giraffada palestine film

Giraffada: Palestinian giraffe tells the story of occupation

A sweet and poetic Palestinian film about a boy, his father and a giraffe is screening as part of this year’s Panorama of the European Film — published in Ahram Online.
“The giraffe is stronger than the lion, and their feces smell good!” declares 11-year-old Ziad in class in the opening scene of Giraffada, the debut feature film by Palestinian self-taught filmmaker Rani Massalha.

The giraffe — a symbol of peace and beauty for the director — and the lion — representing the ferociousness of the Israeli occupation —frame the narrative of Giraffada, a play on the words giraffe and Intifada (uprising).

Set in the West Bank town of Qalqilya, the film follows the young loner Ziad — son of the town’s zoo veterinarian — who spends most of his time with the giraffes at the zoo. On one night during an Israeli raid on the town, the male giraffe panics and dies hitting his head on the cage, leaving pregnant female giraffe Rita depressed without a mate and refusing food. Ziad, his father Yacine, along with a French journalist they met along the way set out to find a mate for Rita. But the only possibility is to take one of the six available in Tel Aviv Zoo.

Giraffada uses the point of view of the child to tell the story of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in a symbolic and poetic manner, while showing the hardships faced by Palestinians — the raids, checkpoints, and humiliations by Israeli soldiers. The film has depth in not only condemning the Israeli state and its soldiers, but showing the corruption of the Palestinian Authority through the character of the zoo manager, who spends the zoo’s budget on an extravagant birthday party for himself and refuses to buy the medicines needed for the animals.

The director specifically wanted to tell the story through Ziad since he wanted the film to appeal to Palestinian children, simplifying the conflict through the lens of a child’s understanding. “People always say the Palestinian Israeli conflict is complicated, but it’s not complicated,” he explained.

Inspired by a real-life incident that took place in 2002 when an Israeli raid caused the death of a giraffe in Qalqilya zoo, Massalha came up with the concept for Giraffada. Originally the director hired French scriptwriter Xavier Nemo to write the script. Then Massalha adapted it to fit better the story of Palestine.

“I got inspired by this [incident] to create a metaphor about the Israeli Palestinian conflict,” Massalha told Ahram Online. “The giraffe is the world’s tallest animal, but even this animal is shorter than the separation wall created by Israel. I always had this dream to make a giraffe walk next to the wall.”

And he did it. In the one scene of Giraffada, Ziad, his father and the French journalist walk beside the giraffe next to the wall and into the town — a moving scene where everyone stops what they are doing, even prayer, to stare at the majestic giraffe.

To Massalha, the giraffe is a peaceful animal that has an elevated point of view and serves as a strong metaphor — especially in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — for seeing the whole picture.

An important although sidelined element of the film is the relationship between the two doctors — Yacine and his colleague and friend working in Tel Aviv Zoo — which encapsulates the peaceful relations that exist between many Palestinians and Israelis on a personal level, though not an institutional one. The director believes that these relationships, that can be further developed through civil society groups, are the only way out of the current situation.

While the film succeeds in its endeavours in most aspects, more attention could have been given to the depth of some characters, such as the zoo manager and the journalist. Also, the scenes showing Israeli soldiers harassing Palestinians as well as foreigners felt exaggerated, even though the stories that circulate about what happens at checkpoints all over Palestine are more grotesque than the incidents portrayed in Giraffada. Perhaps a deeper treatment of such incidents would have better served the film’s overall narrative.

A highlight of the film was the seemingly insane character of the street vendor selling peanuts (played by renowned actor Mohamed Bakry) who showed moments of wisdom at different points in the film and served as a necessary counterpoint, providing depth and philosophical insight to the narrative.

Giraffada is, no doubt, a highly enjoyable film with an original plot that tells the Palestinian story in a novel way.

oh boy germany film

Oh Boy: The generational angst in a Berliner’s day

I actually wrote about Oh Boy twice. Once in collaboration with Yasmine Nazmy while we were in Berlin, published in German on Goethe Institute’s website, and the second time for Ahram Online.

Screening during Panorama of the European Film, German production ‘Oh Boy’ portrays a single day in the life of a young Berliner as he tries to find his place in the world
A timeless work of cinema, yet generationally set in contemporary Berlin, black and white German film Oh Boy presents a day in the life of Niko Fischer as he goes through a series of life-changing experiences, awkward conversations and moments of clarity, all in the pursuit of a cup of coffee.Screening several times in Cairo during the 6th edition of the Panorama of the European Film‘s First Time Directors category, Oh Boy, with its unique outlook, has won a number of awards this year.

