Tag Archives: Egypt

Boston MFA: Art of Ancient Egypt

Here are images from the Ancient Egypt galleries in the MFA’s permanent collection.

Ancient Egypt

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Beautiful travel photos from Giza, January 2009.

Sphinx and Pyramid from a distance

The Great Pyramid

The Great Pyramid with Bedouin and Camel

Great Pyramid with Bedouin and Camels

Pyramids of Giza, from the West

Pyramids, from the North

Sphinx, northern profile


Sphinx and Pyramid

Temple at Giza

Temple at Giza

Sphinx, from the south

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How I long to be back in Egypt. Wonderful photos from early 2009.

Nile facing north from Giza

National Islamic Museum (near al-Azhar)

Cairo, from the Citadel

Mosque of Muhammad Ali, the Citadel

Entry portal of the Complex of Sultan al-Nasr Hasan

Sahn of al-Azhar Mosque

The National Museum of Antiquity, from Meydan Tahrir

Meydan Tahrir

Sahn of Ibn Tulun Mosque

Old City, from the roof of al-Hakim Mosque

Southern Cemetery

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Filed under Art, Art History, Culture, History, Islam, Middle East

Twitter, Part 2

Last night I posted some thoughts that have been rattling around in my brain about the role of Twitter, Facebook, and other social media/networking sites in the current protests and revolutions in North Africa, the Middle East, and the Persian Gulf. Frustrations that I have had about the US media constantly asking if this is a “Twitter Revolution” coupled with Wael Ghonim’s developing brand “Revolution 2.0” led me to discuss the need for clarifying the difference between a social media revolution and a revolution assisted by social media.

In my haste to post and my desire to get much-circulated thoughts out of my head, my post over stated some facts. I was correct in noting that Facebook and several blogging sites have been blocked in Syria since 2007. However, as of yesterday most of those sites had been opened up in Syria, though it seems they have been opened in a limited capacity. The UAE has also blocked social networking sites since 2007, though it appears many Emirati have found ways around these blocks, or the blocks aren’t still in effect. Though Egypt ran a tight police state under Mubarak which included internet controls, Facebook accounted for about 42% of all internet traffic in the week leading up to the start of the January 25 movement. By just looking at the amount of Facebook and Twitter traffic in Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Bahrain, and Jordan it is easy to posit that such sites have played a significant role in the current situations. This is especially the case given the exceedingly high youth population in these countries (30-60%) and their propensity for social media use. But what has been most notable about these movements is that they aren’t limited to one age group, one social group, one religion. Egyptians toppled Mubarak, not young Muslims. Men, women, children; Muslims and Christians; young and old; employed and unemployed. All of Egypt spoke up. All of Egypt took to the streets.

Social media, social networking, whatever you want to call it, is great for many things. It has provided means of communication for a lot of the world. It’s role in the current uprisings in the Middle East is as a tool of communication, certainly, but more for those outside the situation than in. No one is in the streets protesting their grievances because of Twitter or Facebook. Social media gets the word out. It’s a way to advertise the resistance, but the resistance exists apart from the medium. Period.

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Filed under Facebook, Middle East, Social Media, Twitter

All Atwitter About Twitter

Yesterday, I blogged about what I, along with many others, see as the primary reasons for the Egyptian revolution. In that post I spoke briefly about the role social media has and hasn’t play in the revolution. Discussions in the media regarding social media sites (Twitter and Facebook in particular) seem not only to be rampant but growing. So, let’s talk about Twitter and Facebook.

It would be nice if in their incessant coverage, the media would note the difference between social media leading to or causing the revolutionary activities in the Islamic world and social media being a helpful tool. Twitter, Facebook, et al, have been the Scottie Pippen to the revolution’s Michael Jordan. Not useless, not marginal by any means, but no more than a solid assist. What social media has accomplished, quite successfully I might add, is galvanize shared feelings across nations, regions and the world. Egyptians, and Egyptian-Americans were able to tap into their collective outrage over the beating death of Khaleed Said in the Facebook group “We are all Khaleed Said.” Tweeters have been able to follow journalists, bloggers, activists, and young voices in Egypt and out of Egypt who have been tweeting about the country, the regime, and the outrage of the people for some time. When the US media didn’t begin coverage of Egypt till January 28 (day four of the protests on January 25), Twitter and Facebook were useful in getting voices, messages, pictures, and videos out to the world, a world that was still mostly ignoring the situation.

