1:24 AM EDT, April 18, 2013
Dear Mr. President,
I am a Protestant Christian, and a burden I bear all my life is what’s called the “Protestant work ethic.” I was just in your wonderful capital city, and my work ethic drives me to make a suggestion.
Because I care about Egypt very much, I feel I must say that Cairo is in such a shambles that it’s in danger of demoralizing caring people, killing any civic pride that still exists, and even driving your best citizens to emigrate to a country where abandoned cars don’t block streets and sidewalks for months on end. While arguably just a cosmetic problem, this is also very bad for your tourism industry — which could use a little help.
You command a big military. I understand that all men serve (the uneducated for three years and the educated for one year). Consider this move, which could well inspire Cairo to be proud of itself: Shut down the city for three days. Declare war on the junk clogging your city’s veins. Mobilize everyone. Send in the army. Tell everyone that anything left on the street will be taken away. And then flush out your great but crumbling city. Clear out collapsed buildings, remove abandoned and stripped old cars, tear down broken and vandalized phone booths, truck away the broken chunks of concrete, and pick up all the trash. While you’re at it, replace the crumpled and rusty dumpsters with nice new ones with city slogans on them (as in London). Challenge your citizenry to use the dumpsters, and pay to have them emptied every week.
In my travels, I’ve seen firsthand how a similar approach has succeeded in both Istanbul and Tangier, Morocco, in recent years. You’ll quickly recover your investment in increased tourism revenue, and your people will think of you as someone who can get something done that impacts their lives in a positive way.