Egypt, April 12, 2007
In life and in death, you inspire rebirth and brotherhood
Rafik Baha ad-Din Hariri was a self-made billionaire and business tycoon, and twice the Prime Minister of Lebanon. As Prime Minister, he not only rebuilt the city, even using his own funds, he rebuilt the pride of the Middle East by showing that a Sunni Muslim could be Western, wealthy, and inclusive of all religions in political leadership.
Sadly, in 2005 he was assassinated in a massive car bomb attack in downtown Beirut. The public outcry after his death at the assumed guilt of Syria, lead to the Cedar Revolution withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon after a 30 years of occupation.
Because of this, Hariri is a hero to the people of Lebanon, revered almost as a founding father of the country, and his image is everywhere. During on Beirut part night, I was given a Hariri pin to wear on my coat lapel, and I've worn it since with great pride.
In the USA, rarely is he recognized, and then mainly by political historians or Middle East immigrants. Packing for my trip to Egypt, I wondered if he might be seen in a different light in this different country. Oh how right I was!
In every conversation I've had today, my first day in Cairo, Egyptians have not only recognized Rafik Hariri's image instantly, they've all been very impressed, both by the man himself and that I would be wearing a pin honoring him.
I have yet to understand why they revere him so, past his obvious and amazing accomplishments in Lebanon. Could it be political, or just the feelings for a brother killed while following his calling? I wonder if a Gibran Tueni pin would have the same effect?
Regardless, I'd like to thank Rafik Hariri for being such an idol for Egyptians. He is a leader we can all aspire to be. And thanks to the shop owner who gave me the pin, I am now "in" with Egyptians.