Democracy is the Answer

Democracy is the Answer: Egypt's Years of Revolution

Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Gingko
Pages: 400
Stable URL: http:/stable/j.ctt1h4mjrs
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  • Book Info
    Democracy is the Answer
    Book Description:

    As the Egyptian revolution unfolded throughout 2011 and the ensuing years, no one was better positioned to comment on it-and try to push it in productive directions-than best-selling novelist and political commentator Alaa Al-Aswany. For years a leading critic of the Mubarak regime, Al-Aswany used his weekly newspaper column forAl-Masry Al-Youmto propound the revolution's ideals and to confront the increasingly troubled politics of its aftermath.This book presents, for the first time in English, all of Al-Aswany's columns from the period, a comprehensive account of the turmoil of the post-revolutionary years, and a portrait of a country and a people in flux. Each column is presented along with a context-setting introduction, as well as notes and a glossary, all designed to give non-Egyptian readers the background they need to understand the events and figures that Al-Aswany chronicles. The result is a definitive portrait of Egypt today-how it got here, and where it might be headed.

    eISBN: 978-1-909942-72-1
    Subjects: Political Science, African Studies, Middle East Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VIII)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. IX-XII)
    Alaa Al Aswany

    I woke up on 25 January 2011 like it was any other day. I got out of bed and wrote until midday. I had heard about the demonstration that had been organised, but I was not optimistic that anything would come of it. I had taken part in many demonstrations against Hosni Mubarak before and they had all been more or less the same: a few hundred demonstrators would be encircled by thousands of police officers who would close in on the demonstrators, beat them and make arrests.

    When I did go down to Tahrir Square in the afternoon I...

  4. Chronology
    (pp. XIII-XVI)
  5. 2011
    • The President Has Fallen but the Regime Still Stands 1 March 2011
      (pp. 1-5)

      In his television appearances, Ahmed Shafik¹ comes across as a tactful and mild-mannered man, and the state information service also speaks highly of his administrative efficiency, but with all due respect to Ahmed Shafik, he is not suitable to be the post-revolution prime minister. There is a great difference between partial suitability and the revolution. The revolution aims to bring about radical change, to destroy the old regime completely and to set up a new structure in its place which accords with its principles and aims.

      This is how revolutions have been throughout human history. The Egyptian revolution erupted on...

    • The Sickness of Dictatorship 3 March 2011
      (pp. 5-8)

      Straight after graduating, I worked as a resident doctor in the oral surgery department of the college of medicine at Cairo University. They were the worst days of my life. The whole department of oral surgery was riddled with corruption. Favouritism and favour-paying enabled the sons and daughters of the rich to get what they did not deserve. It was an open secret that examination results were tampered with and there was no end to financial and administrative irregularities. The patients, forced to seek free healthcare, were treated so badly and with such contempt that it was criminal. However, what...

    • Five Attitudes Towards the Revolution 15 March 2011
      (pp. 8-12)

      It was two o’clock in the morning and I found myself walking through Tahrir Square. Feeling stressed, I lit a cigarette and threw the empty packet onto the ground. A lady in her seventies came over to me, greeted me warmly and told me she loved my writing. I thanked her but she suddenly looked at me and said: “Please pick up your empty cigarette packet.”

      I felt embarrassed. I bent over quickly and picked up the discarded packet. “You can put it in the rubbish bin over there,” she said.

      I did as she told me and walked back...

    • Before the Revolution Becomes a Wasted Opportunity 22 March 2011
      (pp. 12-16)

      After the success of the 1919 revolution when the British yielded to the will of the Egyptians, King Fuad² appointed a committee to draw up a constitution. The nationalist leader, Saad Zaghloul³, objected to this and demanded the election of a constitutional assembly to draft a democratic constitution that would express the will of the people. However, King Fuad would not budge. A committee was convened to draft the 1923 Constitution, which granted the king the right to dissolve parliament at any time.

      This serious constitutional flaw led to the corrupting of political life, which turned parliament into a plaything...

    • What Did the Monkey Say to the Lion? 29 March 2011
      (pp. 17-21)

      It was a beautiful forest, vast and lush. The animals lived together happily and peacefully until the elephant and the lion took control. The elephant proclaimed himself king of the forest, and the lion its loyal guard. The lion carried out his duties faithfully and competently; all night long he would roam the areas just beyond the forest in search of intruders. If he came across any unwelcome predators, he would bravely pounce on them before they could reach the animals of the forest and do them harm. For this reason, the animals living in the forest held the lion...

    • Masters of Egypt 5 April 2011
      (pp. 21-24)

      Some days ago, scores of police officers in Alexandria staged a sit-in to protest the trial of three of their colleagues for the killing of demonstrators. The same thing took place in a number of governorates across Egypt with 48 police officers in Suez tendering their resignations.

      Since the start of the revolution, more than 820 Egyptians have been killed and 1,200 have been blinded by rubber bullets, not to mention the thousands who have disappeared and whose families have no idea whether they are dead or in unknown places of detention. These disastrous human losses did not happen during...

    • How to Fight Counter-revolution 12 April 2011
      (pp. 24-28)

      The French proverb states: a debt paid is a friend kept (les bons comptes font les bons amis), meaning true friends should respect and trust each other in order to safeguard their friendship. This proverb can be applied to the relationship between the Egyptian people and the armed forces. From the very first day, the armed forces stood shoulder to shoulder with the revolutionaries to make a stand against tyranny. They continued to protect the Egyptian people and willingly took on the onerous role of guiding Egypt through the transitional period. However, the Egyptian people have a number of reservations...

    • The Writing on the Wall 19 April 2011
      (pp. 28-32)

      The moment the former president Hosni Mubarak felt a twinge in his chest, he was rushed to the military wing of the Sharm el-Sheikh International Hospital, where all the necessary x-rays and tests were carried out. The results showed a slight heart arrhythmia, which the doctors were able to treat and regulate. At around seven o’clock in the evening, the director of the hospital carried out another examination on the former president. As he removed his stethoscope, the director turned to him and said: “Sir, your health is perfect, thank God. You just need a few days’ peace and quiet.”...

    • Walk Like an Egyptian, Roar Like a Lion 26 April 2011
      (pp. 32-36)

      Professor Denis Weber was regarded as one of the most important histology specialists in the world. During the 1980s and 1990s there was hardly a histology journal that did not include a paper written by him.

      It was my happy fortune to have studied under this great man at Illinois University in the United States, and to have him supervise my Master’s thesis. During one of his seminars, he asked our small group of advanced medical students to read certain papers and to give a précis of them to our colleagues. He would discuss the papers with us and then...

    • How Did the Revolution Reach Montreal? 3 May 2011
      (pp. 36-40)

      The affair started with three Canadian authors: Linda Leith, Ann Charney and Mary Soderstrom. Years ago they met and decided to set up a Canadian literary festival called Metropolis Blue whose aim was to allow the public to meet authors from all over the world and to hold public readings and discussions. In April 1999 the first Metropolis Blue literary festival was held in the city of Montreal. The festival was a success and year after year it garnered international recognition and became one of the most important literary festivals in the world. Every year the festival awards international prizes...

    • Who Is Pushing Egypt Towards Chaos? 10 May 2011
      (pp. 40-44)

      Last month I had dinner near Al-Hussein Mosque in the old city. I chatted with the waiting staff at the restaurant and was surprised when one of them said to me: “If you go to Al-Hussein Square, be on your guard. These days it’s full of thugs and criminals.”

      When I asked him why the police didn’t arrest them, he replied: “I asked the chief of the local police the same thing. He told me that he knows each and every one of these individuals but that he has received orders not to arrest them no matter what they do.”...

    • Who Killed General al-Batran? 17 May 2011
      (pp. 44-48)

      The late police general, Mohamed al-Batran, was head of the prisons department at the Ministry of the Interior, a senior security position that made him responsible for all Egyptian prisons. He was known for his diligence, integrity and competence, and his death in the early days of the revolution was considered both tragic and mysterious.

      After the revolution broke out on 25 January, the Ministry of the Interior, under the leadership of Habib el-Adly, committed horrendous crimes in an attempt to quell the uprising, even using professional snipers to kill unarmed demonstrators; raising the death toll to 1,000 people, not...

    • Tyranny Begets Tyranny 24 May 2011
      (pp. 48-52)

      This is the story of Ahmed Agiza, one-time leader of the Islamic extremist group known as the Vanguards of Conquest that carried out a number of terrorist attacks both in Egypt and abroad. In 1999 Agiza fled Egypt to seek political asylum in Sweden, but while the Swedish authorities were assessing his application, the Egyptian government issued a notice for his extradition. Human rights organisations in Sweden rallied public opinion against his extradition on account of Egypt’s horrendous human rights record. Demonstrators in Sweden demanded that Agiza not be handed over to the Egyptian government because he would be tortured,...

    • Are We Tilting at Windmills? 31 May 2011
      (pp. 52-56)

      I have often heard this speech from preachers in mosques and from members of various Islamist groups. Many people in Egypt and the wider Arab world agree with these sentiments. It is true that Islam was once considered one of the greatest civilisations in the world. For centuries, Muslims were at the forefront of every field of human learning, distinguishing themselves in art, philosophy, chemistry, algebra and geometry. Many years ago, I studied Spanish literature in Madrid and attended a lecture on the history of Al-Andalus.¹ At the start of the lecture, the professor turned to the three Arabs in...

    • Who Will Protect Egypt From the Police? 7 June 2011
      (pp. 57-60)

      Recently in Alexandria, a young man and his fiancée went to Borg El Arab Airport to pick up two women relatives who were returning from their pilgrimage in Mecca. They were driving back to their home when two cars full of armed thugs came up behind them. The young man, who was driving the car, tried to outrun them but the thugs gave chase and drove the car off the road. The car flipped and plunged into a canal, killing all four passengers. When the relatives of these innocent victims went to the police station, they were shocked to find...

    • Would a Civil State Allow Sharia Law? 14 June 2011
      (pp. 60-64)

      If you are an Egyptian who cares about the future of your country, then you are now faced with two choices: either you support the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists, and help them come to power in Egypt, or you disagree with them and risk being denounced as secular or an enemy of Islam. Sobhi Saleh, a leading member of the Brotherhood, has previously stated: “There is no such thing as a liberal Muslim or a leftist Muslim; there are only Muslims and infidels.” He believes that the Muslim Brotherhood is the only party that truly represents Islam and that...

