Hybrid Theatre Works: Comedy of Sorrows a New Play from Egypt–OPENS this week. Tickets on Sale now.

Hybrid Theatre Works is proud to present one of the first pieces of Egyptian theatre to emerge from the Egyptian uprising: Ibrahim El-Husseini's Comedy of Sorrows. It follows a young university-educated Egyptian woman who, through a series of encounters with different members of society, comes to realize that she had been oblivious to the poverty and misery of her fellow Egyptians. The play presents a collective and unsentimental account of a nation’s awakening, through a unique combination of vivid poetry and colloquial dialogue. It celebrates the uprising of a people, while at the same time anticipating the uncertainty and tumult of a nation struggling to transition to democracy.

Comedy of Sorrows Now showing 

Dates: August 21-25, 2013 @7PM every day

Written by: Ibrahim El-Husseini

Directed by: Tracy Cameron Francis

Translated by: Rebekah Maggor and Mohammed Albakry

Featuring: Najla Said, Adi Hanash, Lily Balsen, Paul Kelly, Gordon Kupperstein, Bobbac Kashani, Celeste Muniz, Laura Riveros, Sara Oliva, Raphael Eilenberg, Youness Tahiri*Equity approved showcase

HERE, 145 6th Ave (Enter on Dominick, 1 Block South of Spring)

August 21-25, 2013 (5 performances)

All tickets are $15. For Tickets & Information, visit: here.org or call 212-352-3101

This production was made possible with the support of The Puffin Foundation,Alwan For the Arts, as well as over 50 individual donors. Please consider joining them in bringing this important play to life by making a tax-deductible contribution that will go directly to supporting our hard working artists.

International News | Egyptian Artists Occupy Culture Ministry – The Journalist – The Journalist


International News | Egyptian Artists Occupy Culture Ministry by Randy Gener

Egyptian artists are protesting controversial new culture minister Alaa Abdel Azi, who is accused of being affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. The country’s leading artists, writers and intellectuals have occupied the culture ministry’s headquarters in Cairo since June 5th.

The protesters are asking for the support of the international community to help them with their cause: a call for freedom in art. The Egyptian Center of the International Theatre Institute has issued an open letter to the global community seeking for international support.

Protesters have staged a sit-in at the Ministry of Culture headquarters in Zamalek district of Cairo. Prominent artists and intellectuals broke into the ministry premises and say that they will not budge until the minister is replaced.

They are protesting against what they call “the Islamization of Egyptian culture.” To be more politically precise, they are against the political reforms being instituted by the new culture minister.  Outraged artists accuse the minister of executing a Muslim Brotherhood agenda to Islamize Egyptian culture and reforming Egypt’s national identity.

The controversy began on May 28 when the culture minister fired the heads of Cairo Opera House and Fine Arts Sector, which led to protests outside the Opera House and an on-stage protest at a performance of Aida, resulting in a three-day halt of performances.

Alaa Abdel Aziz has denied that he has been ousted by the artists or that he has resigned. According to several reports from Egypt, he replied by saying that ‘”everyone has the right to express their own opinion.” In the English edition of Ahram, the minister says that he does not regret his decisions to kick out senior ministry officials and replace them with artists and employees who have a lower public profile. Intellectuals say those newly appointed people do not have the skills to lead Egypt’s cultural institutions.

Abdel-Aziz has also denied being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood saying that “statements to the contrary are but rumors, yet adding that it there is nothing unacceptable about a culture minister being a member of the Islamist group.”

“I won’t speak to the people who broke into my office, but I let them stay there,” Abdel-Aziz told Ahram. “I can only have dialogue with the real intellectuals and artists, but in presence of the press and TV cameras.” The minister said that he would pick the journalists who would attend this meeting.

Protesters said they refuse to meet Minister Abdel-Aziz to negotiate and announced they will continue their sit-in until he is removed. The Freedom of Creativity Front also vowed in a statement to refuse to negotiate with the minister and clarified that it was not personal, but rather a rejection of government policies.

Among the protesters who have joined the sit-in were Egypt’s best known actress Laila Elwi; novelist Sanaallah Ibrahim, who refused a prestigious Egyptian State award in 2003 because of his opposition to the Hosni Mubarak regime, the director Khaled Youssef, film producer Mohamed al-Adl; visual artist Mohamed Abla; actors Nabil al-Halfawy, Mahmoud Qabil and Sameh al-Seriety; the poet Sayed Hegab and novelist Bahaa Taher.

This past weekend the Egyptian branch of the International Theatre Institute (ITI) has distributed a letter to its international colleagues around the world, which formally asks the help of the international community to oust the controversial minister from his office. The letter, authored by Nehad Selaiha and Hazem Azmy, Egypt’s leading critics, have also questioned the professional qualifications of the Abdel-Aziz, who is described as “an obscure film lecturer with a paltry academic record and practically no professional or public service credentials.” ITI is a UNESCO entity with more than 90 centers around the world, the letter can be read in its entirety here.

