Thursday, July 31, 2008

What a Coincidence!!

On Sunday, July 27, and as I mentioned in a previous post, Yousef Shaheen was pronounced dead after being in a coma for several weeks.

On the same day, the Egyptian Football Super Cup match was scheduled and held between Egypt's two most popular teams AlAhly and Al Zamalak Sporting Clubs (howa el youm kan bayen na7s min awelo).

Also on the same day, an Egyptian court acquitted the owners of the Al-Salam 98 ferry, which sank in the Red Sea more than two years ago, killing more than 1,100 people. Mamdouh Ismail and his son Amr, who fled the country shortly after the February 3, 2006 accident, and accordingly were tried in absentia, were acquitted of charges of negligence and corruption by a court in the Red Sea port city of Hurghada

My question is:

Was it a pure coincidence (or a coinkidink as my kids used to say) that all three events just happen to take place on the same day? Or did someone carefully plan all three events so that the Egyptian artists, intellectuals, leftist, and movie lovers (5% of Egyptians) are busy with Shaheen's funeral (deferring the announcement of the death of a patient in coma is not too hard and not beyond the morals of the people I have in mind), and football lovers (90% of Egyptians) are busy with the Super cup (as far as I remember, this is the first time in the history of Egyptian football that the two teams meet twice in one week), so that the remaining 5% of Egyptians (those who are not into arts or football) and the families of the ferry victims would be easy to control if they do decide to take any action to denounce the verdict.

I am not a fan of conspiracy theories, but if this was not planned, then Mamdouh Ismail must be one of the luckiest men alive that Shaheen's death and the Super Cup just happen to take place on this eventful day.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Otherside of El Alamein

In a previous post (The Gardens of the Devil), I talked about El Alamein's minefield.

In this post, I will talk about the otherside of El Alamein. It is known as Marina El Alamein . Here is what I found about Marina in Wikipedia :

Marina El Alamein is a tourist village located on the northern coast of Egypt, with a 11 km long beach. It is about 300 km away from Cairo. Marina Village is often recognized by Egyptians as an area which caters to the elite of Egypt. The village is a gated community only accessible to those who live inside. Spanning almost 15 miles, this beach resort is split into eight different sections named Marina 1-7. Limestone villas and chalets and beautiful greenery are what characterize this exclusive part of the Middle East. In the summer of 2005, Porto Marina, one of the hottest hotel/mall destinations in the Middle East was opened in the center of Marina Village. Porto Marina is characterized by its Venetian canals and exclusive boutiques,and it has a wonderful view over a lake. There are rumors that the Egyptian government will be building an international airport near Marina due in 2010.

Now, I am not writing this post out of jealousy (since I do not own a Chalet in Marina), nor to talk about the foreign (could not come up with a better word to describe how I felt) atmosphere that envelops that resort and seams to affect everyone who crosses its gates.

I am writing to tell you a about what I consider to be a telling incident that happened a couple
of years ago. My niece was invited to a friend's birthday party in Marina. Since her parents were away, my dad arranged for a taxi to come pick them up from another resort on the north coast and drive them to Marina. The taxi driver was in his thirties, and has told them that he was from small village, and has only been a taxi driver for a couple of months. This was actually the first time he drove along the Sahel El Shamali. He did not talk much. He seamed to be truly taken by the beauty of the Sahel beaches, which could only be seen through the occasional gaps between the tens of resorts that block the see view from the drivers and passengers traveling on the Sahel Shamalee road. After about 45 minutes, they arrived at Marina. They were admitted through the gate and voila, they were in Marina. What happened next was totally unexpected. As the driver followed my dad's directions, and as he reached the first bridge on their way to their hosts' Chalet, the driver exclaimed:"Ya deen el nabee!!!! Where are we?? Are we still in Egypt??? This must be heaven!!! We have not been alive all those years!!"

Juts think about the driver's reaction for a second. This Egyptian man was not merely admiring the beauty of the beaches and the resort, he has just had a realization that there are two Egypts. One that he grew up in, and knowns very well. It is crowded, dirty, hot, depressing, and ugly. But he did not know any of this. He had nothing to compare it to, so it all seamed normal and acceptable to him. But now that he saw the Second and secret Egypt, things have changed. He just realized that he had been cheated. He has not been truly alive.

And what does our government do to rectify this situation? It recently raised the the prices of many commodities including gas, so our driver's life must even suck more than it did two years ago, while the prices of the Chalets and Palaces in Marina continue to double and triple making the already rich, filthy rich.

Don't you agree that Marina is a social minefield. Where is Robin Hood when you need him??

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Yusif Shaheen passes away

The burial ceremony took place on July 29, at the Birmasis Church in Cairo for the late Egyptian legend director Yusif Shahin. Hundreds of celebrities and top figures in Arab cinema were among the over 1,500

Shaheen’s death came after a long battle with several illnesses the last placing him in a coma for several weeks leading to his transportation to Paris and be admitted at the American hospital in Paris to undergo a brain surgery.

Dr. Hani Nimat Allah, the medical attaché at the Egyptian Embassy in Paris, had said the famous director’s condition was very critical and the odds of him recovering were very slim and that Shaheen had experienced bleeding in his head. Producer Jabi Khouri and the nephew of Shaheen, said that the doctors attributed the bleeding to a blow Shaheen received to his head.