But to imply, as many have including the revolution’s de facto patron saint Wael Ghonim, that such revolutionary actions would not have taken place if not for social media is, in my opinion, giving such sites too much credit. Mr. Ghonim gave an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” in which he birthed his “Revolution 2.0” phrase, his way of describing youth organization and galvanization in the internet age (and also, rumor has it, the title of the book he’s writing). To be fair, the internet and social media have made a significant difference in how people around the world acquire information and communicate with each other. But Facebook isn’t getting butts in the streets, certainly not for 18 days. Twitter isn’t toppling dictatorships. They are tools to organizing, means of communication, ways of unifying like-minded individuals. The tools intrinsic to social media make revolutions easier and more noticeable, but that’s it.

I look forward to Mr. Ghonim’s book, considering his job as an executive with Google it will undoubtedly weigh the role of the internet fairly. At least I hope it will. But in order to do that Mr. Ghonim needs to be clear on a few things, Facebook has been blocked in Syria and the UAE among many other countries for years. So, how can it lead to revolution? Facebook is great for those outside the region, but in it? Not that much. Twitter and Facebook are fantastic tools for communication, but over-stating their power marginalizes the efforts of masses of people who lack access to these sites yet still demonstrate proudly in the streets of cities across the Middle East.

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Tim Corrimal Show, Episode 155 – February 13, 2011

I had the privilege of joining Tim Corrimal’s (@timcorrimal on Twitter) show again this week to discuss Egypt. I was joined again by Dave von Ebers, whose fantastic work at Dave’s Corner Tavern should be read by all, Don Millard (Tomfoolery with O’Toolefan), and Joseph J. Santorsa.

Continuing our conversation about the revolution in Egypt, the Obama administration’s response, the US media’s coverage, and the Right-Wing’s spin on the situation from last week, we picked up with Mubarak’s speech Thursday, February 10, and flight to Sharm el-Sheikh on Friday. The departure of Mubarak, after divesting himself of his day-to-day responsibilities and power to Vice President Omar Suleiman, to Sharm el-Sheikh marks a significant first step in meeting the demands of the protestors: the deposition of Mubarak, the dismantling of the Mubarak regime, and the drafting of a new Constitution that does not embolden the President at the expense of the people. Most importantly, the removal of the “Emergency Law” provision, the provision that has kept Mubarak (and for that matter numerous Middle East leaders) in power for decades. Our conversation continued with a discussion on the Muslim Brotherhood, what it is and what it isn’t, and how it has been portrayed by the media. I will be posting on the Muslim Brotherhood specifically in a day or so, stay tuned.

After we wrapped up our conversation on Egypt, we turned our conversation to the forthcoming movie adaptation of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. DonMillard (@otoolefan on Twitter) has done yeoman’s work on his blog regarding Ayn Rand and the Right’s current fascination with her as their patron saint. I encourage you all to please listen to the whole podcast and to give Don’s superb post a good read.

Thanks again to Tim for having me on. It’s always a pleasure.

Check out Dave von Eber’s follow up comments here. A great post, as always from Dave. I can’t say enough about Dave’s cogent posts and sharp insight.

Check out Andy Wienick’s follow up comments here. Andy joined Tim’s show last week and was kind enough to not only listen in to the show this week but to post some great comments. I look forward, as should you all, to Andy’s new blog.

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Filed under Middle East, Politics, Twitter

Egypt: Three Factors That Led to Revolution

After 30 years of oppressive power, Hosni Mubarak was deposed and the political landscape of Egypt radically changed by a 17-day peacefully revolution. Many covering the revolution for US media outlets have, in their ignorance of Egypt and her people, speculated broadly and wildly about what led to the revolution and why it was occurring now.

What is important to keep in mind is that this is a revolution decades in the making, not months or weeks or days. It is not a revolution that was started by social media or could only happen in an age of social media or the internet. Nor is this revolution occurring only because protests and demonstrations in Tunisia successfully led to Ben Ali fleeing the country. Egypt’s oppressive regime, economic woes worsened the wake of the 2008 financial crash, and a state riddled with corruption led to this revolution. These are problems long existing in Egypt, made worse and more exemplified by the global economic crash of late-2008.