Jan Ole Gerster, the writer and director of the 2012 production, wrote Fischer in a way that describes himself in his mid-twenties, but also others around him. The quest for oneself in the world, and the anxieties, disappointments, confusions that come with such an endeavour, transcends physical borders and manifests itself in many young people’s lives.

At the onset of the movie we see Fischer, whose girlfriend left him that morning, and whose parents stop financing him for having dropped out of school, goes from one social interaction to the next as he pursues a cup of coffee with which to start his day – a cup of coffee which, for alternating reasons, never appears to materialise.

The coffee Fischer doesn’t seem to procure serves as a symbol for the attempt to start the day. In his failure to achieve this simple task, his day never seems to begin, prompting existential questions about his life, on hold since he abandoned law school two years prior.

Throughout Fischer’s social situations, Oh Boy touches upon several underlining themes. One such pertains to his middle-aged neighbour who struggles in his sexual relationship with his wife after she battled with breast cancer; another to his old school classmate Julika, who was bullied for being fat by Fischer and his friends, and is now a svelte interpretative dancer who is both fragile and empowered by her experience. We also get a window into his relationship with his father and his friend, a struggling actor who, much like Fischer, is waiting for his life to happen.

In one scene, Fischer asks Julika over a cigarette, “Do you know when people around you seem kind of strange? Then the longer you think about it, the more you realise that it’s not the other people that are strange but yourself?” This line encapsulates the confusion overtaking the character, and unveils some of the deeper aspects of this otherwise pleasant chap.

As Fischer strolls around Berlin, cinematographer Philipp Kirsamer presents a series of captivating images of the German capital, with its beauty, its never-ending construction sites, its hustle and bustle, and then as it sleeps. The black and white choice for the film portrays the city in a new light; distancing and isolating it from reality while capturing the emotions that Fischer struggles with throughout the film.

“It’s so hard to find something like a goal you want to achieve because [...] of these materialistic goals: I want a car, I want a job, but this isn’t really fulfilling,” Alexander Wadouh, one of the film’s producers told Ahram Online. “We are trying to find something which, on the one hand, pays the rent, but it’s not the most important thing anymore; you want personal freedom, personal fulfilment, you want spiritual fulfilment within your work. You want that your work is not only producing money, but is good for the world. You want to save the world.”

Compared to the generation of parents to twenty-something-year-olds who had to make these choices of careers and life paths in the 70s and 80s, this generation seems somehow stuck, Wadouh explains.

“On one hand you still have to pay stuff, everything costs money, on the other hand, our generation is just not that willing to dive into the system and be a robot for the system,” he says. “We are discovering things, asking about them. There is Twitter and Facebook and social media. So whenever there is some kind of injustice in the world you hear about it, you can engage yourself. Fischer is just lost and many in our generation are lost.”

The same may somewhat be true of contemporary Cairene society. Rather than diving into the system’s social expectations – buying a house, getting married, finding a job that pays for the children’s private education – a large number of young people now prefer to explore alternative options. While some manage at times, the struggle of others continues as they wonder about, and seek, a place in society.

According to Wadouh, after the film’s release last year in Germany the team received feedback from viewers who related to Fischer’s character on different levels. There were those who were once ‘Nico Fischers’, but transcended that phase by their mid-thirties. There were also the parents of the ‘Nico Fishers’ who could identify their children on that screen.

At the Chromosom production office, a ground-floor apartment in Prenzlauer Berg in Berlin, Wadouh says someone knocks at the door to discuss the film at least once a week.

“If you are honest in your film, and you are honest in making a film, then people somehow mysteriously understand it and appreciate it, and I think this was the thing about Oh Boy; it was a very honest film by the director. He stripped bare, and half of it is autobiographical,” says Wadouh. “Nothing in this film is fake although everything is fake.”

With a witty script, engaging characters and wrapped in jazz music, Oh Boy, is definitely a must-see for all lost twenty-something-year-olds and their families, in Cairo and other corners of the world.


Oh Boy stills

‘Oh Boy’ (Germany, 2012)

Berlin’s public space: Keeping Tempelhof Airport free

Published on Goethe’s website as a reflection of my stay in Berlin during the ‘Culture Journalism in the Arab World’ programme between September 2013 and October 2013.


