Centre grad trying to get out of Egypt
Fulbright English teaching assistant Morgan Smith traveled to Alexandria, Egypt, this fall for an up-close and personal look at relics of the country’s past.
But when mass protests broke out last week in Cairo, the recent Centre College graduate faced the frightening reality of the country’s present. Smith, a Louisville native, was safe Tuesday in her apartment in Alexandria, but she plans to travel to the city’s airport today to fly out of the country, her father, Ed Smith, said.
“We’re just trying to get her home,” he said.
Smith graduated from Centre in May with a double major in mathematics and Middle Eastern studies, a program she designed herself.
Her passion for Middle Eastern politics and culture grew when she spent a semester in Turkey during her sophomore year and the summer of 2009 in Jordan, studying Arabic on the State Department Critical Language Scholarship, said Tom McCollough, her academic advisor and professor at Centre.
“She’s an extraordinarly bright person,” he said. “I think she had a lot of confidence that she could manage this type of experience, having lived abroad for rather exptensive time periods before.”
Morgan Smith began her Fulbright English teaching assistantship in Egypt in August, and as late as last Thursday, told her father the rioting was contained in Cairo.
“When I interact with locals in Arabic, I feel like a local myself,” Morgan Smith wrote in her lastest blog entry. “When I hang out with Adly and his friends, I feel like just another Egyptian 20-something year old.”
But Morgan Smith became a stranded American citizen when anti-government protests spread from Cairo to Alexandria last Friday, Ed Smith said. Thousands of protesters fought with police in front of a mosque and eventually burned down the police station.
“When (Morgan) came out of her apartment Saturday morning, she said there was a tank on every corner,” Ed Smith said.
The Egyptian government has blocked Internet and cellular communications in an attempt to stop protesters from organizing, but Ed Smith and his wife have have been communicating with Morgan through a land-line phone.
“Unfortunately, because they’ve shut everything down, we’ve got more intel than she has,” he said. “They’re in a blackout.”
So it was Ed Smith who informed his daughter of the “March of Millions,” which brought tens of thousands of protestors to the streets on Tuesday. He advised Morgan to stay inside her apartment during the demonstration and to head to the Alexandria airport today where she will try to catch a flight to Dubai.
“She’s a very sharp girl, and she’s got good Egyptian friends that are staying with her and taking care of her,” Ed Smith said. “I trust God. God got her there. God will bring her home.”