Shaheen was born on January 25, 1926, and has been in film making for more than 50 years. After attending the University of Alexandria for one year, he headed off to the United States and studied directing and film making for two years and thus began his career.

His diverse work made him one of the few Egyptian directors to gain an audience abroad, particularly in Europe and France, where he won a lifetime achievement award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997.

Shaheen directed a total of 44 films, including three based on his life. In his last years, his films focused on promotion of tolerance and drawing the distinction between Islam and terrorism as in Al Akhar (The Other). He acted in four of his films, 17 of them were script-written by him.

His film list includes Bab Al Hadid, a love tragedy set in Cairo's main rail station in 1958; The Triumphant Salah Al Deen, a 1963 epic film on the Middle Ages Arab warrior Salah Al Deen; and The Land, a film produced in 1968 based on a well-known Egyptian novel tackling feudalists' oppression of peasants.

Some of his well noted movies are Father Ameen, Son of the Nile, 1953: Lady on the Train, Women Without Men, Those People of the Nile, The Sparrow, The Return of the Prodigal Son, Alexandria... Why?, An Egyptian Story, Adieu Bonaparte, The Sixth Day, Alexandria Again and Forever, The Emigrant, Destiny, The Other, Silence...We're Rolling, September 11, Alexandria ... New York, and his last film was Chaos.

mourners who came together at the director’s funeral. Large crowds of people gathered outside the Roman Catholic Church of Resurrection. In addition to political figures, and officials from the ruling National Democratic Party also attended the funeral to bid farewell to Shaheen, who passed away at the age of 82.Shaheen will be buried in his hometown in Alexandria Egypt.
Shaheen received numerous awards and recognitions at different Arab and International festivals for his great achievements. From AlBawaba.

OK, I will not pretend that I am a huge fan of Shaheen's movies (I like his earlier movies, but his later work is beyond my taste and understanding), yet I will still miss him as an icon of Egyptian movies, and I will definitely miss his sharp stinging political and social comments.

God bless you ya Joe.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Shame and Sexual Harassment in Egypt

I received this article from its writer, Mona Eltahawy:

NEW YORK – When I was only 4 years-old, and still living in Cairo, a man exposed himself to me as I stood on a balcony at my family’s home, and gestured for me to come down.

At 15, I was groped as I was performing the rites of the Haj pilgrimage at Mecca, the holiest site for Muslims. Every part of my body was covered except for my face and hands. I’d never been groped before and burst into tears, but I was too ashamed to explain to my family what had happened.

During my 20s, when I had returned to Cairo and wore the hijab, a way of dressing which again covers everything but the face and the hands, I was groped so many times that whenever I passed a group of men I’d place my bag between me and them. Headphones helped block out the disgusting things men -- and even boys barely in their teens -- hissed at me.

I learned to push and punch those whose hands thought my body was fair game, but I never found anything to soothe the burning violation. So imagine how much sharper that violation stung when I tried to complain to the police only to be shooed away -- or when it was their hands which groped me.

Once, a riot policeman fondled my breast while he was pushing back a group of us journalists at the trial of an opposition politician. I yelled at him, and I complained to his supervising officer, who moved him to the back row of riot police and told me “Nevermind.”

So it was no surprise to learn that 98 percent of foreign women visiting Egypt and 83 percent of native Egyptian women who were recently surveyed said that they, too, had been sexually harassed, and they have recounted a catalog of horrors similar to mine. What an awful time to be woman in Egypt.

When the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights reported that 62 percent of Egyptian men admitted to harassing women, I could only shudder at what sexist bullies so many of my countrymen are.

Even worse, when I read that the majority of the more than 2,000 Egyptian men and women that ECWR surveyed blamed women for bringing on the harassment because of the way they dressed, I honestly thought my countrymen and women had lost their minds.

In Egypt today, up to 80 percent of women wear one form of veil or another -- be it a headscarf or a full-body veil that covers the face too -- so you would think it was obvious that sexual harassment had nothing to do with the way a woman dresses.

So what is it that drives such a stubborn wish to fault women?

The answer lies in perhaps the saddest of all the Centre’s findings. Unlike foreign women, most Egyptian women said women should keep their harassment to themselves because they were ashamed or feared it could ruin their reputation. That’s when I was taken back full circle to the time I was groped on the Haj.


This shame is fueled by religious and political messages that bombard Egyptian public life, turning women into sexual objects and giving men free reign to their bodies.

In 2006, It was the well-publicized episode of the mufti of Australia comparing women who didn’t wear the hijab to uncovered meat left out for wild cats. He was educated at al-Azhar, the religious institution in Egypt that trains clerics from all over the Sunni Muslim world. He was suspended, but his reprehensible views are very much at work among many other clerics. Today, as two bloggers in Egypt reported recently, there are email and poster campaigns with a message that uses candy to tell women that if they cover they will be safe from harassment, as covered candy is safe from flies.

When did Egyptian women become candy and when did Egyptian men turn into flies?