Call for solidarity from Egyptian ITI



بيان المركز المصري للمعهد الدولي للمسرح

التابع لليونسكو

باللغة الانجليزية


Call for Action from ITI Centre, EGYPT


On the Move:http://on-the-move.org/news/topic/40/engage-in-policy/


English Text by Nehad Selaiha & Hazem Azmy

Dear International Friends and Colleagues:

We, the founding members of the Egyptian Centre of the International Theatre Institute, have been witnessing with increasing alarm the vicious onslaught against the defining foundations of Egyptian culture, with theatre and the performing arts at the forefront. However variously understood and appraised, these foundations are widely believed to have crystallised with the onset of the modern Egyptian State in the late nineteenth century, but in fact they had always been rooted in the very fabric of this land, an inherently cosmopolitan multi-religious and multi-ethnic culture if there ever was one. As Egyptians, but also as members of the global cultural community, we cannot allow such a glorious tradition to suffer erosion at the hands of those who could not adapt to it, whether at home or in the region.

The Islamists’ declared jihad against the arts is currently spearheaded by none other than the regime’s Ministry of Culture, thanks to the recent appointment at its helm of a certain Alaa Abdel-Aziz, an obscure film lecturer with a paltry academic record and practically no professional or public service credentials save his adoption of the cultural discourse of the Muslim Brotherhood ruling faction (or, more aptly, its anti-arts one). In a typical demonstration of this populist rhetoric, Abdel-Aziz had this to say at a recent press conference “I ask those leading the ferocious campaign against me: What have they ever contributed to Egypt’s culture? What have they ever given to the enlightened Egyptian people? Postrevolution Egypt should not be captive to a group that has not been able to effectively touch Egyptians with creativity over long decades.”

While the problem of a certain disconnect between the intelligentsia and their constituencies is by no means unique to Egypt, we believe it is either moronic or hypocritical (or, more likely, both) to question the contributions of generations of artists in the various fields of the performing and fine arts and their far reaching role in establishing and popularising these arts not only in Egypt, but all over the Arab world, not to mention world-renowned literary and artistic figures of the stature of Bahaa Taher, Sonallah Ibrahim, Ramzi Yassa, Alaa Al-Aswany, Lenin El-Ramly, Nawal El-Saadawi, Fatheya El-Assal, and Salwa Bakr, all of whom are now calling for the removal of Abdel-Aziz and the parochial, theocratic regime for which he stands.

The International Theatre Institute, an active UNESCO entity with centres and affiliate bodies in the four corners of the world, has an urgent mission to protect the free circulation of culture in one of this world’s most ancient civilizations. We therefore call upon all concerned to mobilise in whatever way they think fit, but we also hope that this call for action will set in motion an ongoing dialogue with our worldwide friends and colleagues so that we may work with one another against the not-so-secret agenda to remake Egypt and its cultural field after the worldview of its ruling cabal.

We await your ideas and initiatives at egyptcentreiti@gmail.com



Interim Founding Board

Déclaration du centre égyptien de l’institut international du théâtre


Texte français rédigé par Menha el Batraoui


Nous, membres fondateurs du centre égyptien affilié à l’institut international du théâtre, avons été témoins d’une attaque effrénée contre les institutions égyptiennes de la culture, celles du théâtre et des arts de la scène notamment. Ces fondations, dès la fin du XIXème siècle, ont largement contribué à l’essor de la modernité de l’état égyptien. Aujourd’hui, elles sont bel et bien ancrées dans le tissu social de ce pays fondamentalement cosmopolite, que ce soit au niveau des religions ou des diverses ethnies. Comme  les membres de la communauté intellectuelle en Egypte et dans le monde, nous ne pouvons permettre l’éradication d’une tradition aussi riche par ceux-ci mêmes qui ont historiquement échoué  à vivre selon ses valeurs et à la hauteur de ses aspirations.

L’islamisme du jihad sacré contre les arts est aujourd’hui le fer de lance porté par nul autre que l’appareil culturel même de l’état. Merci à la désignation au poste de ministre de la culture un certain inconnu nommé Alaa Abdel Aziz, obscur universitaire à l’institut du cinéma, n’ayant aucun crédit académique ou professionnel et n’ayant jamais pratiqué dans le domaine du service public. Il remet ses lettres de créance aux Frères Musulmans en adoptant leur discours dominant contre les arts. En voici un exemple typique de cette rhétorique populiste au cours d’une conférence de presse donné par Abdel Aziz : « Je demande à ceux qui sont à la tête de cette féroce campagne soulevée contre moi : Qu’avez-vous offert à la culture égyptienne ? Avez-vous contribué à l’enrichissement intellectuel du peuple égyptien ? La post-révolution de l’Egypte ne devrait pas être captive d’un groupe qui n’a pas été capable de toucher efficacement le peuple égyptien par sa créativité durant de longues décennies.

