Africa

Egypt: A Remarkable Day in Cairo – Any Hope for Nigeria? (II)

Continued from last week

The Egyptians are a peculiar people and this one can see on their streets. Let me list the attributes I saw.

The average Egyptian is irrepressible. He is rebellious at heart, but is also a patriot

The average Egyptian could be undisciplined, but also quite cooperative and reasonable at the same time

The average Egyptian is a sharp dresser, with sharp intellect and an ability to engage with the world.

Egypt has been overrun by all sorts of people; Arabs, Romans, Turks, English, French. There are therefore vestiges of all those cultures in Egypt. Street signs are written in English but most Egyptians don’t speak that language. Apart from Arabic, Italian, French and English has been adopted at different times.

There aren’t many Egyptians suffering from stunted growth. This is an indicator of a good standard of living. Yet they complain of poverty. Coming to Egypt you will wonder why they removed Hosni Mubarak. Boredom perhaps, as he had stayed on for too long. But with hindsight we have to give it to the dictators of North Africa – Mubarak, Gaddafi, Bouteflika, Ben Bella and co. These people had vision for their countries, far more than we have seen in sub-Sahara, and a presence of mind to ensure relative unity amongst their people. We hear there is corruption in those countries too, but given that we suffered almost same calamities, and started almost at the same time from the blocks, I was indeed ashamed for black Africa, especially Nigeria

Jaywalking is an Egyptian. As good as the roads are, both pedestrians and motorists alike have no respect for zebra crossings or traffic rules altogether. It is a wonder how dozens of people don’t get knocked down by cars and buses on a daily basis

All Egyptians are Danfo drivers. They see nothing about crossing lanes, shunting, side-swapping and so on. Cairo is a danfo-driver’s paradise (without the shouting at the top of your lungs as we do here that is).

Egyptians are very good in the construction industry and medicine, hence Egypt is a haven for medical tourists, and some of their construction companies are making forays in the rest of Africa – such as Arab Contractors OAO. With the smoothness of every road that I saw in Cairo, and the rapid building of so much more, I have great respect for the abilities of these people. How Nigeria consider herself to be the largest economy in Africa is a wonder.

Egyptians are great with customer service. Perhaps decades of being a tourist country has wired most of them for service excellence. Egyptians do not joke with service. I am not sure I met a single service provider who was rude or tardy, even when passengers who had long layovers (and some did not get hotel rooms the night before), were already making trouble or even when we demanded for extras in the hotel.

There is a thriving consumer economy in Egypt. My friend there tells me that Egyptians dine out on a daily basis. Cairo is so urbane and bustling, even in covid season. I think the idea is that Egyptians spend most of their money in their country, and the economy is solid, rooted and growing steadily. I don’t see that buzz in Nigeria, not even in Lagos can one find that genuine purchasing power.

There were so many middle-class housing developments (called Compounds) in Cairo. Almost every compound had a standard shopping mall attached to it. Rent ranges in those places from $2,000 to $10,000 per month. One could sense serious urban renewal going on. The shopping malls had all the brands in Europe and America. This means Egyptians don’t have to really travel for shopping like we do.

The pace of work on their infrastructure is frenetic. My friend shows me overheard bridges built over this pandemic season. Things are done in Egypt with military precision. Their president, Al Sisi was an Army General who converted himself to a civilian with the backing of the West. I learnt that even the Military takes part in road and bridge construction

Egypt does not focus on commodities to get by, unlike many countries in Africa The economy has always been fairly diversified and the service sector, well developed.

Cairo is desert land and has been built up to a magical city just like Dubai, only with more history on its side. Egypt is one of the few countries in the world which researchers specialize upon. These researchers are called Egyptologists. Maybe one day we will have Nigeriologist but hopefully not to study bad behaviours.

Cairo is the city of lights. There is so much gaiety at night. You don’t need your car headlights to drive around. My friend says there has only been one power outage since he came there almost two years ago, due to a storm.

There are so many old Lada and Fiat cars, speeding and competing side by side with 2021 Benz and BMW models – some of which I hadn’t seen even in Nigeria. As happened in Ethiopia, the presence of Lada cars may signify a dalliance with socialism or an epochal closeness to the Russians back in the day.

From what I gathered, Egypt never really closed for covid. They merely instructed that shops closed earlier and everyone got on with their lives, with masking and hand sanitizers. This is a wise country. In Nigeria where we have nothing, we succumbed so easily to fear and shut down an already dying economy. Again, I couldn’t shake the feeling that Nigeria was mere bones.

ONWARD TO SHARJAH

Well, the above are some of what I noticed about Cairo, Egypt in one and a half nights as we continued on the onward journey to Sharjah the next day at 5am, arriving at around 12pm the next day. I had started this journey to the UAE almost 48 hours before. Sharjah, the closest poorer brother to Dubai was also pulling her weight. The airport was neat and modern. What Sharjah lacked in size, gumption, traffic and money, it made up for in being organized. It took about 2 hours to sort out all passengers and take their samples for the covid test which was free for all.

By the next day, we had information that the UAE had put her foot down that no airline should lift any passenger from Nigeria into any of its airports. Getting into the UAE had become as hard as the camel getting through the eye of a needle. I recall that I had written in the past how a place like the UAE provided Nigerians with what is becoming an even rarer opportunity to see the modern world. With the way we are going, God forbid that we shall soon be totally shut in and asked to sort ourselves out. Our attitude as a people is also terrible. On my way in, I found myself yoked with the usual breed who don’t understand that they are ambassadors of this country; a few young, scrawny street girls from SouthWest Nigeria whom I was told were going to Dubai for prostitution on one hand, and a bunch of young traders from the SouthEast, some of whom did not care about their appearance. Imagine going into someone’s glistening country looking like a proper bum! Rough dreadlock, flipflops (or what we call bathroom slippers), a bare singlet and whatnot. When did Nigerians develop this temerity? Our fathers bought and borrowed suits just to go to the airport in their days. That is reverence for the technological achievement of others, and simple respect for the world. Nigerians – especially our youth demographic – no longer think it matters to respect other nations, and so they get less and less respect. We now live in the age of freedom for freedom sake. I found it tough to relate with these Nigerians and even avoided them as much as possible. They were mostly hopeless cases. I however sent a text to Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa on the matter, that perhaps it may make some sense to start some sort of orientation for all travellers going out of Nigeria, and even sanction some who may not represent us well.