DIARY TO DEMOCRACY (11th Entry)

2nd July 2011
The second Flash Hub is taking place in Cairo. The idea is simple, fantastic, in fact revolutionary. But what is a Flash Hub? Ahmed Nazmi, one of the initiators, says on socialearth “The Flash hub is a fusion of two concepts: A Flash Mob, & a Hub. A Flash Mob is this: http://mashable.com/2010/06/20/flash-mob-videos/#VQ3d3KigPQM. A Hub, like a bee hive, is a place of convergence converging ideas, efforts, innovation, collaboration, etc.. In the context of Social Enterprise, it is where social entrepreneurs and the people working to make the world a better place sustainably individually or collectively call home (for their work). *The Flash Hub is proudly a 100% Egyptian, Post-Revolution innovation.* Its format and concept are shared here out of a firm sense of unity with the world’s peoples & a belief that it can help bring those working towards acquiring a space to host & support social innovators a step closer to drawing support from their local community & achieving their dream.”
Read his whole statement on socialearth.

Everybody is welcome. The rules are easy. Everybody gets a big white piece of paper and pencils and colours of all sorts. Now people have approximately 40min to bring their ideas, visions, dreams and plans onto paper. People can do this on their own or in groups. There are no restrictions whatsoever. Someone might have a concrete idea or even a plan already in action, while another dares to dream the most unconventional dream. When the time of writing, drawing and creating is over everybody gets 4 minutes to present her/his idea to the others. Then it’s time for discussions, collaboration, networking, simply engaging with each other and each other’s ideas.

While in former Mubarak run Egypt people were constantly observed, intimidated and controlled by State Security, a Flash Hub is trying to offer a space of freedom where people of all sorts can freely, without fear exchange ideas and work towards a better society, environment, planet…you name it. The tricky thing now is to find enough spaces, not only in Cairo, but all over Egypt, to host Flash Hubs. Rooms, spaces that are not affiliated with any institution that has its own agenda. The clue, the momentum, the essence is to have UTMOST FREEDOM to think, create, present, dream, plan and engage with others.

I hope very much that the idea can spread and grow because this is definitely something Egypt needs and that individuals and society can benefit from. Even if not every idea, dream or vision can be turned into action, it is already a great improvement to be able to dream freely and share these dreams with others without fear to be taken in for interrogation.

I enjoyed that evening very much. Watching people being so enthusiastically engaged, listening to their ideas, that varied from art to education to environment……. I felt like a teenager again who wants to improve the world, who still has the unbowed hope that all his visions can come true if he just involves himself with all his heart and soul. And I believe that this might be even possible in Egypt if enough people join powers. I was almost envious that Egyptians have this fantastic chance of shaping their country and their society newly. I wish this would be possible in other countries or maybe even globally. As I believe that globalisation with all its economical forced agreements did great harm to the world and its people and environment. We all need a new world order that is more social and less harmful to nature. Anyways, this blog is not the place for it. To come back to my original topic, I hope Egyptians manage to use their chance to create a better Egypt. Yalla, Flash Hubs for everybody!!!!







Open Space is another platform in Egypt for the community to get in contact and exchange ideas. Please check out the website to get to know the concept and find out when and where the next Open Space events will take place.  www.openspaceegypt.com




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DIARY TO DEMOCRACY (10th entry)

