The Pharaohs

Egypt won their sixth Africa Cup of Nations championship (AFCON) yesterday. In this country most people would have preferred it to go to Cameroon, not North Africa.

There is a deep divide between the north and south, even here in Africa. The prevailing feeling is that the northerners are not real Africans, and this perception might hold more than a little bit of truth. The North Africans are fair-skinned, live in different climate and ecosystems, and most importantly they are from a race which colonised the rest of Africa centuries ago. Their ancestors traded other Africans as slaves, and prosecuted them as heathen.

In modern times the divide is still clear, as is the mutual distrust between real Africans (Sub-saharan) and the northern inhabitants of this continent.

In my experience the Egyptians think of themselves above the rest of Africa. They are the pharaohs, they had the civilization, and they are not Africans.

I had the questionable honour of taking part in professional African forum in this country, where one of the delegates was Egyptian. The delegate thought that because of my origins I was bound to feel certain affinity towards him. He considered me to be one of his people, and did not bother to hide his disdain to all things African.

He found fault in everything from the travel arrangements, to the flights, the hotel and even the food – which was disgusting according to him. I tried very hard to tone down this negative attitude, and harder still to sympathize or relate to him. But as the hours passed, I started to identify with the African he disdained and condescended and was no longer the Arab he wanted to gang up with. The incident widened the rift between me and my origins and brought me closer to my adopted African identity. Would my attitude be different, if I also came from the land of the Pharaohs?

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