Sunday, 24 June 2012

Mohamed Mursi Supporters in Tahrir 22/06/2012

"Son of the Midan
Son of the Midan
Son of the Revolutionaries
Civilian President
Peaceful Revolution
Loveliest Youths
Peaceful Revolution
Peaceful Revolution
Dream of Legitimacy
The rights of Martyrs

Dream of Legitimacy
The rights of Martyrs 

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Presidential Election Egypt: Pray for a Miracle

As preliminary results in Egypt's post revolution presidential election start emerging, and as my first feeling of shock subsides, I find myself praying for a miracle. Please let Hamdeen Sabahi get just enough votes to take him to the second round. I find myself hoping that somewhere in Egypt throughout the final counting phase, more people will have voted for him than for Ahmed Shafiq or Mohamed Mursi.

Someone out there is laughing right now. If people craved stability and a man of stature, why Ahmed Shafiq and not Amr Moussa. And if they craved a political Islamist candidate why Mohamed Mursi and not Abd El Moneim Aboul Fotouh? Amr Moussa and Abd El Moneim Aboul Fotouh had performed well in polls the previous weeks.

I have a confession to make. I wasn't able to vote in this round. Currently residing abroad, I failed to register on time. I was not aware that the registration deadline for Egyptians abroad was over more than a month before the election. I had all the intention to vote, but could not with regret. 

As the 23rd of May approached, I remember planning who I would vote for in spirit, but I remember it wasn't easy. None of the candidates ticked all the boxes. The candidate who did, wasn't in the race anymore: Mohamed El Baradei, who I would have given my wholehearted support to. In the absence of Mohamed El Baradei, I shortlisted five candidates with potential and I came to the following conclusions: 

I liked Abd El Monein Aboul Fotouh. There's something genuine about him. I  liked his vision of a "Stronger Egypt," and his moderate and considered view of Islam. Aboul Fotouh stands for the word tolerance. I could imagine Aboul Fotouh take Egypt forward to an advanced democratic nation. My only reservation was a lack of clarity about his political Islamist agenda.

My second journey took me further left to Hamdeen Sabahi, a socialist Nasserist dreamer. He is the revolutionary spirit who brings with him the promise of a democratic utopian Egypt. Convinced by his project, I decided that he would be a potential candidate, I could vote for in spirit. I had faith that he would not betray the three mantras: freedom, social justice and dignity. But I don't agree with his belligerent stance on the peace treaty with Israel.

I then took a look at Amr Moussa. I found his experience and stature as a seasoned international diplomat to be a plus. Amr Moussa embodies the qualities of a statesman. I also had an ounce of hope that he would take Egypt through this next trying phase with a degree of earnestness. But his past ties with the Mubarak regime made him a difficult choice.

Reformist judge Hisham El Bastawisi seems like a man with integrity. An esteemed man of the law, Hisham El Bastawisi is likeable and sincere. But there was too little momentum behind him.

Khaled Ali, the youngest candidate and a human rights lawyer, I discovered was another sincere candidate I had come across. His values and programme resonated with me, but he lacked enough support to take him through to the second round. Having said that, Khaled Ali was the candidate I would have voted for with a good conscience.

If I had to describe each presidential candidate using a few words, I would say the following: Abd El Moneim Aboul Fotouh would stand for tolerance; Hamdeen Sabahi would be the utopian dreamer; Amr Moussa would be the statesman, Hisham El Bastawisi would be the man of principle and Khaled Ali would be the humanist. 

In an ideal world the five would have worked together. But we're not in an ideal world. Right now the facts indicate that in less than a month, an arch supporter of the former regime will be in a run-off against the candidate of a conservative political Islamist party. But till that moment arrives, I pray that the numbers change in favour of Hamdeen Sabahi. 

Sunday, 11 March 2012

My Ode to the Revolution

Whenever I feel like the revolution has inhaled its last breath of air, I quietly remind myself to fear nothing.  
For I know the revolution is a dream that has found a place in the hearts and minds of Egyptians. 
It has found a place with those who allow themselves to imagine a better world. 
The revolution is alive. 
Its spirit felt amongst the men and women of Egypt.
Its spirit felt amongst the young and old of Egypt.
Its spirit felt amongst those not willing to give up on their dream. 
I see it in their courage. 
I see it in their generosity.
I see it in their optimism. 
The revolution is a dream for a better Egypt. 
Long live the dream.
الثورة مستمرة

Monday, 20 February 2012

Mothers for Justice in Egypt

Powerful mothers, women and girls gathered at the cabinet on Feb 5, while it was in session with three messages for the members of Egypt's newly formed parliament. This was in response to recent violence in a Portsaid football stadium in which 74 lost their lives.