There is no law criminalizing sexual harassment in Egypt, and police often refuse to report women’s complaints. And when it is the police themselves who are harassing women, then clearly women’s safety is far from a priority in Egypt.

The State itself taught Egyptians a most spectacular lesson in institutionalized patriarchy when security forces and government-hired thugs sexually assaulted demonstrators, especially women, during an anti-regime protest in 2005, giving a green light to harassers.

So there was little surprise that during a religious festival in 2006, a mob of men went on a rampage in downtown Cairo, sexually assaulting any woman they came across as police watched and did nothing.

It was only when bloggers broke the news that the media reported the assaults. Still, the Egyptian regime has never acknowledged it happened. At a demonstration against sexual harassment that I attended in Cairo a few days later, there were nearly more riot police than protestors.

My sister Nora was 20 at the time, and she, with several of her friends, joined the protest. She had never been to a demonstration before but was incensed when she heard the State was denying something that had happened to her many times. We swapped our sexual harassment stories like veterans comparing war wounds, and we unraveled a taboo which shelters the real criminals of sexual harassment and has kept us hiding in shame.

And that is why I began here with my own stories -- to free myself of the tentacles of that shame.

Mona Eltahawy is an award-winning New York-based journalist and commentator, and an international lecturer on Arab and Muslim issues.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Hey Mama

I know I did spent too much time with my Mo this summer.

Instead of listening to Celine 24/7, I actually mix it up a bit.
And do you know who is my new Celine?
It's no other than rapper Kanye West.
And my new Because you loved me ?
It's Hey Mama!!!

Hey Mama
(click here to listen to the song)
by Kanye West

(Hey Mama), I wanna scream so loud for you, cuz I'm so proud of you
Let me tell you what I'm about to do, (Hey Mama)
I know I act a fool but, I promise you I'm goin back to school
I appreciate what you allowed for me
I just want you to be proud of me (Hey Mama)

[Verse 1]
I wanna tell the whole world about a friend of mine
This little light of mine and I'm finna let it shine
I'm finna take yall back to them better times
I'm finna talk about my mama if yall don't mind
I was three years old, when you and I moved to the Chi
Late December, harsh winter gave me a cold
You fixed me up something that was good for my soul
Famous homemade chicken soup, can I have another bowl?
You work late nights just to keep on the lights
Mommy got me training wheels so I could keep on my bike
And you would give anything in this world
Michael Jackson leather and a glove, but didn't give me a curl
And you never put no man over me
And I love you for that mommy cant you see?
Seven years old, caught you with tears in your eyes
Cuz a nigga cheatin, telling you lies, then I started to cry
As we knelt on the kitchen floor
I said mommy Imma love you till you don't hurt no more
And when I'm older, you aint gotta work no more
And Imma get you that mansion that we couldn't afford
See you're, unbreakable, unmistakable
Highly capable, lady that's makin loot
A livin legend too, just look at what heaven do
Send us an angel, and I thank you (Hey Mama)


[Verse 2]
Forrest Gump mama said, life is like a box of chocolates
My mama told me go to school, get your doctorate
Somethin to fall back on, you could profit with
But still supported me when I did the opposite
Now I feel like it's things I gotta get
Things I gotta do, just to prove to you
You was getting through, can the choir please
Give me a verse of “You, Are So Beautiful To Me�
Can't you see, you're like a book of poetry
Maya Angelou, Nicky Giovanni, turn one page and there's my mommy
Come on mommy just dance wit me, let the whole world see your dancing feet
Now when I say Hey, yall say Mama, now everybody answer me (Hey Mama)


I guess it also depends tho, if my ends low
Second they get up you gon get that Benzo
Tint the windows, ride around the city and let ya friends know (Hey Mama)

[Verse 3]
Tell your job you gotta fake em out
Since you brought me in this world, let me take you out
To a restaurant, upper echelon
Imma get you a jag, whatever else you want
Just tell me what kind of S-Type Donda West like?
Tell me the perfect color so I make it just right
It don't gotta be Mother's Day, or your birthday
For me to just call and say (Hey Mama)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Religious Tolerence

One thing I do remember from my "Thanaweya 3ama" studies (actually it's the only thing I remember from the infamous high school diploma days) is a statement by an insignificant character in Taha Hussein's Al Sheikhan, a book about the first two califs in Islam, AbuBakr & Omar.

The statement was (oh my, I actually don't exactly remember how it went, so I'll improvise: "God sent religions to unite his people and to spread peace and fraternity among them, but we have managed to turn religion into just another excuse to hate and fight." (well, something like that)

I remembered this as I listened to a speech that was recently aired on TV. Here are some excerpts:
  • We all believe in one God, who sent messengers for the good of humanity in this world and the hereafter. His will, praise be to Him, was that people should differ in their faiths. If the Almighty had so desired, all mankind would have shared the same religion. We are meeting today to affirm that the religions that God Almighty desired for the happiness of man should be a means to ensure that happiness.
  • It is therefore incumbent upon us to declare to the world that difference must not lead to conflict and confrontation, and to state that the tragedies that have occurred in human history were not attributable to religion, but were the result of extremism with which some adherents of every divinely revealed religion, and of every political ideology, have been afflicted.
  • There is no solution for us other than to agree on a united approach, through dialogue among religions and civilizations.
  • Man could be the cause of the destruction of this planet and everything in it. He is also capable of turning it into an oasis of peace and tranquility in which adherents of religions, creeds and philosophies could co-exist, and in which people could cooperate with each other in a respectful manner, and address problems through dialogue rather than violence.
  • Man is also capable – by the grace of God – of vanquishing hatred through love, and bigotry through tolerance, thereby enabling all mankind to enjoy the dignity that the Almighty has bestowed upon all of them.

