Viewing entries tagged
Essay by Egyptian Activist, Demaugh Mak: "Mubarak, You are 30 years late." #Egypt, #Cairo, #FREEEGYPT, #25jan
This is a blog by my friend Maia back in Cairo. She has a handful of personal stories and photos that may be of interest.
Beside the Boys on the Street: Women and the Egyptian Protests by my friend Max Strasser
Egyptian Protests: Women are a substantial part of Egyptian Protest
Women Protesting In Yemen
For those with a deeper interest on the subject, here are some published articles I found online:
A quick look at Google, and Mcdonalds will pop up everywhere (see below).
Otlob: What item would you like the "extra chocolate sauce" added to?
Me: The M&M McFlurry (the options include the 1/4 pounder, fries, coke, salad, and strawberry sundae... and no, this was not all for me).
Me: Well of course they can. That is why I requested "extra" sauce and am paying "extra" money, because the request is made in addition to the item.
Otlob: Yes sir, I understand, and I tell this to McDonalds, but they say it cannot be done.
The campus is absolutely beautiful, yet the poor generalplanning of the entire New Cairo development seems to undermine thesatisfaction that one would otherwise derive from the setting. For the time being, going to school at AUC in New Cairo is disaster. With no public transportation system in place, the schoolshuttles buses from the old campus gates to the new campus, every dayof the week. With only 2 or 3 departments still located at the oldcampus, the entire downtown facilities remain empty while the expenseto maintain them remains in place. In New Cairo, all aspects of dailylife had to be determined and constructed in advance of the residentpopulation, so it is only natural that certain details are lacking orare insufficient. From technical concerns, such as anticipating theappropriate sewer size for the projected future population, to simplerdetails such as appropriate business hours.
New Cairo is a rather bizarre place, a big goofy suburb of rich people in big houses out in the desert. It has many of the characteristics of of new American suburbs, with rows of identical houses, tree lined streets, and convenient shopping centers dotting the periphery, but it also has an array of unique characteristics. Palm trees dot the medians, giant fountains of water are spread around to showoff the luxury of the neighborhood, and crazy glass office buildings are randomly distributed. The buildings are generally positioned within a high density, and with nearly zero setbacks, the facades are frequently immediately perpendicular to the street edge. I can't recall if there are any sidewalks, but I have the impression that the interest of cars dominate the street design far more than pedestrians.
The strange thing about New Cairo is that EVERYTHING is presently under construction. While normal communities evolve slowly over time, this whole city is planned from top to bottom by urban designers, architects, and real estate companies. The whole city is being constructed all at once, as all housing, business, utilities, and shopping have suddenly popped up within the Sahara like an oasis of modern commerce. It makes the area sorta creepy really, to see unfinished concrete buildings buried in the sand, as far as you can see. An apocalyptic allure hangs over the buildings, especially as I cannot look at them and detach my thoughts from the current economic crisis. It is difficult to measure or understand the economic downturn from where I stand, as the distinction between rich and poor is so massive within this country, that even with serious detriment to the Egyptian economy, one can barely see a difference. Yet as New Cairo rises from the desert, I wonder if it will ever accomplish the vision that was set out for this place many years ago.
While personal vision and precise measurements are certainly needed, I would argue that New Cairo reveals a common shortfall among planners, the element of community. As a completely designed new settlement out on the urban periphery, there was no preexisting community to serve as a foundation for growth. Communities evolve over time and cannot be magically called into existence. Yet without a community in place, how does one truly ever know what to plan for? Maybe in the future, New Cairo will stand as the feature destination for tourists and and successful businesses within Egypt. Perhaps it will be the glamorous counterpart to Cairo, or maybe it will become assimilated into the general sprawl of Cairo, so that these two different cities will merge into one single massive settlement. For the moment, New Cairo remains a disconcerting venture as it seems to have everything except for the most crucial ingredient. People.
Except that didn't work out.
I went to the cafe where I had previously met their leader. It is a well known hang out for Sudanese refugees in that neighborhood, and I assumed I would meet up with them just as before. Yet no one showed. I sat, drank a cup of wretched tea (I forgot to ask for Lipton), and after awhile I made a couple trips into the labyrinth of alley ways where our 'school' is located. Unfortunately I never found any indication that these guys were showing up. That's fine, as the only frustration is for them to satisfy such low expectation. However, in my own error, my phone battery was dead and I was unable to call my boss Natalie. So after an hour and a half of wandering the street and drinking tea, I left.
Here's one of those streets.
