Scrolling Headlines:

UMass men’s soccer drops season opener to Utah Valley in overtime -

Friday, August 28, 2015

UMass football notebook: Jackson Porter moves to WR, UMass schedules 2016 game with South Carolina -

Friday, August 28, 2015

Former UMass student who accused four men of rape in 2012 testifies during trial Friday -

Friday, August 28, 2015

REPORT: UMass football’s Da’Sean Downey faces two assault charges in connection with February fight -

Thursday, August 27, 2015

UMass football Media Day: Catching up with Joe Colton -

Thursday, August 27, 2015

UMass football fall camp: Creating turnovers, forcing mistakes the focus for linebacking corps -

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Jurors hear police interview, read text messages by defendants in third UMass rape trial -

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

‘Living at UMass’ app aims to make move-in weekend a breeze -

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

UMass rape trial halts abruptly, opening statements delivered Tuesday -

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

UMass football fall camp: Jamal Wilson returns from injury with confidence he is ‘main guy’ at running back -

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

UMass football fall camp: Freshmen Sekai Lindsay, Andy Isabella impressing at running back -

Monday, August 24, 2015

UMass ranked in top 25 for LGBTQ students -

Monday, August 24, 2015

UMass football fall camp day five: Rodney Mills looks to continue bringing versatility to tight end position -

Friday, August 21, 2015

Route 9 Diner to reopen under new ownership -

Friday, August 21, 2015

Rising UMass sophomore dies unexpectedly -

Thursday, August 20, 2015

UMass football fall camp day four: Veteran offensive line boasts chemistry, looks to improve run blocking -

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A colorful UMass homecoming -

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Potential nighttime and weekend parking fee at UMass tabled -

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

UMass football fall camp day three: Ex-quarterbacks A.J. Doyle, Andrew Verboys continue transitions to new positions -

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

UMass football fall camp day two: Defensive secondary hopes experience, added depth brings greater consistency -

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Cairo: After the Dust

Also see: Egypt |Iran |Tunisia | Yemen | Jordan|Syria

For most of this past year, with the help of a Department of Education scholarship, I have been studying Arabic at the American University in Cairo – a school considered to be Egypt’s most elite university and which caters to the country’s upper class.

I live in the distinctly middle-class neighborhood of Dokki, adjacent to the famous Tahrir Square, in a nice apartment with a generous stipend to live on. As such, my experience in revolutionary Cairo has certainly been one of white, middle-class privilege.

It is from this perspective that I write my eyewitness account of a city dealing with a new form of revolutionary politics that has swept the region over the last year. What follows are simply my own musings on the revolutionary environment that I have been lucky enough to experience for the past eight months and the images that shape the political world around me.

From the time the revolution started in Cairo on Jan. 25, 2011 until the former president Hosni Mubarak left office on Feb. 11, I obsessively watched Al Jazeera and became intimately familiar with images of youth in the street, police shooting tear gas and beating protesters, Egyptian flags waving from every house, etc. It is with these images in my head, shaping the way I experienced the city, that I first arrived in this mega-metropolis last May. And, it is the constant supply of such images that continues to shape my political understanding of the country  – not always in ways that I expect.

Being a pretentious, hipster university graduate the first images I encountered – portrayed in film and literature – were familiar to me despite being saturated with revolutionary fervor.  Nearly every film festival, concert and art exhibit, whether aimed at a Western crowd or Egyptians, is compelled to deal with the issue of revolution in one way or another.

In late January, the Ibn Rachiq Culture House in Tunis hosted an international symposium titled, “Arab Spring Through the Eyes of Arab Novelists” that attempted to examine the role of the artists and writers in the popular insurrections against injustice and despotism.

Then, exactly a year after Egypt’s Jan. 25 uprising against Hosni Mubarak, Cairo’s International Book Fair, one of the biggest book fairs in the world, brought together a host of publishing houses from across the Arab world at a fair grounds covered in images of revolution. Politics was on the lips of every bookseller and attendee; the book fair provided a fertile ground for pan-Arab conversations on revolutionary practice and the future of politics in the Arab world.

Yet, revolution has affected more than just high culture.

Graffiti covers almost every square inch of concrete wall in the downtown Tahrir Square area, narrating the streets’ recent history in vibrant colors of revolution and violence. Drawing on Pharaonic imagery, revolutionary rhetoric and popular slogans, the graffiti stays in the square when protesters are forced out, permanently occupying a space that has served as the country’s revolutionary hub. Many of these breath-taking works of street-art seek to immortalize those who have lost life and limb for political freedoms as well as social and economic justice.

In the streets, pits left from when protesters pulled up cobble-stones to throw at police have been filled with sand, turning the street into a living embodiment of the slogan from France’s 1968 revolution, “Sous les pavés, la plage”: Under the paving stones, the beach.

Yet, while the lasting effects of this year of political upheaval in Cairo exist as living art objects giving testimony to the romance of revolution, they lurk in more nefarious ways as well.

Gil Scott-Heron sang in “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” that “the revolution will not go better with Coke,” but that certainly hasn’t stopped Coca-Cola from trying to profit off of it.

Littering the streets and television waves of Cairo is Coke’s new advertising campaign, acting as a vaudeville caricature of revolutionary rhetoric and solidarity seeks to profit off such phrases as “make tomorrow a better day” and “help each other, the world needs us” accompanied by images of “ordinary” Egyptians using Coca-Cola to improve the world they live in.

These images fall amongst many others that catch my attention on my way to and from class everyday. Walking through my middle-class neighborhood to catch a cab to the American University, I pass by the tattered remains of parliamentary election posters, many of which belong to the Muslim Brotherhood and the ultra-conservative Party of Light – two parties that took the largest number of seats in the recently formed parliament tasked with drafting Egypt’s new constitution.

To the liberal left-leaning youth who sparked January 2011’s revolution, these posters serve as a reminder that the countries direction is now out of their control, relegated to the all too familiar upper echelons of campaign finance.

Every night, as I return home, patients exiting the two major hospitals in my neighborhood specializing in eye injuries pass me by.

During the clashes over the past few months between protesters and the army, hundreds of young men have either lost eyes or sustained debilitating eye injuries due to crowd-control weapons: munitions – as anyone who cares to investigate the spent casings of rubber bullets and flying gas canisters that can be found, around the city will find – produced in the United States.

These men exiting the hospital are often young, accompanied by a friend or a relative and wearing a heavy patch over one eye, reminding me every day of my own government’s complicity in the massive state repression that Egypt’s revolutionary youth have faced over the past year. Groups of teenagers occupy the corners and store fronts around town, often sporting Ahli Soccer Club t-shirts, a reminder to all of the events of Feb. 1, when 79 were killed and over 1,000 injured due to the gross police misconduct and negligence that has been the hallmark of post-revolutionary Egypt.

The city seemingly speaks to me in the dialectic language of revolution and counter-revolution. Yet more than anything, the picture of revolutionary solidarity shines through. In the midst of hundreds of Egyptian flags dotting Tahrir Square stands a single tent with the Syrian flag flying high, part of a continued occupation outside of the Arab League building pushing for pan-Arab action against Bashar al-Assad’s regime. This pan-regional solidarity might be the lasting effect of last year’s uprisings and it is this image that sticks out the most amidst the graffiti, pot-holed sidewalks and political posters.

Nate Christensen is a University of Georgia graduate who has been living in Cairo for past two years. He can be reached at natethegreat@gmail.com.

Leave A Comment