Impressed?? Well I was. And I was even more impressed and overwhelmed with hope and optimism because these words came from no other than the Saudi King Abdullah Ibn AbdulAziz. These excerpts are from the King's opening remarks at the World Conference on Dialogue, a three-day meeting (July 16-18) held in Madrid. The conference - a King Abdullah initiative- included Muslim, Christian, and Jewish clerics, as well as representatives of Eastern religions.

My hope and optimism stems from knowing that although some/most Muslims might not share the same views with the Saudi King, coming from the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, they will definitely:
  • encourage those who share those views to be more vocal and less intimidated (there could actually be many more of us, but we don't know it since they are in hiding)
  • intimidate other Arab & Muslim leaders into voicing the same views and actually taking actions to prevent tensions and violence between followers of different sects & religions within those countries (hint hint Egyptian President)
  • impact the people in other Muslim countries since the Saudi flavor of Islam (whether we like it or not) seams to be the one that is influencing most Muslims
To read the complete speech, find more about the conference, or for interviews with the Saudi King check out the following links:
Of course there are critics of the initiative who accused the Saudis of monopolizing the debate, some observers questioned why the conference was held in Spain and not Saudi Arabia, and others who have dismissed the gathering as a propaganda gimmick by the Saudis. To everyone who feels that way and cannot see any good in the initiative I say:"SHUT UP!!" (Oh my, I forgot that we were talking about tolerance and good intension's). I do apologies for my out burst. I meant to say:"Please SHUT UP!!"

The Saudi King is taking a huge risk with this initiative. Extremists in his country and around the world have already denounced his efforts and threatened to take action against them. So for only the second time in my life, I will prey for the safety of an Arab leader (I might tell you about the first time this happened in a future post), and for the success of his initiative.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Ten great female philosophers

Hypatia of Alexandria: C370-415AD

Follower of Plotinius who developed neo-Platonism at Alexandria from about 400 to her death in 415. She was so well-known, apparently, that correspondence addressed only to "The Philosopher" is said to have reached her.

Also a leading mathematician and astronomer, she is thought to have taught ideas relating to different levels of reality and humanity's ability to understand them. She seems to have believed that everything in the natural world emanates from "the one" - and that human beings lack the mental capacity fully to comprehend ult imate reality.

Her subsequent obscurity probably reflects the fact that none of her work survives (although letters from a pupil do). It appears, however, that her influence made the city's Christian community feel threatened - perhaps partly because of her emphasis on the value of science. She was torn to death by a Christian mob (including monks armed with oyster shells). Admirers revere her as a philosophical martyr comparable to Socrates.

Hannah Arendt: 1906-1975

German-born Jewish philosopher who studied under Heidegger (with whom she also had a brief relationship) before being imprisoned by the Gestapo in 1933 for her work on anti-Semitic propaganda.

She escaped and fled to Paris; seven years later, following the fall of France, she moved to the US. Initial interests in existentialism and in the thought of St Augustine gave place to a more political awareness. She is best known for The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), as well as for her coverage of Adolf Eichmann's trial (published first in The New Yorker and then in her 1963 book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil). Her justification for capital punishment in Eichmann's case was that, as Eichmann had not wanted to share the earth with the Jews, the Jewish state had no reason to share the earth with him. The first two volumes of her projected three-volume Life of the Mind were published posthumously, as was her Reflections on Kant's Political Philosophy.

Simone de Beauvoir: 1908-1986

Undeservedly overshadowed by her lover, Jean-Paul Sartre, Beauvoir developed an education in traditional philosophy (she wrote a thesis on Leibniz) into more radical explorations of feminism and existentialism.

Some of her ideas - about human freedom, for example, and about "being-for-itself" and "being-in-itself" - overlapped with Sartre's, but her best philosophical work, such as The Ethics of Ambiguity (1948), was important in its own right, as was her towering work of feminist ideology, The Second Sex (1949). In The Second Sex, Beauvoir argues that women have been held back throughout history by the perception that they are a "deviation" from the male norm - an assumption that must be broken if feminism is to succeed.

Elizabeth Anscombe: 1919-2001

Oxbridge-rooted academic principally concerned with defining the actual nature of phenomena such as mind and morality, Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe has been described as the pre-eminent British philosopher of the 20th century. She had intellectual roots not only in classical philosophy but also in Roman Catholicism and in the modern philosophy of Wittgenstein and Frege. A friend of Wittgenstein, she produced the definitive (and still unrevised) translation of his Philosophical Investigations in 1953, as well theIntroduction to Wittgenstein's Tractatus in 1959. Her Intention (1957) is considered to be the founding document of modern "action theory". An analytical philosopher of exceptional rigour, she allegedly once said to A J Ayer: "If you didn't talk so quickly, people wouldn't think you were so clever"; to which the philosopher replied: "If you didn't talk so slowly, people wouldn't think you were so profound."