    • What to Expect from the Military Council 21 June 2011
      (pp. 64-68)

      Imagine that you have a great job and you earn the kind of salary that most people can only dream of, but your boss is arrogant and spends the whole day putting you down. You have two choices: either you refuse to be humiliated in this way and quit, or you can try putting up with the abuse, in which case you get to keep your salary and enjoy the financial comforts. The first option – putting your dignity first and refusing to accept abuse, regardless of the consequences – is the choice that a true revolutionary would make. Revolution...

    • An Egyptian Mother to Field Marshal Tantawi 28 June 2011
      (pp. 68-72)

      She still remembers all the little details. She remembers when she found out that she was pregnant, and how her newborn son seemed so small and almost doll-like in her arms. She still remembers the delight she found in his laughter. She remembers his first words and his tiny little fingers, and how he clumsily swayed back and forth when he took his first steps. She remembers how she used to worry when he had bouts of diarrhoea and when he had a fever, and how he would cry every morning as she washed his face, carefully combed his hair...

    • What is Holding the Military Council Back? 5 July 2011
      (pp. 72-76)

      Several weeks ago I received an invitation to meet with some members of the military council to exchange views about the situation in Egypt. I spent a few hours with three of the council’s generals and came away from the meeting with a very good impression. I learned that they had a thorough understanding of domestic and foreign affairs, as well as genuine commitment to the revolution and the nation. Nevertheless, I also sensed that these generals were not the ones making the final decisions, but that their role was to simply convey the different viewpoints to a higher authority....

    • Has the Revolution Gone Awry? 5 July 2011
      (pp. 76-80)

      The American comedian George Carlin was known for his dark humour and acerbic wit. During one of his shows, he was asked what he would do if he found himself on a flight that was about to crash. Carlin’s response was that he would, of course, save himself by shoving and pushing past the “women and children, midgets and dwarves, cripples, war widows, paralysed veterans, people with broken legs … [and] the emotionally disturbed.” This humorous image illustrates how some people will do anything to save themselves and their own selfish interests. Whenever I see our new minister of foreign...

    • The Story of Abu Shama 19 July 2011
      (pp. 80-84)

      There was once a street, whose residents were like those of any other street – some were difficult to like but most of them were decent people who worked hard to provide for their children. Their lives could have gone on as normal, but fate had other plans for them. One night, shortly before dawn, the neighbourhood was woken by the sound of screaming and gunfire. The residents went out on their balconies to see what was happening. The noise was coming from the apartment at the end of the street that belonged to Hassan and his beautiful new bride....

    • Do you Support the Revolution? 26 July 2011
      (pp. 84-88)

      Like all Egyptians, I am proud of the Egyptian army, but feel it is my duty to direct some criticism towards the policies of the military council, which is currently acting as head of state in Egypt. A few days ago, thousands of revolutionaries marched to the Ministry of Defence to submit their demands to the military council, in a peaceful and civilised manner. In response, the military police cornered the demonstrators and allowed hundreds of thugs to attack them with Molotov cocktails, swords and tear gas canisters. This horrific assault on peaceful demonstrators left hundreds injured, as the police...

    • How to Abort the Revolution in Six Steps 2 August 2011
      (pp. 89-93)

      Dear general, if the revolution took you by surprise, don’t panic. Don’t let the sight of millions of angry demonstrators frighten you. Stay calm. Take a deep breath and pull yourself together. You should know that a revolution is something extraordinary; it is a rare event in which people demonstrate great courage and confront their own death for the sake of freedom and dignity. Revolutions are the exception; generally, people will put up with injustice because they fear being punished for standing up for themselves, or because they do not wish to jeopardise their own petty interests. The evidence for...

    • How to Save the Revolution 9 August 2011
      (pp. 93-97)

      On 11 February, I was walking down Kasr El Aini Street on my way to Tahrir Square when a group of demonstrators gathered around me and asked how I thought the revolution would play out. As I was talking with them, I suddenly heard a loud scream that stopped me in my tracks. I became anxious because it reminded me of the screams I heard in the early days of the revolution when the snipers started shooting and demonstrators began dropping to the ground from gunshot wounds. This time, however, the scream was different. It came from a woman wearing...

    • The Interrogation of Asmaa Mahfouz 16 August 2011
      (pp. 97-102)

      Before the revolution, only Egyptians using the internet knew the name of activist and blogger, Asmaa Mahfouz. She uploaded videos calling on Egyptians to come out and demonstrate in order to get rid of Mubarak. She was an attractive dark-skinned Egyptian girl who wore the hijab, and her messages were incredibly moving and from the heart. She reminded us of our own daughters and sisters, but she also had a certain nobility that distinguished her. Although young, Asmaa was concerned with the fate of the country and decided to dedicate herself to the revolution and to achieving freedom. After the...

    • How Should We Respond to Israeli Aggression? 23 August 2011
      (pp. 102-107)

      On 17 November 2004, three military police officers were on guard duty in the Egyptian town of Rafah. At three o’clock in the morning they spotted an Israeli Merkava tank moving towards them. The tank stopped at a distance of 20 metres and opened fire on the officers. Two of them, Ali Sobhi el-Naggar and Mohamed Abdel Fattah, were killed on the spot while the remaining officer, Amer Abu Bakr Amer, was seriously injured and later died from his wounds in hospital. This is one of many instances in which Israel has attacked Egyptian soldiers and police officers stationed at...

    • God Bless Your Hands, Ali Farzat 30 August 2011
      (pp. 107-111)

      Dear reader, if you are not yet familiar with the art of Ali Farzat you are doing yourself a great disservice. Farzat is an internationally acclaimed Syrian artist and one of the most important political cartoonists in the Arab world. As an Arab, I felt proud when I saw Farzat’s work appear in major international newspapers such as theGuardianandLe Monde. He was born in the city of Hama in 1951 and his exceptional talent was apparent from an early age: when he was only twelve years old he sent a cartoon to the Syrian newspaperAl-Ayyamand...

    • Tomorrow You Will Stand Accused 6 September 2011
      (pp. 111-115)

      On 9 March, George Magdy Ata and four of his relatives were exiting from the metro station at Tahrir Square just as the military police were forcibly breaking up a sit-in protest. These five young men, all of whom have jobs in respectable companies, were arrested and court-martialled on charges of possessing Molotov cocktails and assaulting the military police. The military prosecutor presented only ten Molotov cocktails as evidence for the conviction of the 200 defendants who stood accused, meaning groups of 20 defendants each possessed one Molotov cocktail between them. Perhaps the strangest thing about this case was that...

    • The Revolution Must Continue 20 September 2011
      (pp. 116-119)

      On a recent trip to Italy I was approached by a young woman at the Festivaletteratura in Mantua, one of Italy’s biggest literary festivals, who said to me: “You should be proud of what you have achieved. With courage, you were able to bring down one of the worst dictatorial regimes in the world. You have proved that ideas are stronger than repression, and truth is mightier than bullets.” During my visit, I held seminars and press conferences in five Italian cities: Mantua, Arona, Rome, Napoli and Bari. In each city, I am proud to say that I felt the...

    • What Does Egypt Lack? 27 September 2011
      (pp. 119-123)

      Two years before the revolution took place, I received a call from the French theatre director, Jean-Louis Martinelli, who was interested in adapting my novelChicago. I thought it a wonderful idea and he came to visit me several times in Cairo to discuss his plans for the play. Jean-Louis Martinelli is one of the most important stage directors in France; he has managed a number of important French theatres and currently manages the famous Théâtre des Amandiers in Nanterre, just outside Paris.¹ Martinelli is well-known for his cultural sophistication, his liberal ideas, his commitment to humanitarian causes and his...

    • Muslim, Christian or Human Being? 27 September 2011
      (pp. 123-127)

      In the first instance, do you consider yourself a Muslim, a Christian, or a human being? Is your first allegiance to your religion, or is being part of a wider humanity more important? The way in which you answer these questions will inform your view of the world and also how you treat other people. If you view yourself as a human being, first and foremost, then it follows that you will respect the rights of others regardless of their religious beliefs. If you have a correct understanding of religion, you will also value and respect others because religion, in...

    • Religious Fascism in Egypt 11 October 2011
      (pp. 127-131)

      What is your opinion on Saad Zaghloul, Mustafa el-Nahhas and Gamal Abdel Nasser? Were they not our great leaders who fought long and hard for Egypt’s independence and freedom? Why did they all demand a civil state rather than a religious state? Were they considered infidels or enemies of Islam? No, on the contrary, they were dedicated Muslims and Mustafa el-Nahhas is often held up as an example of religiosity. Another question: were Egyptians less Islamic before the 1980s than they are today? Again, the answer is no – the majority were decent God-fearing Muslims that carried out their religious...

    • The Moment of Truth has Arrived 17 October 2011
      (pp. 131-135)

      Imagine that you were an officer in the state security service and you were still in your job. Before the revolution, you tortured hundreds of Egyptians and you know that the forthcoming elections will produce a civilian government that will most certainly dismiss you and put you on trial. Would you maintain law and order, or would you do everything in your power to spread chaos in Egypt in order to save yourself? If you were the chairman of a bank, appointed by Gamal Mubarak, what would you do after the revolution? Would you help to revive the failing economy...

    • What the Military Council Didn’t Hear 25 October 2011
      (pp. 135-138)

      My friend Yosri Fouda is the host of the Egyptian talk show,The Last Word. Last week he invited me to take part in his show and to comment on a rival programme that featured General el-Assar and General Hegazy of the military council. Despite my full respect for the generals, their appearance on the show was disappointing because they confined themselves to praising the decisions of the military council. The following day, Fouda called to inform me that the episode had been cancelled and asked me to meet him. When I asked him what had happened, he said: “I...

    • A Conversation Between Two Important Men 1 November 2011
      (pp. 138-143)

      First man:“You haven’t been in touch for two days.”

      Second man:“I’m very sorry, sir. Only the most urgent and pressing matters could prevent me calling you. I am exhausted, I’ve been working day and night. I have the weight of the world on my shoulders.”

      First man:“May God assist you. I realise you are carrying a heavy burden, but you must stay in close contact with me at all times. I need to discuss many important things with you as and when they happen.”

      Second man:“I am your servant, sir. I will never forget everything you...

