Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Above are two stencils, found next to each other across the street from the sit-in at the Maglis Al-Sha'ab. On the left is Aliaa Magda Elmahdy and on the right is Samira Ibrahim.
The words in this specific stencil are illegible, they were actively scratched out. The words, however, are legible in other stencils. The following translation is a result of viewing other stencils.

Translation (in between portrait of Elmahdy):
"Samira Ibrahim: 25 years-old, she had been naked by force and checked for her virginity in front of officers and soldiers in the army and she refused not to revenge her dignity and she filed a lawsuit in the Egyptian court. There was no interest... There was no audience...There was no media...There was no life for the killers.
Aliaa Elmahdy: 20 years-old, she stripped and exposed her body clearly by her own wanting. By the hurried manner of the public and the media [to learn about her] and around one million viewed her picture and not less than 50 articles about her and a lot of TV shows."

Translation (below portrait of Ibrahim):
"Tribute and homage to cherish and support For Samira Ibrahim, daughter of Upper Egypt."

Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, a former AUC student, posted a nude photograph of herself on her blog. The picture gained wide-spread notoriety in mid-November about a month after its posting when activist Ahmed Awadalla twitted about it. While Awadalla praised the picture, in general, there was a conservative backlash against it.
Many feared that liberal political parties would be affected in the parlimentary polls.
After rumors circulated, the April 6th movement issued an official statement that Elmahdy was not a member.
Legal action has since been taken against Elmahdy for "trying to spread her obscene ideology through nude photos," and "violating morals, inciting indecency and insulting Islam" according to the report filed in court. Furthermore the prosecution believes that Elmahdy should be tried according to Islamic law because Islamic law is the source of the (1971) constitution. The penalty under Islamic law is death.
Elmahdy discussed her views with CNN earlier this month.

Samira Ibrahim sued the military after being forced by the military to take a virginity test last March. The verdict in the case was expected on Tuesday, but delayed until 27 December. Ibrahim was one of 17 women forced to take a virginity tests after being detained on 9 March when the military attempted to clear Midan Tahrir. SCAF admitted that the virginity tests occurred, but argued that they were a necessary defense should any of the detained women claim that they were raped.

While many Egyptians do not agree with Elmahdy's actions, it is my hope that they nevertheless treat her-- as they should any individual-- with respect, just as Ibrahim should have been. Elmahdy was allegedly beaten upon entering Midan Tahrir last week.
No matter what an individuals point of view is-- or how much you disagree with them-- I don't believe such behavior is acceptable.

NOTE: All translations on this blog were conducted by me and an Egyptian friend. While we translated to the best of our ability combining our native English and Arabic skills, these translations are not a professional standardized translation of the street art that is available on the internet. We are, however, confident in all translations that we post on this blog.

The Revolution will not be Tweeted.

I was very excited to see this stencil!
As I wrote in an earlier post, following the beginning of the recent clashes in Midan Tahrir, several TV stencils began appearing in downtown. Upon seeing the TV stencils I immediately thought of the late Gil Scott Heron's iconic poem "The Revolution will not be televised," this Twitter stencil, however, appears to be a direct reference to the poem: "The revolution will not be [twitted], the revolution will be live."
(The stencils of the spray-can and the pharaoh are separate.)

I took this photograph across the street from the Maglis Al Sha'ab (The People's Assembly), where there is a continued sit-in (the street itself has been blocked off-- there are check-points -- since last Friday) which began as an attempt to physically block the new Prime Minister Kamel El-Ganzouri from taking office, but has since broaden its message to oppose military rule. (It is unclear what building Ganzouri works in, but he has in fact taken office).
The stencil has appeared along Qasr Al-Aini Street (on which the Maglis is located) leading into Midan Tahrir, but I haven't seen the stencil within the Midan itself.
NOTE: This stencil is in English, there was no accompanying stencil in Arabic.

Twitter is a great source for up-to-date news in Cairo. Some famous Egyptian Twitters are Sandmonkey (who also has a blog by the same name) and Gigi Ibrahim (who appeared on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show after the Revolution).
In addition to activists, many political figures & parites have twitter. The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party is very active.
Tahrir Supplies, started during the recent clashes in Tahrir, is both a hashtag and a twitter account, it posts what supplies are needed (medical, food, water, blankets) in the field hospitals in Midan Tahrir and coordinates pick-up/drop-off points for those living far away from the Midan.
#egyelections was a popular hashtag during the recent polls.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

day 2

Translation: "Freedom is coming forever."
This photograph was taken on Saturday 26 November, around the corner from The Wall.

