Tag Archives: revolution

A Lunchtime Revolution

You know you’re in Egypt when you’re surrounded by Russians in Hurghada and see this walking in front of you on the beach.

Based on a true story that happened last weekend.

We’re on vacation and it’s lunch time.

We’ve all had a hard morning. After sleeping in and enjoying a leisurely breakfast, some students ventured to the beach, where they were subjected to a blazing sun and gorgeous views of the red sea. Unfortunately, their fragile psyches were scarred by the unreasonably high ratio of body mass to swimsuit size, and they saw more Russian butt cheeks than anyone should have to see in a lifetime. They need nourishment.

Others of us suffered equally in the lobby, where we were tortured with 90s pop music, cigarette smoke, and slow wireless internet.  Our applications did not load quickly, and people we did not want to see came and sat next to us. We are exhausted from the effort of maintaining simple sanity in the face of such hardship. We need refreshment.

It’s 1:24. According to the itinerary, lunch is in six minutes. We seat ourselves at a dining table, preparing to renew our souls. Silverware is fidgeted with, glasses filled with water. We are ready.

But something’s wrong. The staff is still setting out the food. The buffet is yet incomplete, and only the salad bar looks prepared. This does not bode well.

A few minutes pass. It is now 1:30. The staff gives us no signal. Do we sit like dumb beasts? Do we help ourselves to salad? Do we drink water and laugh as if everything were fine even though our stomachs cry out for salvation?

Unable to wait any longer, I decide to go for the salad bar. Just as I’m about to grab a tong-ful of cucumber slices, the staff member in charge of fruit arrangement stops me and says firmly “You wait five minutes. Please,” and points to my seat with disdain. This was not a request. I turn away, starving and indignant.

“Excuse me?” I think to myself,  “Are we not on vacation? Is this not an all inclusive resort? Can we not act as we please? Is the salad bar not sitting in front of me, waiting to be devoured? Are there not hungry students behind me, waiting to eat? What kind of a cruel topsy turvy upside downy hell is this?”

I sit down. The time is 1:35. Angry mutterings rise from the table, “What did he say?” “Why can’t we eat the salad?” “I’m so hungry.” “What does it matter to him? They’re not even doing anything to it.” “grumble grumble complain grumble.”

And so we sit, staring at each other, grousing from every end, the buffet a mere 10 feet to the right.

Finally I could take it no more. What was this madness? It is lunchtime, the time in which we eat the lunch.

“Colleagues,” I said. “My peers, friends, brothers, sisters, acquaintances,  enemies, and Steve, will you stand for this, that we should be deprived of eating lunch at the appointed hour? Will you submit to the arbitrary tyranny of the hotel staff? Will you cower and recoil in fear from a single man? No, dear friends. This is our lunch time, and lunch we shall, a great lunch, one that shall go down in history as the greatest resort lunch ever taken. Brothers, sisters, Steve, let us lunch!”

And with that I rose and went to the salad bar. A great cheer erupted and the others followed. Lunch we did, and I learned that the taste of victory is only as good as the food at the hotel.

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The Rumor Mill

a captivating picture for a captivating topic

Here in revolutionary Egypt, rumors pile up faster than cigarette butts in a student bar district on a Friday night. For the most part, I’ve found it safe to assume that no one really knows or understands what’s going on in the political process. Those who claim they get it are either idiots, lying idiots, or just liars. Some people do know more than others, but they are few and far between.

This uncertainty leads to one of CASA students favorite daily activities: blind speculation fueled by sleep deprivation, emotion, breakfast foods, and twitter feeds. The results of this speculation can be quite surprising and often completely wrong, but this is nothing compared to the gems that fly around Cairo as a whole. Here’s an (exaggerated) sample of what happens.

The Rumor Mill

Fact: a small group of protesters has gathered in Tahrir and is calling for the end of military trials for civilians. There is a heavy police presence, but no violence. Some participants and bystanders are eating sandwiches. Meanwhile, a woman was going to get some groceries when she tripped on a curb. No one was injured.

