Archive of ‘Only in Egypt’ category

No more Whiskey at the Grand Hayatt

I got lots of e-mails on this last piece of news: A Saudi owner of an egyptian Hotel has decided ti impose his religious belief on his establishment and prevent the serving of Alcohol in his Hotel. Some people naturally applauded (moronic unappreciative of alcohol people) the very islamic decision and others freaked out and talked about how Saudi is flexing its financial muscles and spreading their brand of Islam in the region. The later group is a bunch of mornonic fuckwits who haven;t been paying attention this past 10 years: Spreading their image of Islam? Really? Anymore than they already have? 

Look around you, you fuckin Morons. They have exported it already.  They even had you believe that Niqabs and Hijab's are parts of Islamic faith, and that Qaradawy is a moderate. Let's not ignore their television sponsored activities on the different MBC's and their numerous other channels (censoring kisses, blurting out words, re-editing entire Music Videos on MTV Arabia), or the amount of piss their directly deposit into people's brains by the fantastic islamist channels such as Al Nas and Al Resalah. And please, while we are at it, let's also mention how on Rotana they have been trying for the past 5 years to make Khaliji music and dance hip and cool, and failing miserably at it, because whether they like it or not, they are not artistic people. They understand the formulaic ways in which you can make something liked by the mass population, but they don't actually get it. However, they did manage to create a market for it in Egypt, sure it's a market that requires you to have lived in one of their countries to enjoy their tribal drivel, but it's a market nonetheless. Anyway… back to the original problem.

Me, personally, I ffind no problem with what this guy did. It's his hotel. He paid for it. He could serve rotten pigs' blood as a drink for all I care. The people, at the end of the day, have the right to either go to him for service or not. It's his money at the end of the day, and if he ends up losing out because of it, hey, one less gulfie with money to waste. How is that possibly a bad thing?

Now, if you are concerned that this will lead to other Hotels refusing to serve alcohol, well, simply start drinking alcohol more. Go to Hotels and order many many bottles of Liquor. Demand that the government issue more liquor licenses and open bars in your neighborhoods and streets. Send a message: Alcohol is still popular here, so Saudis can suck it! Anything short of this is folly and a waste of time. Or you can also get totally drunk as a group and go burn the fucker down. That should send a message as well.

Forrays into 3abath

Dear all,

There is a guy called Ahmed Maher, who is a Kefaya activist and was the person responsible for operating Esra' s facebook account and the May4th group while she was in jail. Ahmed has been on the run from even before the May 4th strike, never staying in one area for too long and always hiding. I thought he was being paranoid. He wasn't. A couple of days ago as he was about to drive his car, another car stopped in front of him. When he tried to back away, three cars came up from behind him. The Boy was trapped, so he gave up and let them take him at 1 pm. They took him to an isolated location and proceeded to beat the living shit out of him for 13 consecutive hours in order for him to give them his e-mail that he regsiterd with on facebook and his password, in order to shut down that facebook group, finally letting him go a bloody mess at 2 am the next day.

Now, ignore the blatant violation of his human rights and the apparent thuggery of the government for a second, and think about the following: For a good week, an entire State Security unit- possibly with follow-up by higher command- has been hunting a guy all over cairo, for the mere fact that he has a facebook account and runs a facebook group. Let that sink in for a second, and then answer me this: Don't you feel safer already? 

This past week

I have been gone for this past week, but I wasn't absent in any way. I was running around helping an Australian friend do a report on May 4th. Here are glimpses of the days that passed by and the people that I met during.


Going to the Hesham Mubarak center is a head-trip. In front of its building there is a street market for groceries, there are 4 police soldiers always camping at the entrance, and there is no respectable sign at the door that says that this is the main legal center for the defense of human rights violations in Egypt, only one made out of cardboard and written on it with a sharpie. And the funniest thing about it is that it is managed in the most democratic of ways. Every year they have elections for the position of the Center's manager, and everyone can nominate him/herself and everyone from the previous manager to the officeboy has a vote. Oh, and no manager can run for more than two consecutive terms.


"I find that I have no choice but to support May 4th, even if I disagree with it, because it's something that the youth are demanding and doing on their own and I am all for them trying to do something. Now, despite the fact that they are going at it the wrong way, I can't stop them, nor will they listen to me, because they are sick of hearing people telling them what they can or can't do. So I support them, cause if they succeeded, it's a good thing, and if they failed, they will gain experience."