Will elections set Egyptians free?

Voting was extended from 1 day to 2 days by SCAF last Friday.

I have been surprised by the lack of election street art in Cairo. While most street art is in itself political, as far as I have seen, none of it directly references the elections. While I mentioned in a previous post that some candidates painted their names on buildings in the village I visited, I have not seen any such street art in Cairo. Candidates do plaster campaign posters on walls (and in most cases, identical posters directly next to each other) and hang up banners, but there are no interpretative murals depicting their faces or names. Each party and candidate had a symbol (to aid illiterate voters), but none of these symbols were painted on the streets. There is also no street art depicting the importance of voting-- not so much as the word VOTE. Voter education programs certainly exist in Cairo, but they didn't use street art to reach the masses. Furthermore, what does the lack of election street art imply about the street artists themselves?

The Muslim Brotherhood (and their political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party [FJP]) may not have used street art, but they certainly got their message across. At every polling station that I walked past (and as was the same with my friends) in the past 2 days the FJP had a large contingent of volunteers. The FJP had a booth with laptops at each polling station to assist voters with finding their legna (polling station) number (voters needed to record the number along with their name and ID number before voting) in addition t numerous volunteers passing out flyers despite a ban on campaigning 48 hours before elections. Is this freedom?

Monday, November 28, 2011


This photograph was taken in front of the Mugamma on Saturday 26 November during the on-going occupation of Midan Tahrir.
Saturday November 19th is the day that the recent clashes in Midan Tahrir began after the Central Security Forces (CSF) used violence to evict peaceful protesters from the Midan.

Is this street art a reference to the film V for Vendetta (Remember, Remember the 5th of November)?

As the first round of parliamentary elections began today in Cairo (and 8 other governorates, including Alexandria and Luxor), the April 6th movement encouraged voters to wear black in remembrance of those who died in the recent clashes in Midan Tahrir.
Despite the long lines at many polling stations today, it only takes one stroll through Midan Tahrir to Remember the 19th of November.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Is This Chaos?

Translation: "This is Chaos?"
I took this photo on Monday 21 November at The Mugamma.

The street art is a spoof of the famous 2007 Egyptian film "This is Chaos" from the Egyptian director Youssef Chahine. The film focuses on the story of a corrupt policeman (Hatim, played by the actor Khaled Salah) who falls in love with a young teacher (Nour, played by the actress Hala Sadky). He continues to pursue her despite the teacher become engaged to her school's principal's son, a high ranking government official. Hatim proceeds to rape Nour and hide the evidence. Nour and her fiancee pursue the case and eventually find incriminating evidence against Hatim. At the end of the film, Hatim commits suicide.
NOTE: The title of the film does not include a question mark.

Below is a link to the film's trailer (without English subtitles)

The street art is a picture of Hatim with a gun before he commits suicide. Does the question mark in the street art serve to ask the people if the suicide of the police (of the government) is what they want? While Mubarak was certainly a brutal ruler, he didn't flee to Saudi Arabia, but rather stayed in Egypt to stand in court in front of his people. Do the Egyptian people want revenge or do they want justice? Is there a difference?
The saying goes that the best revenge is living well. It is my hope that the first round of parliamentary elections beginning tomorrow will be Egypt's first step towards living well.

The wall

Translation: "Freedom is coming forever" (hureya geya labd)
I took this photo on Saturday 26 November. The wall can be seen in the back of the photo; it is not currently possible to get closer to the wall.
Below is a zoomed-in version of the photo above. Besides the words "hureya geya labd," there is no other street art on the wall.

The army began constructing the wall on Thursday 24 November in order to stop on-going clashes between protesters (based out of Midan Tahrir) and the Central Security Forces (defending the Ministry of Interior) on Mohamed Mahmoud St., a side street leading into Midan Tahrir.
The army built a wall around the Israeli Embassy in Dokhi (in Giza, across the nile from downtown Cairo), after demonstrations following the killing of Egyptian soldiers by the Israeli army (who were chasing terrorists allegedly involved in the Eliat bombings) on Thursday 18 August 2011.
Unlike the wall on Mohamed Mahmoud St., the wall in front of the Israeli embassy was covered in street art.
The wall in front of the Israeli embassy was torn down on the night of the 9 September demonstrations. Many here compared its destruction to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
What will happen to the wall on Mohamed Mahmoud St.? Will it be torn down? Will it soon be covered in street art? Is the existence of one piece of street art indicative of the fact that the people in Midan Tahrir are united?

