Egypt: Will there be any action after Obama's Talk?

As expected, US President Barack Obama's speech was received with different and contradicting reactions in the Egyptian blogosphere. While many praised his eloquence, charisma, intelligence and awareness of Arab and Islamic history, more believed it was just the same talk they had heard from other presidents but in a better wrapping. Also, they almost all agreed they are waiting for “action” to prove the supposed “good intentions.”

The first optimistic opinion came from Ahmed, who said how happy he is with Obama's gesture of approaching the Islamic world:

في النهاية أنا متفاءل فلم تكن أروع طموحاتي تذهب إلي أن يتكلم رئيس أمريكي بهذه اللهجة الأقرب إلي الحياد ولا بهذه المفاتحة الأدني إلي الاعتذار.
At the end, I am optimistic. My highest ambition was not even to have a U.S. president speaking in this manner, neutral in a way that is more like to apologizing.

Another blogger, Ahmed Shokier, analyzed Obama's speech, then advised his readers that Obama is neither Muslims’ grand Imam nor a Muslim himself to have high expectations of him. He also said that the speech wasn't targeted towards Muslims only, but was followed by American voters, Israelis and non-Muslims as well.

Shokeir‘s other observations included:

ثالثاً : لكي يتم تقييم الخطاب يجب النظر في طريقة التعامل السابقة لأسلافه ومامدى الحال والهوان الذي وصلنا له في علاقاتنا معهم
رابعاً : لن يأتي الرجل ليقدم لنا الحلول والمساعدات ويرحل ، فهو ليس بابا نويل ولا روبين هود ، فالعلاقة متبادلة أن تأخذ وتعطي أن تمنح وتهب
خامساً : نحن أمة إستهلاكية مفككة وليس لها أي تأثير ولا ثقل دولي لا في مجال علمي أو تكنولوجي أو عسكري أو إقتصادي
Third, to assess the speech fully, you have to take into consideration the treatment of the previous administrations and and the level our relationship has deteriorated to.
Fourth, this man did not come to present us with solutions and aid and then leave. He isn't Santa Claus or Robin Hood. Relationships are mutual and there is give and take.
Fifth, we are a fragmented society which consumes goods only. We have no international impact or influence. Nor do we have any scientific, technological, military or economic power.

In reply to Shokier‘s post, Desert Cat offered a different opinion:

هو بما انى مش كنت حاطة اى امل ولا حتى فكرت اتوقع خطاب اوباما لانى مدركة ان مش فى فرق بين احمد والحاج احمد لكن دمى محروق اوى على ال500مليون جنيه اللى اتصرفوا على 6 ساعات قضاهم معاليه فى القاهره
Although I had no high hopes in his speech, and I didn't try to speculate anything – because I know there is no difference between him and any other American president but I was enraged because of the 500 million pounds which were spent on the six hours he spent in Cairo.

The same comment by Desert Cat was seconded by another female blogger, Fattractive Egyptian woman, who did not appreciate the preparations taken by the government for the visit:

Like many people, I wasn’t exactly on top of the world when Obama chose Egypt to speak from. Oh, of course, prestige, we’re the best country in the world, blah blah, but what about all the abuses and less-than-democratic procedures we have here?

She then added a comic by Sherif Arafa, an Egyptian writer, about how the whole Cairo cleanness is going to end as soon as Obama takes off his plan:

After Obama’s Visit (Upper left hand corner and clockwise): 1) Return [the palm] tree to the storage area. 2) Of course the exams get postponed for the guests, do you think we’re at Harvard? 3) The governor left? 4) I saw someone practicing politics in the university sir, his name is Obama! 5) We must return everything to it’s place.

After Obama’s Visit (Upper left hand corner and clockwise):
1) Return [the palm] tree to the storage area.
2) Of course the exams get postponed for the guests, do you think we’re at Harvard?
3) The governor left?
4) I saw someone practicing politics in the university sir, his name is Obama!
5) We must return everything to it’s place.