"1. The people's will is respected, 2. SCAF does not rule, 3. Our brothers' blood shall not go. Members of Parliament. The Revolution is everywhere. Legitimacy is from the Square."

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Powerful Protest

Campaigners are taking to the streets of Egypt to spread revolutionary messages while standing in silence. I came across this campaign on Salah Salem street in Heliopolis, on the 28th of January 2012.
The people want prompt just trials

We don't want compensation for their souls. We want punishment for their killing.
We don't want compensation for their souls. We want punishment for their killing.
You started and we will continue the journey.
Your life in retaliation.
A martyr is not simply a number in the news.
No constitution under military rule.
Egyptian blood is of high value
"They may torture me, break my bones, even kill me. Then they will have my dead body, but not my obedience."
Mahatma Ghandi
Presidential elections = Stability.
Punishment to who killed my brother with a bullet.
A martyr is not simply a number in the news.
Someone lost his life for a free life.
Martyrs' blood is the revolution's fuel.
The people want prompt just trials
The people want urgent just trials. Martyr's blood is the revolution's fuel.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Hello Grandpa...

Photo / Design by Yasmin Salem. Photo taken on 27 Jan 2012 in Tahrir

Children sing song of Freedom in Maspeero

Children sing a song of freedom outside Maspeero (where the national television building is based) on Jan 28, 2012

Translation of Song:

Supreme Council respond to us
You say truth
And kill us
Our imprisoned brothers and sisters
Oppressed in your prisons

Freedom, Freedom, Freedom

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Egypt is open to Tourism

Photo taken in Tahrir on 28 January 2012
The "Man of the Moment" on this photo explained to me that the pyramid he was carrying on his head represented tourism and its significance to Egypt.

Translation of slogans on pyramid: 
Egypt above all
Egypt is free
I love Egypt

Translation of words on the miniature obelisks:
Mars Allam

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Marching to Tahrir on 25 Jan 2012


Friday, 13 January 2012

"Float like a butterfly. Sting like a bee."

Artist Unknown, Heliopolis, Merghani Street, 28 August 2011

Artist Unknown, Heliopolis, Merghani Street, 28 August 2011

Muhammed Ali's, "Float like a butterfly. Sting like a bee," came to my mind as a good timely framework connecting the images back to (post) revolutionary Egypt. Revolutionary and counter-revolutionary forces seem to be engaged in a long boxing match.

I discovered these reincarnations of Panda under a bridge in Heliopolis. I'm not sure if they're by the same artist. 

Sunday, 8 January 2012

What would you do if you were President of Egypt?

A friend asked me yesterday what I'd do if I were in charge of the country. I've always found questions that begin with "what if?"exciting. What if you won the lottery? What if you could live for a thousand years? What if you were president of Egypt?

My reply was, if I was in charge, "The people would be the red line." It's a sentiment I've often heard people chant during marches in Tahrir, reflecting people's desire to see Egypt's citizens treated with respect and dignity. 

My policies would put people at the heart of all its programmes ensuring the main pillars of the revolution were developed. I'd also ensure that the government, democratically elected every term, served the country and not the other way around. To see that happen, I'd start off with a constitution that stated on its cover in bold "الشعب خط احمر" that "The people are the red line." The constitution would be sealed in gold with the aim of always upholding "Freedom, Dignity and Social Justice."

My Egyptian utopia would be overseen democratically by three departments charged with fulfilling the revolution continuously. I'd hire ministers tasked with heading up these departments.

Freedom: A minister of human rights would ensure people's freedoms were safeguarded. We'd see an Egypt where citizens were treated equally no matter what their gender, ethnic, religious or sexual background. All Egyptians would be equal in front of the law. Egyptians would no longer have to live in fear of retribution for expressing their views. Police brutality would no longer be tolerated. Police officers would receive a respectable place in society again thanks to their citizen respecting philosophies. The law would encourage mutual respect.

Dignity: A minister of anti-corruption would be tasked to clean up politics, media, business and the justice system. It would ensure the abuse of power was no longer feasible. The main foundation for that would have to be a fair independent justice system. The clean up would ensure corruption was no longer tolerated offering people equal opportunities and a dignified status as citizens of Egypt.

Social Justice: A minister of development would implement policies and programmes promoting a modern 21st century economy, where jobs, education, healthcare, farming, technology, tourism and the environment were advanced with social justice at the core.

Finally, Tahrir would always serve as a place for reflection and protest ensuring those in power are held accountable.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Best New Year's Eve in Tahrir 2011

Minutes to the countdown as Muslims and Christians celebrated the New Year's Eve in Tahrir in solidarity, sharing love and singing the national anthem, and finally the words: "Bread, Freedom, Social Justice" and "Down with SCAF" as we headed into 2012. As we entered the new year, balloons bearing the colours of Egypt's flag rose into the air as we heard: "Happy new year Tahrir!"