    • Anxiety for the Future 15 November 2011
      (pp. 143-147)

      Imagine that you are a student living with your friends in a furnished apartment, dividing the rent between you. Each housemate has their own habits and traits: one of you studies all night, while another wakes up early and goes to bed early, and a third studies while listening to loud music. But you learn to live together and compromise. There are shared duties that must be fairly distributed amongst you, namely cooking and cleaning, and making sure bills get paid on time. It is important to arrive at a fair system that balances your rights and your duties; one...

    • The Emperor Has No Clothes 22 November 2011
      (pp. 147-151)

      Once upon a time, there was an emperor who was fooled by a crafty tailor. The tailor managed to convince the emperor that he could make him an amazing magical robe that only the wise could see.¹ The emperor was won over by the skill of the crafty tailor and went out to his ministers wearing no clothes, saying to them: “Behold! What do you think of this magical robe that only the wise can see?”

      “It is a great robe, master,” said some of the ministers who were scared of angering the emperor.

      “My Lord, never in our lives...

    • Five Questions About the Crisis 29 November 2011
      (pp. 152-155)

      On 11 February, Omar Suleiman announced that Hosni Mubarak had stepped down from power and was now in the process of transferring his presidential powers to the military council. Here we see a strange contradiction, for a deposed president does not have the authority to give his powers to anyone. This would be like a dismissed company director continuing to appoint new employees for the company when he started a new job. In this case, these appointments would be illegal because the director who was dismissed no longer has the authority to appoint anyone. Following this example, the deposed Mubarak...

    • What Happened to the General? 13 December 2011
      (pp. 156-159)

      The general and the sheikh have a lot of things in common. They are both over seventy, but still in good health. They both go to bed in the early evening and get up early in the morning. They also both live in the same neighbourhood: El-Tagamu El Khamis – one of the finest districts in all of Cairo. Furthermore, the magnificent mansion where the sheikh resides is not far from that belonging to the general. In light of this, it was not difficult for them to meet whenever the need arose. After the new developments that took place last...

    • Defending Egypt’s Revolution 20 December 2011
      (pp. 160-163)

      Can a person live without food and drink? Of course not. These are fundamental needs, and a person will die if they are denied them. But can a person live without dignity? The answer, unfortunately, is yes. A person who has lost their dignity can still live if they have food and drink. History has seen the phenomenon of slavery, where for centuries millions of human beings lived without dignity, and indeed many people have lived in humiliation and indignity under tyrannical rule.

      For thirty years, millions of Egyptians lived without dignity under the rule of Hosni Mubarak. They put...

    • See No Evil 27 December 2011
      (pp. 163-167)

      More than a month ago the European television channel Arte contacted me to make an hour-long program about my literary work. Arte is one of the most important cultural channels in France and its decision to devote a whole show to an Egyptian writer is no doubt good for me and also for Egyptian literature. The French journalists arrived at my office in Garden city in good time, but both looked anxious and ill at ease. They told me that they had spent the night at the Ismailia Hotel, overlooking the now infamous Tahrir Square. They were woken by the...

  6. 2012
    • Five Types of Honourable Citizen 3 January 2012
      (pp. 167-170)

      Let us imagine that a man returns home one evening and suddenly, as he is going up the stairs to his apartment, he sees a criminal trying to assault and rape a woman. The woman is yelling and trying to escape while the attacker is ripping at her clothes. The man, who has inadvertently witnessed the incident, has four possible reactions:

      1. He could rush to save the woman from the attacker even if it costs him his life. In this case, he is a brave, honourable and chivalrous man.

      2. He could make haste to his flat and call the police....

    • A Conversation Between a Revolutionary and an Honourable Citizen 10 January 2012
      (pp. 170-175)

      An honourable citizen was sitting in a cafe after the evening prayer. He was happily smoking a water pipe and sipping a cup of mint tea. A young man in jeans and a Palestinian kefiyyeh approached the honourable citizen and handed him a piece of paper, smiling: “Sir, I invite you to the peaceful demonstration on 25 January so that the aims of the revolution can be fulfilled.”

      “Shame on you!” shouted the honourable citizen, throwing the paper on the table. “Isn’t it enough that the country has been left in ruins? What do you lot want? Tourism has stopped...

    • What Does Mohamed ElBaradei Want? 16 January 2012
      (pp. 175-179)

      Dear reader, do you have a son or daughter in the sixth year of primary school? If you were to pick up their social studies textbook you would find much material detailing the so-called achievements of Hosni Mubarak over the past thirty years. The lesson uses the expression “President Mubarak” (not “the former”, or “the deposed”), and after going through his deeds in the realm of foreign policy, the economy and social cohesion, the book refers to the Egyptian revolution in one sentence: “However, all these attempts by President Mubarak were insufficient to satisfy the people and they rose up...

    • Why Should We Demonstrate Tomorrow? 24 January 2012
      (pp. 179-183)

      Imagine that you were leaving your office after work one evening and you were attacked by a group of strangers. What would you do if they hurled foul abuse you, pushed you to the ground and beat you? Your natural reaction would be to defend yourself. However, if you found the odds stacked against you, wisdom would dictate that you should run for your safety, or even for your life. This is exactly what happened to the revolutionary journalist Nawara Negm last week. As Nawara was leaving her office in the Television Building, she was set upon by a group...

    • What Can We Expect from the Brotherhood and the Salafists? 31 January 2012
      (pp. 183-186)

      Tarek el-Bishry is an honourable judge and an accomplished historian. From his books, we have learned a great deal about the modern history of Egypt, but he belongs – intellectually at least – to the political Islamist school of thought. As both judge and historian, el-Bishry knows that whenever a revolution succeeds in toppling the regime in power, the constitution created by the defunct regime is no longer valid. It is then up to the revolution to form a new constitution in accordance with their demands. Yet in the aftermath of the revolution, el-Bishry decided to side with the military...

    • Four Telephone Calls in a Deluxe Hospital 6 February 2012
      (pp. 187-191)

      There is an elderly patient, more than 80 years old, who is staying in the most luxurious hospital in Egypt. He has an entire floor of the hospital to himself that has been opened up to create what amounts to a “royal suite” fitted out with all the latest mod cons, as well as a grand bathroom with a jacuzzi. The patient doesn’t like to read, so he divides his time instead between watching the gigantic television in the sitting room and speaking on the telephone to his friends and loved ones. Yesterday, the patient had four telephone calls that...

    • When Will the Mubarak Regime Fall? 13 February 2012
      (pp. 191-195)

      Last Saturday, the famous broadcaster Dina Abdel Rahman went to present her daily show on Al-Tahrir TV network and was surprised to find that the management had cancelled her appearance and replaced her with another female anchor. Dina Abdel Rahman is one of Egypt’s most successful broadcasters thanks to her courage and commitment to presenting the truth, free from political bias and prejudice. In her programs, Dina exposed several of the heinous crimes carried out by the state security forces during the revolution. Last summer, she resigned from her position at Dream TV after the owner of the channel pushed...

    • Are They Really Religious? 20 February 2012
      (pp. 195-199)

      Last summer, a friend of mine was driving his elderly mother from the Northern Coast of Egypt to Cairo. On the way, his mother, a diabetic, complained of a sudden fatigue so my friend went to find the nearest pharmacy. He asked the bearded pharmacist behind the counter to inject his mother with insulin, but the pharmacist shook his head and said to him: “Sorry, but I never perform injections on women because that is against God’s law. Find your mother a female doctor to give her the injection.” My friend tried hard to persuade the pharmacist, telling him that...

    • A Secret Report on a Consensus Candidate 27 February 2012
      (pp. 199-203)

      Top Secret (not to be opened except by the director of the organisation)

      Dear General,

      Following our meeting with the consensus presidential candidate, held in the presence of your Excellency and my fellow officers in the organisation – where you confirmed that Mr (…) will be the candidate whom we must support in the presidential elections – please find below a number of suggestions regarding this matter. I hope that they meet with your approval.

      Before we begin to support the consensus candidate, we must be sure of his complete loyalty to us and that we will have total control...

    • When Will They Stop Insulting Us? 5 March 2012
      (pp. 203-207)

      A few weeks ago, the German president, Christian Wulff, was forced to resign after being caught up in a corruption scandal involving a dubious loan that exposed his long-suspected improper ties to business executives. Similarly, the former secretary of state for energy and climate change in Britain, Chris Huhne, was caught speeding and later resigned after he was charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice by persuading his former wife to take his driving licence penalty points. The public considered Huhne’s behaviour inacceptable and immoral, and he was forced to step down as a member of parliament.


    • Awaiting Military Trial 12 March 2012
      (pp. 207-211)

      If you have a daughter, presumably you love her and worry for her safety, and could not bear to see any harm come to her. You would not allow anybody to touch her inappropriately or attack her, and you would be prepared to defend her with your life. Your daughter is a part of you and you live to protect her. How would you feel if your young daughter took part in a peaceful demonstration and was taken away by soldiers who beat her and subjected her to a barrage of vile abuse? How would you feel if your young...

    • Who Will Welcome Pope Shenouda? 19 March 2012
      (pp. 211-215)

      This place is impossible to describe because it is not like any other and defies imagination. Roughly speaking, it is a vast garden filled with large fruit-laden trees and beautiful flowers that sway in a light, refreshing breeze. The garden has a circular door adorned with roses and in front of it stands a handsome bearded man, wearing a cloak of pure white, whose face radiates a curious light. All around the garden, thousands of people are gathered displaying signs of happiness and joy. From time to time, the man goes to the door to welcome the new arrivals. Yesterday,...

    • You Can Have Your Constitution; We Will Have the Revolution 29 March 2012
      (pp. 216-219)

      Imagine that you want to build a house. You have the necessary finances, but you do not have the skills required to build the house yourself so you hire a builder to do the work on your behalf. As building a house is a specialist operation, it must be carried out in compliance with safe construction practices and requires building materials with strict specifications. You must also contract a building surveyor to supervise and approve the work of the builder. The surveyor manages the building project and is the one who sets out the specifications for the building materials and...

    • Do They Represent Islam? 2 April 2012
      (pp. 220-224)

      What would you do if a person you trusted turned out to be a liar? If they went back on their promises and obscured the truth? Eventually you would lose confidence in this person. But what if this liar wore a white robe, had a long beard and presented himself as an Islamic cleric striving to implement God’s law. This would complicate matters because the crime committed by this individual would be twofold: he has lied, but has also set a bad example as a Muslim. What is happening in Egypt is different in that those who speak in the...

