Archive for November 2nd, 2011

Alexandria Now

November 2, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

 

 

I met Lisa Goldman at a reading in Toronto on Oct 25th. She said some very nice things about In An Antique Land and added that she had been in Egypt recently, covering the Tahrir Square demonstrations.The next day she sent me this:

 

 

Dear Amitav

I wanted to tell you about an Egyptian journalist I met in Cairo; he also read and enjoyed In An Antique Land, and told me he had the idea of revisiting Lataifa to write a piece that compared it to your description of the village in the 1980s. That conversation took place during my first week in Egypt; later, I traveled to the Nile Delta to do a story about factory workers and saw that it was, indeed, no longer a rural place of water wheels and donkeys. Instead, there were multi-floor residential buildings and motorcycles, and few of the fellaheen were making their living off the land.
I also spent a bit of time in Alexandria, which is quite a sad city these days – though signs of its former elegance are everywhere, particularly in the once-grand apartment buildings. Attached are three photos I snapped there – one of the beach (terribly polluted)
and one of an ordinary cafe on a side street near the sea. In the latter you’ll see that no-one is smoking shisha;
I was told that the local authorities wanted to ban public smoking for women only, but there was such an uproar that they decided to ban it
altogether.
The third photo shows a woman named Sally Zahran, who was killed during anti-Mubarak demonstrations at Tahrir Square.
In the original memorial photo she was unveiled; later, her mother said that her daughter had gone against the family’s wishes in choosing to stop veiling shortly before she was killed. At the Alexandria site for memorials to the revolution, her photo was crudely doctored so that her hair was covered to look as though she were veiled.
But still, I am cautiously optimistic for Egypt.
Warmly,
Lisa
I found Lisa’s article on the factory workers of Shebin el-Kom (linked above) very interesting, partly because I remember the town well from my days in Egypt, and partly because the mainstream media has said so little about the  role of factory workers in the recent upheavals in Egypt (Joel Benin and Hossam el-Hamalawy were writing about this as early as 2007: see Joel Beinin and Hossam el-Hamalawy, “Egyptian Textile Workers Confront the New Economic Order,”Middle East Report Online, March 25, 2007).

After reading Lisa’s letter I looked for some pictures from my own Alexandria days. Very few of them have survived unfortunately, but I did find this (in this case I still have the contact sheets but not the prints).



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