(the actual occurrences proceed through the rumor mill)

I heard on twitter that the Egyptian government hired a squad of armed spaghetti aliens that entered Tahrir square  making a horrible “WOOP WOOP WOOP WOOP” sound and drenching the men, women, and children there with low-grade spaghetti sauce. They’re trying to drown the revolution in bland tomato goop!

Someone else said that the aliens were Israeli and were sprinkling the victims with tiny parmesan stars of David—-the hand of Israel AGAIN!

Yeah! And my friend told me that her sister’s boyfriend’s friend’s cousin’s facebook status said that all foreigners in the square have somehow remained clean of spaghetti sauce, so they’re definitely part of the conspiracy. The universe is attacking the Egyptian people!

But I heard that the protesters were fighting back with stolen chopstick launchers they stole from the police force and that they had also commandeered a militarized Zamboni from the army and were running over valiant army officers, who they claim to be mercenary spaghetti aliens. The protesters are THUGS!

And state radio said that the concert going on in Tahrir square might cause an excess amount of noise for the next few days and that it might sound like “WOOP WOOP WOOP WOOP.” It also said that the Egyptian government would never do anything to hurt its people. I think we should believe them!

But my friend saw a soggy scrap of paper on the ground that said there were a bunch of Salafis in the square wooping it up and calling for the imposition of Sharia law under the absolute jurisdiction of an infant that would be chosen by the most righteous man in the country as determined by a reality television show. I’m going to protest against them!

Don’t be ridiculous! It was the Muslim Brotherhood putting on their annual dodgeball tournament in order to raise money to buy all of the ground water in Egypt so that they can blackmail the government into giving it supreme power. I’m going to protest against THEM!

I thought I heard someone say they read an email that mentioned the possibility of class being cancelled, so we should probably stay up all night and not do homework. Woot Woot! No class!

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Not This Again

This McDonald’s is currently (Nov. 20) a war zone

I could blather on about my vacation in the Sinai Peninsula where I gazed for hours across the cobalt waters to the rocky mountains of Saudia Arabia, land of the free, but some stuff has been going down in Egypt that it might not hurt to mention. As such, I’ll save the blather for later.

First of all, let me state that I get most of my news from one person in our program who posts things on her facebook to the tune of one article/video/link every minute. Since she’s a self-described revolutionary socialist, much of this media leans slightly towards the left, but it’s more informative than the only website I read daily, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Other sources of news include hearsay, rumors, eavesdropping, and the occasional article I read online in order to confirm or debunk the current event foam I pick up throughout the day.

That being said, I do know that there were violent protests today in Tahrir square, far away from where I live but right next to where I go to school. Whereas the most interesting thing I did today was drink coffee with only milk instead of milk and sugar, one of my friends described to me a scene of protestors building barricades and being shot at by security forces that he saw from his roof. I said, “Oh that’s really interesting.” and went on to describe a cheese sandwich I had eaten earlier.

But seriously. Tahrir has once again been scented with blood and tear gas only 9 days away from parliamentary elections. Police forces entered the square last night to try to clear out the remnants of protestors from the million man march that was held earlier, but instead of everyone going home and straight to bed, violent clashes broke out and have continued today.

What does this mean? Well I’m not sure, but based on my limited knowledge of politics, elections, and democracy I would say that violence is not a great sign, especially not in addition to the general atmosphere of confusion and depression that has characterized the public sphere as of late.

Personally, I expect more tension and violence as we approach the election date. I don’t expect the situation to improve, and I foresee increasing disillusionment and growing apathy. I don’t mean to sound overly optimistic, but this is just my general feeling.

On the other hand, I probably won’t be going to Tahrir to protest anytime soon so I think I’ll stay pretty safe. My real wish is for a delicious Thanksgiving feast in addition to the flowering of Egyptian democracy and a peaceful brunch tomorrow.

P.S. Same source said that as of 12:51 Cairo time, things are still pretty crazy in Tahrir.

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P.S. I’m Still Alive

Like the situation in Egypt, this puddle stinks

Look, I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but things don’t seem so great here in Egypt, and I’m not talking about the disgusting puddle outside of AUC’s Tahrir campus.

