Stuck on the bus

This video by Alaa Saadeh is a funny allegory for the situation in Egypt these days. A group of Egyptians needs to get to the neighborhood of Imbaba, but their trip falls apart when the driver overcharges and one customer refuses to pay. The young man's principled objection isn't shared by other passengers, who each have their own interests, priorities and needs. The tension between standing up for your rights and getting on with your life -- the problem of defining a common, shared interest and the chaos that ensues when you can't -- is all very relevant. It also reminded me of another recent, brilliant transport metaphor for Egyptian politics. 

Where's my country?

The Salafyo Costa (young, "moderate" Salafists, which seems a bit of a contradiction in terms, since Salafists are religious fundamentalists, aspiring to live as much as possible as the Prophet's companions) have put together a funny and popular online video.

"Where's my store?" tells the story of a "shop" that for many years was expropriated from its rightful owners by "a bad man and his sons." It's in Arabic, but even non-Arabic speakers should be able to appreciate the pretty hilarious opening scenes, in which various individuals representing different Egyptian groups -- Christians, Salafists, liberals, upper-class -- converging on the newly "liberated" store, all with ownership deed in hand. Of course, I couldn't help noticing that no women are shown claiming their stake. 

The Salafyo Costa take their name from a coffee chain (!) and make a point of how comfortable they are with modern consumerism and technology. I find them difficult to categorize, probably sui-generis among the larger Salafist scene, and interesting. Further on (at about minute 8) the movie mocks hysteria over Salafists themselves, with a host on a would-be Salafist cooking show saying he'll teach the audience how to make "potato-liberals" salad.  

Pork, piety and the nature of reality

Pork rinds, known in the American South and the English North as crackling, are a delicious beer snack consisting essentially of the roasted skin of pigs. In the video below, the Muslim owners of deli in New York receives a consignment of the snack and ponders and whether or not they should sell it. A particularly interesting point is that the pork rinds appear not to contain any pork (indeed most ¢99 renditions of pork rinds consist of salt and flavorings imprinted on a soy wafer). Before this ontological conundrum can be resolved, the package of pork rinds is recalled... and taken to the Jewish deli across the road.

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.