I was just in Cairo, a visit that inspired the usual mixed feelings: the aching pleasure of the familiar; the somewhat dulled pain at the loss of all the hopes that burned so bright here just a few years ago; the awe that this city-to-end-all-cities inspires (and the suspicion that I couldn't survive its daily grind anymore).
I was there to talk about writing an editing with my former colleagues and all-the-time heroes at the one-of-its-kind independent web site Mada Masr (blocked in Egypt until now but still publishing there on Facebook and running a full operation).
In our discussion, I used several readings that the Beirut-based research and analysis organization Synaps has shared online. Developed out of their own grappling with the writing/editing process, these materials are very well written and engaging and pushed me to think about my own writing -- about how often I struggle, when starting a piece, with answering the basic questions, because they are the hardest. For anyone writing journalism, analysis, or research, I strongly suggest checking them out and sharing them.
And it was just neat to be at one unique venture in Cairo using materials from another original and self-reflective organization in Beirut. Right now in terms of intellectual and cultural and media life in the region it seems like we are in a phase of survival -- just hoping some bright spots can hold on and last long enough to see us through, keep open a little space for thought and hope and discussion.