Many say that in spite of the many failures of the Arab Spring in achieving democracy three years down the road from the revolutions, one of the main gains is the reclamation of public space.

Having a public performance in a city like Cairo was almost unthinkable before the revolution. Graffiti was rare and informal markets were cracked down on. Now we see an influx of these activities almost to the point where it goes over the top.

Upon my arrival in Berlin one of the first things that drew my eye was the flood of graffiti all over the streets. The next morning as I crossed the street, three people did a small circus performance juggling for the cars waiting for their traffic light to turn green. That evening at Hackescher Markt we saw a couple who had pools of soap water and a device allowing people to make massive bubbles that floated between the crowds of people. Incidents like these kept recurring throughout my two months in Berlin, along with music on the U-Bahns and at the stations, caricature artists on the streets, dance performances – and we even did the Lebanese dance ‘The Dabkeh’ one night in Kreuzberg. These little interactions would always put a smile on my face. They drew me to look at other people’s faces in the vicinity and so often I would see the smile on theirs, too.

A massive open space

In tough, big cities accessibility to public space plays a role in one’s well-being and connection to the city – whether that means the availability of parks to enjoy those rare moments when the sun finally is shining, or the stumbling upon art, or simply being on the street peacefully with fellow citizens. However, one public space that was truly unique was the former Tempelhof Airport: In a massive open space that was built in the 1920s as the central airport of Berlin, today Berliners gather to have picnics, to fly kites, to go on peaceful bike rides, and sometimes to enjoy pop-up events that happen sporadically – concerts, fashion fairs or art events. Only opened to the public as a park in 2010 after the airport was officially closed down, people of Berlin have been taking the opportunity to use this space as a truly open public space, and the biggest in terms of actual space in the city.

Cultural Players

One of the interesting organic projects taking place there is the ‘Allmende-Kontor’ (Office for Community Spaces) which creates a networking space for new and existing urban gardening and farming initiatives and for people to learn how to garden. The soil of the former airport plain being infertile, people have put up wooden boxes and sacks full of fertile soil to grow plants in it. Another project aimed at creative professionals is ‘Cultural Players@THF’ which encourages designers and artists to form teams and compete in friendly sporting innovative activities in nature. These projects at Tempelhof are inclusive and attempt to bring people from different parts of Berlin’s society together.

To keep the space a free open park

However, companies are bidding to have projects on this space, and to change it from a free, inclusive public space to commercial space for housing, events and offices. This is interesting to the local government, of course, since Tempelhof costs a lot to keep up, and at the end of the day it does not generate any revenues for the city. Still, Berliners have a political petition going that I stumbled upon on many occasions, to keep the space a free open park for projects to sprout organically. This got me thinking that the struggle of reclaiming public space not only exists in the Arab world but also in a city like Berlin which already has a strong public space occupation. There is still this willingness of people to ensure spaces remain accessible, free and inclusive.


Konservativer Extremist

An article I published during my internship in Berlin in Taz. It’s in German as well, but the English (original version is available below).


Mohamed Abdelkarim, ein ägyptischer Künstler, wirkt an dem gemeinsamen Forschungs- und Kunstprojekt mit dem Titel „Auf der Suche nach Europa“ mit, dessen Eröffnung für den 1. November in Berlin (Mariannenplatz 2) geplant ist.

Die künstlerische Arbeit von Abdelkarim befasst sich für gewöhnlich mit Ästhetik und Fragen rund um Zeit, Sozialverhalten und Lebensrhythmen und selten mit politischen Themen. Der Künstler setzt Texte, Videos, Fotografien und sogar Darbietungen ein, um jedes Thema, an dem er arbeitet, umfassend zu analysieren. Zuletzt arbeitete er mit dem bildenden Künstler Ahmed Sabry in Kairo gemeinsam am Projekt „The Rihno Story“, für das Abdelkarim ein Buch schrieb und Sabry eine Reihe von Gemälden vorstellte, um die Rolle der zeitgenössischen Kunst in der Gesellschaft zu hinterfragen.

In Berlin überschreitet der Künstler jedoch seine eigenen Grenzen und arbeitet an einem derzeit höchst heiklen Thema: Ikonen des politischen Islams in Ägypten.