Malek, Tuesday


On Wendsday we met with Abdel Monem, the Muslim Brotherhood Blogger and Khaled Hamza, the editor if www.Ikhwanweb.com at the house of the Media Coordinator for the Muslim Brotherhood. This is the setting that I walked into: We were greeted by the house owner, who had with him this young and tiny veiled girl named Sondos, who (of course) spoke English fluently and (naturally) was one of the higher-up editors of Ikhwanweb ( "See, not all veiled women are oppressed an at home, we have young ones who know English and are in managerial positions") and who hosted us in a very posh living room and served us Tea and Cake, with members of his family periodically coming out, dressed in western clothes come out and greet us very nicely. Those people know exactly how to handle the western media.

To be fair to them though, they have been extremely nice and hospitable to me, despite knowing my beliefs and stands on them, which is a cause enough to respect them. And despite the fact that I completely disagree with almost everything they stand for, they are getting their human rights violated in this country on daily basis, which any human being will tell you isn't right. And in case I was never clear on this before, I am for them having the right to form their own political party and run in elections. Firstly because it's everybody's right to have political representation and secondly because maybe that will be the jolt that will move the anti-Ikhwan crowd from their apathy and slumber. Maybe.

One thing though I am confused about, so Khaled if you are reading this, can you tell me why in the name of Zeus' Butthole was there a decorated Christmas tree- in May nonetheless- in the corner of the room with ornaments on them? And why did the ornaments have pictures of veiled girls plastered on them? Please, I would like to know.


" You know, the State Security people one day decided to give me a "humanitarian visit" to see my very sick father. So the night before my visit, a squadron of SS soldiers arrived at our building at midnight and occupied the building, and forced themselves on my parents' house and stayed there for 8 hours till I arrived at 8 am, in the name of securing the building, since you know, I am a dangerous visitor and all. When I found out I flipped out on the accompanying officer, asking him why would any decent human being do this, and of course there was no answer. My mother came out, gave me this look and said "Damn you" . That killed me. I think that messed me up more than all the time I've spent in prison."

Abdel Monem, Wendsday


Khaled: I spoke to your friends, Elijah and Issandr, about you. And you know, they both said that you are extreme.

Me: Well, of course they would say that. I am not surprised at all!

Khaled: Why? Is it because they are leftists?

Me: No. It's because they are foreigners here and their work warrants them to have a good relationship with you, and I am not sure that's possible with them publicly endorsing my views. Don't you think?


Thursday was the first of May, the Egyptian worker day. On that Glorious day the new Mubarak directives were released: A 30% increase in the wages of government employees as a solution to the current problem. Because, you know, the rising prices only affect government employees, and a 30% increase on their 30$ a month salary will really help improve their lives, and allow them to buy cars and houses and maybe save some money for Lil Mo's college fund. And the way he said it too, man, talk about classic: "They told me we will raise the workers 10%, I refused and said it has to be higher. They said ok, 20%, I said, NO, it has to be higher. They said we can make it 25%, but we really have no way to cover it under the current budget, I said NO, NOT A PENNY UNDER 30%". And this, ladies and gentlemen, how you know the mark of a great leader. A great leader doesn't care about the budget, the economy or reality, he only cares about the goal he set in his imagination despite what the actual circumstances may allow. All Hail Hosny.

Thursday was also the day we met Bilal, the kid that went up to the PM and demanded –to thunderous applause- that he release the April 6th detainees. He is very young, very skinny, with intelligence just poking out of his eyeballs. I didn't know that he was a member of the Ghad Party, hell, I didn't even know el Ghad party still had members. The interesting thing about him though, is that he is from the Post Ayman Nour generation: i.e. he joined after Nour went to Prison. That's a believer in a party and its ideals, not a leader and his charisma, which is a concept that is lost on the middle-east for some reason.


"Oh, my parents didn't think highly of what I did at all. I went home to find that my parents burned half of my books. However, after my mother talked to the neighbors, who surprised her with their messages of support to what I said and did, she changed her mind. She looked at me and said "Bilal, you know, you and your friends may perish for standing up to what you believe, but don't worry, Egypt will always remain Bilal!". So I looked at her and said "That's all very nice mom, but couldn't you have figured this out before burning my books?""