Bien qu’un certain hiatus sépare l’intelligentsia de sa « clientèle », situation qui n’est pas propre seulement à l’Egypte, nous
pensons qu’il serait idiot ou/et hypocrite de négliger la contribution de générations d’artistes dans divers domaines des arts vivants et des arts plastiques et de nier leur rôle dans l’établissement et la démocratisation de ces arts, non seulement en Egypte mais dans toute la région arabe ; voire des noms d’icônes tels que Bahaa Taher, Sonallah Ibrahim, Ramzi Yassa, Alaa el Aswani, Lénine el Ramly, Nawal el Saadawy et Fatheya el Assal qui ont lancé un appel en vue de déplacer Abdel Aziz et le régime qu’il soutient.

L’institut international du théâtre, véritable entité de l’UNESCO avec ses centres établis dans les quatre coins du monde, a un rôle stratégique à jouer, à savoir la protection de la libre circulation de la culture dans une des plus anciennes civilisations. Nous lançons un appel à tous les concernés pour se mobiliser de la manière qui leur semble la plus adéquate, mais nous espérons également que cet appel à l’action va initier un  dialogue continu avec nos amis et collègues partout dans le monde afin de délibérer ensemble des moyens les plus efficaces pour combattre l’agenda révélé du régime qui a pour but de réduire le domaine culturel égyptien en le soumettant à son idéologie autoritaire et conservatrice.

Nous espérons recevoir vos idées et votre soutien à l’adresse E-mail suivante :



Egyptian Theatre Message (2013)

On the Occasion of the Re-launch of the Egyptian Centre of the International Theatre Institute

English version by Hazem Azmy based on the Arabic Original Message read by Nora Amin at the Opening Ceremony of the Sixth National Festival for Egyptian Theatre (Main Hall, Cairo Opera House on 27 March 2013)

We are the founding members of the newly revived Egyptian Centre of the International Theatre Institute. We speak to you from a present-day Egypt whose revolution is still well in progress. Indeed, and in the teeth of all apparent challenges, we remain driven by the hope that our country will relive the spirit of Tahrir. This is the spirit that once lent expression to our people’s longing for

freedom, justice and human dignity, only to become a world-wide icon of resistance to oppression.

Within this same spirit of camaraderie, we begin with a deserved salute to Dario Fo, the maverick Italian theatre artist who authored this year’s World Theatre Message. Fittingly enough, he chose to open with a reminder of Power’s historical aversion to the players of commedia dell'arte, but ended on a note of hope in new generations of theatre activists capable of confronting the hegemonic culture of exile and exclusion. As a footnote to Fo’s words, we hasten to remind all of the memorable contributions of Franca Rame, Fo’s wife and partner all through his difficult years. Our experience in the aftermath of the revolution has taught us the hard lesson that women should never be forgotten come time for premature celebrations of unfinished endeavours.

By the same token, we pay special tribute to Egypt’s long marginalized voices in theatre, whether belonging to independent or non-mainstream groups, or working under the umbrella of the State’s bureaucratic machinery. These have long had to make do with the least resources, not to mention the material and moral recognition overdue to them. And yet it is thanks to their tenacity that Egyptian theatre is still alive today, resistant as ever to the forces of darkness and vile coercion.

Because we, like them, still believe in theatre’s capacity to decentre and destabilise, we have come together to revive the Egyptian ITI Center, hoping that, precisely at this juncture, it would emerge as an all-inclusive non-governmental entity supporting the local theatre industry and responding to its most pressing needs. In the same breath, we envision it as a powerful national and regional link of ITI’s global network. To our theatre friends all over the world, we say it is time we explored together all possibilities of cooperation. Like you, we believe in theatre’s role in re-imagining our common future.

It is no coincidence that the rebirth of our Centre coincides not only with World Theatre Day, but also with the launch of the sixth edition of the National Festival for Egyptian Theatre, the first since the outbreak of first wave of the revolution. We cannot be more eager to connect with our theatrical past and all those who found in the theatrical arts the means to raise awareness and resist. Indeed, in much the same vein, we also see our mission as one of mobilisation and revival of hope. For the tunnel is not as dark as it may first seem, and the light that we should find at its end can only be the fruit of our united efforts, our shared dream to keep the theatre a beacon of freedom and independent thinking.

We are but a glimpse of Tahrir, inspired by its spirit and determined to keep it aflame. We aspire to liberate our souls, our bodies, our theatre, to free our imagination from any tradition shackling it in the name of custom and established belief. Religion has always been meant as a guiding light for all, and we will not sit by and watch while some are using it to dismantle an entire way of life predicated on diversity and tolerance.

Founding Board of the Egyptian ITI Centre (in Alphabetical Order)

Ashraf Abdel-Ghafour Nasser Abdel-Moneim Nora Amin Hazem Azmy Samia Habib Mohamed Samir El-Khatib Essam El-Sayed (Vice-President) Nehad Selaiha (President) Hazem Shebl (General Secretary) Girgis Shoukry Gamal Yaqut

Egyptian storytelling performance

“Amina’s Stories” is a new translated stage adaptation of the award winning Egyptian short story collection by Hossam Fahr, combining traditional Egyptian storytelling techniques with modern staging and media. This new production will be performed by Egyptian scholar and actress Asmaa Yehia and directed by Egyptian-American director Tracy Cameron Francis. The collection was published in Egypt in 2007 to wide acclaim and speaks not only to the unique relationship of grandmother and grandchild, but also gives us a window into the culture and life of a generation of Egyptians that is quickly disappearing.