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Season's Greetings

It was a tragic day when a country's people shed blood, when women were beaten and humiliated and when a country's history was burnt down to the its own people, gone for generations past and future. Let's pray for freedom, change, dignity and social justice for the sake of all that was lost. Let's hope that Egypt's new history will be written in the dawn of democracy and that all that was lost was not lost in vain.  

Season's Greetings with hope for more peace and love in 2012. 

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Egypt's Girls are a Red Line

A heart warming march by women in Tahrir in response to some of the recent violence against protesting women. 
Men formed a protective cordon around the women what seemed like a symbolic gesture to me.

Translation of Women's Chants:
The revolution's daughter is not stripped. Egypt's daughter is not stripped. Egypt's daughter is not stripped. Egypt's girls are a red line. Egypt's girls are a red line. Down with the ruling military. Down with the ruling military. Freedom. Freedom. Freedom.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Why I didn't boycott the elections

Some people decided to boycott the elections, insinuating that voting was equal to selling out Tahrir while giving legitimacy to the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), the ruling military. While I was torn for a moment, I decided to vote in the end. This post attempts to explain why I decided to vote and why one does not have to come at the expense of the other.

I voted because I wanted to participate in this historic moment. Like many Egyptians, I was excited to take part in this process and I wanted to give my preferred candidate the chance to get into parliament. By voting, I could play a small role in shaping the future of Egypt.

By being inside parliament, you have your ears to the ground. You have access to decision makers and you can monitor what is going on. By excluding yourself from this process, you give all the cards to the opposition. Whoever boycotted the process, boycotted the possibility of influence inside parliament, no matter how limited that influence might be. I understand the process is not perfect and that parliament will lack the power to make much change, but it's a first step towards exercising my right as a citizen. 

The road to democracy is a long journey ahead and where would we be without hope and optimism? Let's recall for a moment that advanced democracies did not get there over night. And they're not ideal examples either. The occupy movement proves it. 

So while the naysayers were boycotting the elections, and dampening the experience of those that decided to vote, I was looking at it differently. For the first time in 60 years, Egyptians were happy to have a say in the future of their country, as they cued for endless hours outside polling stations, optimistically looking towards a new future. And there was a merit in participating. People were consciously engaging with their rights as citizens, a further step towards citizenship in a democracy. 

So while some people look sceptically at those that voted and while those that voted think Tahrir should pack up and go home, I say, why can't the two work together? A healthy democracy should encourage participation in a variety of ways. The street is one way. Parliament is another way. Why does one have to exclude the other? Surely both voices are legitimate. Why can't both voices unite to ensure we don't fall back into old habits, paving the way for new dictatorships along the way?

Tahrir and parliament should work together in an ideal democracy, so that people continue to feel empowered. A friend of mine once said, Tahrir is like a platform that can hold the government accountable. It's also a place where people experience the meaning of democracy. Let's take a moment to remember, we got here thanks to Tahrir.  

Wednesday, 23 November 2011


Although I'd been to Tahrir numerous times over the course of the summer, this time round Tahrir was a different place to contend with. There are certain images that will stay in my mind forever. They're not the kind of graphic images that we have become accustomed to through countless YouTube postings and news reports, but the kind that inspire humanity

The first image was that of the countless volunteer doctors helping the wounded in Tahrir. Working in makeshift hospitals on pavements around the square, they cared for their patients in the dark with little more than flashlights to guide them.

The second memory was that of the volunteer motorcycle drivers, transporting the injured with a high sense of urgency through the crowds from Mohamed Mahmoud Street to the makeshift hospitals.

But one image will last forever. It's the image of those enthusiastic youths, with hearts of lions, prepared to sacrifice their lives for the sake of Egypt's freedom.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Freedom from Fear

A blog post called: "Why do we care about Alaa more than Maikel,"  spurred me to write this entry as I've been following the case of Maikel Nabil Sanad often wondering why his case did not garner the same type of support locally that the international scene afforded him. This was even more evident when he was locked up in a mental institution and even then, I did not see a large outcry for his freedom.

To understand Maikel Nabil's case better I read some excerpts from his blog entries and as in the above post, I too concluded that reluctant support for him might be down to the fact that he had voiced opinions too controversial for some to accept (loosely in his pro Israel stance, his campaign against compulsory military conscription and finally his vociferous critique of the army). 

But while the crux of the problem probably lies in some people's inability to accept other views in the context of free expression, I would add another factor to the mix that might explain the sensitivity around Maikel Nabil's case. I would argue that fear is another factor.

The freedom to express one's opinions without fear of retribution by those in power, is not to be underestimated. It's a truth I have sometimes felt. Maikel Nabil was imprisonned for three years by a military court, sending out a strong signal that if a red line is crossed, the price might be one's freedom. It's a precarious situation that might explain why people are disengaged. 