    • How to Become an Extra 9 April 2012
      (pp. 224-227)

      A religious Jew went to see his rabbi and told him: “O rabbi, I cannot bear my life. I earn very little and my house is overcrowded, what with my wife and four children. Can the Lord provide a solution for my misery?”

      The rabbi asked him to grant him 24 hours to think it over and the next day when the religious Jew went back to see the rabbi he saw him sitting with a pig next to him, but before he could ask anything, the rabbi interjected: “The Lord wants you to take this pig and live with...

    • How to Save the Revolution in Four Steps 16 April 2012
      (pp. 228-232)

      Imagine that you live in an apartment and across the hall lives a person that you do not like. You have had countless problems with this neighbour; he is selfish and only thinks of himself. This neighbour talks about principles, but often ignores them if they can further his own interests. Over the years, your relationship has deteriorated and you no longer speak to each other. Then, one night a tremendous fire breaks out and the neighbour rushes out and asks for your help to extinguish the fire. What would you do then? Would you tell him: “I will not...

    • Who Pays the Price for Dignity? 30 April 2012
      (pp. 232-236)

      Imagine that you’re working in a company and one of your colleagues verbally abuses you. Under normal circumstances, you would defend yourself and demand to be treated with respect. But what happens if the colleague is actually the director of the company? This complicates matters and leaves you with two choices: to respond with dignity and suffer the consequences or to swallow your pride in order to keep your job.

      This introduction is necessary to understand what is happening to Egyptian workers in Saudi Arabia today. It is important not to generalise or speak ill of the Saudi people, who...

    • A Conversation Between a Presidential Candidate and an Important Person 7 May 2012
      (pp. 236-240)

      Presidential candidate:“Good morning, sir. I’m sorry for not being in touch; I have been incredibly busy with the election campaign. Every day I visit a different province and hold an election rally. I’m exhausted from it all.”

      Important person:“Keep it up! Nothing comes easily.”

      Presidential candidate:“I am your loyal disciple, sir. You have shown us how to work hard and to give it our all.”

      Important person:“Is there anything you need?”

      Presidential candidate:“Not at all, sir, God bless you. I am just calling to congratulate you on the Abbasiya operation. It was truly magnificent sir,...

    • How to Carry Out a Massacre 14 May 2012
      (pp. 240-244)

      A successful massacre needs time and planning, as well as expertise and organised action. A massacre has similarities to a surgical operation; the success depends upon the skill of the surgeon, his diagnostic precision, and his dexterity. The following are the steps necessary to create a successful massacre:

      First: Understand the meaning of massacre. What is the difference between controlling demonstrations and committing a massacre? In the first situation, you use your powers to control the demonstrations and do so clearly in full view of everyone, whereas a massacre is a specialised task; an unambiguous message directed at one group...

    • Are These Elections Fair? 21 May 2012
      (pp. 244-248)

      Tomorrow will mark a new chapter in the history of Egypt; for the first time, the Egyptian people will participate in presidential elections without knowing the outcome in advance. This is one of the greatest achievements of the revolution to date and we are grateful to the 20 million Egyptians who went out onto the streets and faced death and arrest so that Egyptians could decide the fate of their own country. There is no doubt that we are witnessing a great historical moment, but the question remains: are these elections truly fair?

      Unfortunately, the oversees vote has been mired...

    • Before You Cast Your Vote 4 June 2012
      (pp. 248-252)

      Imagine that you are playing playing in a football team and during the match you found that the referee was blatantly biased in favour of the other team? What would you do if you saw the referee disallow perfectly legitimate goals scored by your team and allowed the other team to win unfairly? Would you play on, knowing that the referee would never allow you to win, or would you withdraw from the match to show your protest against the unfair referee? This is the choice facing the Egyptian revolution today.

      The revolution placed its trust in the military council...

    • The Phenomenon of the Tame Citizen 12 June 2012
      (pp. 252-256)

      Twenty years ago I was working as a dentist for a governmental department, and one morning I was treating a member of staff. He was lying in the dentist’s chair with his mouth open and a metal clamp fitted around one of his molars so that I could put in a filling. While I was occupied with my work, the door of the surgery burst open and the department’s head of security walked in and unexpectedly said: “Please finish with your patient straight away. The head of the department is coming to have his teeth looked at.”

      “I still have...

    • Why Did Mohamed Morsi Win? 25 June 2012
      (pp. 256-260)

      How many times have you said, or heard someone else say, that Egyptians are not ready for democracy? How many times have you said, or heard someone else say, that Egyptians need someone to educate them and teach them how to exercise their political rights?

      I have heard people state these opinions scores of times inside and outside Egypt, and I always explain to them that the history of modern Egypt shows that the Egyptian people have always behaved with real political awareness. I continue by telling them that they are talking about the Egyptian people as if they were...

    • Hold Your Ground 2 July 2012
      (pp. 260-264)

      I am writing this article from my hotel bedroom in Toulouse, and through the window I can see a large square filled with people attending the “Marathon des Mots”, which is one of the largest literary festivals in France. The festival is organised by Olivier Poivre d’Arvor, director of radio France Culture, and a team of young French people, as well as the Egyptian, Dalia Hasan. This year, the festival decided to choose me as a guest of honour, and for this I am truly grateful. The management organised an evening of readings to celebrate my work, during which the...

    • Are We Repeating el-Senhouri’s Mistake? 9 July 2012
      (pp. 265-269)

      Abdel Razek el-Senhouri was one of the greatest jurists in the history of Egypt and the Arab world. It was he who drafted the constitution and civil law for many Arab countries including Libya, Iraq, Sudan, Kuwait, Syria and the United Arab Emirates. This great man made an unfortunate mistake almost sixty years ago, whose price we are paying to this day. El-Senhouri was well known for his hostility towards the Wafd Party, which held a majority in parliament at that time. In 1952, the Free Officers carried out a military coup, which later became a revolution, forcing King Farouk...

    • A Future Imagined 16 July 2012
      (pp. 269-273)

      Following the rigged parliamentary elections and due to the widespread corruption, unemployment and poverty, in addition to the brutality practiced by the state security service against citizens, the revolution against Hosni Mubarak broke out on 25 January 2011 with the participation of millions of Egyptians. The state security service tried to put the revolution down savagely, killing and wounding thousands of demonstrators, but the revolution continued for 18 days until Mubarak was forced out of office and handed over power to the military council which, due to pressure from the people, had to arrest Mubarak and put him on trial....

    • Truth is a Virtue 23 July 2012
      (pp. 273-277)

      A few months ago, Naguib Sawiris¹ travelled to Canada and took part in a number of television interviews, in which he reasserted his demand that Western countries should intervene in Egypt to protect the Copts and to help the liberals build a civil state. When the interviewer raised objections to Western interference in Egyptian affairs, Sawiris barked back: “Why do you allow Qatar and Saudi Arabia to fund the Muslim Brotherhood? Either put an end to that funding or intervene for the sake of Egypt.”

      In another interview with the Canadian journalist Cristina Freeland, Sawiris again demanded that the West...

    • Should We Support the Brotherhood or the Military Council? 30 July 2012
      (pp. 277-281)

      These foul words were spoken by Geert Wilders,¹ an extreme right-winger from the Netherlands. He stirs up waves of Islamophobia wherever he goes, deeming Islam a danger to Europe, which must be fought aggressively. He made a film calledFitna, so replete with ignorant and unjust attacks on Islam that many people called for him to be put on trial. Geert Wilders is not a rare example but part of a phenomenon which is now spreading across Europe, with the extreme right gaining between 5 and 20 per cent of the seats in parliaments. Every European country has an extreme...

    • What is Egypt Waiting For? 6 August 2012
      (pp. 281-285)

      Should we attack someone who is carrying out a religious duty? Should we attack someone as they pray, be they Muslim, Christian or Jewish, or the follower of some other religion? Should we attack someone who is fasting and who is getting ready to break their fast and say their prayers? This is a contemptible and foul crime under any legal system or set of norms. Some terrorist groups, who falsely claim to be religious, attacked Egyptian soldiers and policemen in Rafah as they were preparing to break their fast. They opened fire on them as they were doing their...

    • Heartfelt Joy and Rightful Concerns 13 August 2012
      (pp. 285-289)

      If you participated in the Egyptian revolution, supported it, or even understood the reasons why it happened, the latest decisions made by President Morsi must have filled you with hope and joy. Despite all the attempts of the old regime to abort the revolution, the people were able to appoint an elected, civilian president for the first time in 60 years and this elected president was able to fulfil a basic demand of the revolution: the end of military rule. By dismissing Field Marshal Tantawi and General Sami Hafez Enan,¹ and annulling the complementary constitutional declaration,² Morsi has established himself...

    • Do Egyptians Resent Success? 27 August 2012
      (pp. 289-293)

      If you were an Egyptian who had emigrated to the West and then completed your education in one of the best universities in the world and obtained a degree, as well as a well-paid job, what would your relationship with Egypt be? You would have two alternatives: either to enjoy your success and lifestyle in the West, coming to visit Egypt with your family on your holidays to enjoy its beaches and warm sun, or, you feel a sense of obligation towards your country and you would use your knowledge and experience for the benefit of Egyptians.

      This second alternative...

    • Are Egyptians Civilised? 3 September 2012
      (pp. 293-297)

      There was a young man who worked in an office in Cairo. The man had to go on a business trip to Alexandria so he arranged for his female colleague to wait for him outside the office to give him some documents he needed to take with him. The woman was waiting for him in the street when a strange man approached her and whispered in her ear: “You’re very cute.”

      The stranger started groping her. He groped her in the middle of the street in broad daylight. She called for help and tried to push him away, but he...

    • How to Make a Dictator 11 September 2012
      (pp. 297-301)

      This is from a front-page article published inAl-Ahramnewspaper. It was an attempt to garner sympathy for the president, claiming that he had such a great workload that he couldn’t even take one day off to be with his family.

      The truth of the matter is that President Morsi has only been in his job for a few weeks, and that is generally not a long enough period for someone to need a holiday. In addition, it is not as if the president dials the international telephone calls himself. His staff would arrange this on his behalf, and the...

    • In Defence of the Prophet 17 September 2012
      (pp. 301-305)

      Regardless of your religious denomination – whether you are a Muslim or a Christian – you have the right to practice your religion freely and to ask others to respect your beliefs. Therefore, the Muslim community was within its rights to be angry when a provocative and poorly-made film was released that ridiculed the Prophet.¹ Muslims were also within their rights when they objected to the cartoons of the Prophet published in Denmark a few years ago.² Similarly, they were within their rights to get angry aboutFitna, the film produced by the Dutch bigot Geert Wilders in 2006, which...