The KFC is partially visible on the left side of the photograph. The words "yuskut al musher" (down with the musher) were written on the metal door. These are the first words written on it. As I mentioned in a previous post, there used to be wooden boards, but they were replaced by the metal door roughly a month ago.

NOTE: The AUC bus-stop used to be located a few meters from the wall. The bus-stop has since been re-located.

Translation:" Street of the massacre of the Basher, Mohamed Mahmoud (formerly)"

Mohamed Mahmoud Street, located just off of Midan Tahrir, was the main site of clashes between security forces and protesters last week. The street has since (unofficially) been re-named "Martyr Street."
After the Revolution, the Mubarak metro stop was also renamed "The Martyrs."

The Grim Reeper mural, located down the wall from this mural, remains untouched.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

El Menoufia

Sadat was from Menoufia.
Mubarak is from Menoufia.
(Essam) Sharaf (former PM, resigned on Monday 21 November) is from Menoufia.
(Kamal) El Shazly (a prominent former member of the NDP who passed away before the 2010 parliamentary elections) is from Menoufia.
(Ahmed) Ezz (a famous businessman under Mubarak who is now in jail awaiting trial, owner of Ezz Steel) is from Menoufia.
(Kamal) El Ganzory (newly appointed PM, former PM from 1996-1999) is from Menoufia.
Menoufia is playing single*
and all of Egypt are standing next.

*in the street art, the Arabic word "single" is simply the English word transliterated. "Single" refers a person playing a game by himself.

Menofia is one of 27 governorates in Egypt. Many prominent members of Egyptian politics have come from Menofia.

This particular piece of street art is not actually painted on the wall, rather it is a sign that was leaned against a wall. If it's portable, it's owner can take it with him when he leaves and protect it from becoming erased. Furthermore because it's portable this street art has a unique owner who can do with it what he pleases. Is this street art? Or must the street own it in order for it to be called street art?

Know thy Enemy

Translation: "Know thy enemy: Hamdi Badeen"
This stencil has begun appearing in downtown Cairo in the last few days, some renditions of it include the words "WANTED." Was the creator of this stencil inspired by the WANTED El Shenawy street art? El Shenawy was, after all, captured.
Hamdi Badeen is the chief of the military police (el shorta el askarya). The military police is in charge of policing the military. After the Revolution and the establishment of SCAF (a military junta as opposed to a civilian transitional council), their jurisdiction expanded to include civilians. The military police now have the power to arrest both police and civilians, hence civilians are now being tried in military courts.

Hamdi Badeen recently said that the army hasn't entered Midan Tahrir since they withdrew in September (the day before the massive 9 September demonstration; since the beginning of Ramadan they had controlled the Midan and allowed no protests). Widely circulated photographs and videos, however, prove otherwise.

Many activists called for Hamdi Badeen's trial after the Maspero clashes.

Killed in Action

An activist was killed early this morning on Qasr Al-Aini Street, near the Maglis Al Sha'ab- he was run over by a police van & died of internal injuries. Activists began an open ended sit-in in front of the Maglis Al Sha'ab (located close to Midan Tahrir) the night before in order to prevent the newly appointed Prime Minister Kamel Ganzouri from entering office.
When I arrived at the scene at approximately 3pm, the area where the activist was killed was cornered off and other activists were explaining what happened to those cars which slowed down to look.

Can something be art if it's real?

Translation: "Blood of the martyr of military rule"
These words-- written in chalk-- were next to the scene.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Glory for the Rioters

Translation: "The glory for the rioters" (El Maged Ll Moshagbeen)
This graffiti was created today on the wall of the Mugamma.