Anne, Lady Conway: 1631-1679

An English follower of Descartes with an interest in the kabbala and, later, Quakerism.

Born Anne Finch, she studied philosophy secondhand - via her brother - under Henry More at Cambridge. Her sex debarred her from studying the subject herself, but she corresponded with More for most of her relatively short life - she died at the age of 47.

Preoccupied with the question of substance - she doubted the existence of inert matter - she developed a God-based theory of nature as an integrated mental and material order ("life and figure are distinct attributes of one substance"), made up of individual "monads".

In this, she anticipated Leibniz, who acknowledged her as an influence. Her one surviving work, Principles of the Most Ancient and Modern Philosophy, was published posthumously (and anonymously) in 1690.

Anne Conway suffered from severe migraines and is said to have considered the operation known as trepanning as a possible cure.

Sarah Margaret Fuller: 1810-1850

US-born feminist and champion of transcendental idealism, whose Woman of the Nineteenth Century was America's first major feminist manifesto. A pupil of Emerson, she taught in Rhode Island and Boston before moving to Europe in 1846 and marrying an Italian aristocrat. Together with her husband and son, she drowned off Fire Island, New York, after fleeing the Italian revolution.

Susan Haack: 1945-

British-born professor of philosophy and law at the University of Miami. Inhabits the difficult end of the spectrum, propounding an epistemological theory called foundherentism, a kind of Third Way between foundationalism and coherentism. (If you need to ask, you wouldn't understand.) Works include: Deviant Logic (1974), Philosophy of Logics (1978), and Defending Science - Within Reason Between Scientism and Cynicism (2003).

Mary Wollstonecraft: 1759-1797

English feminist and egalitarian, associated with Thomas Paine and William Godwin (her husband). A Vindication of the Rights of Men (1790) argued against the slave trade; A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792) did what it said on the jacket. Described marriage as "legal prostitution". Opposed monarchy, church and military. Died after giving birth to the future Mary Shelley.

Ayn Rand: 1905-1982

Controversial Russian novelist and philosopher, a "radical capitalist" whose works are popular with young Tories (and Camille Paglia). Moved to US in 1924 and developed a philosophy of individualism she called Objectivism ("a philosophy for living on earth"). Best-known works: The Fountainhead (1935) and Atlas Shrugged (1957). Appeared in a Tobias Wolff memoir, and was played by Helen Mirren in a 1999 film about her life.

Dame Mary Warnock: 1924-

Mary Warnock has significantly more influence on the way British society thinks of itself than any living male philosopher. She is a champion of a woman's right to philosophise. A veteran of royal commissions and committees of inquiry, she has published (among much else) The Uses of Philosophy (1992), and Women Philosophers (1996).

Profiles by Ellie Levenson

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

الفترة الجاية لسوهارتو

الفترة الجاية لسوهارتو

الفترة الجاية لسوهارتو
حتى ولو ..متوا.. أو إنهارتوا
الحاكم هو ومين غيرة
مين يملك ف الحكم مهارته
الفترة الجاية لسوهارتو
الفترة الجاية دى مضمونة
والفترة التالية دى مأمونة
مين انتوا عشان تنتخبونا
وتقولوا بدلتوا وغيرتوا
الفترة الجاية لسوهارتو
متنيل في جميع خطواتة
وتاريخى ف جميع خطاباتة
والشعر المنتوف .. من باطة
أطيب م العنبر .. لطهارتة
الفترة الجاية .. لسوهارتو
متأنى ... مش لجل غبائه
بالعكس..ده معروف بدهائه
ونزاهته هو وابنائه
معروفة وحتى ان شهرتوا
الفترة الجاية لسوهارتو
إزاى حنفرط وجلالته
قاعد علشان ينهى رسالته
ولغاية متشوفوا ريالته
وتكونوا كشعب إتحضرتوا
الفترة الجاية لسوهارتو

جمال بخيت

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Kalam by John F. Kennedy

"We must face the fact that the United States is neither omnipotent nor omniscient -- that we are only 6% of the world's population -- that we cannot impose our will upon the other 94% of mankind -- that we cannot right every wrong or reverse each adversity -- and that therefore there cannot be an American solution to every world problem."

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Abdelwahab Elmessiri

The Egyptian thinker, author and scholar Abdelwahab Elmessiri died on Wednesday evening in Cairo. Elmessiri, 70, was undergoing treatment for cancer at the Palestine Hospital, Cairo.
He was an outstanding authority on Zionism and he published many articles and studies on Israel and Zionism, most famous of which was an eight-volume encyclopedia of “Jews, Judaism and Zionism”. It is considered to be one of the most important Arabic encyclopedias of the 20th century.
Through “Jews, Judaism and Zionism” he was able to give a new scientific outlook and an encyclopedic vision on Zionism in particular and the Western modernist experience in general. Elmessiri won a number of prizes, the last of which was in May – the Al-Quds Prize from the General Federation of Arab Writers for his contribution to the Palestinian issue.
He was buried Thursday at his place of birth in Damanhur, Egypt. From Saudi Gazette.