Bei seinem Projekt „Comparison of Appearance“ im Rahmen der Ausstellung zeigt er einen Dokumentarfilm zur Reise eines islamistischen Führers nach Amerika in den Vierziger Jahren. Der Dokumentarfilm ist allerdings reine Fiktion. Er interviewt Menschen, die diesem islamistischen Führer auf seinem Weg nach Amerika auf dem Schiff begegnet sind, in verschiedenen Häfen in Ägypten, Marokko, Portugal und Frankreich und zeigt fiktives Archivmaterial. Allerdings nennt niemand in der Dokumentation seinen Namen. Sie alle bezeichnen ihn als „Er“.

Der TAZ erläuterte Abdelkarim, dass es in dem Film eigentlich um Sayid Kotb, führendes Mitglied der Muslimbruderschaft, geht, einen Schriftsteller, Denker und Dichter, der in den Sechziger Jahren wegen des Komplotts zur Ermordung des ägyptischen Präsidenten Gamal Abdel-Nasser hingerichtet wurde. Kotbs Schriften inspirieren die Muslimbrüder noch immer und sind für ihren anti-amerikanischen Imperialismus und die Verachtung der amerikanischen Gesellschaft bekannt, die von Materialismus, Gewalt und Sex besessen ist.

„1948 reiste er in die Vereinigten Staaten, mit dem Auftrag, das amerikanische Bildungswesen kennenzulernen, da er für das Bildungsministerium in Ägypten arbeitete“, erläutert Abdelkarim die Bedeutung der Amerikareise. „Bei seiner Rückkehr wurde er extremer, weil er die Gesellschaft, wie er sie dort kennengelernt hatte, nicht mochte, und brachte dieses Gedankengut in Ägypten in Umlauf.“

„Ich wollte an ihm als Phänomen arbeiten. Er ist kein einzigartiges Phänomen, er hat bestimmte Eigenschaften, die auch andere Charaktere der modernen Geschichte aufweisen: sozialkonservativ, jedoch revolutionär, aber mit einer Vision, in der es nicht um Freiheit, sondern um Konservatismus geht. Er ist nicht einzigartig, so isoliert er auch ist“, so Abdel-Karim.

Das Buch hat Abdelkarim in Form eines Tagebuchs ab der Geburt von Kotb im Jahre 1906 verfasst. In diesem Buch versucht der Künstler, Kotb mit Hilfe von Forschung und Fiktion eine persönliche Note zu geben und die Ikone des extremistischen, islamistischen Führers und Denkers zu analysieren, indem er sich auf Bestandteile des alltäglichen Lebens und Begegnungen mit Menschen bezieht.

„Es gibt andere Aspekte seines Charakters, die so normal sind wie bei jedem anderen Menschen auch“, meint er.

Das Projekt „Auf der Suche nach Europa“ ist eine Teamarbeit von sechs Forschern, die an Projekten im Kontext der Analyse Europas mitwirken, darunter auch dessen Beziehungen zu Nachbarländern oder ehemaligen Kolonien, mit Künstlern aus diesen Ländern, um eine Reihe von Kunstwerken und eine Publikation zu erarbeiten, die sich insbesondere auf die Zusammenarbeit von Kunst und Forschung sowie den prozessorientierten ISOE-Ansatz konzentriert und darüber hinaus zusätzliche theoretische Überlegungen in den Vordergrund stellt.

Bettina Gräf ist die Forscherin, mit der Abdelkarim in den letzten zwei Jahren zusammengearbeitet hat.

Gräfs Forschungsarbeit befasst sich mit dem Aufstieg des politischen Islams und den ikonischen Persönlichkeiten, die dahinter stehen, insbesondere in den Vierziger bis Sechziger Jahren. Angesichts der jüngsten Ereignisse in Ägypten im Zusammenhang mit dem Aufstieg politischer Islamisten an die Macht und kurz danach deren Niedergang erreicht ihre Arbeit rechtzeitig ihren Dreh- und Angelpunkt, um die Momente der Zeitgeschichte widerzuspiegeln, die das Land derzeit erlebt. Gräfs Forschungsarbeit bezieht sich zudem auf das Wechselspiel zwischen Kapitalismus, Sozialismus und Wirtschaft des politischen Islams sowie die Verlage in den Vierziger Jahren, die ausschließlich islamistische Bücher veröffentlichten und dadurch zur Ausbreitung der Bewegung beitrugen.