Bilal, Thursday


A state of uncertainty dominated the media scene on Friday, on whether or not anything was gonna happen on May 4th. You see, it's kind of hard to predict the outcome of a strike that has no clear organizers or participants, with everything operating in a very anarchist manner. In order to combat such uncertainty and confusion, the media invented a new political entity that is behind all of that is happening. What did they call it? "The Facebook Youth movement", I kid you not. So now the Facebook Youth movement is the new political player in town, with newspapers running stories on how they are calling for this or demanding that, which is basically them making a story from any asshole creating a group calling for something on the Egypt network. This reminded me of when they started running stories on the new gods of politics, media and activism: "The Egyptian Blogger Movement". Remember that shit? When they used to run stories on how "The Egyptian bloggers called for this or organized that", like we are some sort of monolithic entity that actually agrees on everything and is organized and has goals and leadership. I kept asking every blogger I know to introduce me to the coordinator, the supreme leader or even the spokesman of "The Egyptian Bloggers", but they would be as stumped as I was.

My suggestion? We create a facebook group called "The leadership office of the Facebook Youth Movement" and I will be their spokesmen, and someone else can be their supreme leader. I am sure the Media will jump on us in 30 seconds, hosting us and asking us of our goals and demands and what we have in store next. Oh boy, I would mess with them for hours!


"Do I like this government? Of course. It's not a bad government at all. From the security side of things, they are great. They have some problems from the economical side of things, but really, who doesn't? Oh no, I find nothing to complain about when it comes to this government. They keep us safe and secure. God Bless them!"

A Taxi Driver, Friday


Saturday was the day we were slated to meet the Supreme leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mahdy Akef. It wasn't what I expected. His personal office is tiny, like literally smaller than my office, and he gives this image of this very kind and sweet old man, a total grandpa type. Since I was only the translator for my friend, I didn't ask any of the questions I wanted to ask. My personal impression of him, personally, is that he is a very smart and astute man, and his brain operates perfectly despite his old age. Oh and very polite. All freaking MB members are very very polite.


"Why are we joining this strike when we didn't join the last time? Well, we are joining because that's what the people asked us to do. There is a national demand for us to join, and we listen to the people, so we have to comply."

Mahdy Akef, Saturday


Later on that day I received an SMS from Sharqawy's fiancé. State Security has been tailing and harassing them for 3 days, and she needed him to hide somewhere until May 4th is over, so she asked me. I've known this kid for more than 2 years now, and I can safely say that I've never seen him in the state he was in. He embodied controlled rage and weariness in a way that is impossible to describe. He told me that they refuse to leave him alone because he managed to identify the State Security Officer that tortured him at the police station, and mentioned that over the phone and now the Officer knows and is scared. So he is harassing him in every way he can, hoping that Sharqawy would have enough and flee the country.


"Those Motherfuckers. You know what they did? They blindfolded me and then took my wallet and looked in it. I could hear them naming the different types of ATM and credit cards I had in there. They then looked into the money pocket where I had about 6 K worth of dollars and Egyptian pounds on me, and then they loudly said ' you have 270 egyptian pounds in this wallet. Take it' and put it in my hand, but didn't return my wallet immediately, but did so later. I didn't figure out why until I came out. The wallet had a piece of paper that had my ATM pin code on it. That Bank account in my business account, and it had over 14 K in it. By the time I was out, the Balance was 0. All the money was withdrawn. And now I am out, I am broke, and owe people money. They are the scum of the earth."

Sharqawy, Sunday @ 2 am.


" Today is the Day Egypt was reborn!"

Al Ahram Newspaper headline on Sunday, marking the President's 80th Birthday! 


Sunday, well, you could read all about it here. So instead let me tell you this unfortunately 100 % true story:

Magdy Hussein- the leader of the Islamic Labor party- called Zakareya Azmy- The President's Chief of Staff and an MP- on the phone one week before the strike and told him that he is organizing a committee to run Egypt after the people's revolution will force Mubarak to abdicate on May 4th and that if he wants a seat on it he is welcome to join them. Not a word was mentioned of Azmy's reply though, although it is widely believed that this was due to Aazmy being too busy rolling on the floor laughing his ass off to reply to Magdy.


Monday, ahh Monday.

Monday was the day the Egyptian press gloated over the failure of the strike, with many of them claiming that the 30% raise aborted it. Monday was also the first day that Mubarak announced that there is no way to finance the 30% raise. The parliament, that same day, passed measure to finance the raise, by raising the prices of car gas by 35 %, solar by 40% and the taxes on cigarettes by 20%. The ripple effect of those increases will fuck us of a lot of money for the entire year, and one has to openly wonder if a 30% raise for a segment of the population that is less than 10% warrants collective punishment for the entire population. Hell, now even the government employees are more screwed. The new prices were enforced starting from 10 pm. Under my house there is a gas station and at 11 pm, the fighting started. And it's just the beginning. The people, as usual, will turn on each other instead of the government, and life will suck for all of us all around.


