The Egyptian government has praised a revived social tradition that is witnessing a resurgence in recent weeks, as families flock in droves to railway stations to bid final farewells to loved ones traveling aboard the country’s decrepit trains in case they never see them again.
The tradition, which has declined in the modern era as communication methods improved, has resumed as the likelihood of passengers meeting their end due to failing rail infrastructure has rapidly increased, amid a recent spate of train-related tragedies and accidents that number in the hundreds over the past year alone.
Transport ministry spokesman Farghali Dabash said rail workers reported a marked increase in friends and relatives visiting the train stations in the aftermath of recent accidents.
“The social fabric in Egypt was at risk of unraveling because of social media, technology, and western influence on our societies, which threatened the very foundation of societal and familial ties,” he said. “Now people understand that life is finite and they may lose family, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and friends at any moment, and so they spend more time with them in anticipation of inevitable tragedy.”
Dabash urged families to use their time together wisely and express any repressed feelings they have towards one another.
“Now a father can express his real feelings and love for his son while bidding him farewell at the station without worrying that it will make him look weak, and the son can tell his father he loves him without it appearing as though he just wants a bigger allowance,” he added.
Dabash said the return of families to the stations has meant an economic resurgence for local shops and vendors in the area, such as cigarette, tea, newspaper and sweets sellers, prompting the government to study how to use other tragedies and decrepit infrastructure to turn a profit.
The nation’s mufti Shawki Allam said the train accidents also represented an opportunity for passengers who wish to seek eternal peace in Paradise.
“Few of us are fortunate enough to see death coming,” he said. “This is an opportunity for our brothers and sisters in the nation to reflect on their lives and seek forgiveness from God.”