x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Egypt's civic virtue

The continuing unrest in Egypt has fostered a sense of community and national pride not seen in decades.

The dark shadows that hung over Egypt for much of last week brought at least one positive trend to light. Many Egyptians managed to show the virtues of a community, working together when their compatriots needed it most.

Neighbourhood groups imposed security and safety when police were absent. Students rallied around libraries and museums to protect precious artefacts. Volunteers even swept streets and bagged rubbish after protests, making Cairo's streets cleaner than they would be on even the most tranquil of mornings. As one man cleaning up Tahrir Square said: "This charges us with positivity ... so we can help our country to be better."

A new sense of national pride seems to have captured the youth in particular, who have been at the forefront of organising the human chains that have guarded the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina during demonstrations. So touched was the director of the library that he thanked the students in an open letter, praising their dedication.

Meanwhile, organised citizens' groups continue to oversee transport, protection, and emergency response in Cairo and Alexandria. "We want to show the world that we can take care of our country," said Khalid Toufik, a member of one youth group interviewed byjournalistslast week. Civil disobedience, it appears, has brought out the civic virtues of many.