Trini in Egypt: After elections, the challenges
By Natalie Williams
For my family and me, the recently held Presidential elections in Egypt not only mark the latest chapter in this nation's evolving history and the second presidential elections in as many years, they also coincide with our first year of relocating to Cairo.
Four days after we got here, a people’s revolution broke out and a military-led state of emergency and curfew came into effect, so the Wise One and I really wanted to experience these next winds of change in Egypt.
As expected, the former military general Abdul Fattah al-Sisi won the elections, and by all accounts, with an overwhelming majority.
Victory came with 93% of the vote, according to reports carried by the BBC, which says 24 million out of the 54 million registered voters went to the polls.
General Sisi was indeed the popular choice and a man with a lot riding on his shoulders. His jubilant supporters converged on the streets of Cairo, Carnival-style, even before the results were confirmed.
They waved placards, singing and dancing in Tahrir Square, which was turned into a party venue well into the wee hours of the morning.
I know this, as my neighbourhood is a safe walking distance from this now infamous Midan (Square) and the people's joy and hopes for the future wafted across the Nile with their tambourines and whistles.
The actual voting days passed without any problems.
Mercifully, they were peaceful elections, albeit under the watchful eye of a heavy military presence.
We were expecting trouble, as within days of announcing his bid for the Presidency, the former general vowed to put an end to the Muslim Brotherhood - the oldest Islamist organisation in Egypt.
In fact, the BBC’s analysts say the Brotherhood is probably facing its most serious crisis in its 85-year history.
And although the authorities controversially extended the voting to three days instead of two, in the end, Egyptians voted in a new leader peacefully.
These elections took place against a backdrop worth mentioning: a bloody crackdown on Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and their disposed President Mohammed Morsi, as well as uprisings that saw hundreds dead, thousands of Egyptians arrested and nearly 1,000 more sentenced to death.
A better future?
What intrigues me most now is how long will the Egyptian people wait for tangible results – the socio-economic, “better standard of living” results that they desperately need to see soon.
Patience is not a national virtue here, it seems, and why should it be, when people need jobs and personal prosperity?
Life on the ground in Egypt is a mixed bag these days for this Trini in Egypt.
For the first time since moving to Cairo nearly a year ago, I can now sense a little anti-Western sentiments from the locals - my hitherto happy-go-lucky Egyptian vendors and street folk.
Just the other day at my local flower shop I was “speeched off” good and proper by my regular, usually friendly vendor, for being British.
"You British no understand. You with America for Muslim Brotherhood and we Egyptians no like MB. We want them out, they evil but you British and you Americans no understand. You see how Europe get destroyed, wait you see."
I break out in a slight sweat.
With my broadest smile, I try to reassure him that the British and the West have, and always will be friends to Egypt, and will always be supportive of democracy.
"Democracy, what democracy?” he interrupts. “We no understand why you British and Americans want democracy here. We have Koran and that enough."
"Well, really, actually, I am from the Caribbean. And that no-where near Britain or America for that matter. We far far," I say. "And boy I love all your flowers. They beautiful, I buy 50 roses," is my shameless exit strategy.
The scars and losses from a bloody crackdown on supporters of Egypt's first democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi are still fresh in the minds of the man in the street.
Figures allegedly put the death toll during this recent turbulent period at thousands, and the beleaguered Muslim Brotherhood say 16,000 of their members and Islamist supporters have been jailed as a result of the violent uprisings.
Indeed, many of their top generals have been sentenced to death and remain in jail to this day.
And so the massive street protests and demonstrations throughout the streets of Cairo and Alexandria have waned significantly.
Friday afternoons, after the beautifully haunting call to prayer, are quieter now – this period being the traditional time for protests and demonstrations.
And these days, with the right security checks and precautions, you can roam Cairo and further afield in Egypt a little more.
Just a little.
But the future remains uncertain, on so many fronts.
General Sisi has publically declared that the Muslim Brotherhood will never return to their former glory nor return to positions of power.
And this must have consequences.
There are those who simply refuse to forget that the MB did win Egypt's first free and fair elections in 2011 and 2012 and even more camps that predict that the group and its supporters will not accept this current status as political outcasts.
They themselves repeatedly say they will not give up without a fight.
On my next visit to the flower shop, I was poised to ask my flower seller a few questions, as I love engaging local debate any chance I get.
I want to ask him whether Egypt's future has a role for political Islam, represented for some 85 years through the Muslim Brotherhood?
I want to ask him whether a new President of Egypt would spell an end of nationwide protests.
Is he fearful that the extremist Islamist groups lurking underground will step up their campaigns? Is he worried about the energy crisis gripping Egypt?
Instead, I buy his largest bougainvillea plant and show him pictures of the Caribbean Sea surrounding paradise islands of stunning beaches and palm trees, as I continue my charm offensive.
Meanwhile, like the Caribbean, Egypt is dependent on tourism and the visitor numbers are still very low. Monuments and mummies remain unloved and un-admired.
The world-famous pyramids of Giza are lonely, the mighty River Nile unusually quiet.
All this as Cairo itself teems with 18 million Egyptians trying to earn a daily crust in a poor struggling economy crippled by high unemployment and a myriad of societal ills.
Journalists are still persecuted for doing their jobs and three months on, three al-Jazeera journalists are still locked up in jail while awaiting trial.
Blackouts continue frequently across Cairo as an energy crisis in Egypt takes root.
These daily blackouts affect everyone, hitting local businesses hard, including the significant number of laundry operations that keep my neighbourhood of Zamalek Island fiscal.
Fresh hopes and challenges
The man of the hour himself, General Sisi, got a taste of this problem when a power cut interrupted his lengthy broadcast to Egyptians recently.
And I had a surreal moment at a local supermarket when the friendly, helpful manager personally gave me a bunch of flowers to apologise for not having any chicken on sale for the next three days.
He explained that it is too risky to stock fresh chicken with the frequent power cuts.
And for the first time in the history of this natural gas producing nation, Egypt has begun importing coal to fuel industry and construction, much to the horror and protests of the environmentalists.
So there's a lot riding on the new President's shoulders.
His priorities are security and rebuilding the Egyptian economy.
All eyes will be on Egypt and how it evolves under the new regime. One thing is for sure: the Egyptian people will be keeping the closest watch.
Journalist and children's writer Natalie Williams has been writing for Caribbean Intelligence© about life on the move in Europe and Africa. For more from Caribbean people abroad, check out these pages.