The primary reason, the prevailing reason for the revolution in Egypt is the regime and the Egyptian people’s thirst for democracy and legitimate elections. No one in Egypt (or outside of Egypt for that matter) is fooled by the “elections” that have taken place during Mubarak’s regime. These so-called-elections have resulted in what Noor Khan has called a “musical chairs” effect in Egyptian politics: rotating the same people through government over and over again. The primary reason millions of Egyptians took to the streets in defiance of curfew orders, braving the brutality of the police, is to have choices. Period. A true, genuine democracy. Honest elections whose results will be enforced. It is impossible to believe that Mubarak’s party maintained such complete control of the government for so long. Impossible. The only way so many of his party members remained in power for so long is through forged election results and pervasive corruption. Fighting for a democracy, democratic elections, is also a fight to end the endless corruption throughout the Egyptian government. Bribes, endless bribes, to accomplish anything, to get any government document, permit, licence, etc. Hell, paying a simple monthly bill can take hours. Even getting your child into a school they have the right to attend takes a bribe. Everything takes a bribe.

In addition to this tight-gripe on elected positions, the Mubarak regime has run a notoriously brutal police state. Tight internet controls, kidnappings, torture, police beatings, and bribery run rampant nationally under Mubarak. Phrases such as “sent behind the sun” (referring to pervasive kidnappings by the police and army as well the disappearance of citizens) and “walk near the wall” (meaning, keep your head down and stay out of trouble to avoid being interrogated by the police) have become commonplace in Egypt. The first, prominent domino to fall regarding the revolution in Egypt, was the brutal beating death of Khaleed Said on June 7, 2010. The beating of Khaleed Said began inside an Alexandria cyber cafe and culminated in the street outside. His passing galvanized an already worked up Egyptian youth sick of police interrogation and beatings. In this respect, social media has been helpful in unifying Egyptian voices and international activism over Egypt’s brutal police state.

The second factor leading to the Egyptian revolution concerns the economic policies of the Mubarak regime, increased cost of living, and growing visibility of wealth disparage amongst Egyptian classes. Egypt is a country of 80 million people, at least a quarter of which live in the greater Cairo area/vicinity. With this kind of population, poverty and wealth disparage is inevitable. But since about 2003, the disparage of wealth in Egypt has become increasingly more noticeable. Multi-million dollar homes are now next to neighborhoods of abject poverty. The rising cost of living coupled with sizable population has led to a housing shortage which in turn has led to young Egyptians being unable to marry and purchase a home of their own. Cost of staple food products (meat, sugar, tomatoes) have risen 20-30% in the last few months. Cost of goods generally have risen about 12% since the fall. Egyptians struggling to feed their families are looking at fat-cat government officials spending lavishly on themselves and billions on the military while the average citizen struggles desperately to get by.

Dovetailed with the rising cost of goods in Egypt, as in much of the developing world, was the economic crash of late-2008 and the culture of deregulation (especially in the US) prior to that. Deregulating commodities exchanges, in particular, has led to trading commodities on the margin and pushing the risk of commodity exchanges to the brink. Regulations were in place to keep commodities from being traded on the margin, to keep from having to sell goods for less than their worth. Over the last twenty years, regulations have disappeared, leaving a financial sector to its own devices. When markets crashed at the end of 2008, it was as much due to the lack of regulations as it was supremely risking banking practices. The developing world has taken the rise of commodities the hardest. Costs of chiles has skyrocketed in Indonesia, the cost of onions has jumped drastically in the last few months in India, and staple ingredients have seen marked increases in the last few months across North Africa.

Egyptians already fed up with bribery, corruption, a clenched-fist, government controlled army and police were driven into the streets out of unending frustrations over cost of living, economic and social stagnation, and a failure of hope in their own futures. The US media has done a bang-up job at sounding ignorant, cluelessly unaware of anything outside their own studios throughout this whole process. Often left scratching their heads and rambling incoherently about how this will affect the US, or Israel, or asking equally clueless politicians what their opinions and take on the situation is. Worse yet, the US media has birthed and stoked fears and misinformation about Egypt, her people, and the Muslim Brotherhood (more on them to come, stay tuned). Islam and her practitioners have long been held up as the universal boogeyman of many in this country. The all-purpose monster in the closet. This situation has highlighted this propensity in the ugliest ways.

For now, the Egyptian people have spoken to each other and to their government in ways they never had before. The brave, unified voice of Egypt has turned a critical and praise-worthy page in Egyptian history, in Arab history, in World history. Those unwilling or unable to recognize the significance of that are the only problem with the revolution.


Filed under Middle East, Politics