Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Book Club

I am starting a book club. If you're interested, here is the first book on my list: Inside Egypt: The Land of the Pharaohs on the Brink of a Revolution by John R. Bradley.

"Published today in the United States by Palgrave Macmillan, has been called by Kirkus Reviews "a blistering overview of what it's like to live in this autocratic, hopelessly corrupt society ... terrifically well told and extremely sobering", while Library Journal described the book as "a devastating critique of the current Egyptian dictatorial government. Bradley's book looks set to frame the debate about Egypt in the United States as the country enters a period of social and political instability. Inside Egypt has already been the subject of full-page features in Al-Masry Al-Youm and Al-Dustour, two of Egypt's main independent newspapers, and another independent Egyptian newspaper, Al-Badil, is set to run a full-page review." Click here for the complete review on eMediaWire.

I did not read the book yet, so I'm only recommending it because it is about my beloved Egypt. I have no evil intentions or hidden agendas (I wish you could see me as I am typing this to check the innocent look on my innocent face).

For more information about Inside Egypt, please visit the author's website:

Monday, April 28, 2008

A Speech to Women in Black

This is a translation into English (by the author herself) of Dr. Nurit Peled-Elhanan's speech to the mass rally of Women in Black last Friday. Nurit is the mother of Smadar Elhanan, 13 years old when she was killed by a suicide bomber in Jerusalem in September 1997.

Over the last week we have seen many photographs of dead children. These children were out to have a good time, unaware of the problems surrounding their existence in this land. And another child, who took his own life along with theirs, as though he was Samson declaring, let me die with the Philistines.

But neither they nor he were Philistines. The Philistines are those who - for more than 40 years - have been sending children to their death. Children in uniform and children without uniform, children with guns and children with Molotov cocktails, children of Israeli commandos, and children of Palestinian guerrilla. And all this to satisfy the murderous ambitions of the Philistines and their greed for land that is not theirs.

The Philistines are those who leave mothers like myself bereaved, in the useless wars that our children are forced to fight for them. Wars that are waged supposedly for the love of the country, the love of God, and the good of the nation. But the truth is that these wars are waged for no other reason than the insanity and megalomania of the so-called leaders and heads of state. For them children are no more than abstract notions: You kill one of mine, I will kill 300 of yours and the account is settled.

But I, who lost my only daughter, know that the death of any child means the death of the whole world. "Satan has not yet devised a Vengeance for the death of a young child" said the Jewish poet Bialik, and that is not because Satan has no means to do so, but because after the death of a child there is no more death for there is no more life. The child takes the war and the future of the war into his little grave to rest with his little bones.

When my little girl was killed, a reporter asked me how I was willing to accept condolences from the other side. I replied without hesitation that I refused it: When representatives of Netanyahu's government came to offer their condolences I took my leave and would not sit with them. For me, the other side, the enemy, is not the Palestinian people. For me the struggle is not between Palestinians and Israelis, nor between Jews and Arabs. The fight is between those who seek peace and those who seek war. My people are those who seek peace. My sisters are the bereaved mothers, Israeli and Palestinian, who live in Israel and in Gaza and in the refugee camps. My brothers are the fathers who try to defend their children from the cruel occupation, and are, as I was, unsuccessful in doing so. Although we were born into a different history and speak different tongues there is more that unites us than that which divides us.

I wish to revive two slogans that were misused by the Israeli right wing and have not been heard since the present government came to power. The first is that "Brothers are not to be forsaken". Our brothers and sisters in the refugee camps and under occupation, who are deprived of food and livelihood and of all their human rights, should not be forsaken now.
The other slogan is, "The uprooting of settlements tears the nation apart". Uprooting of olive groves and vineyards, the demolition of houses and confiscation of land will tear apart our already endangered species of peace-seeking people and will bring it to extinction. And when this species no longer exists, there will be nothing left to write, nothing left to read, nothing left to say except for the muted story of slain youth.

Today, when there is almost no opposition to the atrocities of the Israeli government, when the Israeli peace camp has evaporated into thin air, a cry must rise, a cry that is as ancient as man and woman, a cry that is beyond all differences of race or religion or language, The cry of motherhood: Save our children.

Dr. Nurit Peled-Elhanan

Sunday, April 27, 2008


During my repeated visits to the hospital and clinic in the past two weeks, I couldn't help but notice the difference between what Arabs and Westerners do with their time.

I am trying very hard to avoid generalizations and stereotyping, but while waiting for their turn to see the doctor, MOST westerners read a book, while MOST Arabs spent their time talking on the cell phone, starting conversation with whoever is sitting next to them, watching others, napping, or just getting agitated battling boredom.

