There is no bread crisis!

For those who might be interested, I just did a story on the (continuing) bread crisis for the radio program The World.

In my visits to Cairo bakeries last week, I was amused and a bit disconcerted to see to what extent the bread shortage has already become a "sensitive" issue--one that gets enfolded, as usual, with all sorts of paranoid nationalist discourse. At both bakeries I stopped at, men emerged immediately from the crowd to harangue me and tell everybody else, basically, to keep their mouth shut and not tell foreigners about the country's problems. One man held on at length (and high volume) about how the bread crisis was a Western conspiracy against Egypt and about how Egypt in fact had everything it needed, so much so that it hosted people from all over the Arab world. At the second bakery, a young man assured me "there is no bread crisis, and in fact there never was a bread crisis to begin with." The people around him pointed out that he was with the President's National Democratic Party and laughed while he insisted that "there is bread everywhere." In general, the people I spoke to showed a combination of anger, suspicion of me as a foreign journalist (not unusual) and embarrassment--I'd guess that people are a bit shocked to discover themselves a country where people kill each other for a few loaves of bread. It shows how desperate things have become. And it explains the denial.

Ursula Lindsey

Ursula Lindsey is the managing editor of the Arabist blog. She writes about culture, education and politics in the Arab world. She lived in Cairo from 2002 to 2013 and got her start at the ground-breaking independent magazine Cairo Times. She was the culture editor of Cairo magazine in 2005-2006 and served as special projects editor at the independent news site Mada Masr in 2013-2014. She is the Chronicle of Higher Education's Middle East correspondent. She contributes to the BBC-PRI radio program The World, and has written for Newsweek, The New York Times, The New Yorker online, Bookforum and the blog of the London Review of Books.