US & Canada

US Egyptians call on Obama to act

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Media captionA Egyptian-American businessman in the state of Virginia explains how events in his home country are affecting him

Egyptians around the world are watching events in their home country with interest and concern. In the United States there are 200,000 Egyptians, many of whom live in Northern Virginia and the Washington DC area.

The Khan El Khalili superstore in Falls Church, on the outskirts of Washington DC looks, sounds and even smells like a slice of Egypt in America.

Just like its namesake - the famous Khan El Khalili market in Cairo - it stocks an eclectic and vast array of gifts and artefacts.

The choice is immense - here you can buy everything from spices to stuffed camels, hookah pipes to hand mixed perfumes, incense sticks to instruments of all kinds.

Its owner Mohammed Khattab moved to America from Egypt twenty years ago.

American action

"As an Egyptian, I'm disappointed, and as an American, I'm disappointed and ashamed," he says.

Mr Khattab speaks with a heavy heart as he reflects on the current happenings in Egypt, and the response from the American administration.

He says the sentiments in Mr Obama's landmark speech in Cairo in 2009 - which called for greater democracy in the Middle East - haven't been matched by his actions.

"I was hoping, like everybody else, that he'd become strong about this.

"People believed him and were inspired by him because he is African-American," he says.

Image caption The Khan El Khalili superstore is a taste of Egypt in America

Mr Khattab is also concerned for his friends and family back in Cairo, and wishes he could be with them at this time.

His colleague Ehab Ahmed, who works as the store manager, has also been in regular contact with his loved ones back in the city.

"Everybody is afraid because of the lack of security in dowtown Cairo, there's no police presence. It's chaos, everybody is protecting themselves," he says.

Like Mr Khattab, Ehab believes it is time for President Mubarak to step down. In his place, he says he would like to see a coalition of young people, drawn from all the opposition parties to decide Egypt's future.

In the instrument section of the shop, the sound of Mahmood Hasanin playing the flute draws us over.

In between musical bursts, Mr Hasanin shares his story. He came to America in 1981 - the same year Hosni Mubarak assumed power in Egypt.

Safety concerns

He believes the US holds the key to resolving the situation there.

"America needs to make the decision well for these people," he tells me, but when pressed on what that might be, he's unsure.

"He's had a nice history for the world, he's a military man, he's had 30 years. But now he should ask the people what they want," he adds.

The Egyptian community in Virginia also includes many Coptic Christians who are worried for their relatives back home.

Image caption Adel and Ghada Bassali believe President Mubarek should go, but not until September's elections

Akram Joseph runs the Old Cairo Grill in the town of Burke which aims to recreate the real taste of Egypt. He is intensely proud to live in America, a country he believes has the freedoms and democracy his family back in Alexandria in Egypt aren't afforded.

Over freshly made hummus, falafel, baklava and hot Egyptian tea, he shares his fears for his country.

"I'm concerned for the safety of my friends and relatives. Even though we see a lot through the news, we don't get the full picture, and communicaton can be disrupted at any minute," he explains.

Mr Joseph says he is particulary worried because his friends and family back in Egypt only recently had to deal with the tragedy of a suicide bomber blowing up a Coptic Orthodox Church in Alexandria on New Years Eve.

He believes both Christians and Muslims from Egypt share the same vision for a new government - "we are one community and we live together," he says.

Uncertain future

Enjoying a chicken shawarma at one of the tables at the restaurant are Adel and Ghada Bassali who are also originally from Alexandria. They both believe Mr Mubarak's time is up, but don't think he should go immediately.

"I definitely don't feel like it is a good time for him to go now," says Mr Bassali, "Somebody else would have to fill the space right now and that would be chaotic," says Mr Bassali.

He believes the best solution would be to wait until September - when elections are already scheduled - to choose a new government.

He says he fears "fanatic Islamists who could change the constitution," could take over from Mr Mubarak, and singles out his concern about the Muslim Brotherhood - Egypt's largest opposition group - which supports sharia law.

His wife Ghada chips in to say that her family in Egypt think Omar Suleiman, the current Vice-President, would be a good choice.

It's impossible to guess the country's long term future - but the outcome will matter as much to those inside Egypt - as it will to the thousands who left the country for America.