I fully understand that the percentage of illiteracy is high in the Arab countries. I also understand that in most Arab societies, buying books is a luxury that is not afforded by many. But my observation is true for Arabs waiting in Airports, traveling on planes, trains, relaxing in cafes, and what have you. This crowd is mostly college graduates & professionals who can definitely afford buying a couple of books each month. I for one, never had a book to read when I traveled, visited the doctor, went to the hair dresser,... until a couple of years back. So I am not accusing or blaming, I am just saying that it is not in our culture to do so.

I hope that reading becomes an integral part of the Arab culture. For a nation that brags about being religious, it's strange that there is a collective agreement to ignore the first commandment decreed in Islam. READ.

Friday, April 25, 2008


What is more frustrating?

  1. Being ruled by a government that prohibits freedom of speech ?
  2. Being ruled by a government that boasts 24/7 about the unprecedented margin of freedom it has allowed, but you notice that this freedom actually amounts to absolutely nothing since all what is published, or said is simply ignored?
  3. Being ruled by a government that boasts 24/7 about the unprecedented margin of freedom it has allowed, but if you are naive enough to believe this claim you end up behind bars?
SMS you answer to 19XXX. Prizes:
  • 1st Place: 6 months imprisonment & 6 months disappearance
  • 2nd Place: 3 months imprisonment & 12 months disappearance
  • 3rd Place: 1 month imprisonment & indefinite disappearance
p.s. Mabrouk, Israa Abdul Fatah has been finally released on Wednesday, April 23rd.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Too Poor to Wed

CAIRO (Reuters) - For a prime spot on Qasr el-Nil bridge, spanning the River Nile near the heart of central Cairo, it's best to arrive well before sunset.

On warm spring nights, the bridge is the place to be for courting couples in the capital of the most populous Arab country, where poverty, crowds and a conservative culture leave few other meeting places.

"We know how to be in love in a place like this," says Ibrahim, 19, a student and part-time DJ in Cairo. "We come for the breeze, the view, and to be far from the pollution," he said, resting on the bridge's iron railing with his fiancee, Marwa, an 18-year-old technology student.

The high cost of getting married -- from gold jewellery for the bride to the ceremony itself and a place to live -- and the poverty of many residents of Cairo, means engagements can last years.

On Thursday nights on the eve of the Muslim weekend, couples line the bridge, each pair a few meters apart. They face outward to enjoy the view and avoid being seen by relatives.

Yachts and motorboats ply the Nile below -- a one-hour ride can cost as little as 5 Egyptian pounds ($0.95), and vendors offer flowers for a pound apiece.

A giant fountain sprays a plume of water high in the air where two branches of the Nile meet at the end of an island lined with palm trees.

"We have so many memories from being together here," said Eman, 19, who comes once or twice a week to meet her fiancee Bahr, 21, also a student.

The two met at Eman's house two years ago under the kind of close family supervision that often surrounds engagement in Egypt, said Eman, her bright yellow headscarf fluttering in the warm breeze.


Almost all Egyptians live with their families until marriage, and the country's traditions make it difficult for couples to meet in seclusion.

Meetings on the Nile bridges are a chance to be together away from parental oversight. Social codes that frown on public displays of affection, such as holding hands, are often overlooked on the bridges.

"We can't go to any place where the family can see us," says Mohammed, 26, an engineering student at Cairo University. "You can take your sweetheart to a bridge, look at her, and forget about the street behind."

Many young people also have difficulty paying for coffee in a cafe or going to the cinema. Inflation, at a three-year high of 14.4 percent in the year to March, hits the poor hardest.

Despite Egypt's rapid economic growth, helped by flows of petrodollars from nearby Gulf Arab countries, the proportion of people living in poverty has risen. About a fifth of Egypt's roughly 75 million people live on less than $1 per day, the United Nations said in October.


Many men have to wait until well into their 30s to save the money they need to buy a place to live and get married.

"Marriage is costly and with the economic conditions such as unemployment and low salaries, it gets delayed," said Madiha el-Safty, a sociology professor at the American University in Cairo. "Social problems result. There is a lot of frustration among the young when they cannot get married."

Unmarried and without a home of their own, many of them come to Qasr el-Nil bridge.

"No one can get married in this country," says Ragab, 24, who has been engaged for a year. "The families of the women are so demanding. They want an apartment, furniture and gold."

Ragab estimates he would need to save at least 25,000 Egyptian pounds ($4,500) to pay for a wedding and for the traditional "shabka" jewellery gift the groom must present to the bride.

The cost of the shabka can range from $600, for a wedding band and two bangles, to $8,000 or more for an entire set of gold jewellery and a diamond ring. Financial hardship and the high price of gold have forced poor bridegrooms to rent the gold jewellery for the wedding.