This street art is a spoof of the famous Egyptian play (and subsequent film) "The School of the Rioters" (Madrasah Al-Moshagbeen). The play debuted after the 1973 war with a venerable cast- including Adel Imam, Ahmed Zeky, Saed Saleh, Hasan Mostfa and Soher El Bably.
In the play, the principle can't control his students despite his many attempts at disciplining them. The students tirelessly play jokes on their teachers, until the principal hires a new teacher who eventually reforms them by first becoming their friend and earning their trust and respect.

While street art is giving praise to the rioters, does the reference to the play allow that these rioters can eventually be tamed? If so, who is the teacher that will tame them?
Massive demonstrations took place today in Midan Tahrir and in several other cities across Egypt, calling for an end to military and a shift transition to civilian rule lead by a National Salvation Council. Rejecting SCAF's appointment of Kamel El-Ganzouri as the new Prime Minister, representatives of youth & revolutionary movements appointed Mohamed El-Baradei, Nobel Peace Prize winner and former head of the IAEA, as the head of the National Salvation Council. Will Baradei be able to tame the rioters?

Here is a clip of the play (without English subtitles), featuring the actor Adel Imam.

the Shahada

Translation: "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger" (la ilaha illallah Muhammad rasulu illah).
This stencil of the Shahada is now very common in Midan Tahrir.
After someone dies, a Muslim says "We are for Allah and we are returning to him" (inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'oon). When in a state of disbelief or shock, a Muslim may instinctively say the Shahada- "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger" (la ilaha illallah Muhammad rasulu illah). The Shahada is the Muslim testimony of belief.

Throughout the past week, I have heard shouts of "Allahu Akbar" in Midan Tahrir. I have seen men stop chanting against military rule in order to pray. I have watched as ambulances drive the injured from the site of the clashes to the large field hospital in Omar Makram Mosque on the other side of the Midan while men and women hold hands to make sure there is a clear path. I pushed my way through a crowd with the help of a woman wearing the niqab. And I have heard people muttering "la ilaha illallah Muhammad rasulu illah" when they see a bloody picture from Al Jazeera on their smart phone or learn than yet another person has died in the clashes.
Yes Islam is present in the Midan, but Islam is present in Egypt. This is not an Islamic Revolution, this is an Egyptian Revolution.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

No to military rule

This is a very popular form of the stylized "لا" ("No" in Arabic), seen in many different shapes & sizes as parts of different street art throughout Cairo. This "لا" was used in the campaign against military trials.
I saw this particular incarnation of "لا" today on a wall of the Mugamma in Midan Tahrir. While I'm not sure who the artist is, I know it was painted today because I didn't see it yesterday as I passed by the Mugamma.

Translation: "No to Military Rule"

This English translation was next to the Arabic street art.


UPDATE 30 November 2011:
El Shenawy turned himself into the Ministry of Interior.

UPDATE, 27 November 2011:
El Shenawy was not captured, but he will be summoned for questioning within the next 72 hours.

Search with the People

Two-Star Officer*: Mahmoud Sobhy El Shenawy
Officer in the Central Security Forces, accused of targeting eyes
Tens from the revolutionaries, the heroes in Tahrir.

Here is video of El Shenawy shooting protesters. This video was widely circulated on the internet.
Leaflets were distributed around Midan Tahrir with a still-photo from the above video, stating that there's a 5,000 Egyptian pound reward for anyone who finds El Shenawy.

*When an officer graduates from a 4 year college he automatically enters the CSF with 1 star. El Shenawy graduated college in 2009

Above are photos of the stencils used to produce the street art. The atmosphere in Midan Tahrir was very festive on Thursday--there were few ambulances and an abundance of families.
The violence near Midan Tahrir earlier in the week made it difficult for street artists to work. While the words down with SCAF were certainly abundant around Midan Tahrir, a certain degree of stability is necessary in order to create more detailed street art-- if you're worried about running from tear gas canisters, it's kind of hard to concentrate on making sure a stencil is straight.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Bashar El Assad

Translation: "King of the forest rides a tank."
The word forest (al-ghaba) is partially painted over.
This stencil of Bashar El Assad with a Hitler mustache (& the accompanying words) is by the street artist El Teneen. It began appearing in Cairo in August.

