Revolution in the South: Dispatches from Upper Egypt

By: Ammar Abu Bakr

Despite the very fact that I’m a regular “visitor” to Upper Egypt (Qena in particular where my family lives), my last visit there was very special.

Last month I paid a visit to three governorates in the deep south: Qena, Luxor and Aswan, to see  to what extent the revolution has reached the long-neglected area.

On a  Friday, I hired a private car, which ook me on a fascinating journey that crossed  60km from Qena to Luxor. I stopped to pray at the courtyard of Shiekh el-Tayeb , father of the current Imam of al-Azhar Mosque.

In Luxor, I covered  the second conference of the Coalition of the 25 January Revolution in Luxor. While covering the conference I had the impression that, as I wrote in  Al-Masry Al-Youm,:

Much of the media and activists’ attention in revolutionary Egypt has focused on developments in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez. But political activism in Luxor is alive and well. While other parts of Upper Egypt are dominated by tribal competition, the city of Luxor, a tourist center, are pushing for realizing the revolution’s demands in Egypt’s south.

When I asked people  the reason why Luxor is different from Qena, for example, which doesn’t witness such political activism,  I got this feedback:

“The city is characterized by open mindedness due to its touristic nature. Also elements of tribalism and familial issues are not active in the political scene in Luxor,” Tarek Mahmoud, one of the founder of the Coalition of January 25 Revolution in Luxor told Al-Masry Al-Youm.

Read the full story: Luxor keeps revolutionary fire burning in Upper Egypt

I was amazed to see how Graffiti is being used to support the revolution’s demands. Unlike in Cairo and Alexandria, where political graffiti infuriated authorities who responded by arresting artists and activists that dared to scrawl the political messages, no police harassment was reported regarding activists drawing graffiti in Luxor. (Click here to read my story about Graffiti in Alexandria).

“We are drawing graffiti over the walls to tell people that we are part of the revolution. Yes, we are really far from Cairo, but the revolution wasn’t meant just for Cairo. It is for Egypt as a whole,” says Eaad Oraby, a 21-year old student at Luxor’s Faculty of Fine Arts at South Valley University.

Read the full story: Graffiti fervor reaches its city of origin, Luxor

I couldn’t leave Luxor without having a quick look over tourist sites in the city. The city was almost completely empty of tourists.  Some argue that this season is the worst tourist season since the massacre of tourists in 1997, when six men gunned down 62 people at the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut. I was told that:

“As you can see, most of the shops in the market are closed. I sit here in my shop for more than ten hours and don’t have one single client,” said Mansour Shafei, who works at one of the bazaars.

“For the first time, I’ll tell tourists about Egypt’s current glory. I’ll speak with them about the Egyptian people’s will to demand their rights. In the past, we built this great civilization and now we’re continuing our contribution.”

Read the full story: Lingering security void devastates tourism in Luxor

In Aswan, I covered the memorial ceremony of Mohamed Mohsen, who was killed during a march in Abbasseya in 23 of July this year.

Mohsen’s death has sparked further criticism of the SCAF, which is governing the country during its transitional period. It has also boosted the revolution with huge support in Egypt’s southernmost regions.

Alaa Ahmed Khaled, Mohsen’s uncle, believes that his nephew has played a role in inspiring the revolution in Aswan.

“Before his death, people in general used to have a negative reaction to the revolution, since it affected tourism” – the city’s main economic activity – Khaled said. Now, “people feel really proud that Aswan provided the revolution with a hero.”

Read the full story: Protester’s death reinvigorates Upper Egypt’s revolutionaries

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One response to “Revolution in the South: Dispatches from Upper Egypt

  1. Pingback: The Day Sadat was Assassinated & What Followed « Dianabuja's Blog

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