"We come here to unwind and smell a bit of the wind," Ragab said of Qasr el-Nil, which means "Palace of the Nile" in Arabic.

Ahmed Amin, 28, says he makes 1,000 pounds ($180) in a good month doing odd jobs around Cairo, which makes saving for the shabka nearly impossible.

"We've been engaged for three years and it's come to nothing," said Amin, from the south Egyptian city of Aswan.

He was walking arm-in-arm down the bridge's sidewalk with a young woman in a red headscarf, whose name he would not give.

"The Nile is the soul of Egypt," he said. "Whoever loves his sweetheart has to bring her here."

From Reuters.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Whatever Happened to the Egyptians?

When I try to answer the question "Whatever happened to the Egyptians?", made famous by Galal Amin's book, I always find myself going back to globalization.

The invasion of Western (mainly American) media, products, food, movies, role models, values, politics, music, ..... is a fact of our lives. And since Newton's third law of motion says: "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction" (I am so impressed that I still remember this) it was inevitable, that some of us would choose to resist the Western invasion by adopting values that are on the opposite extreme of the spectrum, thus traditions and values coming from the East of us. The problem is that these values and traditions are actually as foreign to us as the Western values and traditions. This is best described by the joke:

An Egyptian returned home after years of working in a neighboring Arab country. He decided to build a mosque. When the mosque was completed, and he heard the Athan, he locked the mosque and put up the sign "Closed for Prayer" on the door. (I too was not sure whether to laugh or cry)

Does anyone care to come join me at the center of this tug-of-war?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Kalam by Ghandi

"Be the change you want to see in the world."

"All the religions of the world, while they may differ in other respects, unitedly proclaim that nothing lives in this world but Truth.

"An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching."

A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave."

Friday, April 18, 2008

London Book Fair 2008

"Over 40 leading writers, commentators and industry professionals from the Arab World took part in a three-day cultural program celebrating the strength and diversity of Arabic literature at the London Book Fair (14-16 April).

The Arab writers took part in a series of talks, discussions and debates aimed at strengthening cultural relations with the Arab World, by developing meaningful dialog between writers, publishers, translators and readers. The seminars will also provide a platform for new voices from the Arab World to promote their books to a global publishing audience, highlighting current trends in contemporary Arabic literature, with a view to increase the quantity and quality of literary work translated between Arabic and English."

