Showing posts from February, 2011

Interview with Dr. Essam El-Erian, Muslim Brotherhood

This is my final post during my time in Cairo this week. I’m leaving my “second home” (Cairo) early Monday morning, returning to my “first home” of Boston. There is far too much I have learned to capture in a blog or a diary or a book; I am sorry to leave this country at this historic time but I am happy to return home all the same. And I am happy to prepare for our return in May, insha’Allah, with our two Dialogues (Journalism and Arabic) plus potentially our third Dialogue (“soundscapes of the Mediterranean”).

This inability to capture everything, retain it, hold it, and especially to communicate it is my biggest challenge – and my being here demonstrates both my solution and my mission: to be here in person. It has long been my mission to bring Americans and others to Egypt to experience for themselves, unfiltered through American media or the web or me, and to learn from Egyptians themselves, first-hand, person-to-person, in “dialogue” together.

(photo: Dr. Essam E…

Tahrir - hundreds of thousands at least! okay, maybe a Million-strong

What a festive, political, family-oriented day in Tahrir.

Egyptians also are still celebrating their achievements - but they still have political demands - as noted in previous blog.

Egyptians are in solidarity with their Libyan neighbors, against a demonic, despotic regime.

Egyptians know how to enjoy the fruits of their labor and how to fight for continuing rights for themselves, and for all people - Libyans, Yemenis, Bahrainis, all other Arabs who are taking to the streets, and even people in Wisconsin, with whom Egyptians have pledged solidarity there also.

Enjoy the pics ...

Friday in Cairo - another "million man march" in Tahrir?

There are calls for another march to Tahrir Square today, Friday 25 February. Today marks one month since the 25 January demonstrations that sparked the ultimate demise of Mubarak, who resigned just 2 weeks ago on 11 February.

As I write this, 12:15 pm, I am hearing the Friday call to prayer echoing around the city. Soon enough we will know if, after prayers, a million (or more or perhaps less) will return to Tahrir. Today's demands would be for the sacking of the Interim Prime Minister, Ahmed Shafiq, plus the ministers of defense, foreign affairs, interior and justice. The argument of the 25 January organization is Shafiq and these four key ministers were appointed by Mubarak and therefore must go; they are a remnant of the past, a remnant of the dead regime, and all are allies of Mubarak (why else would Mubarak have appointed them?)

For its part, the ruling Military Council says, in effect: "Patience! Shafiq and the entire Cabinet will go - but not yet. Their govern…

Founding Fathers and Mothers of Egypt’s Reborn Democracy

Liberal Muslims and Christians, banding together under the banner of al-Wasat, or “the Center”, are poised to help build Egypt’s new democracy.

I had the extreme pleasure and honor to be at a gathering tonight in the poshest of neighborhoods outside Cairo (so posh, even one of the sons of “he who will not be named” lived in this neighborhood).

In attendance were 27 men and 5 women (mostly Muslim, with a few Christians) who gathered at a home to hear the head of al-Wasat, Abul Ela Madi, and his 2nd in command, Essam Sultan, talk about their party’s mission, goals, and objectives.

Mr. Essam (a lawyer, and a former Muslim Brotherhood [MB] member who defected to al-Wasat) arrived first and he spoke at length about the differences between the MB and al-Wasat. (Note: the MB just announced yesterday that they would be forming a new party called Hizb al-Huriya wa al-Adaala, Freedom and Justice Party.)

Mr. Essam made it very clear that he and al-Wasat objected to the MB policy about wome…

Post 2: 23 Feb - Egyptians took their country back!

Egyptians got their country back! They bought it back with the blood of nearly 400 martyrs – nearly all young people, women and men, Christians and Muslims.

Egyptians of all ages, all walks of life – except the crony capitalists, the corrupt few – felt they were servants to the Mubarak regime. Now they are the owners again; now they are the rules of their own destiny (although they wouldn’t say this necessarily). But no doubt: they got their country back! They are citizens, not subjects. Egyptians are “owners, not renters” (a common expression here). And now they are determined to keep it and improve it – to have a better life, for their kids and themselves.

Here again is a "sign of the times" - billboards are plastered all over Egypt with patriotic slogans. This one praises the unity of Egyptians, Muslim and Christian alike, who fought for their freedom and the end to tyranny, injustice, corruption, ... it says: "Egypt - one heart and one blood" (and the s…

Tuesday 22 February

A picture may say a thousand words, but let me say a few about this picture.

The subjects are Dalia Ziada, blogger and American Islamic Congress-North Africa Director plus the little Egyptian flag, placed inside the sugar holder of the upscale Cilantro coffee shop (the "Starbucks of Egypt"). The interview today was another of those "Egypt moments" that are difficult to describe to non-Egyptians. Dalia is a devout Muslim; a liberal; a pacifist; a woman's activist; a translator; a devotee of Martin Luther King; young and very accomplished! She is studying at Fletcher School (Tufts) for a master's degree; she recently received the Anna Lindh Euro-Med Journalism Award (2010). her blog:

We see flags everywhere. People wear them; place them on their car hoods and trunks; drape them from their balconies. And billboards all over Cairo are putting flags up with inspirational and patriotic slogans - "let's build our co…

25 January & Tahrir at Night

Two quick pics:
1. kids with Egyptian flags on the Lion at the start of the Kubri Qasr el-Nil (Nile Palace Bridge);
2. the 25 January group (the "youth group" that led the revolution and keeps pushing for improvements across the country) - here, 25 January members painted a "no stopping" on the bridge.

25 January members are:
directing traffic around Tahrir and downtown (while regular police stand idly by, intimidated and perhaps ashamed (?) of their unforgivable actions during the protests;
reminding people to "buckle up"!
cleaning the streets (25 Jan. plus lots of other, newly emerging citizen groups - church groups, mosque groups, schools across the country, etc.)
painting curbs
and so much more ...

Tahrir (Liberation), Day 2 of visit

I began the day in Tahrir (9:30 am until 1:00 pm) and ended the day in Tahrir (6:00 pm - 7:30 pm). I met with Dr. Riham Bahi, AUC and Cairo University and Amideast (and NU Ph.D.) to hear her views on the Revolution and the aftermath; also met Mr. Abdel-Hameed of Arabeya Association, our language partner, and heard his stories and climbed to his roof, which gave him a "front-row, 5-star seat" of the Revolution. Then to al-Ahram Institute to meet my friend Dr. Dina Shehata, a political scientist/analyst and activist, both before the Revolution and during it (and for sure afterwards). I also met our bawaabs (door men) in Zamalek who told me of their efforts to protect the building, and keep Zamalek free of looters. Nothing horrible happened in Zamalek; hardly anything occurred here they say.

Here are just a few pictures of my day in Free/Liberated Egypt.

Welcome to Free Cairo!!

Egypt is free. FREE! Liberated. Born again (as several signs around Cairo proclaim). People have taken their country back. The youth – to whom all credit is given, by people of all ages in Egypt – are everywhere: standing on tanks, cleaning the streets, directing traffic!!, painting the medians on streets, and of course walking and celebrating their great victory. Many Egyptians call them the “Facebook Shebab (Youth)” and credit them with “organizing all of this” and fighting the regime, peacefully, and refusing to accept anything but the total abdication of “he who will not be named” (a take-off on Voldemort, who is “he who must not be named”). My friend Abduh told me – “we don’t use his name or even think about him.”

Egyptians lost their fear (everyone tells me this); they stand up to the Police (a notorious force for evil, doing the will of the ugly Mubarak regime); yet they obey and respect and honor the Army.

There is a spirit, an “electricity” in the air, among every pers…