  • Egyptian activists will miss your leadership, but I know they will make sure that you have an afterlife in the work that they do.
  • Punishing him for his outspoken opposition and for leading Kefaya, the Egyptian government refused to pay or contribute to the costly treatment of ElMessiri, who has spent his and his wife's life savings in producing his invaluable Jews, Judaism and Zionism encyclopedia.
  • Our respectful government is so intolerant to any criticism that it even boycotted his funeral!!
  • If the Egyptian government has any sense of guilt (which I truly doubt), then the only acceptable atonement would be to take advantage of the treasure left by ElMessiri, his encyclopedia, and make it a required read by all its diplomats and contributers to our foreign policies. Moreover, add the encyclopedia to the history & Political Science college curriculum, and teach a simplified version in high schools.
  • God bless you Dr. ElMessiri.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Kalam by Bertrand Russell

"In all affairs it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted." - Bertrand Russell - (1872-1970)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Scene: A luxuriously furnished room belonging to a lady called POLITICA. There is a dressing table with many mirrors, on which are placed all kinds of perfume and make-up. Next to the main wall there is a large 'wardrobe. A pink-colored lamp sheds a romantic light to illuminate the room. It is evening. The lady is sitting at her mirror, applying lipstick. Next to her is seated a good-looking man. He seems kindly and well mannered. His name is PEACE.

