With an ever-declining economy, political sclerosis, an Islamic State insurgency in the Sinai, and civil wars in neighboring Libya and Sudan as well as in nearby Yemen and Ethiopia, Egypt seems like a country with every reason to collapse. But it hasn’t. Samuel Tadros reflects on the country’s remarkable good fortune:
In his seminal essay, “The Sorrows of Egypt,” the late Fouad Ajami noted, in his masterful prose, the numerous sorrows of modern Egypt, from the steady decline of its public life and its dependence on foreign handouts to the deep sense of disappointment that engulfs the country as it rotates between false glory and self-pity; he concluded his treatise by remarking that “Egyptians who know their country so well have a way of reciting its troubles, then insisting that the old resilient country shall prevail.” The Arab sage, who professed “approaching the country with nothing but awe for its civility amid great troubles,” concurred with their assessment. “The danger,” he wrote, is not of sudden, cataclysmic upheaval, but of the steady descent into deeper levels of pauperization.”
More than 25 years after Ajami’s essay, his words seem prophetic. While Egypt has continued its descent, it has managed to avoid the fate of many of the region’s other countries. No great calamity has befallen the country as it has in Syria and Libya. Egypt’s avoidance of such a fate remains a puzzle. By all measures, the country should have faced a reckoning. The list of Egypt’s troubles is long and would have broken many a country by now.
After all, if Egypt’s ship has failed to sink, it is not for lack of trying. . . . And yet, somehow, against overwhelming odds, the ship has continued to float.