Yasmine El Rashidi is the author of The Battle for Egypt: Dispatches from the Revolution, and a contributing editor to the Middle East arts and culture quarterly Bidoun. She lives in Cairo.
Jehane Noujaim’s documentary about the Egyptian uprising, The Square, shows how a minority of exceedingly righteous idealists, somewhat privileged, are now fighting a growing majority who increasingly opt for stability over the more ambitious political goals to which the revolution first aspired.
A series of videos reveals a more complex reality of what happened in the August 14, 2013 crackdown on protesters in Cairo.
After discovering Hemingway in an Egyptian prison, the young novelist Sonallah Ibrahim set out to capture the reality of Egyptian oppression on everyday life and transformed Arabic literature in the process. Now, his breathtakingly subversive first novel, That Smell, has been published in English in a brilliant new translation by Robyn Creswell.
For all the millions of Egyptians who have lost patience with the new leadership, there are many others who continue to crave stability, even if the price is another authoritarian government.
From their position as the apparent protectors of last year’s revolution, Egypt’s military rulers have been pushed into increasingly brutal confrontations with civilians—at Maspero in October, during the run-up to elections in November, and most recently, during a week of mayhem in mid December. Peaceful protesters are arbitrarily being arrested and thrown in jail; and the army’s estrangement from the activists who led the revolution is visible in the newly-erected concrete walls that sever downtown streets to separate its forces from the people. These spasms of violence, as important to the future of Egypt as the outcome of elections, often seem to have a logic of their own; December’s episode was set off by a chain of events few could have predicted.
Few people I know in Cairo got much sleep last Sunday night. The voting stations were set to open at 8AM the following morning, and everyone was concerned that the day would be marred by the increasingly lethal violence we have witnessed in recent weeks. “I’m going to go as early as possible, before it gets crowded or anything bad happens,” my mother had told me. It seemed everyone had thought the same—by the time I reached my neighborhood voting station at 7:15AM Monday, it was already packed—there were at least 2,000 people there. A friend called me from her own voting station about 40 minutes away as I arrived, saying she couldn’t even see the end of the line.
On the morning of Sunday, October 9, members of Cairo’s large Coptic community went to the Abbasiya Cathedral, the papal headquarters of the Coptic Church. They prayed, as a Coptic youth leader told me, “for the day to begin and end peacefully, and for a million people to turn up” at the protest march to the State TV Building planned for that afternoon. But the day would be far from peaceful: by its end, more than two dozen civilians, many of them Copts, and several soldiers, would be dead; and in the days since, many Egyptians have come to regard the events surrounding the march as a dark turning point in the country’s bid to build an inclusive democratic society.
In one of the more revealing signs of change in the New Egypt, the Israeli embassy in Cairo has now become the focus of the public’s attention and the site of unobstructed demonstrations.
We all watched the proceedings mesmerized, shaken by the irony that on the very same podium where Mubarak once was applauded now sat Ahmed Rifaat, head of the Cairo Appeals Court and the judge appointed to try him. For the first time that day, State TV dropped “former,” and referred to Mubarak as the “deposed” President. He was now a man officially behind bars.
On a recent afternoon this month, in a busy downtown Cairo street, armed men exchanged gunfire, threw rocks and Molotov cocktails, and freely wielded knives in broad daylight. The two-hour fight, which began as an attempt by some shop-owners to extort the customers of others, left eighty-nine wounded and many stores destroyed. In the new Egypt, incidents like this are becoming commonplace.
To judge by the streets of Cairo on the morning of March 19, it seemed that a good chunk of my city’s 19 million residents were taking part in the constitutional referendum. The roaring old school buses that rattle my windows when they pass in the morning were not to be heard, there were hardly any cars on the usually clogged streets, and the daily flood of people making their way through the dense web of thoroughfares and alleyways was absent.
It has been twelve days since Hosni Mubarak stepped down as president of the republic, and the country—although still celebrating—has never been more divided. Many feel that the revolution has succeeded and it is time for everyone to get back to work. Many more feel that his ousting is but a small first step on a long and tortuous road.
It was around 3 PM on Friday that we began to feel it might be over. Earlier, there had been fears of a new government crackdown, as protesters, still seething from Mubarak’s defiant speech and Suleiman’s call for people to go home the night before, had promised to make the eighteenth day of revolution the largest yet. By early afternoon, those worries had faded.
On Thursday evening, sixteen days after thousands of Egyptians converged on Cairo’s central square to bring an end to a thirty-year-old dictatorship, it seemed that the moment we had been waiting for had finally come.
On Tuesday, February 1, we headed to Tahrir Square for the “million man” march with some apprehension. After a week of growing protests, the military, which had arrived on Friday, had increased its presence in downtown Cairo, and the perimeter of the square was now completely barricaded with concrete blocks and metal barriers.
On Thursday evening, January 27, activists in Cairo were on Twitter discussing the second wave of protests, which were supposed to begin after Friday’s midday prayer. Two days earlier, tens of thousands of people had taken to the streets and, despite a violent response by police and thugs, succeeded in occupying Tahrir Square; this time, it was hoped, many more would join in the peaceful revolt.
Cairo on the morning of January 25 felt like something of a ghost town. Few civilians were to be found on the streets, most stores were shuttered, and the typically heaving downtown was deserted. It was a national holiday, and in the central town square, named Tahrir, or Liberation, even cars were scarce, and parking spaces—always sparse—were in abundance. The only conspicuous presence was that of Egypt’s police and state security.
Frances Ha is at once witty and endearing, an intimate portrait of awkwardness and ambition, of moving from apartment to apartment, friend to friend, city to city, trying to find one’s way in life.
Chirine Al-Ansary's performance at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Durham Cathedral will borrow from the tales of the Thousand and One Nights, with new anecdotes and insight from the present.
A public forum on the rise of anti-Islamic sentiment in the years since 9/11.
Not quite flattering to the Iranian regime, Argo has received much attention in the Middle East.
Based on the real-life events that led to the first anti-harassment legislation, CAIRO 678 tells the stories of three Cairene women from different walks of life as they unite in a fight against sexual harassment on their city's streets.