Written by- Hossam Fahr
Performed by- Asmaa Yehia
Directed by-Tracy Cameron Francis

Translations are made kindly by: Nada Ramadan & Mr. Francis
Produced by: Asmaa Yehia
Co-sponsored by: Hybrid Theatre Works

Performed at: Theaterlab 
357 West 36th Street 
New York, NY 10001

April 1st & 2nd 8pm
Tickets are sold at: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/5798061157?ref=ebtnebtckt

The Gabr Fellowship: A Global Exchange for Emerging Leaders


Gabr Fellowship

Ludwig Deutsch – A Gathering around the Morning News, Cairo

United States, May 4-19 / Egypt, June 8-22, 2013

In May and June 2013, the Gabr Fellowship will bring together a group of 20 promising young professionals from across Egypt and the United States – 10 Egyptians and 10 Americans. Together, the group will meet with world-renowned public figures to explore transnational challenges faced by their societies and to gain an introduction to Egyptian and American societies, traditions, politics, business, governance, art, law, media, customs and religions.

The Fellowship will begin in the United States on May 4 with visits to Atlanta, Washington DC, New York City, New Haven and a retreat in the Berkshires. On June 8, the Fellows will reconvene in Egypt for seminars, discussions and site visits in Cairo and Alexandria as well as a retreat in Luxor. The program will examine a broad range of issues common to both Egypt and the United States including democracy and public law, fine arts and literature, world trade, mass communications and public health. The Fellows will also undertake joint projects as part of their exchange to leverage their experience to their peers and communities.

Further exchanges for the Gabr Fellowship shall include more nationalities from the United Kingdom, Canada and Arab countries.

Seeking emerging leaders

The Gabr Fellowship is for emerging leaders in the areas of art, science, media, law and both social and business entrepreneurship. Applicants should have big ideas and a strong interest in transnational dialogue. All applicants must be 24 to 35 years of age and must be citizens of the United States or Egypt. American applicants without prior travel to Egypt and Egyptian applicants without prior travel to the United States are strongly encouraged to apply.

About the initiative

The Gabr Fellowship is an initiative of Shafik Gabr designed to promote intercultural dialogue and collaboration between Egyptians and Americans. In an increasingly interconnected world, cross-cultural understanding and professional networks are essential for peace and progress. The Fellowship is sponsored by the Shafik Gabr Foundation and organized by Humanity in Action.

Request for Submissions -Women & Tahrir (Cairo 3/2013)

Women, culture and the 25 January 2011 Egyptian revolution. Cairo, March 2013.

contact email: dalia.s.mostafa@manchester.ac.uk 
shuruqnaguib@lancaster.ac.ukCall for papers

This is a call for papers for a workshop which will take place in in March 2013 in Cairo. 
This project is funded by the CBRL-BRISMES Research Network (UK), with the aim of emphasising the leading role of Egyptian women activists, writers, and artists in the revolutionary process.

In this context, we perceive the 25th January Egyptian Revolution as a process in the making: there were many important catalysts for the revolution over the past decade in Egypt manifested in a significant rise in street protests and demonstrations by large sectors in the 
society (e.g. government employees, students, factory workers); workers’ strikes in work places; and the expansion of a highly politicised youth culture through such forms of resistance as free expression on blogs, protest songs, vernacular lyrics and poetry, novels by new writers, and  films by a new generation of filmmakers.

Then the revolution was sparked on 25th January 2011 which brought to the fore a huge body of cultural output manifested in songs, slogans, graffiti, new blogs, documentary films, photographs, and various religious discourses.

Throughout this ongoing process of resistance and revolution, women from all walks of Egyptian society have crossed age, gender, religious, and class barriers to contribute to and shape this revolution; yet their leading role has been severely undermined by conservative and 
counter-revolutionary discourses. One of the key questions which we want to examine through this project is the negotiation, contestation and  re-configuration of the religious terms of reference dominating Egyptian politics today by women activists, including Islamically-oriented 

This is largely an uncharted area and it could potentially help us go beyond the reductive categories of the secular/religious binary in describing the protest movements before and after the onset of the  Egyptian revolution. Thus, these two workshops aim to make visible and 
critically analyse women’s contribution to the revolution to underline how they have been influencing the cultural and political scene in Egypt.

Another key aim is to link the Egyptian revolutionary process to other Arab and international contexts in order to develop a theoretical perspective on women, revolution, and political change. The revolution is still ongoing, or as the Egyptians have summed it up in one slogan: 
Sawra Mostamirra (The Revolution Continues…).

This project is run by Dr. Dalia Said Mostafa, Lecturer in Arabic and Comparative Literature (Middle Eastern Studies, University of Manchester) and Dr. Shuruq Naguib, Lecturer in Islam (Politics, Philosophy and Religion, Lancaster University).

