Local Egyptian native concerned about family in Cairo - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Local Egyptian native concerned about family in Cairo

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By Cade Fowler - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) – With his hand against head and a phone to his ear, Waleed Sharraf-Eldin hears an all to familiar recording on the other end. It's the sound of an operator saying his phone call can not be completed.

For several days now, that frustrating recording has played out as Eldin has tried desperately to get in touch with family in Egypt.

"I've tried to call my family for 3 days, everyday. I have many cards here. I call and it's just giving me numbers," he said.

From his business, Valentino's Fashion House, a clothing store on Dawson Road, Eldin monitors the situation in Egypt through his computer. But even communication with friends and family through the Internet has been cut off.

"Everything is down. Everything is down," says Eldin, who was born and grew up in the Egyptian capital that has been overrun by political protestors.

The chaos back home plays out on television. Eldin says the uprising he sees in the streets of Cairo is not surprising. The government he says is corrupt and millions of Egyptians earn just a few dollars a day. It was just a matter of time he says, before this happened.

"I told them when I left that before 2010 something would happen. 90% of people don't find good money. 90% of people are under 2 dollars per day," he says.

That sentiment is felt by Dr. Maher Astwani. He received his medical degree from the University of Cairo.

"I'm surprised they didn't do it a long time ago. They took too long actually," says Astwani.

A Syrian born neurosurgeon who practices in Albany, Astwani spent seven years as a medical student in Cairo. He left shortly before embattled President Hosni Mubarack took office.

"He had an excellent opportunity to do a lot for Egypt and to the Egyptian people," said Astwani. 

Despite maintaining a brokered peace deal with Israel, the authoritarian rule of the Mubarack administration took its toll on the country of 80 million.

"So instead of having low class, middle class, high class population - it's become very poor people and very, very extremely rich people," Astwani said.

Through the chaos, those with connections to the country hope the demonstrations lead to change, and that if and when Mubarack does step down, the transition will be peaceful and make Egypt a less corrupt country.

"I worry about my family and in some ways I don't. I hope the chaos will end soon," said Eldin.

Both Eldin and Dr. Astwani say Egypt has much opportunity.

They agree that whatever happens politically in the coming days and weeks will certainly have an impact on American diplomacy throughout the Middle East

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