The evening remained overshadowed by my disappointment, only compounded by my usual brooding over my life in Cairo etc. Then at 8:27 the telephone rang.
This guy called, saying he was from a group called V.I.P., and that he heard I am a music producer, that I had a recording studio, and that I can write beats for them. I guess word is getting around about the work I've been doing, and now it seems local hip hop artists are looking to work with me. This guy happens to work in Garden City, which is nearby, and was just getting of work, so I offered to meet him in front of Hardees.
I walked down there and after a few minutes was shaking hands with this Sudanese rapper. Upon asking his name he told me "Ronald Reagan." I smiled, as it sounded like any other goofy street name most of the gangsters have, usually the names of famous rappers in America.. We went inside and sat for over an hour, drinking orange soda, talking about music while I shared with him samples of the work I've made with Unigunz. I showed him the way I work on my laptop and discussed the philosophy underlying the whole project/partnership.
It became clear that he is excited about this project, and more importantly, he wants me to show him how to do this sort of work himself. Equipped with his own computer at home, he has spent many hours trying to make his own music and music videos. He pulled out a flash drive and showed me a video he had filmed and edited himself. He recorded the video on a hand held digital camera and edited the separate scenes on his PC. For a guy with limited resources, I think he did a rather decent jobfor the video. Sure, its very rough, but he is definitely doing thebest he can. He filmed it at place where he works at 5 am so thereweren't any customers, and managed to do all of it by himself.
The only real problem with it is that the music itself was ripped from a very successful musician in America, not only that, but it was a top ten song a few years ago. At least the lyrics are original, so the first thing we are going to try to do is write an original piece of music to replace the one he has now.
Later on he asked how to spell my name to enter it into his phone. I told him that its just "Mitch," that I don't have a street name and should probably get one. Sure - I've thought about forming one - suggestions by friends have ranged from Mizzel to DJ Abayed Abayed, which means DJ Whitey White in Arabic, but I haven't found anything. Upon mentioning my lack of street name, the guy looked at me and said, "Yeah, I don't have one either. That stuff is for Lost Boys and Outlaws, and I don't need that. My name is Ronald Reagan, and yeah, he was a president, but its just a name."
Realizing that it wasn't a street name, it reminded me how aid workers sometimes name children after the day of the week on which the child was born. I've met quite a few guys from Sudan named Sunday. I also thought of a story I heard once from a Sudanese guy about how much his family loved Ronald Reagan because when Reagan was in the White House the family was able to better take care of the children than during any time after. I wondered about the story behind this guys name, but I decided that I might ask another time.
Oh yeah, and here's Ronald's video.
It's interesting to observe the differences between the two primary Cairo gangs, the Outlaws and Lost Boys, considering that the members both come from the same parts of Sudan. The Lost Boys have been the predominate youth gang within Sudan for many years, while the Outlaws only recently formed in retaliation to constant harassment.
Within Cairo, the two gangs live in different neighborhoods and have evolved to maintain particular characteristics. The Lost Boys live in the nicer neighborhood of Maadi, are generally better educated, have less structure within the gang, and are often the more violent. In contrast, the Outlaws were founded, and accordingly named, because they exist 'outside the law. ' The Outlaws live within the poorer neighborhood of Ain Shemz, have limited education or oppurtunity, maintain a strict system of order within the gang, and generally engage only in retaliatory acts of violence.
Today I managed to immediately befriend a guy named James within the Lost Boys who is excited at the prospect of being able to record professional quality reggae music. Apparently he has a couple traditional drums which he plays at church services (all members of both gangs attend christian churches on a weekly basis or more). For several years he has been trying to play music with other people for awhile, yet nothing would ever come together - certainly something to which I can relate.
Now with the other guys, the general gangsters, it is definately more challenging to get these guys off the street and into the studio - but, since that is the point of the project, it is a matter of using any means necessary. Unfortuanately the best strategy right now appears to talk about how the oppositional gang is doing so well with the project. I played some tracks of music recorded with the Unigunz, and said "This was made in Ain Shemz." I didn't say who made it, but since they assumed it was made by the "Outlaws," the guys began to listen with rapt attention. I suspect now that when I show up on wednesday, there will be more interest and motivation to make the project happen.
Of course, once I get a little bit out of these guys, I'll return to the Outlaws in Ain Shemz and say 'listen to what the Lost Boys have made!"
Its frustrating, but this is really the only way to get either gang to do anything. I fully intend to direct the attention away from that motive with each increment of progress, but for now, I obviously have start somewhere. As for James, I already gave him some homework to do, and I'm curious to see if he will manage to deliver when I see him again in three days from now.