On the second day of the fair, Egyptian novelist and journalist Alaa Al Aswany was singled out as "author of the day". Al Aswany discussed "literature without frontiers". Other participants from Egypt were:
  • Ahmad Alaidy: Alaidy was born in Cairo in1974. He studied marketing at Cairo University. He has worked as a scriptwriter on quiz shows and for the cinema and as a writer of satirical stories for young people and a book designer. Currently he writes a political comic strip for an Egyptian weekly. Alaidy has participated in international writers’ programs at Iowa University’s International Writers Program and at Hong Kong Baptist University. He has previously published a long short story; Being Abbas el Abd is his first novel.
  • Bahaa Taher: Taher was born in Cairo in 1935. He holds postgraduate diplomas in history and mass media from Cairo University. Since he published his first short story in 1964 he has published 14 books (6 novels, 4 short story collections and 4 non-fiction works) many of which have been translated. After working as a translator at the United Nations in Geneva in the 1980s and 90s, he returned to Egypt and received much literary acclaim for his work. He represents an illuminated Egyptian and Arabic nationalism, which draws inspiration from the principles of freedom and social justice. His style is direct, concise and highly poetic. He received the State Award of Merit in Literature, Egypt’s highest honour for writing, in 1998, and the Italian Giuseppe Acerbi Prize for his novel Aunt Safiyya and the Monastery in 2000. His novel Love in Exile is published in English by the AUC Press. In 2008 Taher was the first winner of the $50,000 International Prize for Arabic Fiction for his novel Sunset Oasis. Published in Cairo by Dar Al Shorouk, the novel explores one man’s existential crisis.
  • Galal Amin: Amin graduated from the Faculty of Law, Cairo University in 1955. He earned an MSc in 1961 and a PhD in 1964, both in economics from the London School of Economics. He was an Associate Professor of Economics at the Faculty of Law, Ain Shams University, a visiting professor at UCLA twice, and Economic Advisor to the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, all before he joined American University in Cairo in 1979. His most popular books are Whatever Happened to the Egyptians? And Whatever Else Happened to the Egyptians? both translated and published by the AUC Press. He recently published, in Arabic, his autobiography, What Life Has Taught Me.
  • Khaled El Khamisy:El Khamisy was born in Cairo in 1962. He holds an MA in political science from the Sorbonne University. He worked for the National Institute for Social Studies and then Al Ahram Newspaper. He is now the owner and the CEO of Nile Production Company, which has produced a number of drama and documentary films and series. He is the author of Taxi, which was published in Arabic by Dar El Shorouk (2007) and which will be published in English in 2008. He writes weekly articles in a number of daily Egyptian newspapers, including Al Ahram, ElMasry Elyom and the Daily News. He co-scripted the Egyptian television series Noffel Prize.
  • Mekkaoui Said: Said was born in Cairo in 1955. He published his first collection of short stories, Running Towards the Light, in 1981. Since then he has published many novels, as well as writing scripts for short and long films and for documentaries. He has also written for children magazines throughout the Arab world. His novel Swan Song was short-listed for the first International Prize for Arabic Fiction.
  • Radwa Ashour:Ashour was born in Cairo in 1946. She has published seven novels, three collections of short stories and four books of criticism. Part I of her Granada Trilogy won the 1994 Cairo International Book Fair Book of the Year Award; the Trilogy won First Prize at the First Arab Woman Book Fair in 1995. Part I of the Trilogy was translated into English and the whole trilogy was translated into Spanish.The Italian translation of Atyaaf (Ghosts) will be published by Ilisso in September 2008. Ashour co-edited the four-volume Encyclopedia of Arab Women Writers: 1873-1999 (2005). She also supervised and edited the Arabic translation of Vol. 9 of The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism (2006). Ashour was awarded the 2007 Constantine Cavafi Prize for Literature. She is currently professor of English and Comparative Literature, Ain Shams University, Cairo.
  • Samia Mehrez: Mehrez is Associate Professor of Arabic Literature at the American University in Cairo. Her publications include Egyptian Writers between History and Fiction: Essays on Naguib Mahfouz, Sonallah Ibrahim and Gamal al-Ghitani as well as Spoken Egyptian Arabic. Mehrez has received a number of awards which include a Distinguished Visiting Professorship from Northwestern University and Faculty Fellow at Cornell University where she worked as an Assistant Professor of Arabic Language and Literature. She is currently working on two books: Arab Women Writers and the Nation (English) and The Complete Works of Labiba Hashim (1880-1947) with Critical Introduction (Arabic). Professor Mehrez holds a PhD in comparative literature from UCLA.
  • Khaled Abbas: Abbas emigrated to Germany 15 years ago to study history of art in Berlin. He has translated extracts from works by Salah Jahin, Naguib Sorrour and Omar El-Khayam. It was while he was trying to turn these translations into a performance piece that he first realised how little information was available in Germany on Arabic literature. In the mid-nineties he wrote and produced The Arab Chess Game, a play addressing the absence of any real dialogue between East and West, and once again came face to face with the paucity of any understanding of contemporary Arabic literature. In an attempt to bridge the gap Abbas set up the Sphinx Books Agency, with offices in both Berlin and Cairo. Arab authors can submit works to the agency which will undertake marketing in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. Most recently Sphinx Books Agency sold the rights of Khaled El Khamisy’s Taxi to Aflame Books in the UK.
  • Alaa Al Aswany: Al Aswany was born in Cairo in 1957. A dentist, whose first office was in the Yacoubian Building, he has written prolifically for Egyptian newspapers across the political spectrum on literature, politics, and social issues. His second novel, The Yacoubian Building, an ironic depiction of modern Egyptian society, has been widely read in Egypt and throughout the Middle East. It has been translated into English, and was adapted into a film (2006) and a television series (2007) of the same name. Chicago, a novel set in the city in which the author completed his postgraduate education, was published in January 2007. The English translation is published by the AUC Press.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

واحد اتنين الجيش العربي فين

واحد اتنين الجيش العربي فين

واحد اتنين الجيش العربي فين
الجيش العربي في مصر
ساكن في مدينه نصر
بيصحى من النوم العصر
وبيفطر شاي و منين

واحد اتنين الجيش العربي فين
الجيش العربي في سوريا
حالق عالموضه كابوريا
وعلى طريقه فكتوريا
خلى الترماي بدورين

واحد اتنين الجيش العربي فين
الجيش العربي الليبي
زي الفن التكعيبي
كله بتنجان يا حبيبي
الظاهر واخد عين

واحد اتنين الجيش العربي فين
الجيش العربي خليجي
ما فيه حيل لا يروح ولا ييجي
هذا صمت استراتيجي
اش فيك يا غراب البين

واحد اتنين الجيش العربي فين
الجيش العربي في تونس
اخضر مثل البقدونس
وعزيزه بتعشق يونس
يبقى الحروبات بعدين

واحد اتنين الجيش العربي فين
الجيش العربي سوداني
سامع رنته بوداني
هو انا هجم فرداني
يالا ارجع يا ابو حسين

