Vigil at al-Fann Midan (Nov 5)

The Fann Midan on the eve of the Eid, and the first one since the Maspero events, had a political cast (short video overview here). The early crowd was young and motivated (though many families etc. drifted in later for the screening of Youssef Chahine’s film The Return of the Prodigal Son – which was also lovely to see).
Early in the evening, a vigil for activist Mina Danial and others slain at Maspero; a lot of people were wearing “No to Military Trials for Civilians” and “No to Emergency Law” stickers. (Today I saw one of these pasted on the back of the Talaat Harb statue in his square downtown; looked good there.)

Mina’s name spelled out in candles.

This group’s first song was about Mina Danial and others like him, martyrs of the post-18-Days violence. They explicitly compared the 25-year-old Danial to Che Guevara, whom (as Thanassis Cambanis has pointed out) he resembled.
A later song – sorry for the poor quality recording, but you should be able to find more from the evening (including the performance by Iskandarella) on YouTube – insisted on national unity, with quotes about and from the Gospels and Quran, and this utterly persuasive chorus: “We all are one, and our Lord is one, and Love is one.”

The situation is urgent, the sentiment noble. But I think by calling for “unity” – be it wihda or tawhid – these pro-rule-of-law activists are embracing a slippery meme. Not just because they leave out all non-monotheists, all non-believers of any kind. There problem is that other political factions – whether sporting beards or bayonets – will always outdo them at the unity game. There has been too much of the “one hand” business already. My instinct – and probably the instinct of some of these activists as well? – would be to get liberty and equality first, then work on fraternity. Unfortunately it won’t happen that way. In today’s Egypt, would any kind of call to diversity – as an antidote to potential nascent fascism – even fly?


Happy Eid, y’all!

Forgive the primitiveness and textiness of this site for now; I am still figuring out WordPress. Also need to learn how to upload photos properly through my uncooperative Vodaphone portable connection.

So, stay tuned for proper blogging.

Meanwhile, may I just rhapsodize for a bit about the Azhar Park, built by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture?  We got to Cairo just before the Eid and went to visit the park on the first holiday evening.  I had seen a BBC Earth special on it before, but never experienced the place for myself.

Al-Azhar Park (daytime)

A daytime view here - imagine how much more beautiful it is at night

Amazing!  One of those projects that transforms the possibilities of life in a city.  Clean, beautifully designed public green space, in an area (Masr el-Adima or Islamic Cairo) that one previously visited in the August heat only when it was really necessary. The Eid celebration included a family-friendly traditional music troupe, dressed-up families, couples, groups of boys, groups of girls.  (I was especially impressed by one woman standing in front of me in the crowd gathered around the musicians: she was dressed all in pink, holding up in the palm of one hand her five-month-old baby, also dressed all in pink, bobbing her up and down in time to the music while her husband looked on with trepidation.)  It was quite crowded but not overwhelming or threatening the way crowds can be, e.g., at holiday times in Hussein Square; really magical.  The park frames the monuments of Islamic Cairo just right, and something about the layout seems to encourage people to treat each other nicely.