Translation: "The League of Sheikha Mozah"
These words are located on the gate of the Arab League (Gam'at El Duwal El Arabya) headquarters. There are two gates and both gates have the same words spray-painted on them.
Sheikha Mozah is the wife of the Qatari Emir. She was honored by the Health and Humanitarian Aid Department of the Arab League this October.
I am not sure when this street art was created or by whom and am thus not sure if there is a connection between the Sheikha Mozah and El Assad street art. I initially assumed that anything written on the Arab League gates was from the Syrian activists demonstrating outside and, considering how long the Syrian activists have been there, think that there is some validity to that assumption. Perhaps the Syrian activists renamed the League after Sheikha Mozah in order to shame it for concentrating on award ceremonies, instead of addressing the more pressing issue of the escalating brutality of Bashar El Assad and his regime in Syria.

Despite, or perhaps because of, the ongoing occupation of Midan Tahrir, Syrians continue to demonstrate outside the Arab League headquarters, which is located just off the Midan.
Today Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan called for Assad to step down. In his speech to the Turkish parliament, Erdogan said "Quit power before more blood is shed... for the peace of your people, your region and your country."
As I passed the building, I could see people snapping photos from the top floor balcony at the demonstrations in Midan Tahrir. Given the recent events in Cairo, it seems as though Erdogan's words wouldn't be out of place if directed at Egypt's SCAF.

Last week Jordan's King Abdullah called for Assad to step down, he was the first Arab leader to do so.
Bashar El Assad's regime did not comply with the Arab League's deadline for halting its violent crackdown.


Translation (of the spray-painted words): "Down with with military rule" (yuskut hokm el3askr)
The following is a photograph of the gate of the Maglis Al Shoura (Shoura Council) (the upper house in the Egyptian parliament).
The spray-paint is black and not very visible during the day, however, it is reflective at night.

The English letters were removed after the massive 9 September demonstration. The words were spray-painted two nights ago.

While English is an international language, why are the English letters as big (if not bigger) than the Arabic words? Were the English letters specifically targeted or were they taken down simply because they are easier to reach than the Arabic letters?
Furthermore, why did it take so long for someone to spray-paint the gate? While the words "yaskot 7okm el3askr" (down with military rule) were spray-painted as early as the 28 October demonstration (my personal photographs do not show any such street art before that demonstration, although I was not actively documenting street art before the end of September), the gate was only spray-painted after the deadly clashes in Midan Tahrir began. Does the very existence of this street art signal a turning point?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Where is the Love?

Translation: "Mubarak--> with love <-- Tantawi"

Standing in Midan Tahrir today, I heard the same chants that I heard on Al Jazeera 10 months ago- the only difference is that the name has changed. From Mubarak to Tantawi, one most wonder, where is the love for the Egyptian people?

The Mugamma

As the demonstrations against SCAF went into the third day on Monday 21 November, a sense of calm prevailed in Midan Tahrir. I walked around the Mugamma (a part of the Midan that I don't usually pass) and found the following street art. Since it has been many weeks since I've walked passed the Mugamma, I can't verify when this street art was created. Because of the words, I am fairly confident that most of this street art was created recently. As you can see, there is white paint under the street art meaning that there is street art underneath that was painted over.

The Mugamma is a symbol of Egyptian bureaucracy. Most foreigners dread it because the building is where they must go to get their visas renewed (and their requests sometimes get denied or more often shortened by several months). The Mugamma itself is a large building that is located on Midan Tahrir in between the AUC downtown campus and the Omar Makram Mosque. There is a large green space in front of the Mugamma and many tents have been set up there. While there are clashes taking place on the side streets near Midan Tahrir, many people have set up camp in the green spaces in Midan Tahrir and have been sleeping here.

Translation: "My weapon is my thoughts."

Translation: "The next Revolution."

Translation: "We wont forget those who died."

Translation: "All of this is just the first wave."

Translation: "The interior (ministry) with the thugs" (El dakhlya bltageya)
The Central Security Forces (CSF) who are battling with the protesters are under control of the Ministry of Interior.

Translation: "Be Careful of the SCAF, it is a dead poison."

The above street art references the famous 1955 Egyptian movie, Life or Death.
In a scene in the film the police announce on the radio, "From the govenor of Cairo to Ahmed Ibrahim [a character in the film]: Do not drink the medicine that you sent your daughter to retrieve. There is a dead poison in the medicine. When you hear this announcement call the police station. And to anyone who knows Ahmed Ibrahim, notify him or call the police station."
Below is a Youtube clip (without subtitles) of the scene.