„Ich musste mich für ein Element, einen Teilaspekt entscheiden, an dem ich arbeite, und dieses Element in all die Gespräche einfließen lassen, die ich mit Bettina führte“, so Abdelkarim. „Ich habe mich für Sayid Kotb entschieden“, fährt er fort. „Diese Persönlichkeit umfasste viele Bestandteile dieser Forschungsarbeit.“

„Die Zusammenarbeit mit Bettina findet in Form von Gesprächen statt wie man sie bei einer Tasse Kaffee führt“, erläutert er die Methode, durch die die Arbeiten entstanden sind. „Wir sollten gemeinsam Werke erarbeiten, kamen aber schließlich zu dem Schluss, dass der Künstler sich in Ansatz, Stil und Arbeitsrhythmus vom Forscher unterscheidet. Daher entschieden wir uns für eine Zusammenarbeit in Form dieser Gespräche anstelle einer praktischen Zusammenarbeit.“

Rowan El Shimi  ist Teilnehmerin eines Fortbildungsprogramms des Goethe-Instituts für Kulturjournalisten aus arabischen Ländern. Nach vier Wochen intensivem theoretischen Training in Berlin hospitieren die Teilnehmer in Kulturredaktionen in ganz Deutschland. Mehr über das Programm inkl. Blog unter  /
Ein Projekt des Goethe-Instituts im Rahmen der Deutsch-Ägyptischen/ Tunesischen Transformationspartnerschaft, gefördert durch das Auswärtige Amt.


An Egyptian artist ‘In Search of Europe’

Mohamed Abdelkarim, an Egyptian visual artist, participates in collaborative research and art project entitled ‘In Search of Europe’ set to open in Berlin on 1 November in Mariannenplatz 2.

Abdelkarim’s artistic work normally deals with aesthetics, and questions of time, social behaviour and life’s rhythms and rarely touches upon political themes. The artist uses text, video, photography and even performance to deeply analyse each theme he works with. Most recently he collaborated with visual artist Ahmed Sabry to produce ‘The Rihno Story’ project in Cairo, where Abdelkarim wrote a book, and Sabry presented a series of paintings to question the role of contemporary art in society.

However, in Berlin,the artist is  breaking his own barriers, and working with a theme extremely sensitive at this moment in time: icons of political Islam in Egypt.

Through his project ‘Comparison of Appearance’ within the exhibition, he shows a documentary about an Islamist leader’s trip to America in the 1940s.  However, the documentary is completely fake. He interviews  the people who met this Islamist leader on his way to America on the boat, in different ports in Egypt, Morocco, Portugal and France along with fake archival footage. However, no one in the documentary says his name, they refer to him as ‘He’.

Abdelkarim clarified to Taz that actually the film is about Sayid Kotb, leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood, who was a writer, thinker, and poet who was executed in the 1960s for plotting the assassination of Egyptian president Gamal Abdel-Nasser. Kotb’s writings continue to inspire brotherhood members, and is known for being anti-American imperialism and despising the American society obsessed with materialism, violence and sex.

‘’He went to the US in 1948, on a scholarship to see the education system in the US, as he was working in Ministry of Education in Egypt,’’ Abdelkarim explains the significance of the trip to America. ‘’Upon his return he became more extreme, not liking how he saw the society there, and put out these thoughts in Egypt.’’

‘’I wanted to work on him as a phenomenon. He is not a unique phenomenon, he has a certain component that has surfaced in other characters across modern history: a social conservative yet a revolutionary but with a vision that is not about freedom but conservatism. He is not unique as much as hes isolated,’’ Abdel-Karim explained.

In the book, Abdelkarim writes it as a diary, from when Kotb was born in 1906. In this book the artist tries to humanise Kotb through his research and fiction, and deconstruct the icon of the Islamist extremist leader and thinker, drawing on elements of everyday life, and human encounters.

‘’There are other aspects of his character that are regular like you and me,’’ he says.

For ‘In Search of Europe’ Six researchers working on projects relating to Europe’s deconstruction, along with its relationship with neighbouring countries or former colonies, team up with artists from these countries to produce a series of art works, and a publication which is focusing especially on the art-research collaborations as well as the process oriented approach of ISOE, and also features additional theoretical reflections.

Bettina Gräf is the researcher Abdelkarim has been collaborating with for the past two years.