واحد اتنين الجيش العربي فين
الجيش العربي اتهان
يوم ما انضربوا الافغان
وسكت في البوسنه زمان
واحد اتنين الجيش العربي فين

محمد بهجت

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Meeting Resistance

"Meeting Resistance raises the veil of anonymity surrounding the Iraqi insurgency by meeting face to face with individuals who are passionately engaged in the struggle, and documenting for the very first time, the sentiments experienced and actions taken by a nation's citizens when their homeland is occupied. Voices that have previously not been heard, male and female, speak candidly about their motivations, hopes and goals, revealing a kaleidoscope of human perspectives. Featuring reflective, yet fervent conversations with active insurgents, Meeting Resistance is the missing puzzle piece in understanding the Iraq war. Directed by Steve Connors and Molly Bingham, this daring, eye-opening film provides unique insight into the personal narratives of people involved in the resistance exploding myth after myth about the war in Iraq and the Iraqis who participate. Through its unprecedented access to these clandestine groups, Meeting Resistance focuses the spotlight on the "other side", clarifying why the violence in Iraq continues to this day and providing a deeper understanding of both the toll of occupation and the human condition of resistance." From the Meeting Resistance Official WebSite.

Monday, April 14, 2008

FREE Israa Abdel Fatah

"A number of youths participating on the well known site 'Face Book' called for a new strike on the 4th of May which coincides with the birthday of President Mubarak. The organizers of the strike declared that they chose this day in particular to 'celebrate the birthday of the President'.

The protesters issued a statement that was circulated over more than one group calling for the 4th of May strike, in which they declared that they will organize a new strike, and they will grant the government a grace period of 28 days to carry out their demands: to provide a minimum limit for wages for all positions, conduct investigation to stop price rising, prevent monopoly, and release all detainees, on top of them is Israa Abdel Fatah.

It is noted that the protestors directed their call to the youths in particular, as the statement mentioned a clear and express idea to youths to be available intensively at the announced places of strike. They are the hope for change, not the political parties, as the statement indicated." Read More at AlMasry AlYoum.

About my Hero:
  • Name: Israa Abdul Fatah
  • Age: 28
  • Address: Benha, Egypt
  • Occupation: Human Resources Coordinator at a private company in Madinat Nasr
  • Crime: Started a FaceBook group calling for a general strike on April 6th. In a few days, over 70,ooo joined the group
  • Detention Date: Morning of April 6th, Israa was detained among a large number of the April 6th group members.
  • Update: Israa was acquitted and was supposed to be released Monday, April 14 but simply disappeared (re-apprehended and sent back to prison).

Saturday, April 12, 2008


Egyptians were known for their sense of humor. In the past, and in spite of the fact that any negative comment on the political affairs of the country could have meant an "all expense paid extended vacation" in one of Egypt's infamous prisons, we still had what seamed like as infinite stream of political jokes. Lately, and like other Egyptian resources, this stream of jokes has been reduced to a trickle. What happened??

Here are my own (and not Letterman's) "Top Ten Reasons" why Egyptian Political Jokes have all but disappeared from our lives:
  1. Most, if not all, jokesters are suffering from acute depression.
  2. The government has secretly denationalized (khaskhaso) the Jokes Factories and jokesters are currently driving old rundown taxis.
  3. Egyptian jokesters went out of business cause they were not able to compete with the government's hilarious announcements about the soon to come reform and prosperity.
  4. The government sent all jokesters on a Red Sea cruise aboard the Salam 99 ferry (also owned by Mamdouh Ismail).
  5. The government has started charging Egyptians 10% entertainment tax for every joke that involves any government official.
  6. The government decided to assign the Jokes Production to the Ministry of Social Solidarity (responsible for the current Bread Crisis).
  7. All contemporary & future jokes were secretly sold (at a subsidized price) to Israel. In return, Israel will export misery & hardship to the Arabs.
  8. The government is handing out free Hash & Bango but only to citizens promising not to crack any political jokes.
  9. Preachers have been directed to give a Fatwa that all political jokes are absolutely Haram.
  10. The government has appointed Hassan Shehata (manager of the Egyptian Football team) in charge of its anti-jokes campaign.
Rabena yeg3al nokatna khafeefa 3laihom!!!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Don't Go Dutch

Amr Adib, the presenter of AlQahira Alyoum, & the Islamic intellectual Salim al-Awa are leading a campaign calling for a two-week boycott of all Dutch products (10th - 25th April) as a protest at MP Geert Wilders' anti-Qur'an film, Fitna.