Not all of the street art is writing, there are many images as well.

Translation: "We came back again"
The man has the word "police" written on him.

Translation: "The dogs howl... and the revolution marches on."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Revolution will NOT be Televised.

The state-run TV is notorious in Egypt. For many Al Jazerra is the station of choice, for reliable news in Egypt and the world in general.
While the state-run TV did reform after the Revolution, by most accounts, it's coverage during Maspero violence (in front of the state TV building, Maspero) only served to incite more violence.

Recently I have seen street art around Midan Tahrir focused on TVs.

Translation: "Descend to the street" (The word "descend" is a common word in Egypt-- you "descend" from the metro train to the platform).
I photographed this stencil during the demonstration on Friday 18 November near AUC Tahrir campus.

Who is telling whom to "Descend to the street?"
During the 9 October Maspero violence, State TV told Egyptians to "Descend to the street" to defend the military against the Christians. Is the street-artist mocking that incident?

From what I have seen on other blogs, this stencil-- created by Adham Bakry-- is not new and has appeared before. I, however, have not seen the stencil since my arrival in August. It made a strong comeback in the downtown area during Friday 18 November demonstrations.

This stencil first appeared on Sunday 20 November. While the stencil appears in a few places throughout Midan Tahrir, it is mostly limited to near the AUC Tahrir campus building. I photographed this specific stencil on The Wall.

As I look at this street art of TVs, I am reminded of the late African-American poet Gil Scott Heron's poem "The Revolution will not be Televised."

The refrain of the poem is "The Revolution will not be Televised." The Egyptian Revolution, however, was televised on State-run TV, Al Jazzera, BBC, any network you name it. And in contrast to his words ("There will be no highlights on the eleven o'clock news"), the Egyptian Revolution was on the eleven o'clock news around the world.

Scott Heron said "Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hooterville Junction will no longer be so damned relevant." Egyptian pop culture is, however, still relevant. Not all, but some of the graffiti in Cairo makes reference to an Egyptian film or the Egyptian version of "Green Acres."

So was Scott Heron wrong? He concludes his poem, "The Revolution will be no re-run brothers, the Revolution will be live." In these words, Scott Heron spoke an absolute truth.
There is no re-run, this is it. I may hear what seems like a re-run of sirens from my window, but for each victim in that ambulance the siren is all but real. No matter what information the state TV is spewing from the television in front of me, the sirens are still real; the chants are still loud. The Revolution will not be televised.

Street Art? But Really

What is street art? In reality, I have been using the term as a politically-correct substitute so-to-speak for the graffiti which I have seen on the walls of buildings in Cairo.

I came across true street art-- art painted on the pavement-- for the first time on the night of the 18 November demonstrations. It was located on Qasr Al-Aini street, leading into Midan Tahrir.
The street art depicts the Statue of Liberty.

Translation: "Who is covered with America is naked."

As I write this post on Sunday 20 November, this street art is no longer visible. I can't imagine that it was deliberately erased, but rather it wore away under the pounding of running feet and falling stones. While the Midan itself is relatively calm right now (the actual fighting is limited to the surrounding areas, near the Ministry of Interior), a battle for Midan Tahrir took place last night. Demonstrators and security forces fought for control of the Midan, with each side occupying the Midan at different points throughout the night.
(This article provides a minute-by-minute break down of the events, but stops at 9pm. The best source of up-to-date news is Twitter--
Was it the boots of a retreating soldier that buffed out the paint? Or the resilient return of a demonstrator? Either way, the art is gone. As the death toll rises from the sustained fighting, is my educated guess that this street art is just another victim of that fighting.

But if the fighting destroyed street art, could it also create it? I passed this street (next to the AUC campus) on Saturday afternoon and saw only a few stray stones. When I passed the street this morning, however, it was covered in a thick layer of stones.
It's not pre-deposed graffiti, but it was on the streets on Cairo and it tells a story.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Grim Reeper

Translation: "Revolution"

The hooded figure looks like the Grim Reeper or even a Dementor from Harry Potter.
The word revolution is painted in red, the color of blood. Is SCAF the Dementor and feeding off of the Revolution, the blood of those Egyptians who have died and the hearts of those who still remain in the Midan?

