Tag Archives: egypt
Link 14 Jun

This is such an insanely great idea!

If you should happen to go to Cairo, try catching on of the “Taxis of Knowledge”: An initiative that started in 2010 has equipped some 200 Cairene cabs with literature. So while weaving through Cairene traffic jams during rush hours, you can lean back and dive into, say, Alaa al-Aswani’s “Yacoubian Building”. So if you stay with your driver for all of your rides, you might even be able to get through your favorite book. The project is said to be hugely successful among Cairene taxi clients, and will therefore continue through 2011.

I say: Book your flight and make a reading list.

Taxi of Knowledge: Reading on the road


Cairo wasn’t built in a day

1 Jun

I need to apologize as I’ve been away from the keyboard for some time now.

Looking at Old Europe news, the past month’s political events in the Middle East indeed seemed predictable: There’s the latent civil wars (Yemen and Syria) or just the plain blood spilling (Libya). And all the while, Egypt’s political stalemate has slowly decreased news coverage on developments over the past month. As expected, a sleek turn of the eras has not yet taken place in Egypt – but we all know, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

But things do continue to rock and roll in the Middle East:

This week started with several Western media outlets appalled at the EGYPTIAN military for conducting their infamous virginity tests on detained female protesters. The whole incident took place back in March after Hosni Mubarak’s ouster and was swiftly documented and investigated by Amnesty International, who published the allegiations mid-March. Yet it became news over here only when a high-ranking Egyptian Officer confirmed the story towards CNN this week: Sure enough, publications like the German yellow-press “BILD” are more than happy about stories containing sex, crime and Arabs revolting.

Interestingly, what we did not read about so much was that last Friday, Tahrir Square and various other places once more filled up with angry Egyptians voicing their discontent with the military’s sloppy reforms. Furthermore, well-known blogger Hossam el-Hamalawy, who had been publishing about the Revolution and accusing the Military police of violence , has been detained and questioned by the military. He was released and claims to not have been tortured: Watch out, Egypt!

Meanwhile in SYRIA, Bashar al-Assad might have gone a step too far: Torturing, castrating and killing a 13-year old boy to shut up the angry masses really just isn’t a good idea. Assad probably hoped for a paralysis of fear among his people. But instead he might have just triggered a Syrian “We are all Khaled Said” moment: Hamza Ali al-Khateeb’s brutal murder has shocked and angered Syrians, as they cannot believe the regime would resort to slaughtering innocent children. Al-Khateeb’s death might solidify and even catalyze the Syrian protests, as a recently launched Facebook site named “We are all Hamza Ali al-Khateeb” is rapidly attracting followers, and the regime’s murder of a child has appalled even uninvolved Syrians. The thought that this could have been their own child might just be the reason for them to chime in.

As if that were not enough, Assad as probably also heard of a handful of Syrian businessmen meeting clandestinely in Turkey to discuss the possibilities of opposition and transition. We’re not talking about some Syrian Pitchmen Association, but rather about some of the business elite of the country. I can’t think of another way to say this, so German will have to do: The air might be getting thin for Bashar.

The meeting is said to be organized by the National Organisation for Human Rights. Which is based in Egypt.

What wonderful irony.

A perfect Juggling Act

14 Apr

"You can't hurry love, no you'll just have to wait, she said love don't come easy, it's a game of give and take" - The Egyptian version of the Supremes are a group of 19 gentlemen. Image: danielberhane.wordpress.com

If Egypt were a soap opera, this week’s episode would surprise with a rather dramatic turn of events: Hosni, Alaa and Gamal Mubarak are subpoenaed, Hosni apparently suffers a heart attack during questioning, and in the end all three Mubaraks are detained for at least 15 days, leaving us with one question:

What the hell kind of stunt was that?

Since the “Supreme Council of the Armed Forces” took over government affairs in February, observers feared the military rule would stifle people’s demands for democratization. My personal guess was that the military would indeed try to stabilize their rule and stall any progress, but that they would have to watch out for renewed public anger and counter reactions from pro-democracy forces.

I brazenly claimed the new ruling forces would resort to a juggling act of securing their influence on one hand, while on the other hand complying with only those popular demands that don’t interfere with their power. Two months after his ousting, Mubarak’s prosecution is a nice example of exactly this.

Egypt’s ruling “Supremes” have so far carried out a couple of reforms: Presidential elections were announced to take place in November 2011, the emergency law was to be repealed, and on March 19th, Egypt held its histrocal constitutional referendum. These are meant to keep the public happy and shtum. Because the “Supremes” have also proved to stand for rather spooky stuff: They issued a decree to ban demonstrations, enforcing a sentence of one year in prison and up to € 60.000 for instigators and rioters. The Egyptian army has been charged with the mistreatment and torturing of protesters. And needless to say, any deeper democratization progress is minimal: The new constitution is basically the old one with a new cover, the Council is hesitant to prosecute Hosni Mubarak, and of course the emergency state has not been lifted until this day. Instead of pushing reforms the country needs, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces had the brilliant idea of having 26-year old blogger Maikel Nabil arrested for critcizing the Egyptian army on his blog. See, not only are the military forces juggling to keep their power, they apparently also need to show off their power.

After this arrest, all the “Supremes” had to do was lean back and watch public discontent explode right in their face.

And it did. Last Friday people filled up Tahrir Square, as they have every Friday since February, and demanded Hosni Mubarak’s indictment and prosecution right away. The army’s reaction to Friday’s demonstrations was brutal. So brutal indeed, that during the week-end, the Supreme Council felt compelled to deny all accusations of using excessive force or live ammunition on its people. The night from Friday to Saturday provoked discussion, anger and indignation, and Egypt may very well witness a new round of public outrage. As a consequence, the Supreme Council, well aware that the tide might turn against them, seemingly overnight resorted to the one action that they know will buy them some time and a shred of credibility.

They summoned the ousted Pharaoh for questioning.

Now we will have to wait and see whether this tactic works out. If the “Supremes” manage to reconcile with the public through Mubarak’s trial, the ruling powers are safe, at least for the moment. Should the trial not manage to shut up the public, the “Supremes” need to rethink – either more violence, or more concessions. Bringing Mubarak to trial was a smart move on their part however, as it might once again divide the angry public. And it might satisfy some critics for good, as Mubarak on trial might be everything they’ve ever wanted. That indeed would be a huge setback for pro-democracy.

In any case: Ousting the Pharaoh and replacing him with the “Supremes” was an important first step. Any further steps of democratic progress however will only happen if they are insistently wrested from the hands of the “Supremes”, piece by piece. That is a truly Herculean task, but I still believe the Egyptian people are on the right track.

15 Mar

I’m sorry, this is not a new piece at all. I’ve actually stumbled over this a couple of weeks ago, forgot to post it, and just now decided it’s still “postworthy”. It’s a nice juxtaposition of old system versus new: Two friends, an Egyptian pro-democracy activist and a police officer, exchange their opinions on Egypt’s Revolution.

Found: www.time.com

Bücher aus Ägypten

22 Feb

Humphrey Davies lebt seit 35 Jahren in Kairo und übersetzt arabische Bücher ins Englische. In einem Interview mit “The Browser” empfiehlt er 5 Romane und Bücher, die Ägypten und seine Gesellschaft sehr präzise skizzieren. Darunter die sehr erfolgreichen und sehr lesenswerten Romane “The Yacoubian Building” und “On Being Abbas el Abd”.

via: thearabist.net