PEACE (gazing at her intently): You like to wear make"'-up, I see.
POLITICA (without looking at him): It's a habit. An old habit.
PEACE: Yes, but what a habit! I don't understand why you use all that garish make-up for everyone to see.
POLITICA: There's no point now hiding what everybody knows.
PEACE: Even in front of me? While I'm here? You do it, and you don't feel any embarrassment at all?
POLITICA: It's better than letting you see me looking unsightly.
PEACE: I've told you many times, darling, I love you just as you are.
POLITICA: Do you really mean that?
PEACE: I swear I do! But you've no trust in my word. You're coldhearted and don't believe in love. And yet I don't believe I can live without you.
POLITICA (looking coquettishly in her mirror): Words, words. I hear them all the time!
PEACE: You hear them all the time? Who from? From someone else? Your husband?
POLITICA (indifferently, still applying her lipstick): Yes. From my husband too.
PEACE: Your husband! That uncouth, boorish scoundrel War?
Can a man like him have any real tender feelings?
POLITICA (picking up her rouge): He says he can't live without me too.
PEACE: Does he love you that much?
POLITICA (coquettishly): Are you jealous?
PEACE: I hate him. I hate him!
POLITICA (smiling): I'm sure he feels the same way about you.
PEACE: Take care he doesn't suspect anything between us!
POLITICA: Do you want me to be quite frank with you?
PEACE (shouting): Oh, no! You haven't told him, have you?
POLITICA: Would I be that crazy? Calm down and stop worrying
PEACE: What does he know about me?
POLITICA: He only knows you make passes at me sometimes.
PEACE: Make passes at you?
POLITICA: He couldn't help seeing it. And it's not my fault, darling. He's caught you asking for me on the phone, and caught you standing in front of the house gazing at my window and whistling that tune of yours - and when you saw him coming toward you, you ran away, didn't you? And lastly, he found your present to me, which you'd given the janitor to give me - that spray of white apricot blossoms. A reminder spring had come.
PEACE: Did he ask about me?
POLITICA: Of course. And I said: "It's a young man who makes passes at me. I can't do anything about it." Wasn't that the best way out?
PEACE: And what did he say?
POLITICA: Nothing - he simply grunted, then he' muttered between his teeth: "I just hope I get my hands on that 'young man' one day. Him and his spray of white blossoms! I'll smash his head for him and break his spine!"
PEACE (trembling with fear): God help us all!
POLITICA (smiling): Are you afraid?
PEACE (looking around at the closed doors): Are you sure he's out tonight?
POLITICA: Would I be so foolish as to invite you to my room, just so my husband could find you and break your beautiful head?
PEACE: Perhaps that would have pleased you!
POLITICA: You don't know me, darling. And you don't know what pleases me and what annoys me.
PEACE: At least I know my being here doesn't displease you.
POLITICA: Well, if you know that, why be so worried?
PEACE: How can I help being worried when I love you so much? I love you with all my heart. But I never know everything that's in yours. How can I be sure you're not toying with me?
POLITICA: Why should I have any reason to do that?
PEACE: How can I ever know what your reasons are? It baffles me, to see a beautiful, intelligent, graceful woman like you letting herself be married to an uncouth boor of a husband like that.
POLITICA: Actually our marriage isn't based on love and passion.
PEACE: You mean you can't be happy with him?
PEACE: Well, then I pity you, darling - and I'd so like to rescue you. I'm at your service. One word from your lips, and I'll carry you far away from that brute.
POLITICA: How would you do that?
PEACE: It's easy enough. We'll elope and go off - anywhere!
POLITICA: Just like that, in front of the whole world? You want scandal, do you? You don't know me, darling. I can't bear open scandal.
PEACE (thinking for a while): There is another solution. But it all depends on you.
POLITICA: What is it?
PEACE: Confront your husband, openly. Be brave and tell him you don't love him, and can't stand being near him - that it isn't right your life should be bound up with his - that you shouldn't be living together under the same roof - that the only solution is divorce!
POLITICA: Divorce?
PEACE: Yes! That's what you should be looking for, what you should insist on, to get rid of that husband of yours!
POLITICA: There's no need to insist - the whole thing won't cost me more than a single word, I assure you. There's a wager between us, you see. Yesterday we decided to play that game called "Yadass" - "In My Mind." Do you know it? It's a kind of memory game.
POLITICA: It's a simple game really. Each of you tries to hand something to the other. If one of you takes it without thinking, and forgets to say "it's in my mind," the other says "Yadass!" and can make the first one pay a forfeit. I'm sure I'll beat him - and I'll make his forfeit giving me a divorce. Don't you see? That way it won't cost me more than one single word.
PEACE (joyfully): Do it quickly, then - and may God be with us!
POLITICA: And after that?
PEACE: I'll marry you. And we'll live happily ever after.
POLITICA (smiling): That will be lovely, won't it?
PEACE: Isn't it the best solution?
POLITICA: How naive you are, my dearest darling!
PEACE (taken aback): What are you saying?
POLITICA: Have him divorce me, so you can marry me?
PEACE: Would you refuse?
POLITICA: I'm not refusing you. You know how I feel about you. You want to make sure I'm happy - and happiness might even be within my reach, who knows? But do I have the
right to think of happiness, and speak of it? Am I capable of having it? I'm afraid!
PEACE: Afraid of me?
POLITICA: Afraid of the future.
PEACE: And is that husband of yours likely to make you feel secure? Sure about things?
POLITICA: He has authority, and power and influence.
PEACE: Yes, that's true enough! You rely on his power, don't you, to get a lot of the things you want? But happiness. Happiness. Happiness!
POLITICA (sighing): Ah! Yes, such a beautiful dream!
PEACE: We all have to make sacrifices, to make our dreams come true.
POLITICA: But dreams should be short - just like these stolen times we have together. They're enjoyable because they're rare, because they only come now and then, like a cool breeze in the
hot season. Please, my dearest darling, don't waste these precious moments in this sort of futile discussion. Let me put on my most beautiful dress for you, to be worthy of this evening with you! (She gets up, goes to her wardrobe and opens it.) What would you like me to wear tonight?
PEACE (casting a long look at the contents of the wardrobe): Are all those dresses yours?
POLITICA: I love to keep changing my dresses.
PEACE: What a woman you are!
POLITICA (looking smilingly through the dresses in the wardrobe): Which one, do you think? It's the woman that makes the dress. And there's a dress for every hour in a woman's life.
PEACE: Which dress is right for this hour, then?
POLITICA (smiling): It's the dress that makes the woman.
PEACE (pricking up his ears as he hears a noise outside): Did you hear that?
POLITICA (turning to him): What?
PEACE: A door, opening and shutting.
POLITICA: Are you sure? My husband must be back!
PEACE (getting up, frightened): Your husband? What are we going to do?
POLITICA: Calm down. Hide, quick!