Why is the Dementor white and not black? Could it be a spoof off of the belief SCAF is the only viable option-- the only light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak-- in the chaos that has become Egypt?
I have heard many of my colleagues at AUC (not from the people in the Midan), that that Egypt has no option except for SCAF, that there is no alternative. (I have even heard not-so-hushed whispers that SCAF is a better alternative to the Islamists ruling Egypt.)

This mural was painted on Friday 19 November during the demonstrations. It was painted on Mohamed Mahmoud Street, just around the corner from The Wall and the street that the AUC Downtown campus gate is located.
The street is now the site of on-going fighting between demonstrators and the CSF (Central Security Forces)* that erupted after the CSF attempted to forcibly remove demonstrators who were occupying the Midan after Friday's demonstration.
The street (one of many running into Midan Tahrir) connects the Midan to the Ministry of Interior (MOI). As the battle for control of Midan Tahrir is under way, the CSF (along with the police? and military police?) is loosely using the MOI as their home base, retreating there/ in that direction if/when necessary.

*There are many different types of Egyptian government security and the distinction at times can be crucial. (For example, during the Revolution it was the army who stepped in to protect the people when the CSF were attacking them).
Central Security Forces (CSF)= Amn al-Markazi
Army= Gesh
Police= Shorta
Military Police= Shorta al-Askaree
And then there is the plain clothes police

UPDATE, Tuesday 22 November
Here's a great article from Al Jazeera outlining the differences between the "familiar mix of black-clad riot police and baton-wielding soldiers in fatigues."


This photo was taken earlier this evening at approximately 7pm as I was passing through Midan Tahrir en route to visit a friend in another neighborhood in Cairo. I saw the word "Democracy" spray-painted on The Wall and quickly snapped a photo on my iphone. People were scalling The Wall and sitting on top of the AUC buildings in order to watch the fighting on Mohamed Mahmoud Street. Clashes broke out in and around Midan Tahrir on Saturday after a peaceful sit-in was violently dispersed earlier in the day.

While much of the graffiti in Cairo is in Arabic, it isn't uncommon to see graffiti in English. I have always been befuddled by this. The language of Egypt is Arabic afterall and not everyone can read English, let alone speak it. Furthermore, not everyone is literate! The cleverness of so much of the graffiti is that anyone can understand it-- you don't need to know how to read to understand a picture of Mubarak with a bullet in his head.

The word "Democracy," however, is particularly interesting word.
In Arabic the word democracy is democratiya, very similar to the English word. Both words derive from the Greek word, "Demos" meaning people and "Kratos" meaning rule. While it might seem as though the Arabic word was merely translitered from the English word, let's remember that the works of Aristotle and Plato were translated into Arabic as early as the 8th century AD.
I am nevertheless reminded of a passage from my favorite book, The Posionwood Bible, by Barbra Kingsolver,
"When a government comes crashing down, it crushes those who were living under its roof. People like Mama Mwanza never knew the house was there at all. Independence is a complex word in a foreign tongue. To resist occupation, whether you’re a nation or merely a woman, you must understand the language of your enemy. Conquest and liberation and democracy and divorce are words that mean squat, basically, when you have hungry children and clothes to get out on the line and it looks like rain."
The people in Midan Tahrir know what Democracy means in English, but I'm not sure they yet know the meaning in their native tongue. Democracy is certainly a complex word in a foreign tongue. But is this really the language of the enemy? I don't think SCAF knows the meaning of the word either.

Mulling over these thoughts, I descended into the depths of the Sadat metro station under Midan Tahrir and caught a particularly potent whiff of tear gas. As it stung my eyes, my body's natural reaction was to flush out the chemicals-- and so it was, in that moment, that I shed my first tear for Egypt. For a country with so much promise, for which too many innocent lives have already been lost. Inshallah, Egypt, you will know the meaning of democratiya.

One Demand

UPDATE, 26 November 2011:
The cartoons were again on The Wall, with some new additions.

Friday 18 November was dubbed "Friday of One Demand," the one demand being the rejection of the super-constitutional principles issued earlier this week by SCAF. More than any other demonstration in Midan Tahrir since my arrival, this Friday was dominated by Islamists. (As a result, some jokingly called the day "Khandahar Friday" because the massive turnout of Islamists.)
The term "Islamist" is vague and often misleading. In that vain, the term "liberal" is misleading as well. Islamist is a broad term that often refers to those who advocate a state based strongly on religion and includes the Muslim Brotherhood (and their political party Freedom and Justice) and the Salafists. Specifically, the term salafist is associated with the Nour Party--the stereotype is that Salafists where the galabiya (long dress for man) and have a beard. The term Salafist, however, literally means a sunni muslim.
It is possible, however, to be both terms at once: you can wear a veil and liberal.
Here is a great map of the Egyptian political parties, cross-referencing the Western left-right spectrum with a religious-secular spectrum. The Egyptian political spectrum doesn't fit into either traditional model.

The Wall was covered in small cartoons painted on white cardboard and taped to the wall. Below is a sample of the cartoons.
Translation: "They will not kill the revolution"
"Revolution" is written on the budding plant; a military boot is attempting to squish it, but the plant pushes through.

Translation:"The Amn Al-Markezi (Central Security Forces) and AlShorta AlAskary (Military police) are one hand."
This cartoon is a spoof of of "The people and the army are one hand,"a popular slogan during the Revolution.

Translation: "The Council [SCAF] strongly supports freedom of opinion."
Field Marshall Tantawi [head of SCAF] is saying these words on State-TV, white shutting-up the satellite news channel Al Jazeera.

Translation:"The Council of the ministers"
In arabic "tartor" has two meanings 1) a hat worn for a birthday party and (very ammeya [Egyptian colloquial] 2) whipped (someone else has complete control over him).
This cartoon suggests that the ministers are completely controlled by the Council [SCAF.]

Translation: "Communique (#9876543)- the Council [SCAF] is sure that it will not stay in power,
dated 2030."
Many disliked the supra-constitutional principles because they enshrined the role of the military in politics; this cartoon is a spoof off of that fear. SCAF has thus far issued 87 communiques, communique#1 was issued on 10 February 2011 (the day before Mubark stepped down). All communiques are available (in Arabic) on SCAF's Facebook page.

Here is an article reviewing some communiques and how the promises that SCAF made in them have been broken.

The cartoons were taken down before nightfall and the following street art took its place.

Translation: "Down with military rule."
The ventilation window on The Wall has been converted into a prison cell, with a raised fist reaching out.

The following pieces of street are around the corner from The Wall.

Translation: "No mediator"
Several portraits are featured, including those of Field Marshall Tantawi and Alaa Abdel Fattah.

Translation: "Mass-murderer of maspero"
Field Marshall Tantawi is the man depicted as the devil.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Wall

The Wall is part of a building on the AUC Tahrir campus. (AUC has multiple campuses and satelittle locations in Cairo. The AUC Tahrir campus is the the smaller, original campus of AUC-- the University re-located to New Cairo, an hour bus ride from downtown. The majority of classes are at the AUC new campus). Snipers used this building to attack protesters during the revolution. ( an AUC employee argued that he was fired for approaching the AUC administration about the topic). The building is located on the corner of Midan Tahrir and in front of a metro exit so it is very prominent; to this day it remains closed with many broken windows.

I walk by the Wall almost every day and have watched as it was painted on and then painted over. If only Walls could talk.
As I passed it today. I noticed that it had a fresh coat of paint. This is the first coat of paint after the 10/28 demonstrations. Who painted the Wall? And Why? When I walked passed it, it had already been painted-- I pass by the Wall at all hours, but I have never seen anyone painting it white. While it would be easy to think that the police or AUC staff painted over the Wall, let's take a closer look at the timing. There is a major demonstration planned for this Friday (parties from across the spectrum-- including Islamists-- are calling for a million-man march, ) if the SCAF does not revoke its controversial draft of "supra-constitutional principles" by Wednesday.
(The document gives ALOT of power to the military in the drafting of the constitution and future structure of the Egyptian government. The Constitution itself will not be drafted until after the Parliament opens in March 2012--
Could it then have been street artists that painted over the Wall in anticipation of Friday's protest, knowing that they will need a clean slate on which to work?

Not all street art on the AUC perimeter has been painted over. The Wall itself is the most prominent portion of the AUC perimeter, but around the corner a lot of street art remains. I'm not sure when this mural was painted, but it has been here since I arrived in early August and remains untouched (i.e. other artists have respected it and not painted over it).
Translation: "Oh God, My Savior for reform"