It is intended that the papers and contributions to the two workshops will appear in a volume entitled Women, Culture, and the 25th January 2011 Egyptian Revolution, and will be edited by Shuruq Naguib and Dalia S. Mostafa.

The Cairo workshop will focus on the role of Egyptian women writers and artists in the revolutionary process. The workshop is intended to complement the first one, occurring at the University of Manchester between 15th- 17th November 2012, by bringing the element of cultural resistance to the struggle for freedom, dignity and social justice, which have been the underlying demands of the Egyptian revolution. A number of Egyptian women writers, filmmakers, musicians, and photographers will be invited as keynote speakers and contributors to the workshop. There will also be an emphasis on the “performative” dimension of the revolution as a political and cultural act.

Participating papers may address one or more of the following broad themes, and can be in either Arabic or English:

-Egyptian women writing the revolution
-Egyptian women musicians and protest music, lyrics, and songs
-Women and popular culture as a form of resistance in Egypt
-Women, literature, and revolution in Egypt
-Egyptian women’s graffiti, photography, and documentary -filmmaking before and after the revolution
-Women, cinema and the Egyptian revolution
-Performing the revolution and the culture of perfomative arts in Egypt before and after the revolution
-Women artists and writers of the contemporary Arab revolutions
-Women artists and writers in the history of Arab and world revolutions
Please send your abstracts to the workshops’ organisers:

Dr Dalia Said Mostafa (The University of Manchester): dalia.s.mostafa@manchester.ac.uk

Dr Shuruq Naguib (The University of Lancaster): shuruqnaguib@lancaster.ac.uk
Attendance at the workshop is free.
Website: http://www.alc.manchester.ac.uk/subjects/middleeasternstudies/events/201…

2012 Educator Programs | Seeds of Peace

2012 Summer Course: Expressive Arts; Educational Transformations   http://www.seedsofpeace.org/?page_id=11909


OTISFIELD, MAINE | In the Summer of 2012, Seeds of Peace will hold its second two-week summer course for educators from the Middle East, South Asia, and United States. Drawing on the power of the arts to empower youth and address conflict-related issues, the session will focus on “Expressive Arts; Educational Transformations.”

Where there is conflict, the creative arts have a vital role to play as an effective vehicle for engaging youth and building the capacities required for peace. This is especially true when the hostilities and sensitivities of an active conflict make it difficult for educators to use a broader range of curriculum to address issues between divided communities.

This summer, Seeds of Peace will bring educators and arts practitioners together to share best practices, strengthen techniques and develop new skills and resources for educating and empowering youth through the expressive arts. Educators will learn from a diverse range of visiting faculty, staff, and one another. They will have the opportunity to visit local schools, colleges, and organizations engaged with the arts and education. Over the course of two weeks, participants will work together to create action plans for independent and/or cooperative projects to be implemented in their home countries.

This initial group will form the foundation for an ongoing and growing network of educators and artists committed to using the expressive arts as a vehicle for empowerment, cross-cultural understanding, and peacebuilding. Seeds of Peace will also engage internationally-renowned personalities to act as “ambassadors” for the group by using their influence, voice and platform to heighten awareness about the power of the arts to promote and advance peace.


Seeds of Peace welcomes educators and artists to apply from South Asia (Afghanistan, India, Pakistan), the Middle East (Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Palestine) and the United States. Specifically, Seeds of Peace is looking for formal or informal educators with experience in the expressive arts—music, drama, visual arts, creative writing, and/or film making—or a desire to incorporate these tools into their work. Seeds of Peace also encourages practicing artists who want to use their work to engage youth in peacebuilding to apply. Successful applicants will show creativity, competence, and commitment to peacebuilding. Priority will be given to those who have not been to the Seeds of Peace International Camp before, though all applicants will be considered.


The session will take place over the course of two weeks, from July 23-August 7, 2012.


The session will take place at the Seeds of Peace International Camp in Otisfield, Maine, approximately 45 minutes from Portland, Maine, and three hours north of Boston, Massachusetts. Participants live in a traditional American summer camp setting located on Pleasant Lake.


Each participant is asked to contribute 375 USD, a small portion of the costs for lodging, food, activities, transportation, and airfare for international participants. American participants are expected to cover the cost of their transportation to and from Camp. There are scholarships available, and Seeds of Peace will not turn away any participant for financial reasons. Participants must cover the cost of “incidentals,” e.g. gifts or snacks.


Applications are due April 1, 2012. Seeds of Peace expects to select approximately 32 participants and will notify all applicants by May 1, 2012.


https://seedsofpeace.wufoo.com/forms/z7s0r3/"  Fill out my Wufoo form!

Letter from Cairo‏ [TOPLAB-ANNOUNCE]

[Note: The writer, Dalia Basiouny, has interned and collaborated with
the Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory.]

Dear Friends,

Thank you for all the good energy you are send Egypt and for all your
support. I tried to write when I came back from the demonstrations
last night. I started, but it was very late, and I kept receiving
phone calls from young friends wanting to discuss the situation till
1:30 am, then I fell asleep.

I slept soundly in my bed for the first time, since the curfew started
a week ago. I have moved to my parents house last Saturday, to be
close to them, and to follow the news on television. (TV and parents
deserve separate entries. I will write about them later.)

Here is my entry about my experiences on Feb 4th. Feel free to share
without getting back to me, as it’s hard for me to respond to email.

I will not inundate you with more emails. Geralyin set up a blog for
me, so you can follow my updates and earlier commentaries, if you
chose on the gmail blog “Notes from Cairo”

Thank you,

Dalia Basiouny

5 Feb 2011, 10 am

I am very happy this morning. Yesterday was a magnificent peaceful
day. There were millions demonstrating against the regime all over
Egypt in the “Day of Departure” as it was dubbed. It is very hard to
estimate the exact numbers that came to Tahrir Square, but I am sure
that the numbers were more than Tuesday’s “Million People March”,
which conservative estimates said exceed one million people, and Al
Jazeera said two.

I decided to go early, in case they block the streets. The images of
last Friday’s marches after the prayer and the violence that ensued
are vivid in my mind. I want to be inside the square before the
prayers. The friend who wanted to accompany me from Pyramids Road said
she is going be late, as her husband cannot leave the house because
there is a car waiting under his house to arrest him. This is not good
news; they are arresting activists before the marches! I go alone
toward downtown. I hear that they need more anti-biotic for those
injured on Wednesday and Thursday nights. I want to bring some but
another friend warns me that this morning the thugs attacked a friend
of hers, took the medicine she brought and were about to abduct her.
OK, I will not bring medicine or food, but I still want to go in.

The road is blocked two miles away from the square. There is a
military checkpoint; they check people and inspect the bags. They want
to know what’s on my camera, I said ‘nothing yet’. They let me in. I
wait for my friend who comes from the other part of town by Kasr El
Nil Bridge, the safest entrance to date. I get a phone call from Anna
in New York, she wanted to make sure I am make OK before she sleeps. I
received another phone call earlier from Sophie in Australia, making
me promise that I will make sure I am safe. They too must have seen
the images from Friday and Wednesday violence.

I run into a young friend. She seems a bit confused from what she
heard on TV the day before. She asks me with innocence and sincerity
“Are we right? How can we be sure that we are not destroying our
country as they say on TV?” We talk a bit about that while walking
toward the square, with hundreds of others.

All these people decided to come early, just in case. A good sign! Not
so good when so many of us are crammed in front of a tiny entrance, at
the checkpoint of the square. The people’s committees, under the
supervision of the army, inspect every bag and parcel. They check our
clothes and pockets. It takes time, and there are so many of us. A man
comes in with a large bag, and says “I am a doctor, I am carrying
medicine.” The crowd opens for him to pass quickly. People waiting
start chanting slogans about the solidarity of the people and the
army. Some chant against the president, but a few respond, as we are
not yet in the safety of Tahrir Square, the truly liberated heart of
Egypt. Then an impromptu chant arises “We want another entrance.. Open
another entrance.” There are a few women in the crowd of men entering
and they make way for us to go ahead of them.. one of the benefits of
being a woman during the revolution. We are checked thoroughly and our
IDs inspected vigilantly, to make sure we are here to support the
demonstration not cause trouble. We are allowed in.

The square is busy, though it is only 10 am. It is usually not that
busy this early in the day, another good sign. Our young friend who
was a bit confused earlier, though she demonstrated daily since
January 25th, leaves us. When she finds us again, she has a wide grin.
Though a number of her activist friends were arrested at night, she
regained her faith in the validity of her cause. Two groups of
activists were being interviewed on TV on Thursday night. The four who
were interviewed at Al-Mehwar TV were abducted after the show, and
somehow they managed to inform the other four who were interviewed on
Dream TV near by. These ran and hid in a mosque. They called the
parents of the young woman with them to come get her. Later the three
men found a way to return to the square, with stories.

The main story is about the celebrities they encountered on the TV
show. The TV announcer who was said there are only 20 thousand
gathered in the square, not a million, apologized to them, and said if
she doesn’t say that, she’d lose her job. The main guest of the TV
program is one of the intellectual celebrities, a writer and a
publisher. His analysis of the situation was the reason my young
friend was “confused”. This same man, after the taping, told the young
activists “forgive me sons, I have no other choice.” I was happy to
see my friend gain her faith in what she is doing, and start to
realize that what she hears on TV is not wholly, and definitely not
the whole truth.

Soon after it was time for “Salat El Gomma’” Friday prayer. Hundreds
of thousands of people are going to pray together. A few thousands are
not praying. Some are guarding the place.. The hubbub of the square
calms down. The half million or more men and women praying create an
amazing energy as they recite the Quran, bow and kneel together, row
after row.

