Monday, January 31, 2011

Music Video Monday: The Bangles

This week's music video selection is dedicated to the working class people of Egypt who are protesting against the corrupt government of Hosni Mubarak. The man has been in power since the assassination of Anwar Sadat, who was considered a highly admired leader in the Middle East. Thirty years of rule have not improved the country, as unemployment remains high and the threat of fundamentalist Muslims imposing a strict theocratic government is a major concern for not only Israel and the United States, but also for any tourist who dreams of visiting the Great Pyramids of Giza. It'll be interesting to watch the developments. I'm just stunned that this has occurred shortly after the uprising in Tunisia. A revolt is brewing in the Arab world. Will it spread to Syria, Jordan, and the Arabian Peninsula (where the sheikdoms and corrupt House of Saud reign supreme)?

In 1992, I experienced a dream come true when my ship, the USS Orion made a port visit to Alexandria, Egypt. The first night on liberty, I spent three hours walking around Alexandria with an Egyptian guide taking my friend and I around to get what I wanted to buy (an Islamic prayer carpet, an Arab robe, Egyptian slippers, brass statues of King Tut and other Egyptian figures, and papyrus paintings). The following day, I was scheduled to go on the tour to see the Pyramids, which I had dreamed about seeing for more than ten years, when my father was sent by the U.S. Air Force to Egypt for some military exercise.

Because of the high waves and choppy water, it was dangerous to ride the liberty boat from the pier in Alexandria to the anchored ship. There were no life jackets available for people on the liberty boat and the Navy still had nightmares about the drowning of sailors on a capsized liberty boat in Haifa, Israel during the 1991 Gulf War, so the captain made a command decision to cancel the rest of our port visit in Egypt. The decision pretty much killed morale on the ship for several weeks. It was one of the most depressing moments of my life: to come so close to the Pyramids and be filled with excitement that I would finally see these magnificent marvels of human creation...only to have it yanked away. It took a long time for me to get over that disappointment.

Later that summer, news reports focused on fundamentalists in Egypt shooting at tourists. Algeria was already under siege at that time when the secular government did not recognize the election results that would bring to power the very group of Islamic fundamentalists who would take away people's freedoms. It was not safe to be European or American in Algeria or Egypt.

Though I was in Europe for two more summers, the replacement ship, the USS SIMON LAKE, did not make a port visit to Egypt. I got to see Gibraltar (and take a day trip to Tangiers, Morocco) with that ship and missed out on the ship's port visit to Turkey and Israel (two other places I wanted to see). It all worked out, though, because my supervisors authorized me to vacation in South Africa in 1994, which was the trip of a lifetime for me.

After coming so close to see the Pyramids but having my liberty yanked away by the ship's captain (I don't blame him though, because it was a scary liberty boat ride in the choppy waters of the Mediterranean without lifevests), I never regained my childhood excitement over seeing the Pyramids. On my list of ten places I want to see most, Egypt would not make my list. There are many other places that resonate with me more, including seeing Paris for the 7th time / France for the 14th time.

At any rate, I support the people of Egypt to have a government that is more responsible to the long as they don't vote in the fundamentalists who have stated that they want to destroy the Pyramids and all traces of the ancient Egyptian culture (which shows how stupid they truly are, because Egypt without its historical artifacts from the great ancient civilization would be more like Libya: a big sandbox not worth visiting). As John Lennon might say to them: Power to the People!

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