I didn’t want to leave my recording gear in a public bathroom by the pyramids, but I didn’t think I had a choice. After a chance encounter with a Swiss-Egyptian man in Zurich, I ended up on a week-long reporting trip in Cairo in 2012. Hamid was going to show me his Cairo, and talk about how his native country had changed since the revolution that led to the exit of Hosni Mubarak, and a new chapter in Egypt’s rich history. We traveled to Giza for an interview, and security wouldn’t let me through with my gear. They thought I was a TV guy, and thus needed an expensive permit.
After the Irish Gingerbread video with a story from my reporting in Ireland, I really wanted to offer a story from my brief time in Cairo in 2012, one that isn’t in the reporting itself. In short, I’ll explain why I ended up leaving my audio equipment with a bathroom attendant at the pyramids. (Interested to hear more, right?!)
It’s been more than a year since my troupe moved back to the U.S., but the adventures of our last 5 years still all seem very close and tangible. These adventures touched us deeply, and as we face new challenges, it’s good to reflect and remember the past.
We were lucky enough, as a family, to travel to places like Athens and Crete, Britain and France. And I spent a brief time in Egypt on a reporting trip–a trip that was filled with discoveries for me. Much of my reporting was meant to give a snapshot of that time in Cairo, which was (is?) still figuring out where it was heading in its revolution.
But in this post I wanted to jot down some of the money-making observations I made while hoofing through Cairo. I hesitate to call them scams, because most of them were just ways people had inserted themselves into the tourist economy to make a few bucks. (Egyptian Pounds.) For most of these observations ‘scam’ is too strong. ‘Hustle’ might be closer to what I mean. And in a lucky break, my identifying the hustle helped me leave Egypt with a little more money in my pocket than I expected.
It’s not uncommon for sitcoms to do flashback shows to fill space in a down-time, nor is it rare for end-of-year lists to flood shows or websites as the clock ticks toward New Year’s. In that spirit of “everyone else is doing it,” I am here putting forth a look back at my year.
The catch? I wanted to compile a list of some of my most important stories covered in 2012. It is almost cliché for a journalist to say this, but my job is one which provides a lowly chap with a microphone (me) the “golden ticket” to unseen territory. This could give access to the proverbial boardroom to interview business leaders; this could open the doors of Parliament for stories on tax debates and refugee rights; or it could give me access to a deeply personal aspect of someone’s life, who trusts that I will do my utmost to respect and accurately portray whatever glimpse I am afforded. It is the latter-most point that I relish the most. Regular readers of this website will know I have a tendency to want to bring voice to those not often heard, or included in the greater society. That’s cliché though, too, isn’t it? “Giving voice to the voiceless.” I hope the difference between my work and the cliché is that I actually do it. I talked to asylum seekers hoping not to be deported, one of whom said he walked from Greece. I experienced Cairo with a Swiss-Egyptian, seeing his childhood home and the rough streets which frame his memories. I am not saying I speak with the roughest characters, or the most excluded in our society–there is no contest in exploring lesser-seen fringes of our society. But in the end I feel my work has been fair, and accurate, contributing to the greater discourse of what is happening in our communities. Below are some of my highlights of a year gone by…
While much attention was focused on North Africa during the so-called Arab Spring, some effects of revolution were not so obvious. In Egypt, for example, refugees from Libya flooded over the border after a civil war and the death of former leader Muammar Gaddafi. However, Egypt also sees refugees from other parts of Africa. Dealing with it day to day is the UN’s Refugee Agency, the UNHCR. WRS’s Tony Ganzer went to the UNHCR office outside Cairo to hear how things are going: