Clean streets, first sign of elections

Only 15 minutes away from where I live, right off Gisr El-Suez, there is a garbage dump. The all-encompassing pile of trash is routinely picked up in the morning by the government's waste collection truck, only to reappear again the same night, at the same spot, thanks to the same truck that whisked it away earlier. According to local popular belief, the government no longer knows what to do, or where to put, the trash it collects, so they simply transport it from one location to the other; creating a temporary illusion of cleanliness and sparing everyone the sight of street children fishing for anything to eat or sell in the elusive dump.

One day about two weeks ago, the truck picked up the trash for its usual tour of Cairo, only this time they didn't drop it back off. 

“Look there, turns out we've got a sidewalk! But doesn't the street look naked?” said Ramadan, the owner of a kiosk overlooking the dump. The following day, Ramadan was surprised to see that the now naked sidewalks were growing sickly-thin trees, and the wall behind them was freshly painted. Slogans in bright green, red and blue, were drawn on it, one of which informed passersby that "A true revolutionary rebels against corruption, and once he removes it, calms down to build and prosper." Further down the road, a bench that was installed during the last parliamentary elections was replaced by a new one and a sign that said "Brought to you by the Freedom and Justice Party." 

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The other failed dialogue

A couple of weeks ago I received a very funny email out the of blue from Nour Youssef, a young reader of the website. It started like this: “Would you be interested in taking on a slave under the pretense of an internship?” After some further quite funny correspondence and a meeting, we decided to try things out — I was not sure I had the time to work with an intern but she was persistent. She calls me Mr Miyagi and I have created a rule for my email that takes her emails and files them under a folder labelled “grasshopper”.[1] She has heen sending me some very useful links and notes that I will be putting up periodically. A few days ago, she went to the debate AUC hosted between ”Egypt’s Jon Stewart“ Bassem Youssef and ultra-conservative Islamist from the Gamaa Islamiya (once a terrorist group) Nageh Ibrahim. This is her account of the debate, and serves as the inaugural post of the contributor who shall henceforth be referred to as ”Nour the intern”.


  1. Fans of The Karate Kid will appreciate.  ↩

The debate on political satire between the famous political satirist, Bassem Youssef, and member of Gamaaa Islamiyaa Nageh Ibrahim, moderated by Hafez Al-Mirazi at AUC on February 7, did not have much to do with political satire or debating. While Bassem Youssef stood his ground, Nageh Ibrahim defied gravity to hover several inches above his.

Ibrahim, who is an accurate representation of the current Salafi mood — in the sense that he is a loyal Morsi supporter, but is openly, and politely, critical of the Muslim Brotherhood — was under palpable pressure to liberalize his views to mollify the high-class audience of embittered liberals and moderates, whose main reason for attending (apart from admiring Bassem Youssef up-close) was to see an Islamist get an intellectual beat down and have the “Islam they know and love” reinforced. They got more than they bargained for: a subdued and eager-to-please Salafi who let Youssef set the tone for the argument-turned-ditto and was content to smile benevolently and merely build on Youssef’s points.

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