The limited period boycott, that is expected to make a small dent in the Dutch economy, is meant to achieve a couple of goals:
  • Urge the Dutch government to ban the movie
  • Urge the Dutch government to pass a legislation criminalizing the desecration of all religions including Islam (in place of or alongside the current law which only criminalizes - the ambiguous and stretchable - antisemitism)
  • Take the Dutch industrials and business owners up on their word to sue Wilders for damages in case their sales are negatively affected by the publication of the movie
  • Discourage other wackos from doing a similar acts
  • Give zealous Muslims (especially young men who usually take matters in their own hands with grave results) a legitimate and civilized way to express their outrage without resorting to violence (I added this gaol since I thought it was important)
Some Muslims disagree with this call saying that campaigns against small countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands are hypocritical, as the worst abuses comes from the United States government which has allowed (and might have ordered) the desecration of the Qur'an in Guantánamo. Moreover, the US is occupying an Arab country, but nobody dares to call for sanctions against the US.

Others say, that the true insults against Islam and the prophet are committed by the Muslims themselves, who have limited their religious obligation to the mechanical acts of worship . without understanding the values they promote. “And we did not send you except as a Mercy for all Creation.” If we truly love Mohammad, then I ask his followers, where is the evidence of the mercy mentioned in the holy verse in Muslim individuals, families, streets, schools, hospitals, factories, governments, ......... ??????

Although I was a supporter of the call to ignore all similar attacks on Islam since Islam is too great a religion to be defeated by such petty attempts, but for the sake of unity, I am now in support of the boycott.

Come on, you did not really think I would end this post without putting in my two sense. Since I am a believer in leading by example, I suggest that the Egyptian legislators would take the initiative and pass a law to criminalize any desecration of any religion. I know, some would say that we don't need such a law in Egypt since Muslims believe in all religions and are required to respect all prophets, so a counter reply is out of the questions. To those wise guys I say:
  • The option of desecrating "their" religion as a response to the desecration of "ours" and as I mentioned earlier, is out of the questions for religious reasons, so we are not giving up a viable option that we could have otherwise used as a negotiation card.
  • If you are so sure that no Muslim will ever attack Christianity or Judaism, then you should still embrace this law since it protects Islam against any attacks by a crazed Muslim, a Christian, a Jew, a follower of any other religion, or a non-believer.
  • You cannot deny the presence of some ignorant so called imams who may end a sermon by showering Christians and Jews with hostile prayers (to say the least). Offensive language could also be found on TV, or in printed media. This crime must stop. Any yes I do call it a crime because it is totally against the tolerance of Islam and because it threatens the unity of the Egyptian fabric which is weaved from Muslims & Copts.
  • Such law will force all Egyptians to start being "politically correct". For example, some imams might be furious about the crimes committed against the Palestinians. yet, they should learn to call the criminals Zionists and not Jews. This should also spread to the movies, TV series, newspapers, and so on.
  • This "political correctness" must also be observed with regard to color, race, physical disabilities, hight, weight, marital status, nationality, political beliefs, ........... you name it.
  • Once we have such a law at home, we would have more leverage and credibility in asking for a similar UN resolution to be passed by the security council.
Wow, this was meant to be a short post. I have no idea what happened!!!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Out of Place

I've just finished reading Edward Said's autobiography Out of Place. Any book or article by the late Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, is a excellent source of enlightenment in many fields but especially so (at least for me) in the fields of Politics & Literature. (I am afraid his knowledge of classical music is way out of my league. Or maybe my knowledge of Pop music is way out of his!!)

Out of Place is Said's reflection on his earlier life were he is always wrestling with a foreignness whether he is in Jerusalem, Cairo, or America. Said, who is believed by many to be among the leading public intellectuals in the latter part of the twentieth century, does not shy from revealing how as a child, he has repeatedly failed to secure the respect (and sometimes even the love) of his parents and his teachers at the different schools he went to in Cairo & the US.

The only voice that believed in the Edward that we know today, was imprisoned inside "Edward the disappointment". Only after years of living away from his family & the British school system, had Edward stopped living up to his parents' and teachers' expectations of failure, and the confident & bright Edward was allowed to flourish and to take over. (Sometimes I too hear voices in my head about a great nahoul that is waiting to be discovered, but whenever I say this to my husband, he tells me that I am schizophrenic.)

The book is full of interesting thoughts that mainly revolve around his feeling of homelessness. For example, Edward Said says:"when I travel, I always take too much with me, and that even a trip downtown requires the packing of a briefcase stocked with items disproportionately larger in size and number than the actual period of the trip. Analyzing this, I concluded that I had a secret but ineradicable fear of not returning."