They perform both Zohr and ‘Asr prayers together, because of the
unusual circumstances. Then follow this with the prayers for the
martyrs. The prayers end with saying “Assalmu ‘Alaykom” to the right,
then “Assalmu ‘Alaykom” to the left. The moment they finish, without
missing a beat, and without a prior agreement, everyone in square
shouts at the same moment “Asha’ab Youreed Esqaat al Ra’ees.. Asha’ab
Youreed Esqaat al Ra’ees.. Asha’ab Youreed Esqaat al Nezam.” (The
People Want the President to Step Down.. The People Want the President
to Step Down.. The People Want to Topple the Regime.) Over and over
and over. With power, with determination, in defiance! I am covered in
goose-pumps as I shout with them, in a voice I have never used before
“Asha’ab Youreed Esqaat al Ra’ees”. It’s hard to describe this energy;
to be with a million people (literally) wanting the same thing at the
same time. Their burning desire makes them all say it at the same
exact moment! WOW! I am in owe of the power of the people. I am

After the prayers we start to walk around the square. It’s very very
busy, but my friend wants to make sure that more people are coming.
This is our main card to pressure the government, our
huge numbers
today. That people would continue to come to demonstrate in spite of
all the government’s tricks to deter them. The media war to brainwash
the public for days; trying to connect the destruction in the country
and the financial collapse to the peaceful demonstrators. In addition
to days of surrounding people in the square, trying to starve them by
confiscating food and supplies and beating up those bringing them in.
They started a physical war using camels, horses, petroleum bombs, and
eventual snipers killing and injuring many many demonstrators. All
these tactics did not work out. People were flooding the square on
Friday. Thousands upon thousands of peaceful demonstrators kept
coming. Many performed their prayers in mosques in different
neighborhoods and walked for miles to Tahrir Square. People feel
triumphant as they arrived, just because they were able to enter the
square. Most of the ones just coming in are telling those they meet;
“There are as many people waiting to get in as those already in the
square.” This is comforting to hear! We will be more than a million
people. It’s hard to gage the number when you are inside it,
especially if you are of a small stature. I climb on one of the fences
and I am owed, with the sea of people swarming around the main circle
in the center of the square and all streets leading to it.

The energy is even stronger than last Tuesday (February 1st, the
Million People March). On Tuesday, there was a euphoric sense of a
people discovering itself and its power for the first time. A bit of
disbelief, a lot of relief, and a great sense of freedom. After all,
we are standing in the center of Cairo, saying whatever we want about
the government that oppressed us for decades and about the president,
with the loudest voice possible, sometimes even on loud speakers. WOW!
Can we really do that? Yes! We are doing that! Everyone on the square
is doing it. To be here means that you crossed a few checkpoints and a
larger number of fear barriers inside.

But being on the square on February 4th, “The Day of Departure” meant
something even more. You not only conquered your inner fears, but also
a lot of outside pressure.  To be here means that you heard on TV, and
possibly from friends, family member, neighbors, co-workers or even
loved ones that this has to stop. These “kids” demonstrators are
destroying our country. They are paralyzing the economy, and allowing
foreign forces to infiltrate Egypt. You also heard or saw the news of
the Wednesday massacre. It’s not just a matter of starvation, but you
know that the demonstrators have been and could be attacked,
physically, and even lose their lives. But they here, in millions! How

Many many Egyptians had stopped caring about their country, because
they saw that there is no use. It seems that the spark in their hearts
has not been fully extinguished by years of organized government
brutality, corruption, or brainwashing. They are here from every walk
of life. They are here in spite of the warnings. They are here and
THEY ARE NOT AFRAID. This is something I never thought I would witness
with my own eyes. I was not afraid. Millions are not afraid anymore.

Many people are on the square because they are desperate. They have
NOTHING. So they have nothing to lose. But there are so many here who
have good lives. They are middle class and upper middle class. (I can
tell from their shoes!) They possibly drove in fancy cars, or walked
from the near by rich neighborhood. They talk to their friends in
English, in perfect American or British accents. They are not
politically inclined. But being on the square on Friday was about more
than politics. It was about freedom and dignity and witness a country
wake up from a long slumber.

Many demonstrators are talking on their cell phones. The bits of
conversations overheard are mostly people giving directions on which
checkpoints are safe or temporarily freed from the government thugs,
or people justifying their presences in the square, and explaining to
those at the other end of the line what they are experiencing: People
are really very civilized, honey.. Sharing food with others.. No
foreign presence.. Cleaning the square themselves.. Please don’t
worry!.. No, no sexual harassment.. Off course no one gave me money to
come here!.. I am safe mum, I swear.. I did not see any Kentucky.. Why
don’t you listen to me?.. Believe me it’s not like what they say.. Are
you stupid? My sister is as dumb as a shoe!

I can understand the bits of conversation. I too watched TV and had my
fears. I too had to call my mum to assure her about my safety, and she
repeated what she heard on TV about the horrible situation there. I
too had to promise my friends that I will be careful and not try to be
a hero if violence erupts. But unlike last Friday, this Friday is not
a day of violence. There is no police presence what so ever. The army
is surrounding the square to protect us, not to harm us. What a
difference a week of resistance makes.

