Study Guide

A Border Passage Chapter 9

By Leila Ahmed

Chapter 9

Penalties of Dissent

  • When Ahmed finished her studies at Girton, she returned to her family home in Cairo. And what a mess it was.
  • The garden had gone to seed, and her father was weak and ill. Nanny was, of course, quite dead at this point. Ahmed even thinks she hears Nanny's ghost pacing the hall one night.
  • There were money troubles, something that Ahmed found hard to believe since they still lived in a great house.
  • She learns quickly that it is possible to live in a nice house and be cash poor. Ahmed herself worried about money, having a low-paying job and rent to pay.
  • Ahmed couldn't leave Egypt to begin graduate studies at Cambridge. She was caught up in red tape and the spitefulness of the government (more on that to come).
  • Her parents found themselves in this position because her father had opposed Nasser's pet plan to build the Aswan High Dam. Now, Nasser was determined to crush him.
  • Others in Egypt were suffering in a similar way at this time.
  • With the redistribution of wealth and property that came after the revolution, many once-wealthy families were suffering from a lack of funds.
  • There were also loads of political prisoners in Cairo's jails and plenty of people randomly disappearing off the streets. Corruption, greed, violence. Just bad, bad stuff in '50s-'60s Cairo.
  • Those who were in favor became wealthy overnight, usually on the backs of those who had lost land and wealth.
  • Egyptians abroad knew they still had to watch their tongues in case word got back that they were throwing shade at the government. Their families would suffer for their loose lips.
  • Social behavior suffered as well. Ahmed speaks of "unthinkable things" happening, like young people mocking the elderly in public and wealthy old families facing violence in the street.
  • For Ahmed, the whole Glorious Revolution thing—and the stirring of sympathy that she had felt as a teen toward what was supposed to be social justice—had gone down the tubes.

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