Even as we were all doing cartwheels and singing “ding dong the witch is dead” after Mubarak’s departure in February, some questions lingered in the background like “What next?” and “How difficult could it be to set up a democracy in a country crippled by poverty, corruption, and decades of political stagnation under the rule of dictators?” Turns out it’s pretty difficult, especially since it seems the egg of democracy has been shoved into an iron safe guarded by the general of the armed forces of the chicken coop for “security purposes.” Iron safes aren’t good places for eggs.

We already knew that the economy was going down the tubes, people were still hungry, and the political transition was moving slower than cool molasses. And then you have Sunday, October 9, 2011. There are conflicting reports of what exactly transpired (obviously), but basically, Christian protesters in Cairo were attacked by thugs of some kind and then the army stomped in with its big ol sticks and started putting down the demonstration violently: 26 dead and over 300 injured–the worst case of violence since the winter revolution and a painful indictment of the current political situation and its major players.

How do we feel about this? Not great. Though I am merely an Arabic student here for a short time, I find it incredibly disturbing and disappointing to see this kind of violence. Frankly, it makes me want to vomit when I think about the ploys the Supreme Council of Armed Forces is using to stay in power: sectarian strife, the fear of chaos, the promise of security even while it attacks citizens protesting peacefully. Is it not disgusting? But what can anyone do about it? What’s the alternative? People are tired of revolution and disillusioned about the future….why couldn’t prosperous democracy just happen? Why can’t it be like Idahoan instant mashed potatoes that fluff up into a delicious side dish within seconds?

And as if the violence itself wasn’t enough, state television got creative and its portrayal of the events differed significantly from what other independent channels like Al-Jazeera were broadcasting. Sounds like someone read Mubarak’s diary: “Today, I told the people at TV to just make it all up. Go crazy! Use your imagination! Make me look awesome!” And also the army attacked the building of an independent TV station (Al-Hurra).

So….it’s hard to say what’s going to happen in the coming weeks, but I hope people get angry,  forget their revolution fatigue, keep on fighting the fight. If you have any suggestions for how they should do that please direct them to peopleofegypt@yahoo.com since I’ll be too busy in class to do anything really.

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Current Obsession > Egypt’s Future

My cool Swedish friend, also brother.

STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING!

There’s this song that I’m OBSESSED with and you’re going to love it too! Give me your computer and I’ll find it on YouTube so you can listen to it! It’s only 6 minutes long, and with loading time that makes a total of 10 minutes you’ll have to wait to hear it! It’s not very mainstream but the lyrics are really ethereal. The true essence of the song only hit me on about after the 18th listening but I remember the first one being really awesome too.

Oops I closed all your windows…you didn’t need those open did you? Here, we can share headphones. Or I could just watch you while you listen to it? Okay I’ll stand in front of the computer and you can either look at the screen or directly into my eyes for the full six minutes while you decide whether or not you like the song and I decide whether or not we can remain friends. Remember this is one of my favorite songs so it’ll really hurt me if you don’t like it. Think about that as you’re trying to avoid eye contact with me. Also, you can’t just say you like the song; you have to say something profound, like “The music really brings together the disparate thematic elements in the lyrics” or “it’s like he described the feeling of almost remembering a childhood dream in a completely new way.”

Do you mind if I sing along? I don’t know all of the words but I can hum to fill in the blanks. What? There are violent clashes going on between the army and protesting Copts near Tahrir? 19 dead and 150 wounded? Tear gas and the sound of gun shots floating over the Nile? Okay fine we can look at Al-Jazeera after we listen to this song and then…oh wait! There’s another one that’s really awesome and I bet you’ll love it. You like “noise” music right? It’s music that makes a statement by purposefully avoiding any kind of melody, tune, rhythm, or order. It’s really big in Scandinavia right now, and my super cool Swedish friend is really into it. This one’s only 9 minutes long but it’s totally worth it, and then after that we can look at the “news.”

Say, I hope we don’t have class tomorrow…it would be so awesome if this post-revolution violence paid off for us!

(should my belabored writing have not made it clear, this post was facetious. I don’ t mean most of these things, but you’re left to guess which ones).

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