Youth

    The Young Can No Longer Dream

    Copyright: picture-alliance/dpa

    Half the population of Egypt is now under 20. The education system and the country’s economy offer young people hardly any opportunities for the future. And in Lebanon, even today, it is above all your background that determines your prospects of success.

    I just can’t fathom your generation. When I was young, loving our mother country was like a religion. Zaki el Dessouki, an elderly man of the Cairo establishment who has seen better days, does not understand his young lover. She wants to emigrate with him, preferably to France, but the main thing is to get away.

    This scene is recounted almost incidentally in the novel Umaret Yacoubian [The House of Yacoubian] by the writer Alaa Al Aswany, which sparked heated discussion in Egypt after its publication in the year 2002. Yet it is a key scene for the portrayal of the relationship between the generations in Egypt – indeed, in the whole Arab world. It shows the lack of perspective for young people in their own country, the lack of understanding and indifference of the older generation, and it’s a tale that can be retold in many variations.

    Copyright: Christian Meier
    Tahany Adly, Cairo
    As in, for example, the story of the 16-year-old Tahany from Imbaba, an impoverished part of Cairo. She dreams of living in the US. Ideally she’d like to become a teacher, but Tahany has no faith in her country’s education system.

    Or there’s the story of Youssef Chahine. The celebrated filmmaker has never shrunk from addressing issues that are sensitive for Egyptian society. Nonetheless, he is a patriot; he was never as happy as a young man in Hollywood as he was back home on the Nile. Chahine returned to his homeland.

    Today the 80-year-old man looks at the long queues in front of the Western consulates and says resignedly, Everyone wants to emigrate. I used to say to my students, Don’t do it. Because I was old-fashioned and I saw the beauty of our homeland. Now I say to them: Go! You have no prospects here. Egypt is far too corrupt.

    In large sections of the Arab world clientelism, a rigid social structure, and an ailing education system make it impossible for young people to realise their dreams. Of course, it is easier for those who have money and power. Ayman, aged 16, from Kerdesa in Egypt says: In ten years I’d like to be a doctor or a policeman, so that I’m in a position of power.

    Download SymbolDownload SymbolMoritz Behrendt: The Young Can No Longer Dream (pdf, 24 KB)

    Copyright: Goethe-Institut, Fikrun wa Fann

    January 2007

    Translation: Aingeal Flanagan

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