The book also includes many references to events and names that shaped the history of Egypt in the past century. The least significant, yet my favorite, is about an incident that took place during his Victoria College days. Said remembers how the school's arrogant head boy, had physically and verbally punished him and his closest friend (Mustafa Hamdollah) because they ridiculed him while watching a school sporting event. The next Said knew about the head boy Shalhoub was a decade later when he became my beloved Omar Sherif. (mental note: in my next life, I should not be mean to any of my schoolmates in case they later become famous and write an autobiography)

To be a reasonably objective critic, I have to admit that there is a disadvantage to all of Edward Said's work. I am rarely able to finish a page without needing to consult with the dictionary. But compared to the monologue from V for Vendetta (or even Nadia's comment), his books are not all that difficult after all.

On the last page of the book, Said comes to terms with his strangeness. He says:"Now it does not seem important or even desirable to be right and in place. Better to wander out of place, not ever to feel too much at home anywhere, especially in a city like New York, where I shall be until I die."

I highly recommend Out of Place.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A Tale of Two Cities

Actually the title should have been the "A Tale of Two Countries", but I was just trying to lure any Dickens lovers out there. If you compare what is published and aired by the government owned media to what is published and aired by the foreign & independent Egyptian media (including Blogs) you would actually think that they are talking about Two Different Countries and not our one and only beloved EGYPT!!

This phenomenon is best demonstrated by the coverage of the events of the 6th of April. The government-owned media (G Media for short) has insisted that the day was just another NORMAL day were there was nothing but "business as usual". On the other hand the non-governmental media (N media) reported unusual less crowded streets, but a limited no-show in the work force and schools & colleges. The G Media's 9pm TV news bulletin, did not mention anything about the demonstrations & riots in the streets of Mahalla, while the N Media portrayed a completely different image. Today, both G & N media are reporting more about Mahalla, but again from two totally different perspectives. The former talking about a conspiracy, and the importance of finding and dealing with the traitors behind the calls for the strike and the criminals responsible for the riots, while most of the latter are talking about the threats made to the workers to abort the planned strike, the police brutality, and the numbers of arrests or casualties.

Since I did not witness what actually went on myself, I will not take sides, but I will leave you to judge for yourself. Here are some links to G Media & N Media (I won't tell you which is which, I am sure you will figure it out yourself) :

Ahram, 6 April Blog, Arabawy, ElAkhbar,
Al Wa3ii el Masry, Baheyya, AlGomhuria,
AlJazeera, The Guardian, AlMasry AlYoum,
India News, BBC, Malek Mustafa Blog, Manalaa

As you see, very few focused on the importance of finding and dealing with the problems that turned many peaceful Egyptians into time bombs that are ready to blow up by the slightest provocation (one of those few is Dr. Diaa Rashwan). I love Egypt, and I condemn any hand that destroys, burns, or loots. But I also love Egyptians, and I support any peaceful action that would help the struggling Egyptians lift the crushing burdens of poverty, unemployment, and lack of social justice all of which lead to despair.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Kalam by Tecumseh, Shawnee Chief

"Live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about his religion. Respect others in their views and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and of service to your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.
Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, or even a stranger, if in a lonely place. Show respect to all people, but grovel to none. When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.
Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision. When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home." by: Tecumseh -(1768-1813) Shawnee Chief

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Egyptian Intifada

The Ghazl Al Mahalla cotton workers’ strike scheduled for April 6th to force the government to meet their demands, has prompted wide spread calls by different activist groups to turn the day into a country-wide general strike.

To overcome the expected failure of the government owned press & media to cover the planned strike and the limited coverage it's getting in the independent media, Egyptian activists and workers have resorted to SMS messages, Blogs, FaceBook groups, and word of mouth to call for a day of civil disobedience or an "Egyptian Intifada".

Here is the text of the document distributed by the organizers of the strike:

“All national forces in Egypt have agreed upon the 6th of April to be a public strike. On the 6th of April, stay home, do not go out; Don’t go to work, don’t go to the university, don’t go to school, don’t open your shop, don’t open your pharmacy, don’t go to the police station, don’t go to the camp; We need salaries allowing us to live, we need to work, we want our children to get education, we need human transportation means, we want hospitals to get treatment, we want medicines for our children, we need just judiciary, we want security, we want freedom and dignity, we want apartments for youth; We don’t want prices increase, we don’t want favoritism, we don’t want police in plain clothes, we don’t want torture in police stations, we don’t want corruption, we don’t want bribes, we don’t want detentions. Tell your friends not to go to work and ask them to join the strike.”

We will soon find out the extend of the success of this call.


Thursday, April 3, 2008

V for Very Clever

My two sons have inherited my OCD. In my younger son, it manifests in his fastidious cleanliness and organization. My older son's OCD is less serious, I think, and it is evident in an obsession with certain numbers and words. One word that he is obsessed with is the word "vicarious" (an adjective meaning acting on behalf of someone else).

