Egypt: Is Obama not Welcome?

Forty-eight hours before US president Barack Obama delivers his much awaited speech to the Arab and Muslim worlds from Cairo University, the Egyptian blogosphere is almost unified by the same feeling. Bloggers are outraged by the massive and exaggerated preparations and precautions being taken by the Egyptian government to secure the visit, and most of them are doubting if the anticipated speech would usher any real change.

The photographer Waleed Nassar, who works near Cairo University, wrote about the preparations taking place in his neighbourhood:

I work next to Cairo University and this area has transformed over night. The bumpy streets leading to the University are now as smooth as silk. Even buildings around the area have been given a fresh layer of paint, but not the whole building, just the side that faces to the street.
That all sounds great but do you know what that means for the citizens of Cairo? No one is going anywhere on Thursday. I’ve heard that schools are taking the day off and some businesses are closing. Since Obama will be criss-crossing through Cairo in a car, police and presidential guard will be closing down streets and areas where he will be expected to be.

Hossam El Hamalawy tweeting regarding the security precautions that will take place. Al-Shrouk daily newspaper adviced Egyptians to stay home, as the streets will be nearly blocked.

Zeinobia wrote about Obama’s schedule in Egypt. She also added an update that the Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak will not attend the speech:

- Mubarak will meet Obama at Koubbah Palace only , he won't attend the speech in Cairo University according to Al-Muslamany's TV show on Dream TV 2 !!!!
– I think his absence from the speech will raise many question marks about his condition after the death of his grandchild.


Egyptian Leftist wrote a letter to Obama (strong language) with an expressive picture saying: "We don't believe you!"

Mahmoud wrote in his blog “Pains and Hopesa cynical letter [Ar] to Obama, encouraging him to see the “real” Egypt. He explained that what he will see is only preparations for his visit, but if he tried to visit the other universities he’ll find something different; even streets which will not be as beautiful, organized and tidy as what he will see.

Another blogger, Sherif Abdelaziz wrote in his blog “Justice for allanother letter to Obama, and like Egyptian leftist, he expresses his doubt that Obama's visit would bear any fruit:

You know Cairo University you'll be visiting ? Yup…it's my university …I got my degree from there years back ..I also heard that millions of dollars were spent to fix up the place just for you to lay eyes on it for couple of hours …
I have no idea if this visit will do us any good man, I got nothing against it , but I am sick and tired of every thing …I got no faith in no body any more , and am not even so hyped about listening to what you have to say , but I will give it a try ..

On the other hand, Dalia Ziada, a human rights activist who has retained some of her hope towards Obama's visit, concluded her “Young Egyptian Activists and the Obama effect!” post saying:

For the first time, in tens of years, Egyptians can see an American president who is not eager to establish a relationship with the Egyptian regime regardless of its black record of practices against democracy and human rights. This forced the Egyptian regime to show more tolerance and flexibility towards human rights activists and groups.

Yet, the inevitable question, while waiting impatiently for Obama's visit to Cairo within few days, would be: is Obama willing to live up to the high expectations of young Egyptian activists through supporting them in their struggle for domestic reform and making their dream of change, inspired by him, true?

On a different note, Egyptian movement Kifaya called for a sit-in on the eve of the visit, opposing any intended support by the American government to Israel and the Egyptian regime:

الإعتصام فى ميدان التحرير من الساعة 8 مساء الاربعاء 3يونيو – ليلة زيارة اوباما وحتى صباح اليوم التالى
رفضا للزيارة
A call for a sit-in in Tahrir square starting from 8:00 pm Cairo local time on the 3rd of June – on the eve of Obama’s visit – which will continue until the next morning – in protest against the visit.

In a reply to the sit-in call, Ahmed el Gizawy who like Dalia, also believes Obama is coming to Egypt with good intentions towards the Islamic and Arab world, asked the people to listen first to the speech then decide whether they want to proceed with a sit-in or not.

As a sneak peak to the event, American journalist Robb Montgomery, interviewed some Egyptians about their speculations regarding Obama's visit to Egypt next Thursday.

You can also follow an open discussion on Twitter between bloggers, about the speech and the visit's preparations, using the hashtag #CairoSpeech .


  • […] like everybody’s waiting for you to get there with bated breath, at least not according to this website: Forty-eight hours before US president Barack Obama delivers his much awaited speech to the Arab […]

  • Super_man

    I don’t understand the “chose this city.” It’s Obama making a speech, not the Olympics. And, the city is calling him the “New Tutankhamon of the World.” The whole thing is ridiculous to me.

  • jay kactuz

    It is not ridiculous. It is sad and pathetic. Obama is giving his campaign speech to the Muslim world, saying cute things.

    As far as I am concerned, until he brings up the issue of violence in Islam (not just extremists!) and the matter of how Muslims treat non-Muslims where they dominate, he is just an empty bottle. We need honesty, not sweet words. He needs to tell Muslims the things they don’t want to hear. He needs to ask about those verses in the Quran that preach hate. He needs to ask about the vile things the Imams and schools teach about non-Muslims. While he is apolgizing for “injustices” done by the West, he should mention 1400 years of discrimination and jihad. He should mention the dozens of attacks by Islam’s prophet on peaceful villages and caravans. I won’t hold my breath. Just because Muslims don’t want to think about these things, doesn’t mean they can be ignored. Peace and respect is a two way street and so-far traffic is only moving in one direction.

    Obama only cares about Obama and his image. Human rights mean little to him unless they fit his need at a certain time and place.

    Nothing changes.

  • […] journalists in other nations becomes very useful.  Check out this piece on GV called “Egypt: Is Obama not Welcome?” by Eman AbdElRahman, an Egyptian blogger who is a contributor to GV.  AbdElRahman is an […]

  • j. kactuz

    Obama is wasting time. Nothing will change.

    Instead of just apologizing for our sins, he needs to ask Muslims about the hate and violence they do against non-Muslims. He needs to address the discrimination against non-Muslims in Islamic societies. He needs to condemn the endless hate against jews, Christians, Hindus, etc that comes from so many imams, schools and media in the Muslim world. He needs to ask Muslims to consider the passages in the Quran and hadith the vilify infidels and glorify violence against them.

    Until Muslims take an honest look at themselves and their religion, there will be no change. Respect is a two way street. I see no reason to respect those who do not respect others.

  • […] after the Iraq war’s chaos. Before Barack Obama’s Cairo address today, Egyptian bloggers were largely cynical, local journalist Hossam el-Hamalawy demanded Washington sever its ties with the brutal Egyptian […]

  • omnifoo

    I expect Cairo and its U have a unique perspective of any locality which has a VIP come for a brief visit, but the intention which will probably be realized is that most folks who don’t normally think about these things will be interested and inspired. I doubt most of humanity is as coldly rational as J.Kactuz. I think Obama as U.S. Prez going to Cairo and venting on the kinds of things J.Kactuz suggests would have resulted in a reception which made Ahmadinejad’s visit to NYC look like a hero’s homecoming…not exactly what Obama intended. I enjoyed the speech immensely and hope it gets wide play globally.

  • […] (7th June ‘09): This blog post has been featured in The Guardian, Jerusalem Post, Global Voices Online, KabobFest and Ibn Ibn […]

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