Unplanned (and unwelcome) Stay in Cairo
As I board the plane at Heathrow, I get a call from my contact in Gaza that due to security concerns, the border crossing to Gaza from Egypt is going to be closed today. This is frustrating, as my time is already limited, and losing a day could make it too short. I suspect the reason for closure was related to an incident on the border between Egypt and Israel (see this article from the Huffington Post). It’s not the only incident these few days. For instance, a human rights monitoring boat was pursued by the Israeli navy four days ago, and 4 fishermen were also abducted by its navy yesterday.
I have no idea how many people are delayed entry by this closure. No doubt, it includes Gazans coming home to see their families as well as a number of humanitarian missions. The closure only serves to underline again how humanitarian support is constantly at the mercy of politicians and militants of all sides – Israeli, Egyptian and Palestinian. It also serves as a timely reminder to me that what we are doing in Gaza, although of enormous value, is still only papering over the cracks. It is only the restoration of respect of human rights and freedoms for the citizens in Gaza (and the region as a whole) that will allow the inhabitants to make their own way, earn their own living and support their own families and thus reduce or eliminate the need for humanitarian support.
Don’t get me wrong – I love Cairo, and it would be great to come here on a visit with my family. But this trip is about something very different. So I book into a hotel in Cairo, give thanks that it is my own money and not the charity’s that I am spending to be here and delayed in what feels like wasted time, and wait for news of the border. I have a Turkish coffee, which reminds me of my youth, and in a bizarre way, of a personal past that I never had, sit in a hotel lobby full of cigarette smoke (again, a memory of bygone days even in Europe), and try to use the time as usefully as possible while waiting for a call.