This word (and most V words) remind me of a movie that was recommended to me by no other than my son who actually LOVED it (read on and you will discover why). I am talking about the movie V for Vendetta. In the movie, we first meet the protagonist V, when he rescues a young woman from a gang of police agents who are about to rape her. He introduces himself in a long monologue which includes 48 different words that start with the letter V. Needless to say, I was truly impressed, although I did not understand a thing (ya3neeana mafhemtish 7aga). Here is the monologue:

"Voila! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a bygone vexation stands vivified, and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition! The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous. Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that it's my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V."

Ethis enormously eloquent endeavor is evidence of an exceptional & extraordinary eknowledge of the English elanguage (excuse me for cheating, but this was the only way I could construct a complete sentence with nothing but words that start with the same letter).

BTW, after looking up the meaning of the words that I didn't know, I was even more impressed since V's monologue actually makes perfect sense. Yet, I would have been more impressed had the monologue writer been able to squeeze in the word "vasectomy" too.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Baghdad Burning

To mark the fifth anniversary of the US war in Iraq, Georgie gave a speech to an audience of officers and enlisted men (I guess he did not dare speak before an audience of ordinary Americans). As usual, he was able to keep a straight face while praising the success of the US troops in the occupied country. Georgie must be the best liar on the face of the earth, or, which is more likely and more scary, a real dummy to actually believe that what he says is true.

Dear Georgie, I will go with the second possibility. Accordingly, here is a friendly advice. When you go on the internet, (I am guessing that you do to email your dear friends who supported your war on Iraq and because of it, were all driven out of office by the people of England, Spain, Poland, Italy, & Australia) I suggest you check out a blog called Baghdad Burning. Check it out at:

The blogger, who uses the pseudonym Riverbend, tells us: "I'm female, Iraqi and 24. I survived the war. That's all you need to know. It's all that matters these days anyway." Reading her blog we learn that she is a computer programmer who enjoyed considerable personal freedom. After Baghdad's fall, Riverbend finds herself unemployed and largely restricted to the safety of her family's home. Her blog is a first-hand experience and insight into the effects of the current war in Iraq. It's an invaluable resource for anyone who is still, because of the conflicting reports one gets from the main stream media, not sure about how to feel about the invasion of Iraq.

Archives of the first year (2003) of her blog, is now available in a book titled (you guessed it) Baghdad Burning. The book is forward by Ahdaf Soueif who says: "Riverbend’s perspective is so authentic as opposed to people who are safely in their homes(or the White House in the case of Georgie), far away from any fighting, writing about the war."

I hope you can find the time to read Baghdad Burning, the blog or the book, before you formulate or give an opinion about the war in Iraq.

Riverbend, please accept my respect, solidarity, & best wishes for a peaceful Iraq.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Do you believe in miracles? I don't. Yet this morning, something incredible happened to me! My bathroom scale has finally become my best friend. It told me that I have actually lost the 5KGs I was trying to shed off for the last couple of years. Because of the good news from the scale, I opted for walking to work (in spite of it getting really warm during lunchtime) to maintain my new, eat your heart out Calista Flockhart, weight.

Fortunately, the weather was cooler than usual, so I enjoyed my walk while listening to Celine's It's all coming back to me (my favorite Celine song if you care to know). I arrived at work in a very good mood, but before I typed in my password to unlock my computer, my boss walked in my office. I have to confess that the first thing that came to mind was "this will be the end of my great morning". I was pleasantly surprised when he, instead of giving me a new assignment to finish yesterday, he asked me how I felt and wished me good health (I was sick for a couple of days last week, and he had just learned of it).

Just as I was thinking that the day could not get any better, I signed into my gmail account, and found four emails from my hubby (who is currently traveling) and my three children all saying that they miss me and that they love me. (excuse any typos since my eyes are tearing an I cannot see the keyboard clearly). Can a day get any better? I guess it could.

Remember the Egypt alerts I complained about in my last post, well today they were mostly positive:
  • The bread crisis will be resolved soon since bakeries run by the Army & Central Security forces will be utilized to increase the production
  • All journalist who were previously given prison sentences will be acquitted
  • The US promised to hand over whoever is responsible for the Suez canal shooting
  • Egypt is revising its decision to provide Israel with Gas
  • The government will concentrate on immediately resolving the crushing problems of the poor, and on reforming education & health care
  • Opinion polls show that the National Democratic Party will not sweep the local elections that will take place next week
  • Zamalek players vow to win the Egyptian Cup & a record sixth African cup
OK, please tell me, which of the above fibs gave me away? The weight loss? My boss' kindness? My family's devotion? The NDP understanding the meaning of the D in its name? Or the Zamalek achievement? All of them? Well, happy April Fool's Day.