Welcome to Kalamna, the student blog of the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at NYU.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Egypt's uprising & jokes heard 'round the world

TV commentators, bloggers, and ordinary print journalists have all remarked on the "carnival-like" atmosphere in Tahrir even before Omar Suleiman delivered the briefest official announcement the Egyptian government had yet offered: Mubarak is gone.

Instead of a mass exodus from Tahrir Square, broadcasts showed throngs of people heading to Tahrir to join celebrations which, like the later days of protests, involved a great deal of song, dance, and comedy. Some protesters even held up a banner reading: "You can come back now, Mr. President...we were kidding!"

As in Egypt, New York's celebrations have been as irreverent as they are sincere.

Here's a scene from Dag Hammerskjold Plaza, today: After speakers on the stage were drowned out several times by cheering and loud renditions of "Biladi, Biladi," another man took the microphone to announce "Today, we don't need a lot of talking. Today is for singing and dancing!" Baladi music immediately and obligingly blasted from the speakers as another round of zaghrouts went up from the women. Live drumming accompanied the recorded music from several different directions.

Yasser Darwish, a frequent figure at events organized by area Arab American organizations, danced in full Saidi costume. A ring of dancers formed around him and other stray members of the crowd, now performers. Someone threw candy into the air, and one man joined the dance with his own prop: a cake.

I left before anyone tried to divide the cake, but had the feeling it was mostly symbolic. It seemed like a birthday cake, though I was never close enough to read the frosting.

Amid all the ecstatic celebration - whether here in New York or in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria - is a very real awareness that this is the beginning, not the end. Like the demonstrators in Tahrir, celebrants in New York repeated the popular slogan: Shiddi heelak, ya balad. Al hurriya btitwalad! Here's an irreverent translation, with help from my friend Nabeel: "Man up, country. That's freedom being born!"

Please ignore the ridiculous title of the YouTube video...lesson learned!

No comments: