By Nadia Ismail
In a recent article on the Gallup website, Managing Director of Gallup World Poll Jon Clifton wrote that the world is becoming “a slightly more negative place than it was a few years ago”. Gallup’s latest research, based on 2013 figures for 138 countries, ranks Egypt as the third most negative country, closely following Iraq and Iran.
Amidst political turmoil, it is hardly surprising that Egyptians are feeling down in the doldrums. But, in spite of the current negativity, many Egyptians still find reasons to love their country.
Recent graduate Nancy Salem doesn’t see the high unemployment rate and apparent lack of economic growth as a constraint on the country’s youth. Instead, she said, it has created a space for innovation and entrepreneurship that cannot be found abroad.
“One thing I love about Egypt is that there is so much space for entrepreneurship, and space for citizens to change,” Salem said. “Abroad, citizen initiatives for change tend to get bogged down by endless bureaucracy and have to deal with staunch institutions.”
Although Egypt’s current “system” often feels dysfunctional, it also encourages people to “figure out what their society needs and how to achieve it”, she said.
The shaky years since the 25 January Revolution have also increased the people’s political awareness and engagement, she said. Salem believes young Egyptians have developed “personal agency” that makes them more likely to hit the streets to protest political malpractice than youth elsewhere.
For school teacher Essra Ahmed, an Egyptian who has also spent many years living abroad, it is the simple gestures of generosity that make living in Egypt great.
“I usually complain that people are oblivious here and have no empathy, but there are so many people I know who would actually try to help and are always willing to sacrifice something for someone else,” she said.
It’s impressive, she said, how strong the bonds of family remain in a country that has seen much anger amongst its citizens.
“That’s something I noticed when I first came, families get together every week, not just every Christmas, and they’re always there for each other,” Ahmed said.
Gallup’s poll for “Countries with Highest Negative Experience Index Scores” measured people’s levels of “anger, stress, sadness, physical pain and worry for the previous day”. Of the top five countries listed as having the most negative emotions, four are in the Middle East, the fourth being Syria.