Adel, a 23-year-old blogger, took a break from his studies for the final exam to follow the speech. Like many others, including Blue Stone [Ar], Mahmoud25x [Ar], Nawara Negm [Ar], GVO author Marwa Rakha -who thought the magic of the speech lied in Obama's charming smile- and Doaa [Ar], he believed Obama was trying to flirt with and please all parties, and that his talk will not lead to any change. He Quoting remarks:

معتقدش ان كلامه ده هيتنفذ و السبب اننا سمعنا نفس الحوارات دي و مش معني انه جالنا هنا يبقي الراجل بيحبنا .. ده بس عندهم تصليحات في البيت الابيض […]فقالك ازور الهرم و اتصور جنبه و ااقولي كلمتين و اخلع عشان الحق الغداء .
I don’t think his words will be translated into action, and the reason is because we’ve heard such talk before. And it is not because he came to us, that he is someone who loves us. In fact, they are currently conducting some “maintenance” work in the White House […] so in the meanwhile, he thought of passing by, visiting the pyramids and taking some pictures, followed by a quick lunch and then depart.

Fattractive Egyptian woman continued in her excellent post:

Oh, he said all the right things. He quoted verses from the Qur’an. He said al-salamu Alaykum. He said Islam contributed a lot to western civilization. He proudly said he had Muslim roots. […]
The rhetoric was beautiful. So beautiful that many people missed—or chose to ignore—the fact that nothing much has changed. […] US policy has remained the same. America’s interests are still number one, and that is to be expected.

Arabist picture for the Hagg, owner of his local qahwa in Garden City, watching the Obama speech - like many of Egyptians who followed the speech from local qahwa's or their homes.

Arabist picture for the Hagg, owner of his local qahwa in Garden City, watching the Obama speech.

On a different note, while Zeinobia compared Obama to the late John F Kennedy, the Arabist compared his visit to Nixon's back in 1975; others – like Egyptian citizen, went a step further and compared his speech to that of the late Egyptian president Anwar El Sadat in the Israeli Knesset in 1977, before the Camp David peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. For them, both of the two presidents were calling for peace.

Egyptian Citizen published videos for both speeches, then commented:

السادات قالها من 1977 و الان اوبما يقولها في 2009
فهل من مجيب؟
يهمني الفعل مش كلام
نفسنا نعيش من غير حروب و دمار و ارهاب
امتى نعيش في سلام عادل ؟
stop war and live in peace
الخطاب دة فكرني بالسادات الله يرحمة
فعلاً كان رجل لة روئية و نظرة للمستقبل
Sadat said it in 1977, and now Obama repeats in 2009. Would someone respond?
I care for what’s to be done, not said. We want to live without wars, destruction or terrorism.
When will we live in just peace?
Stop war and live in peace.
This speech reminded me of Sadat (God rest his soul in peace)
He was a man of vision, and an insight for the future.

Another blogger, Ha'er fi donia Allah, tackled the topic from a different perspective. He was worried about the health condition of Egyptian president Mubarak, because he didn't receive Obama from the airport:

هل رأيتم السيد أوباما وهو يصعد للطائرة أمس؟؟… شاب قوي صحيح مثل هذا هو ما ينبغي له أن يقود أمة قوية…….. أما السيد الرئيس فهو لم يستقبله حتى في المطار رغم كونه أهم شخصية في العالم الآن والبروتوكول يقول أن الرئيس يستقبل الرئيس، ولا أعتقد أن الرئيس لم يستقبله في المطار لأن الرئيس الأمريكي في العادة لا يستقبل الرئيس المصري في المطار أثناء زياراته السابقة، يبدو أن الرئيس “تعبان” وليس لديه استعداد لبذل أي مجهود بدني، فوفاة حفيده ودواعي الزمن عليه تنبئ بصحة تنتكس بصورة ملحوظة…
Did you see Mr. Obama boarding the plane yesterday? A strong man such as this should lead a strong nation. But our president didn't receive him at the airport, despite him being the most important figure in the whole world and the protocol says a president receives a president. I don't think its because American presidents usually don't receive the Egyptian president in previous visits, but because our president is “tired” and not ready to make any physical effort. His grandson's death, and the passage of time, have had a toll on his health.

Sandmonkey who attended the event, wrote his observations behind the scenes, then mentioned a small demonstration that took place in front of Cairo University.

Fattractive Egyptian woman, concluded her post with a glimpse of optimism:

So that’s my two cents. The question remains, is Obama really and truly sincere in his words? Or is he, as this editorial puts it, simply another Napoleon, a man who “appropriated Islam in order to advance [his] own material interests at the expense of local populations?”

But even though I’m a cynical person, that doesn’t mean I’m still not hopeful. We’ll have to wait and see, as everyone is saying, if Obama can walk the talk. Intentions matter, but without actions, they don’t mean squat.


