Peace Bag meeting in Egypt

I arrived at Cairo’s airport at 3am with only one instruction: don’t get in any transport, just wait for Amr. I went out of the airport after a long interrogation from the police. What is a girl doing on her own in Cairo at 3am? Is someone waiting for you? Are your friends European or Egyptian? How many days will you be in the city? Where will you sleep? What will you do? I improvised many answers to many of those questions.

Between questions, lies and answers, I was invaded by many men who offered me the best price to get a taxi to the city. More questions and still no answers. So I just answered repeatedly “shokran”, thank you, thank you, “shokran”. I managed to get out of the airport after this shower of offers and was hypnotized behind the hidden eyes from the dark shadows, curious looks and dark expressions.

12138463_10200972757798512_3339280137733897359_oBetween all these people, a voice and a big smile were calling me and welcoming me to Egypt. A welcome to chaos, faith, hope, hospitality and fight. It was Amr, the boy whom I had to follow for some days, to learn from his work as a peacebuilder in a country where nothing is easy, but all is hope. We waited for two or three hours under the dim light of a sleepy lamp post, in the arms of a mosque, accompanied by an orphan cat and the music of hut and a refuge for the people going by. We were getting to know each other while waiting, waiting for something to happen in the darkness, talking about politics, history, memories and the one thing that united us, a project full of hope called PeaceBag for Euromed Youth.

Suddenly, the sleeping Cairo started to wake up. It was prayer time and the loneliness that had been with us for the last few hours was abandoning us, giving place to new faces full of curiosity around us. Luckily, and at last, we found a bus, and three hours later the shiny sun was peaking in my eyes, which were making a huge effort to keep open and see what was happening outside the bus. Without noticing, I fiercely reconnected my tired senses from the uncountable hours of travel: I had to cross the streets of Alexandria.

Amr was laughing, but not by my side, from the opposite side of the street full of cars. While I learned to cross the chaotic streets I realized that this adaptation exercise to the Egyptian megapolis was a good summary of their daily life: patience, laughter and cars, a lot of cars. From that moment, I remember the rest of my days immersed in a beautiful balance between speed and hospitality.

The big family of Development No Borders received me and taught me how the youngsters from there live linked to their reality, but are flooded by the strength to fight for their rights and construct a future where their voices and their small daily actions are synonyms to a tangible peace. 12183002_10200972753358401_1708905949767275175_oFrom them I have learnt that peace is a synonym of education, creativity, intercultural dialogue, human rights, conflict transformation and, over all, I have learnt that compromise is the beginning of any change, because peace starts in our nearest reality: ourselves. In Egypt I felt the peace in the middle of the chaos, thanks to smiles and the generosity of the people that made me feel home.

Development No Borders is a great example of compromise in our PeaceBag network, despite the difficulties they have to express in a country where not everything is allowed. They continue working with small projects that make people grow.

And again, I was in the airport, waiting, thinking about all the experience and with my bagpack full of new ideas, knowledge and peace.

This is what I have learned being part of the PeaceBag team: to carry your bag full with Peace Culture and appreciate the common values that we have with communities and individuals of the euromediterranean region. Values that can be summed up in one word: solidarity, the base on which we can construct the future cooperation and common understanding.

The visit has been managed thanks to the support of DIPLOCAT, for the promotion of participation of the Catalan organizations as part of the development of the network ‘PeaceBag for Euromed Youth’.

Ana Blanco
Barcelona, November 2015