    • Where is the President Taking Us? 24 September 2012
      (pp. 305-309)

      I did not vote for President Morsi. In fact, I called on the Egyptian people to boycott the elections in protest of Ahmed Shafik’s candidacy. Shafik should not be able to run for preseident before the 35 counts of corruption brought against him have been investigated. The call to boycott the elections was not successful, and millions of Egyptians came out to vote for Mohamed Morsi, not out of conviction for the ideas of the Brotherhood, but to prevent the return of the Mubarak regime in the form of Ahmed Shafik. As a result, Mohamed Morsi was declared Egypt’s first...

    • When Will the West Respect Us? 1 October 2012
      (pp. 309-313)

      I write this article from Cosenza, a city in Southern Italy, where I have come to receive the Mediterranean Cultural Award, which I won this year. The award is organised by the Carical Foundation, under the sponsorship of the Italian Ministry of Culture and is one of the major literary prizes in Italy. It was awarded to many internationally renowned authors before me, including two major Arab writers: Amin Maalouf and Tahar Ben Jelloun. This is the fourth award I have received in Italy and it is the fifteenth time I have won an international honour or prize. It always...

    • The Art of Putting on Shoes 8 October 2012
      (pp. 313-317)

      In 1948, King Farouk, in the company of Prime Minister Mahmoud an-Nukrashi,¹ was driving to the celebration of the sighting of the crescent moon, marking the beginning of Ramadan. Following protocol, the prime minister was sitting next to the king on the back seat, while the king’s servant was sat next to the driver. As soon as the car stopped, it was the servant’s duty to spring from the car and open the back door so that His Majesty, the king, could get out. At this point, the king’s servant discovered that the door handle had broken; he frantically tried...

    • A President Who Serves Two Masters 15 October 2012
      (pp. 318-322)

      Was the Egyptian Revolution legal? Was the act of millions of people demonstrating to depose Mubarak constitutional? At the outset of the revolution, was Hosni Mubarak a legal and legitimately elected President?

      Everything that took place before the Egyptian revolution was against the law. The revolution was started principally against Mubarak’s fraudulent elections, unjust laws and corrupt constitution. If Mubarak’s constitution had expressed the will of the people and if his laws had been just, then Egyptians would not have needed a revolution in the firast place.

      A revolution always starts in order to bring down an unjust regime, along...

    • On State Prestige and National Symbols 22 October 2012
      (pp. 322-326)

      After graduating, I worked as a resident physician in an oral surgery at Cairo University Hospital, training in surgical procedures. While I was operating on one of the patients, a teacher in the department, well-known for his temper, passed by and told me that the technique I had used during the operation was wrong. I got into a long discussion with this teacher and tried to defend my decision to the best of my ability. During our conversation, I called over another professor from the department and asked him to intervene and judge which one of us was right. I...

    • In Defence of Women 5 November 2012
      (pp. 326-330)

      I know a young woman in her twenties who wears the veil and always dresses modestly. She was walking down the street in broad daylight, when a young man attacked and molested her. She tried to push him away but the attacker was much stronger than her. Lucky for her, a policeman was standing close by and he arrested the young man and escorted him to the police station. The young women was eager to press charges and was shocked when other people asked her to consider his future and drop the case against him. In fact, one of the...

    • A Great Writer and a Good Friend 12 November 2012
      (pp. 330-333)

      It was thirty years ago and I had just taken my first tentative steps into the literary world. I had written a short story which I wanted to get published in theSabah el-Kheirmagazine. I made an appointment with Louis Greiss, the editor-in-chief who passed me on to his features editor, Alaa el-Deeb. I was awestruck at meeting one of Egypt’s greatest writers but Alaa greeted me warmly and set about reading my first short story. When he had finished reading, he looked up at me and said: “It’s a good story, but I have a few comments if...

    • Before You Chop Off Our Hands 19 November 2012
      (pp. 333-337)

      “Are you a Muslim? If you are a Muslim, why do you oppose the application of the law of God? All those who oppose the application of Islamic law are liberals and communists, agents of the West and enemies of Islam. So are you one of them?”

      These are the kinds of questions the Brotherhood and the Salafists are asking fellow Egyptians to stir up their religious sentiments and mobilise them to form demonstrations. They also want to force them to adopt positions that will consolidate the political gains of political Islamist groups.

      The truth is that this way of...

    • Some Questions and Answers about the Crisis 26 November 2012
      (pp. 337-341)

      The constitutional declaration gives the president quasi-divine powers, allowing him to suspend the law and do as he so wishes, without the slightest scrutiny or accountability. With this announcement, President Morsi has nullified the will of the people who carried him into the presidency and turned into a dictator. Every dictator is automatically an enemy of the revolution, which was started fundamentally to found a country on rule of law.

      There are no “temporary dictators”. All despotic rulers claim that they are forced to take exceptional measures temporarily, then go on to monopolise power forever. Let us recall how in...

    • Who Can Cure the President? 10 December 2012
      (pp. 342-346)

      The meeting took place in the villa of the supreme guide. President Morsi and Kheirat el-Shater arrived before the dawn call to prayer. They did their ablutions and the supreme guide led the prayers and then he invited them to stay for breakfast. The table was groaning under the weight offul mudammes, eggs, omelettes, flaky pancakes with honey and a variety of cheeses. The three ate heartily and then went off to the supreme guide’s luxurious office where they started their meeting as they sipped their coffee. The supreme guide stated: “I want to hear your evaluation of the...

    • In Secret 17 December 2012
      (pp. 346-350)

      This location is only known to the first man and some of his intimates. It refers to a large basement in a building on the outskirts of the El-Tagamu El Khames district of new Cairo. The basement has a separate entrance which means that the building’s inhabitants do not see who goes in and out, as well as having various emergency exits so that people holding meetings there can escape at a moment’s notice. The first man uses this location for his important secret meetings. He used it, for example, when he was negotiating with Omar Suleiman, Mubarak’s deputy, to...

    • How to Lie and Maintain Moral Purity 24 December 2012
      (pp. 351-355)

      The minister of information, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, went to cast his vote on the day of the referendum. The queue of voters snaked out of the main door and out on to the street. The minister entered the election commission building through the back door, casting his vote in moments, while the voters were waiting outside for hours to enter the commission. As the minister was leaving, one brave journalist asked him: “Why didn’t you enter the commission through the main door, like the rest of them?”

      With no hesitation, the minister replied: “I entered through the...

    • Where Does Your Money Come From? 31 December 2012
      (pp. 355-359)

      Imagine that you work as a doctor or an engineer and you own a private clinic or business, are you allowed to call up the tax authority at the end of the year and inform them that as you made a loss in your work this year, you won’t be paying any taxes? Or does the law require you to present a file of your earnings and expenses to be reviewed by the tax authority, who will calculate your profits, and how much tax you need to pay? Is it acceptable to consider presenting your accounts a violation of your...

  7. 2013
    • Being a Muslim in Britain 7 January 2013
      (pp. 359-362)

      Being Muslim in Britain means knowing from an early age that you are different. At school, you are treated with contempt by your fellow classmates and you are often the subject of unwelcome looks and comments during your religious studies lesson. Thereafter you become friends with other Muslim pupils and feel safer because people are less likely to make fun of your religion or bully you if you are a part of a group.

      Being a Muslim in Britain is difficult because the majority of people disapprove of your religion and refuse to recognise it. Just saying your name reveals...

    • A Conversation Between a Revolutionary and a Good Citizen 21 January 2013
      (pp. 362-367)

      This conversation took place by chance. A young revolutionary was sitting in a cafe in central Cairo with political banners laid out before him. At the next table sat a bald man in his fifties, drinking mint tea and smoking a water pipe with great gusto.

      Good citizen:“Excuse me, can I ask what those banners are for?”

      Revolutionary:“They’re banners which we’re going to hold up on Friday 25 January at a demonstration to mark the second anniversary of the revolution.”

      Good citizen:“Are you a revolutionary?

      Revolutionary:“I’m one of the 20 million Egyptians who brought about the...

    • Why Is Morsi Killing Egyptians? 28 January 2013
      (pp. 367-371)

      Mohamed Morsi cannot claim that all the millions of Egyptians calling for his downfall are remnants of the Mubarak regime, or liberals and leftists, opposed to political Islam. The truth is that the Brotherhood vote was not enough to guarantee a victory for Morsi in the presidential elections. It was in fact the eight million ordinary citizens that voted for him in the second round run-off that secured his seat. This included a large number of revolutionaries, liberals and leftists who gave him their support to prevent the return of the old regime at the hands of Ahmed Shafik.


    • Six Ways to Keep Hold of Power 4 February 2013
      (pp. 371-375)

      First: Take leave of your voters and focus on your target. Now that you have won, you must take one last look at the millions of people who voted for you and rejoiced in your victory. Henceforth you must not think of them.

      Focus on your target precisely so that you can keep hold of power for as long as possible. Your party has spent years struggling for power and now you have finally assumed your rightful role. You must stay in power and ensure that you are able to pass on your title to someone within the organisation when...

    • Exercises Upon Seeing the Sun 11 February 2013
      (pp. 375-379)

      Imagine that an Egyptian newspaper published a news item about a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood sexually abusing one of the younger Brothers. How do you think the Brotherhood would react? Would they rush off to investigate the crime and demand that the perpetrator is punished or would they try to cover up the crime in order to shelter the Brotherhood from embarrassment? Would the Brotherhood thank the journalist for having published details of the crime, or would they treat him with scorn and contempt?

      All these questions popped into my mind whilst reading what happened this week in the...

    • How Can Flexibility Kill Us? 18 February 2013
      (pp. 379-383)

      Imagine that you were renting out your furnished apartment and were living from the income. One day, a religious bearded man comes and asks to rent the apartment and you sign a four-year lease with him. The new tenant immediately sets about handing out all of your elegant furniture to his relatives, pulling down interior walls and remodelling the whole interior. You would be angry because the tenant has contravened the terms of the lease and because what he has done indicates that he is planning to expropriate the flat and stay there indefinitely. Suppose that you went to your...