Hardcore demonstrators who haven’t left the square in a week, might
not be able to get enough food, or even decent sleep on the rough
pavements of the square. Some left their families without food for the
week or even the day. No one promised them a job, or guaranteed them
anything, but the triumphant look in their eyes shows that they have
already won. Now they have something that no one can take away from
them. They have DIGNITY!

The hours pass quickly with so many activities in the different parts
of the square. Slogans, chanting, marching, political discussions,
meeting people you know, or talking with others you just met. It’s
close to 4 pm, and the square is still filling up with incoming
people. I move toward the entrance of Kasr El Nile Bridge, still the
safest entrance with the largest influx of incomers. I see droves of
people entering. With a big crowd on the inside cheering them after
they cross the checkpoints and inspections. The impromptu welcome
committee is making up slogans to chant. Those entering are getting
heroes’ welcome; many are clapping for them and chanting as they come
in, rhyming couplets, with some drumming sounds created from empty
plastic bottles. “Welcome, welcome to the heroes.. Welcome, welcome to
the men”, “Muslim, Christian, We Are One”, “Where is the press..We are
millions.” These rhyme in Arabic and sound very motivating when sung
in unison.

The large number of people entering makes a man sitting next to me say
on the phone “Yes, now we are 30 million!” It feels that way
energetically, but as for actual numbers his math abilities need some

There are a lot of men of every age group entering but there is a
considerable number of women, and of families. My favorite was an
elderly couple, in their eighties, walking slowing supporting each
other, with content smiles on their faces, followed by their young
grandchildren in happy outfits. A few people are in disbelief when
they first enter. Not just because of the warm welcoming chants and
clapping, but they are owed by the huge numbers and the rising
energies. One woman was so overjoyed by emotions, her face was full of
tears at the sight of Free Egyptians.

The energies keep rising, and people walking in groups around the
square continue to make up chants and riffs on popular songs. They are
brilliant! Translation would rob them from the wit and humor, and the
subtext and intertextuality would require pages to explain. So
I will
only mention the funniest that was freshly invented yesterday:
“Wahed..Etneen..El Kentucky Feen?” (One..Two.. Where is the Kentucky?)
They are referring to the news reports that accuse the demonstrators
of receiving monies and daily Kentucky Fried Chicken meals from
foreign entities. This rumor is particularly hard to believe, not just
because of the integrity of demonstrators and their self motivation to
revolt against oppression and brutality, but also because KFC
restaurants have been closed in Egypt for quite sometime. And it is a
logistical nightmare to airlift KFC meals for a million people, and
deliver them to Tahrir while still warm!

It is February, but the day is very sunny, and it gets hot after a
while of walking around in the sun, with a million other people. My
demonstrating body and I find a vacant spot on a shady pavement to
sit. We are absorbing all the amazing things taking place around us,
the sights and sounds and words and looks in people’s eyes. The
comments strangers exchange as if they have known each other for
years. There is a sense of community, comradery and solidarity, a
powerful defiance toward the regime and a feeling of freedom in
“liberation square”, the literal meaning of “Tahrir”. Suddenly, I
scream out with joy: “Dragonflies!”. My very sensible architect friend
does not understand what I am saying. I point above our head. She sees
the two huge dragonflies, but she still does not understand. The
dragonflies keep circling over us, and one of them almost touches my
outstretched hands. I am exhilarated. My spiritual friends and my
new-agy friends would get goose pumps when they hear about dragonflies
appearing in a crowd of millions. New age is a whole other language, I
won’t attempt to explain. I am just so pleased to realize that that
not only physical human beings are here, but the angels are also
smiling upon us.

It is almost time for the curfew that is loosely followed by
Egyptians. Part of the crowd is leaving, while other continue to come
in. My friend leaves, and I start to walk alone, and I run into so
many people I know.. co-workers, students, many artists, friends from
college, and even a classmate from Junior high. I am so owed when I
meet Egyptians who flew to Egypt this week to participate in the
revolution, from Arab countries, Europe and the States. They left
their jobs and their lives and came to witness this amazing moment. I
met many of them. This balances what I read in the papers about
artists leaving the country, and two of my friends who took their
families and left. I understand how scared they were, but I am so glad
to know that others were not scared to leave their comfortable lives
abroad, and to come back just to stand in the square. One of them
tells me with such a matter of fact voice “If this works out, I am not
going back to Italy. I will stay.” Hhhhh! Egypt is no more a one way
street; a country that pushes its people to leave, to immigrate, to
find any kinds of jobs anywhere else. Legally or illegally they try to
leave, some even drown in the Mediterranean while trying.

The sun sets and the energy of the square changes again. The nighttime
crowd is cool. I meet some artist friends. One is playing music and
others are in heated political discussions. One is on the phone
explaining to a journalist why it will NOT be a chaos when the
president steps down. More people, many more conversations. It’s like
a reunion. I hear of them saying “I want a revolution every day to
meet my friends.” I agree! Those in the square are my friends. I don’t
know most of them, but we all share in creating this amazing moment of
our history, just be being there.

I do hope that the eleventh day of the revolution will be the eleventh
hour for this corrupt regime. I am happy, and so proud to be Egyptian.