29th June 2011
Another tensed week in Egypt. Late Tuesday night (28th June) clashes between protesters, thugs and police suddenly erupted after a ceremony for the martyrs of the revolution at Balloon Theatre in Agouza. Reports on how it started and who and why differ greatly. And the omni-present question is or at least should be “Where was the army????” I passed Tahrir Square late Tuesday night when it just kicked off. Friends were driving me home in their car when they started to close up Tahrir again. We stuck in the middle of the square, people were chaotically running in all directions, screaming things, pushing metal fences at the exits of the square. We managed to get out of Tahrir before the first stones were flying. I was staying with a friend who lives between Tahrir Square and the American Embassy, my entrance guarded by soldiers. One of the windows opens directly to the car park for the armoured vehicles of the American embassy. While an unknown number of people were fighting with the police on Tahrir the embassy started to move their armoured vehicles around for almost three hours. Most strangely a group of guys placed a board with dozens of car keys in the middle of the car park, searching for the right keys with torch lights and then parking, circling, re-parking the cars without any visible system. I watched this car parking manoeuvre for hours while I was following on twitter what was supposedly going on on Tahrir. People on twitter seemed to post and re-post posts without being witness of the events. One guy, who is normally a trustful source kept posting things like “many people wounded” or “there are gun shots” and similar tweets. 30 minutes later he posted “I’m heading to Tahrir now”. He was not the only to do so and I got quite confused how people could post details of things they haven’t seen but made the reader believe they have seen. Maybe they were on the phone with people on Tahrir. But if so they should have said so in their posts. Another guy said “it feels like another 28th Jan”, just to announce 20 minutes later “I’m on my way to Tahrir now”. I’m not saying what happened that night on Tahrir wasn’t horrible but I was a bit confused by the panic creating tweets without evidence.
Anyways after a short and worrisome night I woke up to loud screaming in front my house. I couldn’t quite hear what exactly the people were calling for, the only words I could make out was “Amrika” (America), but it sounded quite aggressive and damn close. I went outside to actually find only a rather small group of demonstrators in front of the army barrier 50 meters from my front door. The protesters had megaphones and so the maybe around 60 people sounded like 600 people. I fetched my camera and found those guys…..




While I passed through the army post in order to reach the demonstrators a plain cloth guy approached me with the words “ba3d ma kharagti mish hatirga3i thani min henna, lasim tirga3i min na7a thani”. “After you went out you are not going to return from here, you have to return from the other side.”, while pointing direction Tahrir. It would have meant a 15 minutes work in order to return to my house 50 meters away. The guy was clearly amn al dawla, oooops, I mean of course amn al watani, the newly founded homeland security that differs greatly from the old torturing security apparatus, except that they still employ the same people and methods. I just looked at the guy and completely ignored his attempt to threaten me.
The demonstrators in contradiction to their radical looks were actually very friendly and let me take my photos. Their demand is clear they want Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman to be freed from a US prison. The only small problem with this demand is that he is a well-known terrorist who was the mastermind behind several terrorist attacks including the November 1997 Luxor massacre, in which 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians were killed. If he were to return to Egypt Egyptian authorities would most likely imprison him again as they did before many years ago. Back then he was badly tortured in Egyptian prisons. So it might not be in his interest to return to Egypt actually. Who wants to know more about him and his life dedicated to terrorism can have a look here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omar_Abdel-Rahman
Banners demanding to free him appear on all major demonstrations in Egypt. But the backers of the this demand don’t seem to be many in numbers. But freedom of speech comes in all colours I guess.

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DIARY TO DEMOCRACY (9th Entry)

Social Networking in Cyber Space and the Real World
Solidarity among people was enormous during the revolution in Egypt, not only among friends but also with neighbours and even total strangers. Neighbourhood guards came into action from the very first day when Habib Al Adly had called the police from the streets. Solidarity also meant bringing food to the people who stayed in Tahrir Square. Many people opened their flats to their friends and friends of friends and friends of friends of friends, who normally lived alone. During the revolution nobody was alone, sometimes up to 10 people shared a flat and even bigger groups gathered in the evenings. Nonstop one would call each other and make sure that everybody is safe. Mobile companies were the big winners of the revolution.

Young Egyptians ans Libyans are trying to get small videos and information from their friends and relatives in Libya at the end of February, the beginning of the Libyan uprising. Information trickles  very slowly and unverified out of Libya. Till today (July) reports from Libya are quite unclear, often biased and confusing. Social networks like facebook, youtube and twitter definitely were a great help to Libyans living outside of Libya at the beginning of the Libyan revolution as their was hardly any news on tv.

