Skip to main content

24.06: Avoiding civil war

After a long and grueling speech by, Farouk Sultan the PEC high commissioner, it's finally clear: Mohammad Morsi is the new and improved president of Egypt. One of his first undertakings is to resign his position as head of the Freedom and Justice Party. Tahrir fills up, from a throng of a few thousand, to a chanting, jubilating, dancing legion of many thousands. It's the first time I witness Tahrir celebrating in this way. It's a cause I don't feel part of. They chant “Shafiq, who is your president? Morsi!”

At an appointment at Darb 1718, which I find out is a house in a quarter rennovated by an Italian cultural fund in 1998, we sit, drinking Shay Koshary, discussing dogs, the army and cats in the quiet evening air that blows in coptic Cairo. On the way back, I notice that the spectacle of the election has given way to a much older conflict: England is playing against Italy and no amount of politics is going to interrupt the sporting pleasure this causes many. If twitter is any indication, the grand celebration on Tahrir is not happening. A few hours ago, everyone was cracking jokes about Sultan, now they are cheering on their favourite European football teams. The contrast is almost jarring.

On the metro, I feel the need to crack spy jokes as I'm accosted by several youth who are surprised that I speak Egyptian Arabic. They take it well, asking me whom I spy for and inviting me energetically to join them in the celebration. They are clearly excited at the result. Let them have their night. The day has been long and I slip out of their grasp. I have had my fill of Tahrir for the day.

I get off at Sadat, avoiding Tahrir and the party, and walk home through Bulaq. Everyone is on their motorcycles, trying to dodge microbusses. A couple stop to select a nightee. Two kids, no older than 12, ride a diminutive motorbike and stop to adjust their too-large trousers. On the 15th of May bridge, I overhear a man telling his friend “Hadn't we agreed that we'd commit suicide? Come, film me.” This sounds serious, a click but no splash ensues. A strong wind blows at me from the north, making me stop momentarily and stick my nose into it.

It's either Islamists, or Italy whereever my feet lead me tonight. I get stopped twice by bearded men who welcome me to Egypt, attempts at demonstrating that the basic friendly nature of Egypt hasn't changed. “Oh dear,” writes a friend “is this the day when I finally have to leave Egypt?” Twitter is now comparing the drawn-out football match to Sultans address. The address was more interesting.

On the way home, I run into Muharram, the night watchman. I tell him, sarcastically, that all that is happening outside is quite beautiful, hoping that he will catch my slightly sour, sarcastic note. He doesn't suspect that I may hide some humour somewhere. He voted Shafiq, who could indeed straighten the country out with a couple of phone calls. He tells me of the repercussions this will have, Mursis mental illness and pills. He tells me this is going to lead to more violence, that news reports will be spread about attempted terrorist attacks, murders and kidnappings. A puppet president has been created for SCAF to demonstrate their superior leadership. Then he tells me about the spy gear his friend brought back from China.

The high point of my day is a Facebook message from Don Karl, soon to be followed by an Email from Mia Grohndahl, a Swedish publisher. The Munaqqabat with Minis, an act of street art desperation performed on my last visit to Egypt, are going to be Miss June in a calendar. Inspired by the intelligence and natural subversiveness and humour of Egyptian women, I hope I did justice to the gender that has been called “the backbone of the revolution”


Popular posts from this blog

IGAF: Lying on Camera // Astounding Armaments

Nizar Qabbani wrote his epic poem "When Will They Announce the Death of Arabs" in 1994.

He was living in London at the time, far from his native Syria, watching the world he had grown up in and represented as a diplomat from afar. America had launched operation Desert Storm- a storm that lasts to this day- two years prior, and marked 1993 with the launch of 23 cruise missiles on Iraq. Qabbani will die of a heart attack in 1998.

In 18 stanzas, he explores the wishes and dreams he once carried, describes, however tribes and nations at war, that believe that secret services (like a cold, or a headache) are part of some heavenly order. He bemoans that the idea of the "Arab Nation" (possibly derived from the Pan-Arabist ideology that was crystallised during the Nasser years) has never come into being. He has been trying to draw a picture all his life, but his crayons have been taken away. He has watched wars- on TV, he has tried to imagine the idea of a peaceful Arab unio…

In Taheyya we Trust - How an Egyptian bellydancer found her posthumous stage in Berlin

“You should have winked at her,” Aida said dismissively, as if such a possibility had been imaginable for someone as timid as I was. Tahia Carioca was the most stunning and long-lived of the Arab world’s Eastern dancers (belly-dancers, as they are called today).
Edward Said, Farewell to Taheyya

My story with Taheyya begins in the summer of 2016, at Bulbuls Caféin Görlitzer Str. in Berlin. It ends two blocks down on Wiener Str 17. 

Bulbuls is a café and art space around my corner that I have grown to like to sit in and drink smoothies (1). He had commissiond us- a crew of Syrian and Egyptian artists, as well as myself, to paint the walls inside the café. El Tenneen (the Dragon) is the one who ended up drawing Sheikh Imam, with the help of Salam Alhassan (known as Salahef/ Turtles) and Sulafa Hijazis (whom we call El Hayya/The Snake’s) beamers’ illumination. The Sheikh sits happily in the place to this day and Crew El-Zoo was born.

Tenneen had the advantage of knowing immediately what he wa…

Two minutes: Love

Love is a big word that has been filled with so many meanings that for me to strain its contours by doing more than writing it out in pretty letters is to do it a disservice. There is much to discover about the content of the word- go out and find it for yourself and fill it with your own meanings, which only experience can give you.

Like religion, discovering love is deeply personal- books and people can help guide you, and give your understanding a foundation and context, but what love ends up being for you cannot be determined by anyone but you.

Maybe we need a new word for love.