A confidential letter to Mr. Obama

March 28, 2016 OPINION/NEWS


Muhammad Aladdin

Dear Mr. Obama,

Well, I do not know how to begin this, or else, I have so many beginnings to such a letter.

Let me begin with walking in the Corniche El Nile in Cairo, just in front of the Egyptian TV building. There was no sound, no noise, ultimately so unusual in a city like Cairo, you could even hear the silence, the sound of silence, if it wasn’t your voice addressing the Arab World from Cairo. I’m still amused by the memories of the Central Security personnel, maybe the very same ones that were shooting at us two years later, sitting in front of the building, motionless, as birds can stand on their heads, as we say in Arabic, listening to your words.

Or I can begin with your victory news, being the first ever black American to gain such honour, and how I heard this, speaking to my then newly British girlfriend, saying how we openly didn’t break this code of being charmed by your persona. Both the election and the speech were heralds of a new better world, even my relationship with her back then, of a Brave New World, on the right side of meaning. Two years, and we had this remarkable revolution, this remarkable uprising, this remarkable upheaval, this remarkable “thing”. We went to build this New World in one of the very ancient world centres. I got shot, bibi shots, not to exaggerate it, on January 28th, others got real wounds, others got killed, but we all wanted this, wanted it badly. I walked with my girlfriend through the streets of Cairo, she wanted to be there, and I took her with me the next day, on the 29th, celebrating our love and our dream. She was, no doubt, so brave.

After some weeks, she ceased to call it “a revolution”. More weeks passed and I got shot again in Muhammad Mahmoud street riots, where I still have this bibi bullet in my head and arm. More and more weeks, me and my partner were split up. You know the rest.

It was turning to the original Brave New World.

Now, I am in Berlin, at the very end of my two year tourist visa I acquired from Germany. You know what happened on June 2013, and you’d know now that I found it so hard to stay in the homeland, I could hardly find any friends to talk to. It was a moment of real madness, graphic alienation, and great despair. I spent three months here, three months there, and that actually helped a lot. Like many Egyptians, I wanted the MBs out, but not the generals in. It might always sound naive, but on the other hand, I do believe that if we tried, if we tried hard, if we tried well, we can alter everything, and anything. One day, your president JFK said that all problems are man made, so there’s no problem that a man couldn’t solve. Yes, we may continue to call my belief naive, but we can’t always deny that those kind of statements could actually change, and change a lot.

Well, now I see this frame of the automated system to contact you is turning red, and beneath it there are words, in capital letters, stating “WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SAY? FIELD HAS A MAXIMUM LENGTH OF 2500 CHARACTERS.” But I continue to write, anyway. I want to say that I toured a lot, I have a new girlfriend who does not comprehend what the hell is going on in my homeland but she loves me and is kind to me. I wrote two more books, got praise, one of them got translated, got banned from writing in Egypt after only 13 columns in a leading national newspaper there, my last novel was restricted from distribution by the biggest private distribution company in the country. Yes, private, you know how things are in Egypt, and how private means, most of the time, the state made private. When I feel bad about that I try to tell myself that I wrote this or that, that I got praised for my writing here and there. I did this and that. Friends phone me, messaging me, in the main time and before, advising me, warning me, just talking to me, with the same idea: Stay Away Now.

Political asylum? No, I wouldn’t do it. Marrying my girlfriend? I’d never do that just to get residency. Leaving Egypt forever? Never. Leaving Egypt temporary? Nada. Then what? I’d say I’d better keep this rotating between my homeland, which I do love from the bottom of my heart, and abroad. Three months, or six months, whatever, but I’d have to have this ability, and mobility.

Why I am writing to you? I’d say that I’d want you to grant me an American passport, here and on the spot. Yes, fantasies are sweet, but how about dreams? I can apply for this EB-1 visa, I believe I am something, I am whatever. I am writing this to you from a small table on my girl’s kitchen, wearing a robe, underwear, a T-shirt, glasses, and a few hairs on my face, claiming that I have “extraordinary abilities” and I showed “outstanding contribution to my field”. Can you believe it?! Dreams can be realised, but mine (thinking of Einstein and his white hair), is on the verge of fantasy. I never expect, I believe expectations are dangerous, that’s what Charles Dickens taught me in Great Exceptions. Pip, that dear Pip, do you remember him?! He ended nicely, more or less, if you thought of another example of reinventing the self; The Great Gatsby.

We are all that Pip, and we are all afraid to end as Gatsby.

I do not know why I write this to you, it was just another stupid mistake, it’s not a hollywood thing ending with the President calling the novelist to give him his tool to Freedom of Mobility. Let me be more straight and say: It’s so sad to have this fantasy, dream, wish, idea. It’s so sad, partly shameful.

(By the way, I know this lovely woman, Marcia Lynx Qualey, an American, one of the most devoted journalist for Arabic literature, she’s writing to me that she hopes “All borders would disappear”. I can imagine her jumping in excitement before her desktop. heh. You should read what she writes, however).

Anyway, you are ending your tenure (Trump?), and I am reading about a new prisoner or new measure of brutal dictatorship, supported by your country, by you, everyday. Once there’s a hope, and I’ll drink for it to come by again. Maybe, possibly, probably, I am already way too drunk to type this aimless piece down.

Btw, thanks for asking Congress to drop the Human Rights requirements as a measure for allowing aiding Egypt. Am sure that around 40,000 detainees in Sisi’s prisons would appreciate it.




Muhammad Aladdin (And yes, that’s my real name)






Muhammad Aladdin

Muhammad Aladdin, a noted Egyptian novelist, was born in Cairo on October 7th, 1979. He was chosen as one of the most important Egyptian writers in the new millennium by the Egyptian weekly Akhbar Al-Adab (News of Literature) in 2011, and one of the ‘’Six Egyptian writers you don’t know but you should’’ as the writer Pauls Toutonghi said in The Millions.com. He has written 5 novels and 4 collections of fiction; among the noted work his first novel ‘The Gospel According to Adam’, ‘The Idol’, and his latest ‘A Well-Trained Stray’. Some of his works were translated into English, Italian, Dutch, Russian, and Spanish.

He has contributed to several publications like the Lebanese leading An Nahar and MTV’s Rebel Music, Egyptian leading As Shuruq, and Arabian leading Al Arabi Aljadeed.

He lives inbetween Cairo and Berlin, dedicating his full time to writing.


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