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DIARY TO DEMOCRACY (8th Entry)

Dahab, Paradise of Deserted Umbrellas
I took the following photos at the end of February, but my friends in Dahab are telling  me that nothing much has changed since then. The small town of Dahab at the Red Sea in the Sinai Peninsula is one of Egypt’s popular tourist destinations. It’s considered as one of Egypt’s best diving, windsurfing and kitesurfing areas. But now after the revolution that started on 25th January 2011 Dahab’s beaches, resorts, restaurants and dive schools are empty. Many tourists left the country during the revolution and others cancelled their trips. The tourism industry is one of Egypt’s biggest income sources and it suffers big time. I came to Dahab for the first time in 1994. Back then I was convinced I had found paradise on earth. Everything was extremely down to earth, chilled and simple. The way along the shore was still without asphalt, so you could smell the nature. Actually the fantastic smell in Dahab is one of my first impressions that I got then. The mixture of rich soil, palm trees, salty sea water, camels and hasheesh here and there was the scent of paradise. Ya3ni those days are gone. Streets were built, hotels opened, dive centers shot out of the earth like mushrooms, a weird and often unhealthy mixture of people settled down, the police built a bigger department and hussled Bedouins and other people who often had not the power to help themselves, ugly houses were built and at top of everything streets were properly NAMED. The times of “where the streets had no names” and people could relax with a nice joint staring at the sea were over. If tourism is good or bad is as usual debatable. I used to live in Dahab during 2003 and 2004 and saw it all happen and moved back to Cairo in Jan 2005 in order not having to see the rather unpleasant development in Dahab.
When I went to Dahab at the end of this February to visit my friends and to see what effects the revolution had on Dahab and its people I couldn’t help to feel sad. Dahab had turned into a ghost town with empty beaches, empty restaurants, closed down bars. It was almost of an eerie beauty. Walking along the shore from Masbat (the area where most restaurants are) all the way to the Lagune it almost felt like back in the days if there wouldn’t have been all these deserted buildings, unfinished construction sides and deserted armchairs and umbrellas.
Tourists should come back! Dahab is still a pearl compared to other places with horrible huge hotels. It seems Bedouins are now again a bit more in charge of things and I hope this will improve even more. It’s their land!
Also it  seemed easier again to have your relaxed joint while staring at the sea. 😉

Deserted umbrellas wherever you look. I love those wooden ones!

A handfull tourists had the whole Lagune beach for themselves.

I decided not to swim. 😉

Bedouin girls instead of tourists are playing pool.

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DIARY TO DEMOCRACY (7th Entry)

18th February 2011, Friday of Victory
Hundreds of thousands Egyptians went to Tahrir Square once on Friday the 18th of February to celebrate their victory exactly one week after Hosni Mubarak  stepped down on Feb 11.
They called it the ‘Friday of Victory’ and in fact it was a Friday of utmost freedom and joy. Where else in the world can citizens decide to turn the centre of their city into a one million people party without needing an official permit, police or any organisation at all? Various groups sent out messages on Facebook, Twitter and by regular SMS, the word spread and rich and poor of all ages turned up to peacefully celebrate. What a fantastic change! Only four weeks ago the very notion of such great numbers gathering in a public space was not only inconceivable but life threatening.
People were commemorating the martyrs, as they call the victims of the revolution, displaying their pictures and praying for them. Everybody was waving flags and chanting “irfa3 rassak foq, inta masri,” (“Hold your head up, you are Egyptian”) expressing their newly found pride in being Egyptian. In the past 12 years, since I’m living in Egypt, I constantly heard people complaining about Egypt and expressing their hopelessness, not having the power and the courage to even change the smallest thing – everybody was caught up in a big corrupt machine.  It made me very happy to know that people were now able to speak out against injustice. It was like an enormous version of Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park, London –   many men and women, spread all over Downtown, gave speeches about their ideas for the future and how to improve the society, or shared political ideas to anybody who would listen. Others were giving out fliers with pleas like ‘Don’t take bribes’ or, ‘Don’t drive the wrong way up a one-way street’, as it is widely appreciated that Egypt’s problems exist in all walks of life.
A military band was playing patriotic anthems before the masses came together for the traditional Friday Prayer that was held by the famous Sheikh Yousef El Qaradawi, Head of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. “Today I will not only address Muslims; I’m addressing Muslims and Copts, I’m addressing all Egyptians,” Qaradawi said.
The song ‘Ya Habibti, ya Masr’  (My Darling, Egypt) by the famous and now retired actress and singer, Shadia about her patriotic  love of Egypt, was blasted through large speakers and people were dancing wildly in the streets, singing along at the top of their voices. I hope many ‘Fridays of Freedom and Joy’ will follow in the coming years.

