الأحد، سبتمبر 28، 2008

Sad Friday: Cairo Fire in Small Installments

Egyptians React to Cairo "Fires"


in their Facebook Status Lines!



A month has barely passed since the Shura Council (Upper House of the Egyptian Parliament)fire. You could still sense the heat, if not in the ashes on site, you would so in the debates which are sweeping the Egyptian society.

And now, the Egyptian National Theater, Ataba Square, is also on fire. What is going on?
At six o'clock, the time of breaking Ramadan fast, on the "Sad Friday", or the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan, the National Theater of Ataba square came under fire.

Why is it a "Sad Friday"? It is probably sad because Ramadan is about to end. But it is also sad because this theater is one of the oldest in Cairo and witnessed quite a number of great performances specially in the sixties. Because that Theater was a government-owned entity, a non-commercial theater, many had regarded it as the last resort for serious theatrical works. But that was in the past. The theater like everything else related to the regime in Egypt, had also been plagued by corruption and beaurarcy and the the laws of "inverted selection", or "natural deselection", where the "good would die young" and mostly, with a few exceptions, hypocrits and mediocre artists of proven loyalty to a corrupt regime would survive and stand a chance.

Enough opinions for now. The Egyptian Community on Facebook reaction to the fire was quite interesting but largely consistent:

Amira Mekkawy said in her status: "Cairo Fire on Installments"! This witty comment refers to 1952 huge fire in Cairo which devoured many theaters, cinemas and buildings, and compares it to events of 2008, 56 years later, where the fire is also devouring important and ancient buildings of Cairo, but now one at a time.

Manal Fahmy asked, also in her status line: "our heritage on fire ... is it a coincidence?" and got a comment from one of her friends saying that "Our Heritage is the target!"

Sameh Abu El Dahab an activist and a blogger was one of the first to alert the Facebook community to news of the fire in a factual, neutral manner.

Bahaa Mohamed, suggested that the fires are a part of a zionist conspiracy and a cultural war against Egypt!


Ahmed Milad, an activist and a blogger asks: Why none of these fires come even close to Presidential Palaces?

Eman Hashem sees that this is "Business is usual, in fact, less than the usual" !

Walid Fouad makes an observation, that the Fire took place on the "Eve of the Decree" or "Lilat El Qadr", which, with a little twist, could be translated as "Eve of Fate", and wonders if there is a hidden meaning for this connection!
Samir Saad describes the fire as "Episode number 10,000 of Egyptian Disaster Series, and is sadened as Egypt's cultural heritage burns".

Hany El Khayat wonders "Who is burning Cairo? "

Moataz Emam provided a link to a BBC video clip of the fire and asks for Gods Support, Grace and Mercy.

There are about 900,000 Egyptians on Facebook, and thus Facebook is the largest connected community in Egypt, online or otherwise.


The reactions to the Shura Council fire of last month were less sympathetic. In fact, in trying to understand the reactions, we ran a small survey asking if "The Egyptian Parliament truly Represented the People", and 89% of the respondents said "No. Almost never!" while 8% said, "Yes. Sometimes!"


The reactions this time are much more concerned, probably because the Theater is more of cultural, rather than a political, symbol, unlike the Shura council, which people saw as a part of a corrupt regime.



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