  • If I were American, I would have voted for Obama, and my feeling reading his speech was that it was a pleasant change to have a US president speak in a scholarly and intelligent fashion. Will it all lead to change? Who knows? I’ve lived through eleven presidencies and am starting on the twelfth and I can’t say that I’ve been wildly thrilled with any of them. Some of the individuals have been more appealing than others as individuals, but the actual effectiveness of the President of the United States has, in most cases in my experience, lay in the power to mess up lives abroad. I have to agree that the habit of doing a massive and expensive cleanup of the area of a visit is appalling, especially considering that the conditions will return to normal in no time at all and there will be no further efforts, rather appalling. Loved the cartoon…so true.

  • John Zimmerman

    Skepticism is abundant on this blog. Admittedly I didn’t hear his speech, just snippets on the evening news of people blathering about his eloquence and concern. I too am skeptical. Unfortunately, as a U.S. citizen, I realize that that is all it was, eloquence and concern. Our presidents have very little that they can truly accomplish without the Corporacracy. Given our current president’s situation I feel he is sincere in his wish for change but has his hands tied when it comes to real change. Granted he has made leaps and bounds for a long time suppressed part of our society, which is long over due and welcomed by me, however let’s not forget that he was not an independent but a part of the fat-cat-corporacracy that is responsible for many of the world’s current troubles. Let us hope that change truly comes from within. I am proud of who I am and where I come from given that it was not up to me as to where I was to be born. I am proud of the average person everywhere, world wide, who is trying to make the best of what his or her society has to offer. We, the average, it seems are at the mercy of the powers that be and if they can’t bring us the change that we deserve, then we need to start creating change ourselves. It’s the little things that count and We, the average person, need to unite in an idea that all faith, all race, and all gender can live as one. To put aside the spoon fed propaganda that all of our news puts us through and speak in open forums exchanging creative and tolerant ideologies. Skepticism is an appropriate emotion for there is mess everywhere, including the U.S., that needs cleaning. Until the average stand up against that which beats them down or at the very least begins to practice within their own lives what is right and not what is expected, then and only then will we see things change.

  • unfortunately,the comment we heard after he finished up his speech do not give us any hope of change.

  • we hope the arab world move to help solving its chronic problem.

  • Regarding the much awaited Obama speech, anyone unfamiliar with Obama and the occasion would have thought that he was a muslim clergyman describing the past glories of the islamic world, because he was mentioning the holy koran at several points. Luckily, for him, he mentioned he was a christian. Just once! But that was enough for the occasion!

    Anyway, he made an eloquent speech, befitting the character and charisma that he exudes. He touched on several issues and presented them clealry, point for point. He couldn’t elaborate more, perhaps due to the time limitation that he had set.

  • sherif

    I expect that obama will change the politicals used against the islam, it will be more helpfull to our Arabian countries to take the first step toward the development .that will happend just if obama’s word was true,and if he would stay alive after this step.

  • “500 million pounds which were spent on the six hours he spent in Cairo”, is this confirmed ?

  • happy 2 see my blog and my words here….but i’m still on my word (I don’t think his words will be translated into action)

    he has a lot of problems in his country ………. must be solved before they turn to others

  • […] GV article charactized Egyptian bloggers’ responses: While many praised his eloquence, charisma, […]

  • How is the family of humanity to sensibly organize to respond ably to the human folly, avarice and stupidity that is now being consciously perpetrated by those few million greedy people who possess a lion’s share of the world’s wealth and the power it purchases? After all, a tiny minority is primarily responsible for the Earth being ravaged and threatened as a fit place for habitation by our children.

    When are the morally bankrupt, super-rich Masters of the Universe among us to be held to account for having disgracefully institutionalized the ‘goodness’ of their pathological arrogance, conspicuous consumption and excessive hoarding for the benefit of none others than themselves and minions? For many too many economic powerbrokers and their bought-and-paid-for politicians
    short-term financial gains, power accrual, economic expediency and political convenience have directed their thought and behavior.

    Perhaps it is time for many ordinary people not only to deploy these words from Mohandas Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”, but also to live out this great man’s example of principled, peaceful, refusal to submit to arrogant, dishonest, avaricious and dishonorable authority that is relentlessly degrading Earth’s frangible environment and recklessly dissipating Earth’s limited resources in our time.

    Perhaps honesty, more transparency, constructive personal action, accountability and necessary social change are in the offing.

    Scientists have a duty to warn and to inform; leaders of the family of humanity have a responsibility to act with moral courage and a willingness to do the right thing. At least some scientists appear to be doing their duty. Except for a precious few, great human beings like President Barack Obama, the human community appears to be virtually bereft of adequate leaders.

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