People in the flag business have quite a good income these days. 😉

All segments of society were in Tahrir Square, religious, secular, young, old, conservative, modern, traditional…you name it.

Facebook, twitter and other social networks are definitely an important tool of communication in Egypt. But it shouldn’t be over-rated as there are also millions of Egyptians who participate in protests without using the internet as means of communication.

Everybody wants his/her photo taken with soldiers and tanks. People still believe in the army as their friend and supporter. Something that I found quite weird from the beginning. I mean Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Field Marshal Tantawy is a close ally of former president Hosni Mubarak and always protected the corrupt regime. In return Mubarak gave the army the chance to build up a huge economic empire. Why should anybody trust them and why should one think now that they will help to democratize the country? In order to have a democracy wealth need to be distributed more equally. That would mean that the army has to give up huge chunks of its economical power.

At least some people are aware of the dubious role of the army.

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DIARY TO DEMOCRACY (6th Entry)

1st February 2011, The One Million People March
The One Million People March was in fact a TWO million people march in Cairo, and most probably more than five million all over Egypt. I still have goosebumps and tears in my eyes when I recall that day. It was amazing to see all this Egyptians united in their wish to end Mubarak’s dictatorships. years and years I have told my Egyptian friends “if you take to the streets in large numbers nobody can stop you” but to avail. Over and over again I had to listen to the same answers “you can’t mobilize Egyptians” and “people are too scared of the security apparatus”. And my usual reply was “but you nonstop complain about the government and the corruption, I don’t understand why fight for your rights?”. “Ya3ni, what can we do? There is no hope” was normally the end of the conversation. But I kept my hope and strongly believed the day will come where Egyptians will break through the wall of  fear and take to the streets and fight back. I think 1st of February 2011 was actually one of the best days of my life. At 9.30 am I was standing on a balcony of Semiramis Hotel overviewing all of Tahrir and all bridges. I could see an endless stream of people slowly but steadily and determined walking towards Tahrir to join the first ever one million march. The energy was so overwhelming I had to cry uncontrollable. That was the moment I knew the Egyptian people will be successful, it was only a question of time. The energy was indescribably, so positive, so peaceful, so hopeful. It reminded me of Ghandi’s salt march. People were determined to reach their aim peacefully no matter how long it will take.

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DIARY TO DEMOCRACY (5th Entry)

30th and 31st January 2011
We were quite a few people with different nationalities in our flat in Garden City, Germans, Libyans, Palestinians, Spanish, American….. During the revolution many people stayed with friends because nobody wanted to be alone and often it wasn’t possible to return home for many people who lived in further away parts of Cairo because the curfew started around 4pm. Every day we walked to Tahrir in the morning, afternoon and evening and every time we were wondering what to expect this time. The atmosphere and situation kept changing by the hour. One moment it felt very peaceful and people were full of hope that something good would come out of their protest, and the next moment anxiety and tension was in the air. There were rumours of looters, prison break outs, attacks by the dreaded amn al dawla (state security). Most people were unsure of the role of the army. Despite the widespread belive that the army is the friend and protector of the people nobody really knew on which side they are. Obviously for the past three decades they were executing orders by Mubarak. And seeing what happened on Tahrir at night on 8th April 2011 one has to realize that the army is not with the people but has its own agenda.

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