So Obama came, talked, and left - and it's business as usual in Cairo again. I'm not going to analyze the speech here, but will restrict myself to this one comment: While Obama may still believe that he was speeking at Cairo University - this "source of Egypt's advancement" (never mind the routine repression of cultural and political life on campus) - in reality he never did. For what is a university, after all, without students? Once emptied of its true owners, an institution like this is reduced to nothing more than a dead monument. It's no longer an institution of learning and progress but merely a stage - which is exactly what Obama was looking for when he came to Egypt of course. I don't know about Egyptian students, but I would for sure have been deeply insulted if I'd been thrown out of my university for a visit like this. In that respect - and despite all the nice words about friendship and peace and equality - it was a truly colonial moment, indicating that Egypt still doesn't fully belong to the Egyptians but to the ruling clique and its foreign patrons. Was this really the proper way to start a "new beginning" between the United States and the muslim world?
At the end of the day, the ordinary Egyptians I spoke to about the visit and the speech was mostly indifferent. While some where clearly impressed by Obama' charisma and his positive remarks about Islam ("He is a hundred times better than Bush"), almost no one expressed any hope that real change in US policy is actually waiting around the corner. One of the best comments was uttered by a taxi driver last night. As the speech was mentioned on the radio, I asked him for his opionion. His response was: "I didn't hear it and I don't want to hear it. I heard it was a nice speech, but who cares? I'll listen to President Obama when he starts listening to us. Learn how to listen first, then you can talk."