Ad: Townhouse Gallery Benefit Auction

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The Townhouse Gallery, one of Cairo's best art spots, is holding a benefit auction on 6 June 2009. Works by some of the prominent contemporary Egyptian and Middle Eastern artists will be available for sale, with profits funding the gallery's various programs to develop and promote local artists.
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More info: Townhouse_International_Contemporary_Art_Sale_.pdf
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A question

For those of you who regularly read this blog: you've noticed that I write regular posts a lot less, and instead have these daily lists of links. I would try to start blogging normally more often again, and will try providing I have time, but in the meantime do you prefer: 1. Daily compilations of links as currently exists; OR 2. Each link to be posted individually with the opportunity to leave comments on that specific one. I'd appreciate any thoughts on this issue ahead of an upcoming reorganization of the site. Thanks!
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Off to Brussels

I will be in Brussels for the next week, bringing some much-needed Arab advice on good governance to the people who were unable to form a coalition in SIX MONTHS. It is an initiative co-sponsored by Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh.

Blogging will be severely limited, as I expect Brussels has fallen to warring Waloon and Flemish factions and I will be busy avoiding projectile chocolate and beer, or blue oranges, or whatever it is that Belgians fight with.

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Hiatus Interruptus

I was traveling much of last week, then recovering from jet lag over the weekend, and at the same time quite busy finishing off various projects. Hence the conspicuous absence of new posts in the last ten days. Unfortunately, two days ago my DSL went kaput and it will take a few more days to solve the problem, since it involves migrating to a new ISP. And on top of it all, the hosting service for this site has informed me of some problem with the software that runs this blog, notably affecting the RSS feed, which could cause end-users problems. I am going to resume blogging (and tell you what I was doing last week) shortly, but until I get my DSL back I am back to dial-up, which means much more limited usage of the various services I use to get online and prioritizing of work-related stuff and getting the site fixed. Everything takes five times longer on dial-up. Of course, just as this happens I am informed that The Arabist has been nominated for a Best of the Blogs - English award. Thank you to whoever nominated me, it's really quite something to be running against wonderful major blogs such as TPM Muckraker, The Consumerist or MAKE ZINE. I have been running this blog for nearly five years now, and it's been a great experiment. Contributors have come and gone, as has my ability to keep posting regularly despite some good political and professional reasons to stop altogether. Most recently, a change of jobs meant I had to negotiate to keep it running, and the price to pay was taking my name off ( for good reasons.) In the meantime the creation of the sub-blogs 3Arabawy and Hatshepsut has added variety to the content we offer, and Hossam and Eman (who are behind those efforts) are part and parcel of what got the site nominated. So if you want to give a little something back, head over to the Best of the Blogs site and vote for us -- there are 16 days left to do so. I'm not hoping for much against that kind of competition, but let's show them a fight. THE BOBs
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Fikr Gedid at Arabist.net

Having used yesterday's hugely successful press strike (22 newspapers did not come out, tons of blogs) to overhaul the design, welcome to the new Arabist.net: now in a great-tasting, sweet-smelling, 100% organic new flavor. Hopefully this is the beginning of the introduction of new features to the site (more within a few weeks), but aside from the general look and feel the two (for now!) sub-sites have been given more prominence on the front page. You can always see the latest headlines at 3arabawy and Hatshepsut in the first sidebar, as well as my del.icio.us links for stuff I don't have time to blog about. The far-right sidebar also contains the latest comment activity to make it easier to follow the arguments, while individual post pages display in the middle sidebar any related posts to the one you're reading. Another change you'll notice is that the Google ads are back, with a disclaimer. For most of the time I've been running this site I have not had any or many ads, but considering the effort that goes into it I can no longer justify not having it generate some income. At a later point, I may also add a tip box. The Arabist.net family, all put together, generates a considerable amount of web traffic for a Middle East based blog and we want to leverage that. One final thing is that my name no longer appears on posts or elsewhere on the blog. I have had to do this for professional reasons, and the alternative would have been shutting down the blog. Although many longtime readers know very well who I am, for now my posts must remain anonymous -- it's a bit weird but necessary. Please let me know if you have problems with the new design -- it should work in modern browsers such as Firefox, but older ones could have difficulties with it. There will be a few more small changes in the week ahead and all remaining bugs are squashed. P.S. The picture: out with the old fuul cart picture, in with this scene of Sharia Fouad (today's 26th July) from E.P. Jacobs Le mystere de la grande pyramide.
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More light posting

Apologies for the scandalous lack of posting on Morocco's elections (a bit of a non-event in my opinion), something to be hopefully corrected soon. In the meantime I am still traveling and keeping a hectic schedule of interviews, so maalesh... Go read Ibn Kafka (whom I had the pleasure to meet over dinner yesterday), or even get his posts on the Moroccan elections in English over at Aqoul.
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A request

If any reader would have the time and kindness to scan and send me (issandr -AT - arabist.net) Christopher Hitchens' essay on Tunisia in the latest issue of Vanity Fair, I would be eternally grateful. The column was discussed briefly here:
Hitchens makes a case for the Tunisian dictatorship. The country is, after all, a relatively healthy place for women and an inhospitable place for Islamists. On a weak base, it features a relatively thriving economy. It has the great merit, Hitchens points out, of not being Algeria, let alone Libya. Points taken, if not being the rest of Africa is a compliment. I'm not competent to know all of what Hitchens fails to observe, but the following lines of his caught me up short: "you can say for Tunisia that people do not lower their voices or look over their shoulders (another thing that has made me nervous in my timne) before discussing" the dictator, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
It sounds outrageous, but I would like to see it before commenting myself.
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New design

Over the last 24 hours I've updated the design of arabist.net to give it a cleaner and more attractive look. The basics won't change, but the old design lacked some basic usability functions. Most notably, the long list of links that used to be on the left have been moved to a special links section, there is a new list of "essential" sites I read often (it may surprise readers that I don't actually read a lot of blogs--I don't have the time and rather comment on the real word or the media than other blogs most of the time), there is a new archive page to look through old posts, and a new about page that explains some of the ideas I had when starting the site. The latter was particularly lacking in the old design and, I hope, will explain what this site is about. I intend to develop it a bit more in the coming few weeks. I'd appreciate any feedback, particularly on things that may not be working property with the new design. I also hope that, time permitting, it will encourage me to post more often and generally pick up the pace again after the relative lull of the past two months, which was due to professional and other commitments and certainly not the lack of excitement in Egyptian and regional politics in the last few months! I know many readers were disappointed to see more comment on the elections (it's coming), but if this blogging thing started to feel like a job or obligation, it wouldn't be much fun anymore. Finally, two apologies: the RSS feeds will no longer contain the full text of posts to save on bandwidth, and arabist.net now features some random, context-sensitive advertising. This won't bring in much money, but I hope it will help cover hosting costs. Maalesh.
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Out, damn spam!

The spam attack of the past week has been more damaging than I thought, so until further notice any comments with links will have to be moderated. I still encourage readers to post comments, with or without links. As I am rather sick at the moment and some other people who contribute are traveling, posting may continue to be a little light. There are many exciting things happening at the moment, so it's a shame. But things should be back to the normal pace in a few days. There will also be some special coverage of the signature of an Egyptian-Israeli-American trade deal next week as well as the OPEC conference that will be taking place in Cairo. There are rumors that Egypt, buoyant with the launch of two Liquid Natural Gas terminals this year, may join the organization.
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