"The rich will be the ones paying for the workers raise"

The headline in RosealYusef, a government sponsored rag today 

"This guy I work with, while riding the Micobus with me, kept curisng Mubarak today. His government salary has increased by 37 pounds, but now the Microbus' fare has doubled, so now he has to pay extra 2 pounds a work day. If he works for 20 days a months, he is already worse off by 3 pounds. And what kills is that he raised the prices right after he announces the raise. This Mubarak guy, he has no tact!"

The Taxi Driver I rode with to work today. Oh, and by the way, the ride now costs 30 pounds, up from the standard 20. Increased Gas prices, baby!  


I do have to admire this government's cunning though. If people connect between the hikes and the government wage raises, not a single person will dare to support a strike or demand a higher wage again. And what a perfect excuse to implement price increases that you wanted to implement for ages then say it's a way to pay off the huge raise you gave the workers. And here we thought we were going to give him a Birthday he wouldn't forget on Sunday. Ha, he is the one who made the following Monday unforgettable. Thanks Mubarak for doing this to us on your birthday. What a way to make us celebrate it with you. Motherfucker!

The Game is on

********************Scroll down for updates********

People who read this blog know that I am not the most enthusiastic supporter of today's protest for both political reasons , and for the fact that I am not quite sure what it would achieve. It's hard to take a protest seriously that gives u the choice between being apathetic or participating by staying at home and doing nothing. However, the government seems to be taking it very seriously, so maybe I should to, especially that they arrested Malek and a number of activists yesterday, forcing a number of other bloggers and activists to spend last night in any other place but their homes. I just took a cab ride to Dowtown and the streets are crawling state security and they are stopping young men who are walking by themselves on the streets and checking their ID's and forcing them to get off the streets as soon as possible. 

On the other hand, the government is going for an entire media blitz to stop the strike: The cover of government mouthpieces AlAhram and Al Akhbar are filled with headlines that both deny the existance of any strike , following the line of "What strike? That's just a bunch of hype started by a number of illegal and shady movements and individuals who want to ruin the country!", and yet detail the amounts of legal punishment and trouble that anyone who participates in a strike would receive "Losing your job, Fines, 3 months to a year in prison, being on the government's shit list forever, etc..etc..". Uber government presswhore RoseAlYusef published a headline asking people to calm down, go to work and not worry because everything is working fine and there is no strike , and life is rosy. In Rosealyusef's world, reality is what you make it, which must work really well for them.

The interesting thing is, no one knows really which political powers are with or behind this protest. I mean sure, AlWasat, and alKarama parties are in, and so is whomever is representing Kefaya these days, and some factory workers. The Muslim Brotherhood have announced they won't participate, but they are supporting the protest "with their hearts", whatever the fuck that means. The Pro-government other parties like Egypt;s Youth and the conservative party and their many counterparts are all saying that they support freedom of expression, but are against such shady political stunts that achieve nothing and only hurt the country. The Democratic Front, the Nasserite party are in solidarity with the strike, while Al Tagamo3 and the Wafd party are not joining because "they weren't invited to join" (Awwww……). And Al Ghad , on the other hand, enjoys the most unique position of being For and Anti the strike at the same time, thanks to the fact that there are two factions claiming to represent it now: The Musa faction, which is anti joining, and the Ayman Nour faction, which is all about joining, and naturally AlAhram quotes Musa , while Al Masry Al Youm quotes Gamila Ismael, Nour's wife! It's beautiful!

As far as the people go, they have various reactions: Nawarah Negm's maid thinks that the people will destroy the Bread Bakeries, Haisam tells a story about the driver of his friends' father who is striking today, because he believes that the strike is against the Dutch Fitna movie, the Taxi drivers I took eysterday and today assure me that they have heard of the strike and that people are all worried about it, because whomever doesn't show up to work today will go to jail, even if they were sick. He also told me that the local souq (markets) were open till midnight last night, with people buying lots of goods in anticipation for today. Many of the private schools, afraid of…ehh..I don't know..something..have canceled schools today, and thus the streets of Cairo are empty this morning. Al Dustour newspaper is also reporting that Egyptian movie Star Ahmed ElSaqqah is joining the protest by halting production of his new movie for the day. Saqqa the revolutionary. Who knew?

Anyway, the people behind the strike have created a special blog to document it (can be found here ), and are urging the people on the streets to send their pictures, posts and stories to them , using this e-mail 6april08@gmail.com. They even have a hotline: 0118361000 or 0119423496, so don't hesitate to call it. if you witness something, even if you don;t agree with the protest or the ideology behind it. Look at it the way I look at it: It's a way to flip off the government who won't just allow protesting in the streets, but won't allow people to stay home either. It's the least we can do, no?