If Maikel Nabil is not set free, it will set a dangerous precedent. For after that, who will guarantee that the next voice is not silenced and the next and the next? If a climate of fear is harboured as a result of it, where does that leave freedom? 

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The little face of Panda in a window sill

After spending the summer looking for Panda around the city and with a little help, I found out that my Panda treasure hunt was made possible by an artist called Sad Panda (unknown to the artist). Click here to see Sad Panda's work. 

I'd always thought of Panda as an Egyptian revolutionary, saddened by some of the events going on around him.
Artist unconfirmed. Shot taken on 24 September 2011 in El Horriya Cafe 

I was looking through some of my photographs today when I discovered this shot here of Panda that I'd taken over the summer. It's the little face of Panda in the window sill of a cafe called El Horriya in downtown Cairo. The slogan next to Panda's face says: And then what? I'm not a hundred percent sure if this is by Sad Panda, but it resembles some of the artist's work I've come across.

I first discovered Panda in Tahrir on one of the walls of the Mogama3. Smitten by Panda and following a few more sightings, I decided to make it my mission to locate Panda around the city and to document its whereabouts around Cairo. Please get in touch if you've seen any more sightings of Panda. Thank you.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

The Cow Calls Out...We're Falling Asleep

Artist unknown. Photo taken on 31st October 2011 on Mohamed Mahmoud Street, near Tahrir Square. 

The Cow calls out:
Ha Ha
 And says: My children
Ha Ha
And children of the stick
Ha Ha
We're  falling asleep
Ha Ha

Yosri Fouda and Self-Censorship

 Artist unknown. Photo taken on 31st October 2011 on a wall on Mohamed Mahmoud Street

I discovered this street art portrait of Egyptian journalist Yosri Fouda a week ago who has become a symbol of censorship.

Yosri Fouda, had cancelled his ONTV show Akhir Kalam (The Final Word) scheduled on October 20th. Along with other guests, Fouda's show was planned to analyse an interview conducted on satellite channel Dream with two generals from the ruling military council. Fouda said he cancelled the show in protest against subtle pressure exerted against him prior to the planned airing of his show.

"This is my form of self-censorhsip. I have the choice between saying the truth or nothing at all," Fouda said in a statement on October 21st.

Fouda defended his position in a tough interview with Stephen Sackur on BBC's Hard Talk.

Artist unknown. Photo taken on 31st October 2011 on a wall on Mohamed Mahmoud Street

Monday, 31 October 2011

See No Evil Hear No Evil

Artist unknown. Photo taken on taken on 31st October 2011 in Qasr El Aini Street, near AUC,

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The Caged Bird Sings of Freedom

Caged Bird
by Maya Angelou

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind   
and floats downstream   
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and   
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings   
with a fearful trill   
of things unknown   
but longed for still   
and his tune is heard   
on the distant hill   
for the caged bird   
sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own
But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams   
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream   
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied   
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings   
with a fearful trill   
of things unknown   
but longed for still   
and his tune is heard   
on the distant hill   
for the caged bird   
sings of freedom.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

A case of institutionalised sectarianism?

A week ago I remember thinking, why did they clear away the sit-in? This was a chance for the Coptic community to express its grievances. A few days later, a follow-up protest was organised by the Coptic community resulting in the tragic event of Sunday, a dark day in Egypt's new history.

But as a country in mourning faces a crisis, symptomatic of a deeper running problem, a positive dimension is transpiring. The issue of the unequal treatment of the Coptic community in Egypt is unquestionably becoming a part of the national debate and psyche.

Last Monday, I was watching an interview on ONTV featuring a seasoned journalist called Gamal El-Ghitani, in which he raised critical points. Why did we get to this? What is the problem with building a thousand churches? Why is it that some 600 years or so of Coptic history are not mentioned in Egyptian school books? Why is it that Copts can't reach certain positions in sensitive areas?

They're all questions which point at a structural problem in the system and lead me to ask if Egypt is suffering from institutionalised sectarianism against Copts. While I believe most Egyptians are tolerant and respectful of each other's faiths, the system is somehow enabling the unfair treatment of Copts. The issue can no longer be ignored.

As the political and intellectual elite of Egypt discuss the current crisis and status quo of the Coptic community, I have hope that the matter will seep down further to the masses resulting in a raising of consciousness. I also hope that it will lead to a conclusion where all Egyptians are treated fairly and with dignity in their country of birth, no matter what their religious beliefs. It's a principle that puts some of the fundamental values of Jan 25 to the test.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

No to Emergency Law

Protesters were demanding an end to the recently activated emergency law in a protest called in Tahrir on Sep 16th, 2011.

'No to Emergency'

'No to Emergency'

Boy with Body Paint