    • What Do You Do With Blood? 25 February 2013
      (pp. 383-387)

      Last year, I received an invitation to a Christmas celebration at the Qasr al-Dubara church. This church played a huge role in the revolution. It set up a hospital to treat the wounded, collected donations and its officials behaved with rare courage in protecting revolutionaries from being killed and arrested. I went into the church hall and was greeted by a group of personalities connected with the revolution. My seat was behind that of Ahmed Harara and his mother. Harara is a young dentist from a well-off family who graduated from the College of Dentistry and opened a private clinic....

    • An Angry Discussion in Mokattam 4 March 2013
      (pp. 387-392)

      The office of an important man in Mokattam occupies the second floor of a luxury block which reportedly cost 40 million pounds to build. This man usually goes to his office straight after performing his dawn prayers. Members of his association receive him with love and enthusiasm, gathering around him to kiss his hand, while he greets them, smiling, and bestows paternal affection upon them. He always has a schedule full of meetings and appointments, not to mention the reports which he receives from everywhere in Egypt. Today, as he walked into his office, he asked for a large glass...

    • When Will Morsi Go? 11 March 2013
      (pp. 392-396)

      The following incident was witnessed by an acquaintance of mine, a young man who is prepared to testify to it.

      Saturday 9 March. Four o’clock in the afternoon. The young man found himself in front of Shepherd’s Hotel on the Nile Corniche, where demonstrators had gathered on one side of the street. Opposite stood a group of officers and soldiers of the central security force, flanked by a large group of young men who were throwing stones and gas canisters at the demonstrators. It was clear that the young men were being given orders to provoke the demonstrators. The situation...

    • Who Respects Women? 18 March 2013
      (pp. 396-399)

      Do you have a daughter of marriageable age? What if she presented to you a well-bred, well-off, well-educated and well-mannered young man? Even though he is a wonderful candidate for her hand, the young man has been married before. If it is plain to you that he has nothing to hide, you agree to his marrying your daughter and you justify your agreement by saying: “His first marriage failed, but he was not to blame.” What if the situation was reversed? If your previously unmarried son decided to marry a divorced woman, you would most probably refuse to grant them...

    • How Did the Faithful Muslim Become a Torturer? 25 March 2013
      (pp. 400-404)

      During the clashes that erupted last Friday between demonstrators and the Muslim Brotherhood in the Mokattam district of Cairo,¹ the Brotherhood arrested left-wing activist Kamal Khalil and held him captive in a mosque. There, he saw for himself a number of demonstrators who had been stripped of their clothes and savagely flogged until most of them lost consciousness. The Brothers were using a large whip to beat their victims. Kamal questioned the owner of the whip who turned to him with pride and said: “I’ve been soaking this whip in oil for a long time. One hit from this takes...

    • Having a Divine Mandate from God 1 May 2013
      (pp. 404-408)

      In the year 1492, the city of Grenada – the last bastion of Islam in Spain – fell when the last of its Arab rulers, King Boabdil, was defeated by the army of the Catholic king and queen, Ferdinand and Isabella. Although the king and queen signed an agreement in which they pledged to respect the beliefs of the country’s Muslims and Jews, they reneged on it, and instead, they took the decision to expel the Jews from Spain – King Juan Carlos I would make an official apology five centuries later. As for the Muslims, they were given a...

    • Will Mubarak Keep His Smile? 15 April 2013
      (pp. 408-412)

      There was once a poor Jewish man who had a large family. They were so poor that he, his wife and their ten children had to sleep in two rooms. When his suffering became too much he went to the rabbi and said: “I can no longer bear this miserable life. Rabbi, pray for me and tell me what I should do.”

      The rabbi listened to him calmly and told him to come back the following day. When he returned he found the rabbi holding a pig. “God wants you to take this pig to live with your family,” the...

    • When Will Don Quixote Come to His Senses? 22 April 2013
      (pp. 412-417)

      Dear reader, I suggest that you carry out the following experiment. Log into Facebook or Twitter, write something sharply critical about Mohamed Morsi and then simply wait a few minutes. You shall receive a barrage of slanderous insults from Brotherhood supporters. They will use the filthiest language, insulting your mother and father in imaginatively obscene ways. After this, visit the profiles belonging to these vitriolic individuals and you will find that they have posted verses from the Qur’an as well as sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. When I did this, I found that some of them had even written prayers...

    • How the News Will Look in the Future 29 April 2013
      (pp. 417-421)

      On Monday the parliament agreed, by a large majority, to provide financial assistance to the state of Qatar, offering a grant worth 4 billion dollars. Furthermore, in addition to this amount, the government of Egypt will also come to the aid of the Qatar Central Bank by providing it with a deposit of 6 billion dollars. As we know, the financial crisis in the oil-producing Gulf States has been ongoing for years due to the widespread use of solar power throughout the world, which has reduced the need for oil and led to the fall in its price. The president...

    • Morsi and the Three Fish 6 May 2013
      (pp. 422-426)

      There were once three fish that lived in a pool connected to a river. One day they overheard a fisherman talking to a friend saying he would return the next day with his net to catch the fish. The three fish discussed the matter but they could not agree collectively on the best course of action. One of the fish acted decisively; he saved himself by leaving the pool and swimming off towards the river. As for the other two fish, however, they remained indecisive and confused about what to do. The next day the fisherman came back carrying his...

    • A Conversation Between a Young Revolutionary and a Frustrated Citizen 20 May 2013
      (pp. 426-431)

      It was late in the afternoon. A man in his fifties was sitting in front of a cafe drinking tea and smoking a water pipe. He appeared relaxed as he watched the people and cars passing by. A slender young man approached him and asked if he could speak with him for a moment. The man smiled, and asked the youth to sit down at his table. The young man looked around him and grabbed a chair from a nearby table.

      Revolutionary:“My name is Tamer Aqil. I’m an engineering student at Cairo University and I support the revolution. Might...

    • Who Will Drive Out the Sheep? 27 May 2013
      (pp. 431-435)

      This took place in a dense and lush jungle ruled by a corrupt and unjust elephant that relied on the bears and boars to keep the animals under control. The wolves would attack the animals each night and dine on their carcasses, leaving the scraps for the boars. The animals had no stability of life or food and the dreadful stench of the boars spread throughout the whole jungle. When the animals could take no more, they declared a revolution against the elephant and the ensuing battle led to the deaths of hundreds of animals. In the end, they won...

    • How to Break Free from Fascism 3 July 2013
      (pp. 435-440)

      In ancient Rome, the termfasces lictoriaereferred to a bound bundle of wooden rods, sometimes including an axe with its blade emerging. The symbolism of the fasces suggested strength through unity and they were often carried at celebrations after a military conquest. The fasces reminded the subjects of the magistrates, as well as the emperor’s, power and authority. This term disappeared for many centuries until it was brought back into currency when the Italian leader Benito Mussolini founded the fascist movement in 1919. Later, the influence of fascism spread beyond Italy with similar movements emerging, such as Nazism in...

    • The Importance of Cinema 10 June 2013
      (pp. 440-444)

      Do you remember the first ever time you went to the cinema? Do you remember the feeling of excitement mixed with awe when you gave your ticket to the usher and he led you into the darkness directing you to your seat? Do you remember how, when you sat down, you entered a new, magical world? Have certain scenes in a film ever affected you to the extent that they remained in mind afterward and took root in your imagination? If you are of an older generation then you will no doubt be fond of Farid Shawki, Ahmed Ramzy, Nadia...

    • How Can the President Sleep at Night? 17 June 2013
      (pp. 444-448)

      The plan had been carefully thought out by the head of the Republican Guard and senior officers from Homeland Security. Members of the security forces had been amassed outside the presidential palace in Heliopolis in order to create the impression that President Morsi was still inside. The number of guards outside his home in Al Sharqia Governorate was also doubled, which led people to think that the president’s family was in residence there. In reality, however, the president and his family had secretly been taken to a two-story villa located on the north coast. This villa had been selected for...

    • Revolt or Die 24 June 2013
      (pp. 449-453)

      Imagine that you find yourself in a legal dispute. You find yourself a lawyer who will represent you before the courts. Well, what if, subsequently, you find out that your lawyer is useless, or, that unconscionably, he has colluded with your opponents against you, then what do you do? Well, you will not allow him to represent you and you search for another lawyer who is honest and capable. In such a case, is it right for anyone to deny you the right to withdraw this lawyer’s power of attorney? Is it right for anyone to demand that you continue...

    • Candid Thoughts on a Wonderful Scene 8 July 2013
      (pp. 453-457)

      No matter how hard the Muslim Brothers try to deceive themselves, the truth is clear: more than 30 million Egyptians took to the streets, and the rule of the Brotherhood was overthrown by the will of the people. The question is this: was the ousting of Morsi, by these means, democratic?

      In any democratic system it is within the rights of the parliament to withdraw its support for the elected president prior to the end of their term. When this happens the president will resign and early presidential elections will be held. In the exercise of its power, it is...

    • A Conversation Between a Revolutionary and a Muslim Brother 15 July 2013
      (pp. 457-462)

      The encounter took place within a middle-class Egyptian family after they had broken the fast [i.e., during Ramadan]. Most of the younger members of the family had taken part in the revolution, but there was one amongst them who was a Muslim Brother. He was an engineer who had joined the Brotherhood while studying at university and had remained an active member after he had graduated. When they were drinking tea after the meal, a young man who was known for his revolutionary zeal approached the Muslim Brother.

      Revolutionary:“I didn’t expect to see you here today; I thought you...

    • The Case of Fujimori 22 July 2013
      (pp. 462-466)

      Alberto Fujimori was the president of Peru during the 1990s. He came to power through democratic elections, and then, two years into his presidency, on 5 April 1992, he issued a presidential decree by which he dissolved parliament, and suspended the law and the constitution. By doing so he effectively granted his presidential decrees immunity insofar as they could not be overruled by the judicial system. As soon as Fujimori issued this dictatorial declaration the international community came out in strong opposition against him: the United States quickly severed diplomatic relations with Peru and put an embargo on economic and...

    • Thoughts on the Course of the Revolution 29 July 2013
      (pp. 467-471)

      It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the Egyptian people as happy as they were last Friday. Egyptians were in a state of joy and optimism for the future, more so than when Hosni Mubarak stepped down on 11 February 2011. In every part of Egypt, millions of people took to the streets to support General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, commander-in-chief of the Egyptian armed forces, in the task of fighting the malignant terrorism that is now facing the country in the Sinai region and in most Egyptian cities. The people rejoiced that the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood had...

