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Bidding farewell to DEMENA YCA in Egypt

Written by Merna Ghaly – National Climate Ambassador

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Like all good things, the DEMENA Climate Ambassadors programme has recently come to an end. I have not been part of this programme for long; to be honest I have not even been a climate activist for long, but for the brief period I have worked with these beautiful people of the DEMENA Climate Ambassadors programme, I’ve had some of the best experiences of my entire life, starting with my very first climate leadership workshop in June 2012, up to being a DEMENA representative in COP18 in Doha, till the very last workshop organised by the DEMENA team in collaboration with 350.org last March. Over the three year period of the programme, it has recruited –what I presume to be- over a hundred climate activists in Egypt alone. There could have never been an appropriate end to the programme, there could never be a bang loud enough to echo the change DEMENA has created in our community. A festival is the only thing that seemed to be somehow befitting to bring an end to this, but it could not be just a festival, it could not be just music and food, it had to be something bigger, it had to represent what we stand for, why we’re doing this, it had to be something that adds more to whomever attends than just a good time and this is exactly what the DEMENA Closing Climate Festival was.

On 16th of March, 1 week before Earth Hour, the festival came to life in one of the greenest  places in grey Cairo; Al-Azhar park. Though there was no huge turnout, but to quote a dear friend ‘Whoever shows up is the right person’ and the people who did show up were in fact the right people. A small crowd of very different backgrounds, very different cultures, very different interests that eventually revolves around the environment or the climate in some way, it’s because this magical combination of the right people that none of us could have planned that the festival did not end up to be a mere party, it was more of a cultural exchange or skill and info sharing, the amount of different information that we each left with at the end of the day was unbelievable, the atmosphere throughout the day itself was unbelievable.

The day started out with learning circles and workshops, with topics ranging from sustainable architecture, to composting, to climate policy. It was absolutely beautiful. I was watching from afar how people flowed from one topic to the next, how the groups constantly grew, how more and more people kept on joining in. I guess I would have to say that what I loved the most was the number of passerbys who joined in, dropping whatever they had planned for the day and joined in the discussions. Then as night fell, the music started to play and I have to admit I wasn’t at all expecting the goose bumps that followed with the performance of one of Egypt’s finest ‘Zap Tharwat’ and that is when the true crowds started to rush in and then right there and then on stage for the big finale, one of Egypt’s few 90s bands reunited and the crowd went crazy.

To be perfectly honest, the festival was not what I had initially imagined it to be, it was something entirely different, it was something much better, it had the diversity it deserved, it had the exact number of people it needed, any more would have been too much, any less would have been too little. So in a weird unexpected way the festival was everything it needed to be, it was more than any of us could have imagined it to be. It was perfect.

 

 

 

 

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