I write to you, dear readers, expecting you to ask me questions like: “Hamdy, what happened in Egypt, and why? Where are Egyptians heading? What direction will the country take after being dormant for so many years? The only image we have of Egypt is the land of Pharaohs and ancient relics, can you tell us more? What is happening after the revolution?”
- “From Egypt” attempts to draw a cultural map of Egypt and the Arab world by profiling the artistic, literary, and political issues that affect the region via on-the-ground coverage of current events, publications, and the fight for freedom of expression.
- Hamdy El-Gazzar is an Egyptian writer and one of the 39 young Arab writers included in the Beirut 39 Project. His first novel, Sihr Aswad (Dar Merit, 2005) won the prestigious Sawaris Award, and was subsequently translated by Humphrey Davies (Black Magic, AUC Press, 2007). His second novel, Ladhdhat Sirriyya (Secret Pleasures) was published by Dar al-Dar in 2008. He is currently working on a third novel.
In the future I will tell you more about Egypt’s culture, art, and literature. But I would like to start this series of columns with a basic cultural explanation of Egyptian current events.
Egyptian culture incites love, not violence. The popular late Egyptian poet, playwright, and cartoonist Salah Jaheen illustrates this with two lines:
“How wonderful life is
Even in the form of a worm in its hollow.”
The ancient Egyptians invented immortality after life. They saw the afterlife as their ultimate goal, and their greatest ambition. In the hereafter they believed there would be pure beauty, pure bliss, and most importantly, no pain.
Egyptians believe there is no need to complain about worldly pains because they go away when we make it to the other side. Egyptians’ hatred of bloodshed in the Revolution—a process of human rights, freedom and justice—emanates from that belief in the hereafter. If the long-overdue revolution against the tyrannical regime in Egypt started, it was because Mubarak became a deterrent to Egyptian values and life itself.
Mubarak’s reign, corruption, and oppression devastated the country. His, or his son Gamal’s, continued leadership meant the assassination of all hope in life. That´s why the Egyptian youth revolted, illustrating an ability to dream and a dream for change at a moment when authoritarian rule jeopardized social equity and our ability to survive as a people.
All of the above doesn’t overshadow the fact that the Tunisian revolution was an inspiration and a model for the Egyptian people. It was an incentive for Egyptians to take to the squares and call for humanity, dignity, and the right to a just existence. In my mind, these will continue to be the Egyptian people’s main demands as they work towards a modern Egypt that embodies the tenets of a great revolution.
Translation: Nour Abdelghani