    • An Emergency Meeting at the Zoo 5 August 2013
      (pp. 471-476)

      On 30 June millions of Egyptians took to the streets to show that they had no confidence in Morsi’s presidency and to demand an end to the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood. The army acted in response to the will of the people; they deposed Morsi, took him into custody to await trial and set out a new road map to put the revolution back on track.

      On the other hand, however, the Muslim Brothers and their supporters lost their minds when they lost power. There have been recurrent terrorist attacks in Sinai, and Egyptian soldiers are being killed daily....

    • Who Is Letting Egypt Down? 19 August 2013
      (pp. 476-480)

      Last year the prime minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, paid a visit to the city of Plymouth. While there, he went into a cafe to get a cup of coffee, but he had to stand in a queue. Ten minutes passed and no one offered him their place, so he asked the waitress if she could speed things up. However, she reprimanded him, saying: “You have to wait your turn like everyone else.”¹

      In a separate incident Cameron made a visit to a hospital in London. As he was talking to patients, the doctor stormed in angrily and...

    • Mistakes Made in the Midst of Battle 26 August 2013
      (pp. 480-485)

      Imagine that your country’s army was fighting a war to defend you and the nation, but in performing this task you saw that it was committing serious errors. Would you openly criticise the army while it was in the middle of fighting or hold your tongue until the war had ended? There are two different ways of looking at this question. Some people are of the opinion that criticising the army while it is waging war can demoralise and weaken it, thereby playing into the hands of the enemy. The second opinion, which I hold, is that loyalty to your...

    • The Tragedy and Farce of Egypt’s Democracy 2 September 2013
      (pp. 485-490)

      A few years ago I was having dinner with a group of friends when I was introduced to a woman who boasted that she was an NGO expert. I asked her what her work involved and she said proudly: “I have the know-how to write a proposal in such a way that the sponsor will immediately agree to provide funding for the NGO.”

      Then I asked her: “Do these NGOs do charity work to help the sick and the poor?”

      Confidently the lady smiled and said: “Some NGOs are charitable organisations, of course. But there are many others whose aim...

    • What Have We Learnt from the Disaster? 9 September 2013
      (pp. 490-494)

      Regina is an African-American woman who worked as a secretary in the College of Dentistry at the University of Illinois, where I studied in the eighties. We struck up a friendship and I used to stop by her office from time to time to drink coffee and chat. One day she said to me all of a sudden: “Do you know that I converted from Christianity to Buddhism?” I smiled but didn’t say a word, so she went on. “Buddhism is a great religion that is embraced by more than 500 million people worldwide. Every week I meet with my...

    • Who is Iskandar Tus? 16 September 2013
      (pp. 494-498)

      Do you know Iskandar Tus? I imagine that not many people have heard of him, apart from his family and his customers. However, Iskandar Tus played an important role in the events currently being covered by the media. Despite this, I was unable to find a personal photograph of him or any details about his life. Of course, the media has its priorities: if a film star gets a sprained ankle, or if a minister has secretly married his secretary, or even if a famous football player has decided to get some respite and is spending a few days in...

    • A Piece of Candy 23 September 2013
      (pp. 498-502)

      Dear reader, let’s imagine you have a daughter of marriageable age and a young man has proposed to her who is excellent in many ways: he’s rich, educated and has a bright future ahead of him, in addition to being goodmannered and religious. His only fault is that he has been married once before and divorced his first wife without having any children. Would you accept this young man as a husband for your daughter? In most cases, you would ask about the reasons for his divorce in order to be certain that he was not to blame for the...

    • The Disadvantages of Expediency 30 September 2013
      (pp. 503-507)

      Twenty years ago, I hired a decorator named Saeed to paint my apartment. He told me he had learnt his trade from an Italian decorator in Alexandria. I had never met anyone before who had perfected his work to the degree that Saeed had. He painted walls as if he were painting a canvas. He used to sand down the wall with emery paper and cover it with paste. Next, he would sand it again and then paint it, then he would wait for the paint to dry completely before applying a second coat. At the end of his day...

    • Are We Building a State or an Authority? 7 October 2013
      (pp. 507-511)

      Who should take credit for Egypt’s victory in the October War of 1973? Firstly, mention must be made of Egypt’s military leaders and, most importantly, Chief of Staff General Saad el-Shazly, whose military genius was a driving force behind the victory, even though Anwar Sadat would later fall out with him and dismiss him from service. Mubarak continued the unfair treatment of el-Shazly and tried to wipe his name and the role he had played from the history of the war. However, with all due respect to the military leadership, those who really brought Egypt the victory were the soldiers...

    • Reflections From a Chambre de Bonne 21 October 2013
      (pp. 512-516)

      “Chambre de bonne” is a French term which means the “maid’s room”, but French hotel staff very rarely employ it. Since the seventeenth century, the wealthy in France have reserved the top floor of their homes for their maids. Each maid would be given a narrow room under the roof of the house and there would be a few shared bathrooms. Over time, things changed and these rooms came to be used by students, who rented them at a low price. Then owners of property and hotels began to incorporate some of the chambres de bonne into their developments. They...

    • Citizens or Tribesmen? 29 October 2013
      (pp. 516-520)

      During the time I studied in the United States, I was living in the University of Illinois’ halls of residence. My roommates were from all over the world, and amongst them were some Arab students with whom I used to exchange greetings and occassionally chat with. One day one of these Arab students approached me and told me about a female Arab student at the university. He informed me of her name and nationality and then said: “She is having a relationship with a Polish student. Have you seen them?” I had seen them before, in the garden of the...

    • The Story of the Hall of Mirrors, the Lord and His Servants 4 November 2013
      (pp. 520-524)

      The following event happened at a hall of mirrors in an amusement park, where people go with their friends and relatives to look at themselves in the mirror. When they find their reflections strange and distorted they laugh and exchange humourous comments, and in the end they leave, having had some amusement. One evening, the Lord entered the hall of mirrors unannounced. There were eight people with him: four servants, two drummers and two pipers. The servants surrounded the Lord at all times and rushed ahead of him when he walked so as to clear the way for him. It...

    • An Altercation at Maadi Hospital 11 November 2013
      (pp. 524-528)

      You will not read this story anywhere else because it is banned from publication. After the deposed president, Mohamed Morsi, had attended the first hearing of his trial, he was transferred to Burj al-Arab prison. There, his family brought him one of his favourite meals: a whole duck stuffed with delicious onions, served with rice and bread pudding with cream for dessert. Morsi ate with a great appetite, performed the evening prayer and settled down to sleep. All of a sudden, he felt severe chest pains. The prison doctor was called, who diagnosed his condition as a heart attack. Morsi...

    • How to Build a Modern Democratic State 18 November 2013
      (pp. 529-532)

      Consider the following questions:

      1. What if I told you that God created 360 chosen ones, holy and beloved, and gave them the ability to create thunder, lighting and rain, and to control the sun and the pattern of day and night? What if I told you that these chosen holy men would marry equally as holy women, and make them pregnant by whispering a certain word in their ear? Would you believe me?

      2. What if I told you that God wants you to wear a certain pair of trousers, and that you must wear a steel bracelet and use a...

    • Our Justice, May God Protect It 2 December 2013
      (pp. 532-536)

      This is the story of Rasheed Rafie, a 37-year-old Moroccan man living in France. Rafie was recently accused of being associated with a terrorist organisation by the French authorities, and a call was made for his immediate deportation. Rafie appealed to the French courts against this verdict, but all his appeals were rejected. In a last ditch attempt to remain in France, Rafie presented an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, which intervened to prevent his deportation to Morocco. The French government appealed against the decision, but it was overturned on 5 November 2012 by the European court....

    • What Disturbed Rocca? 9 December 2013
      (pp. 536-539)

      When Rocca first came to the zoo in Giza she was greeted by the eldest giraffe who had been expecting her for some time. “Welcome, dear Rocca. How wonderful it is to look upon you. I was once as beautiful and graceful as you, but I have grown old and tired, and each moment brings death a little nearer.”

      Rocca rubbed her long neck against the elder giraffe to show her gratitude.

      “Inasmuch as your presence pleases me,” continued the elder giraffe, “I must be frank with you about life in the zoo. We have many problems and crosses to...

    • Should We Approve the Constitution? 16 December 2013
      (pp. 539-544)

      Imagine that you have just moved house. You quickly discover that your neighbour, living in the apartment opposite, is an unbearable person. He consistently refuses to pay the electricity bills for the elevator and the outside lighting, and throws his rubbish bags in front of your apartment to avoid paying the rubbish collection fees. His negligence has caused water to leak from his bathroom into the walls of your apartment, but he refused to have the pipes inside his flat repaired even when you offered to pay the bill. In sum, this neighbour is continually impinging on your rights. So,...

    • Will you Detain All of Egypt? 23 December 2013
      (pp. 544-548)

      I knew about the demonstration planned for 25 January 2011 weeks before it was due to take place, but I wasn’t very optimistic about its success. I knew from previous experiences that such events, no matter how widely publicised on Facebook and Twitter, don’t reach much of the population. They always end up drawing only a few demonstrators that the authorities contain with a huge number of riot police, rendering the demonstration totally ineffective. On 25 January 2011, I woke up early and started work on my novel,The Automobile Club. I had planned to drop in on the demonstration...

    • Old Realities Impact the Future 30 December 2013
      (pp. 548-552)

      Mustafa the singer was over forty years old, but he still had the appearance of a much younger man. He used to meet with me and my friends in a cafe downtown. He always carried anoud,¹ which he never parted with. Whenever somebody asked him about it, he would tell them that he was a civil servant in the Ministry of Supply and Internal Trade, but at the same time, he was also a singer who had been applauded for his talent by the greatest composers of Egypt, which caused other famous singers to envy his talent and plot...

  8. 2014
    • Does General el-Sisi Like Poetry? 6 January 2014
      (pp. 552-556)

      Were I to attribute this poem to one of the famous Arab poets, nobody would have suspected the deception; it’s such a tender poem and the beauty of its imagery reveal a real gift for, and mastery of, poetic language. Yet, the truth is that this poem was written by a young man from Alexandria called Omar Hazek. I was introduced to him some years ago, and admiring his talent, I presented him at one of my literary seminars, after which we became friends. I have found him to be a gentle, cultured young man with a sound moral compass...