Update: They have also arrested Mohamed Sharkawy and Kefaya's leader Mohamed Al Ashqar from their homes, and they have arrested Mustapha Khalil at a Fabric shop in Al Mansoura, out of fear that he might purchase fabrics that could be sued to make protest banners. Oh yeah!

Update: ALMahalla strike is canceled. I repeat, Al Mhalla strike is canceled. All Eyes are now on Al Tahrir square! 

Update: Just spoke to Jano at Mahalla. It seems that Mohamed Al Attar and the other strike leaders had reached some kind of compromise over "food allowance" that prompted them to cancel the strike. The other leaders who didn't want to cancel the strike, like Karim Al Bheery, are reportedly sieged into their offices and not allowed to leave or talk to the workers or do anything. 

Update: Mohamed Abdel Kuddous got literally kidnapped in Downtwon while buying a newspaper. And yes, it is Mohamed Al Sharkawy- from Mlameh publishing- who got arrested from his finace's house in Sheikh Zayed. The Fun just keeps on rolling! 

Update: Kafr Al Dawar workers also abandoned the strike plans, proving once again that egyptian political activists excel at nothing but creating hype. Sweet!

Update: We can probably spin this as a success if we want to. It will go something like this:  This call for people to stay at home was so successful no one went to the streets and protested! 

Update: People, don't despair! We are victims of our own success. Our campaign to keep people at home was so successful, that no one showed to the protests. Really, we should be applauding ourselves. Job well done people, Job well done!

Update: A demonstration erupted next to the Lawyers sydnicate. The Police is trying to squash it and isn't allowing anyone access inside the syndicate's building! 

The Egyptian Opposition's sense of Irony

Any serious follower of egyptian politics must've laughed his/her ass off when they heard the news of the 6th of April strike, and not just because of the laundry list of ridiculous shit that this strike is supposed to be about. No, they would laugh for a far simpler reason than that: You see, tired of just staying home and doing nothing, the egyptian opposition has decided to take actions and demand that the people rise up by staying at home and doing nothing for a day.

A Genius way of eradicating political apathy and getting the people involved, no?

sigh… 

Fisked

This is a fantastic story that could only happen in Egypt. Robert Fisk doscoverd that his book on the life and times of Saddam was selling really well in Egypt, which was strange since he never wrote one. So Fisk had to come to Egypt and do some investiagtive journalism to find out who was behind it, unaware of what awaited him here in the land of the pharaohs. You have to read this. It's awesome!

Having HIV in Egypt

This is really messed up:

The arrests began in October 2007, when police stopped two men having
an altercation on a street in central Cairo. When one of them told the
officers that he was HIV-positive, police immediately took them both to
the Morality Police office and opened an investigation against them for
homosexual conduct. The two men told human rights defenders that they
were slapped and beaten for refusing to sign statements the police
wrote for them. They spent four days in the Morality Police office
handcuffed to an iron desk, sleeping on the floor. Police later
subjected the two men to forensic anal examinations designed to “prove”
that they had engaged in homosexual conduct.
 
 
Human Rights Watch has documented that such examinations
to detect “evidence” of homosexuality are not only medically spurious
but constitute torture.
 
 
Police then arrested two more men because their
photographs or telephone numbers were found on the first two detainees.
Authorities subjected all to HIV tests without their consent. All four
are still in detention, pending prosecutors’ decision on whether to
bring charges of homosexual conduct. The first two arrestees, who
reportedly tested HIV-positive, are being held in a Cairo hospital,
handcuffed to their beds and only unchained for an hour each day. 

Meanwhile, police apparently placed the apartment where one of the men
had lived under surveillance. On November 20, two days after a new
tenant had assumed the lease, police raided the apartment and detained
four other men.
 
 
According to the arrest report, the men were fully dressed
and were not engaging in any illegal acts at the time of the arrests.
However, all were charged with homosexual conduct, apparently solely on
the basis that they were found in a dwelling formerly occupied by one
of the earlier detainees.
 
 
People who have spoken to the four men since their arrest
told Human Rights Watch that a non-commissioned officer in the police
station beat one detainee on the head several times. Police allegedly
forced the four men to stand in a painful position for three hours with
their arms lifted in the air. They were provided no food, drink, or
blankets during their first four days of detention. Authorities also
tested these men for HIV without their consent. One of the men
reportedly said that the prosecutor, when informing him that he had
tested positive for HIV, told him: “People like you should be burnt
alive. You do not deserve to live.” 

I am speechless! Read more here! 

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