safest places he had ever been.

But when he finally managed to reach a close friend there, he heard tales of gunfire and looting. “He was definitely scared,” Ibrahim, a technology consultant, said of his friend.

On a recent trip to Egypt, Ibrahim said, the people’s frustration was palpable. “You felt like you were living with a noose around your neck,” he said. “Egypt as a country has so much potential . . . you just want to see it unlocked.”

Many Egyptians said the largely peaceful protests have made them feel a new connection with the ancient land they come from.

“We are really starting to feel proud again,” Gamay said Tuesday as he watched a rally. “Egypt throughout history has been a great civilization and a proud country, and Mubarak brought it down to the lowest common denominator.”

Now Egypt is setting an example for the rest of the region, he said, noting that Jordan’s King Abdullah II had dismissed that country’s cabinet.

“It’s just amazing,” Gamay said. “It’s changing the whole entire Middle East map.”

Tara Bahrampour, a staff writer based in Washington, D.C., writes about aging and generations.


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