PEACE (looking around, distraught): Where? Where?
POLITICA (looking aroundfor a place): Quick - get in my wardrobe. I'll lock you in with my key - that's the safest place.
PEACE (rushing toward the wardrobe): Save me, please!
POLITICA locks the door of the wardrobe with the key, then hides the key in her bosom. Soon afterwards the door of the room opens, and her husband, WAR, appears, carrying a spray of white apricot blossoms.
WAR (offering the bouquet to his wife): Here's a spray of apricot blossoms - they've just started to flower. As you see, darling, I'm not without my tender feelings where you're concerned.
POLITICA (without stretching her hand to take it): Thank you. It's really very kind of you. But - why are you back so early tonight? Before your usual time?
WAR: I would have thought you'd like me to surprise you.
POLITICA: I like you to come at your usual time. That's the ideal husband.
WAR: I've always been an ideal husband to you. Well, haven't I? But I came without telling you tonight, to give you this bouquet.
POLITICA: Yes. I see. Thank you, darling!
WAR (offering her the flowers): Well, aren't you going to take them?
POLITICA (smilingly): Yes, I'll take them. But - "it's in my mind"!
WAR: What a cunning woman you are!
POLITICA (smiling): Do you think my memory's as bad as yours? I'd never forget the wager we made.
WAR: Oh, I was so looking forward to beating you!
POLITICA: So you came to give me the bouquet, hoping I'd take it and forget to say, "it's in my mind."
WAR: And then I'd have said, "Yadass"!
POLITICA (laughing): How naive you are!
WAR (contemplating her): You were putting on your make-up, I see.
POLITICA: Yes, just to pass the time.
WAR: Perhaps you were going out -
POLITICA: I did think about it.
WAR: Alone?
POLITICA: What kind of a question is that?
WAR: I'm sorry - I didn't mean to insinuate anything. I was just curious.
POLITICA: When a husband gets curious, it's called something else.
WAR: What?
POLITICA: Sometimes it's called doubt, and sometimes jealousy.
WAR: What makes you think I'm jealous?
POLITICA: Those floweing apricot blossoms are whispering in my ears. Whatever made you think of apricot blossoms, in particular? Those white blossoms blooming on their branches?
WAR: What kind of a question is that?
POLITICA: I'm sorry. I didn't mean to refer to anyone in particular. It's just a simple deduction.
WAR: With all respect to your sharp intelligence, and your clever deductions, I assure you that young man you're thinking of doesn't worry me in the least.
POLITICA: Which young man do you mean? Do you mean that young man I said was making passes at me, and I couldn't do anything about?
WAR: Forget about him!
POLITICA: Quite right, darling. Thinking about him is very tiresome - he's so insistent and stubborn and willful! Imagine, he's done the impossible and entered this very room!
WAR (shouting): Entered this very room? When?
POLITICA: Tonight - while you weren't here.
WAR: And he saw you?
POLITICA: Of course.
WAR: And spoke to you?
POLITICA: Of course.
WAR (contemplating her make-up and clothes): And how come you were thinking of going out? Perhaps you were going out with him!
POLITICA: Of course.
WAR (shouting): What are you saying, woman? Do you think it's right and proper to go out with this lover-boy at night? While I'm not here? Behind my back?
POLITICA: I don't know what came over me all of a sudden. He amused me, and he persuaded me.
WAR: Amused you, and persuaded you?
POLITICA: He told me how he felt. It all seemed quite honest and sincere.
WAR: And you let him talk?
POLITICA: Yes, I kept on listening, very calmly.
WAR: How very odd! And you didn't throw him out of the window?
POLITICA: I'm not like you. I don't knock people about.
WAR: You listen instead, keep on listening, calmly! Yes! Tell me, would you please, all those fine things he said to you?
POLITICA: He said he loved me and couldn't live without me. And wanted to elope with me.
WAR: Elope with you?
POLITICA: And get away from you - to give me the happiness I can never find with a blackguardly ruffian like you.
WAR (enraged): The scoundrel!
POLITICA: Calm down, darling.
WAR (shouting): Calm down? How can I calm down after what I've just heard? Elope with you? Snatch you away from me? That ridiculous young weakling I could blow away like a feather? Hit him once, and he'd crumple up! That young man, elope with you? Take you away from me? How can he take you away from your husband? Has the fool forgotten I'm your husband?
POLITICA: He begged ,me to ask you for a divorce.
WAR: Divorce?
POLITICA: So he could marry me afterwards.
WAR: Is he out of his mind?
POLITICA: No, he's quite sane. He honestly believes he deserves me more than you do. That my marrying you was an unforgivable mistake.
WAR (shouting): And you - ? You - ? You - ? You let him say all that without slapping his face?
POLITICA: I leave the job of slapping to you.
WAR: Now? Mer you've let him run away? The coward!
POLITICA: Who said he's run away?
WAR: He didn't run away? Where is he then?
POLITICA: In your hands.
WAR (shouting): I don't understand. Explain yourself!
POLITICA: He's here, in this very room.
WAR (bursting out in fury): Here? Where? Where? Show me. Now, straight away - I'll smash him, I'll blot him out of existence! Where is he?
POLITICA: Here - in the wardrobe.
WAR: In your wardrobe?
POLITICA: Yes. I tricked him into going into it, then I shut him up inside like a mouse in a trap, to wait till you came
WAR (shouting): I'll break his bones and pound them to a mush! (He rushes to the wardrobe and shakes its doors.) It's locked. Where's the key?
POLITICA: I have the key here.
WAR (stretching out his hand and shouting): Give it to me!
POLITICA (taking the key from her bosom and giving it to him): Here, take it.
WAR takes the key from her hand and rushes in a frenzy to the wardrobe.
WAR (taken aback and stopping): What a fool I am!
POLITICA (triumphantly): Hey, didn't I tell you you'd never win?
WAR: You mean you made up that whole story, just so you could hand me the key without me remembering? Here, take your cursed key - you scheming woman! (He throws the key on the floor.)
POLITICA: That's not all you have to do.
WAR: What else do you want me to do?
POLITICA: Pay me your forfeit!
WAR: What is it?
POLITICA: I want - I want -
WAR: Go on then!
POLITICA (thinking): I want - a necklace of real pearls, a long double string, to adorn my breast.
PEACEWAR: Tomorrow, as soon as the stores open. I'll bring it to you then.
POLITICA: And now we must drink a toast to my victory over you. Go down, now, and get us a bottle of best champagne from the liquor store.
WAR: Your wish is my command.
He goes out. No sooner has he disappeared than she picks up the key from
the floor and opens the wardrobe.
POLITICA (to PEACE, who is inside the wardrobe): You can come out, darling. You're safe now.
PEACE comes out, looking very pale.
POLITICA: Why so pale, darling?
PEACE (in a weak voice): Do you think there's a drop of blood left in my veins?
He walks toward the door.
POLITICA: You're not going?
PEACE: While I'm still in one piece. Before something disastrous happens!
POLITICA (walking with him to the door): Till we meet again, darling. And I'll drink a toast to your health.
PEACE (talking as If to himself): What a woman you are!

He goes out without looking at her.

A play by Tawfiq Al-Hakim
Translated by May Jayyusi and David Wright