    • Some Remarks on a “Yes” Vote 13 January 2014
      (pp. 557-561)

      Today we are going to vote in the referendum on the new constitution, which is, in my opinion, a very good constitution, except for one clause which allows for civilians to be tried in military courts. This provision is in contradiction with the principles of democracy and I hope that the coming parliament will reject its implementation. Yet, in this referendum, we aren’t really voting on the constitution so much as on the ouster of Mohamed Morsi. The millions of Egyptians who revolted against the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood should approve the constitution in order to demonstrate to the...

    • What Do You Know about Chairophilia? 20 January 2014
      (pp. 561-565)

      The wordkursiin Arabic can be used to mean a chair, a bed or a throne. Chairophilia is a well-known disease: when someone catches it, their main goal in life becomes obtaining a higher post. When they get a high post, their thinking then focuses upon holding onto it by any means.

      So how common is it? Chairophilia is widespread in Arab, African and many Latin American countries. It has been observed that the disease is most virulent in dictatorial regimes, is rare in democratic countries, and reaches its lowest rates in Sweden and Denmark. Its incidence in Egypt...

    • Are Egyptians Looking for a Father? 27 January 2014
      (pp. 565-569)

      Imagine that you were late for work and your boss got angry and insulted you. You would certainly condemn such behavior because the relationship you have with your boss is governed by laws which do not allow your superiors to insult you. They have the right to sanction you in certain ways determined by the law, but it’s not within their rights to insult you; humiliating employees is an offense for which they should be held to account.

      Suppose the same thing happened with your father: you were a bit late when you went to meet him and he insulted...

    • Let’s Listen to Them This Time 3 February 2014
      (pp. 569-573)

      On every metro train in Cairo there’s a carriage reserved for women, in which men are not permitted. Some men, however, ignore this rule and enter the carriage regardless. One day, a young woman objected when some men boarded the women’s carriage and insisted that they get off immediately. The men tried to shut her up but she made for the door of the carriage and used her hand to prevent it from closing. This meant that the train could not depart the station because it cannot move unless all the doors are safely closed. The men tried to pull...

    • When Will Hajj Saleh Respond? 10 February 2014
      (pp. 574-577)

      I had always dreamed of buying a flat overlooking the sea in Alexandria. When I had enough money saved, I started looking at flats with an eye to buying one. After a few days of searching I found a small, beautiful apartment for a good price. The building was old, but it was sturdy, elegant and it overlooked the sea. Its gate opened onto a side street that was said to have witnessed exciting events. I asked about the owner of the apartment and I was told that his name was Hajj Saleh (the name in Arabic means “pious”) which...

    • The Revolution is Going Backwards 24 February 2014
      (pp. 578-582)

      Hamdi Qandil was, and still is, a loyal Nasserite who emerged during Nasser’s time and deservedly became a pioneer in television journalism, as well as one of the most important and effective figures in the Egyptian media. In 1961, Hamdi Qandil presented his famous programmeFrom the Newspaperson Egyptian television – a programme which achieved growing success with every episode, until the fifth episode when, to Qandil’s surprise, the new boss of the station called him into his office and said: “Mr. Qandil, the minister asks you to take some time off.”

      At the time, this kind of statement...

    • In Defence of Adversaries 3 March 2014
      (pp. 582-586)

      I used to work as a resident dentist at the Faculty of Dentistry at Cairo University where I was in charge of the dental extraction clinic, a large hall with dozens of dental chairs. Poor patients used to visit the clinic every day, buy a five piaster ticket and sit on the chairs where senior students took out their teeth. One day, I noticed that some patients were crying particularly loudly while their teeth were being extracted and I suspected that the anaesthetic might not be effective. I administered the anaesthetic myself to two patients with the same result: the...

    • Down with the Virtual Republic 10 March 2014
      (pp. 586-590)

      The president stands in a large hall, elegant as always, with a formal, serious expression on his face. The minister of the interior stands in front of him like a soldier standing in front of his leader. Dozens of cameras take the minister’s picture as he reads the official results of the referendum. He starts with the number of those who are registered as having the right to vote, then the number of those who actually voted, followed by those who voted “yes” and those who voted “no”. Finally, the minister of the interior congratulates the president on his victory...

    • Reviewing the Lessons of History 17 March 2014
      (pp. 591-595)

      The Mustrod incident constitutes an important event in modern Egyptian history. On 15 March 2014 a terrorist group killed six Egyptian soldiers at an army checkpoint in the area of Mustrod. Investigations proved that the martyred soldiers were asleep and no rounds were fired in defence. The incident highlighted a number of deficiencies on the part of the armed forces. The terrorists, who supported the Muslim Brotherhood, also declared that they aimed to bring down the Egyptian army, which has always been the backbone of the nation. Although General el-Sisi was the acting minister of defence at the time, he...

    • From Albert Einstein to General el-Sisi 31 March 2014
      (pp. 595-599)

      Just before midnight, a taxi driver stopped on Qasr al-Nil Street to pick up a client who asked that she be taken to Giza Square. The taxi made a stop at the end of the street when it hit a police checkpoint. A young policeman approached and said to the driver: “The license number is not clearly visible. You can’t drive this car.”

      The driver said imploringly: “I’m very sorry, officer. I’ll repaint it first thing tomorrow so that the number will be clear.”

      The officer got angry and swore at the driver, even insulting his mother. The driver, however,...

    • How Can We Stop the Conspiracy? 7 May 2014
      (pp. 600-604)

      When I was a student at the University of Illinois in the United States, graduate students had to pay the secretary of the department a few dollars a week towards the “coffee fund”. The money was used for buying coffee, tea and snacks that the secretary put in a separate room for us all to partake of. There was an Egyptian colleague who was the head of the Egyptian Students Union and he used to drink more of the coffee and eat more of the snacks than everybody else. Yet, he only paid his share of the coffee fund once...

    • On the Evils of Brainwashing 14 April 2014
      (pp. 604-608)

      A friend of mine used to dream of becoming a journalist, so he enrolled in Cairo University’s Faculty of Mass Communication. After he graduated he worked as an intern at a national newspaper. During one of the referendums held by Mubarak to renew the term of his presidency, my friend said to me: “I have a problem. My boss asked me to cover the referendum in the Qasr al-Nil district. I stayed at the polling station all day long but very few people actually came to vote. I’m supposed to submit the coverage this evening and I don’t know what...

    • Our Way to Good Morals 21 April 2014
      (pp. 608-612)

      There’s no doubt that if you’re a father of a young woman, you fear for her and worry about her being seduced by an unscrupulous young man. You might even imagine him hugging and kissing her, or worse. What can you do to protect your daughter? There are two methods: the first is to watch your daughter closely, not letting any hint or gesture pass unnoticed. You need to check her mobile phone while she’s asleep and read her messages. You must ask the driver and the maid to tell you what she does minute by minute. You cannot allow...

    • What Happened to General el-Sisi? 28 April 2014
      (pp. 612-616)

      General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi woke up at five in the morning as usual. He took a shower, did his ablutions and put on his clothes. He felt a bit tired because of several meetings he had had the day before. He performed his prayers and started reciting the Qur’an while still sitting on the prayer mat. The general felt calm as he contemplated the meanings of the holy verses. Suddenly, however, he heard the loud bang of something heavy smashing to the floor. The general put the holy book down, jumped to his feet with his gun in his hand...

    • How to Become a Strategic Expert? 5 May 2014
      (pp. 616-620)

      In Egypt a strategic expert can be someone of any background. There are no defined criteria for being an expert. It is a label applied by the media. A doctor graduates from a medical school and an engineer from a college of engineering, but a strategic expert graduates in television studios, gains celebrity and people’s respect and closed doors open for him and he is most often given a senior position in the civil service. If you are a retired officer, a university professor in any subject or a veteran journalist in your fifties, you are a prime candidate to...

    • A Conversation Between a Revolutionary and a Law-abiding Citizen 12 May 2014
      (pp. 620-625)

      The following happened at Cafe Strand in Bab al-Louq at five o’clock in the afternoon. The cafe was fairly empty and near the glass window sat a young man writing on his iPad. At the next table, there was a grey-haired man in his fifties cheerfully smoking a water pipe. The young man stopped writing, stretched his arms in the air and gazed through the window. The older man sitting at the table next to him struck up a conversation, saying in a friendly tone: “Are you studying? May God help you, son.”

      Revolutionary:“Not at all, I graduated from...

    • Who Dares Speak? 2 June 2014
      (pp. 625-629)

      Like millions of Egyptians, I experienced the atmosphere that prevailed before the Six-Day War in 1967. I can still remember the banners in the streets with slogans such as “We’re going to drink tea in Tel Aviv” and “Israel into the sea”. At that time, I was a young boy living with my family in Cairo’s Garden City district. In the building next door lived an Italian family consisting of the husband and wife, three children and the grandmother, who over time became a friend to me and we would chat daily in French from our balconies. The war broke...

    • Egyptians Who Missed the Celebration 9 June 2014
      (pp. 630-635)


      The burden will be lessened when you realise that you won’t be burned to death in one of the trucks that the Egyptian police use to carry prisoners to where they’re going to be jailed. But watching a rape attempt will reveal the truth about the situation you live in. After one day of detention and torture, and just before they were about to kill me, I was released, thanks to the intervention of the German Embassy, but the fate of the rest of the detainees is unknown to me as they are not German citizens.

      From the testimony...

    • A Message from an Undercover Agent 16 June 2014
      (pp. 635-640)

      Dear Sir,

      Forgive me for not mentioning my name. I’m one of the revolutionaries who the media ridicules day and night, and accuses of incompetence and failure. I wear low-waisted jeans and I have long pony-tailed hair, but I am not a failure or a trivial person. A backward and trivial person is one who judges people for what they are wearing and how low they wear their jeans. I graduated from the Faculty of Economics with distinction in 2010. I belong to an affluent family and live in a villa in Sheikh Zayed City. My father is a successful...

  9. Afterword
    (pp. 641-642)

    In June 2014, Alaa Al Aswany decided to take a brief pause from writing his weekly articles about Egypt’s years of revolution. This decision was the result of unwelcome external pressures, but also because the mood in Egypt had changed considerably and he found that popular support for the revolution had deteriorated. The author believed that it was his responsibility, as a writer, to go back out and listen to the Egyptian people in order to better understand the deep malaise that has taken hold of Egypt and stifled progress and democratic change....

  10. Glossary
    (pp. 643-648)
  11. Index
    (pp. 649-655)