Gräf’s research relates to political Islam’s rise, and the iconic characters behind it, especially between the 1940s and 1960s. In light of recent events in Egypt, that saw the rise of political islamists to power and shortly after their decline, her work comes at a pivotal point in time to reflect on these contemporary moments the country is living. Gräf’s research also touches upon the dwelling relations between capitalism, socialism and the economics of political islam, as well as the publishing houses in the 1940s which published only Islamist books helping the movement spread.

‘’I had to choose an element, a unit to work with, and let this element touch upon all these talks I was having with Bettina,’’ Abdelkarim explained. ‘’I chose Sayid Kotb,’’ he continued. ‘’This character had many elements of this research.’’

‘’The way bettina worked together is that we would have discussions, like a conversations you would have over a coffee,’’ he explains the methodology through which the works were produced. ‘’We were supposed to produce work together, but eventually we reached that the artist is different from the researcher in approaches, style and work rhythm so we decided that the work is collaborative through these conversations, and not necessarily through hands on work together.’’

Other projects produced through ‘In Search of Europe’ touch upon other topics. The exhibition opens on 1 November and is set to host several events including lectures, film screenings and discussions throughout the time the exhibition is run.


Artwork by Ganzeer in Zamalek

Provokant genug

An article I worked on with my colleague Fatma Aydemir during my internship at Taz about a conference hosted by Goethe in Berlin on ‘Transformation and Culture’ in Egypt and Tunisia

In Tunesien wird die Kunst attackiert, die ägyptische Regierung hat andere Prioritäten: Perspektiven von der Konferenz „Transformation und Kultur“.

Zum zweiten Jahrestag der ersten freien Wahlen in Tunesien gingen diese Woche in Tunis Zehntausende auf die Straße, um gegen die Übergangsregierung zu protestieren. Fast zeitgleich steht die Choreografin Amira Chebli auf der Bühne des Berliner Allianz-Forums und bindet sich ein Tuch um, das den ganzen Kopf samt Gesicht verhüllt.

Auf der Leinwand hinter ihr läuft ein Video, in dem sie sich drei Lagen von schwarzem Stoff überwirft und damit zu tanzen beginnt. Wenn Chebli sich zum Schatten hinbewegt, lösen sich ihre Konturen im Schwarz des Raumes auf, sie wird unsichtbar. Wenn sie im Licht tanzt, kann man durch die Stofflagen hindurch ihre tanzende Silhouette sehen.

Anonymisiert und doch provokant genug für vieldeutige Projektionen – das beschreibt nicht nur die Situation des Frauenkörpers im islamistisch regierten Tunesien sehr treffend, sondern auch die des Künstlers.

„In situ“ nennt Amira Chebli ihre Performance, der lateinische Begriff steht in den Naturwissenschaften für die Untersuchung eines Objekts in seiner natürlichen Umgebung. Zu sehen war die Performance im Rahmen der Konferenz „Transformation und Kultur“, bei der wiederum die Umgebung Thema war, in der sich KünstlerInnen wie Chebli vor immer neuen Herausforderungen finden: der sich im Umbruch befindenden arabischen Welt.

Fördermittel für Kunstprojekte

Auf Einladung des Auswärtigen Amts und des Goethe-Instituts, das seit 2011 in der Region besonders aktiv ist, waren am Mittwoch und Donnerstag Kulturschaffende und KünstlerInnen aus Ägypten, Tunesien, Palästina und dem Sudan zu Gast in Berlin, um in Panel-Diskussionen die sozialen und politischen Veränderungsprozesse aus der Perspektive der Kunst und Kultur zu betrachten.

Der Deutsche Bundestag habe seit dem sogenannten Arabischen Frühling sehr viele Sondermittel für die Arbeit im arabischen Raum zur Verfügung gestellt, 40 Prozent davon seien allein für Bildung und Kultur vorgesehen, erklärte Botschafter Heinrich Kreft. Unabhängige Kunstprojekte sind auf diese ausländischen Fördermittel dringend angewiesen.

Der ägyptische Staat etwa hält ein sehr geringes Budget für die Kultur bereit, weniger als 1 Prozent seiner Ausgaben umfassen die Kulturförderungen, und diese fließen direkt in die Nationaltheater und Festivals mit regierungskonformen Inhalten. Künstler, die Tabus brechen, indem sie Themen wie Glaubensfreiheit oder Gender aufgreifen, müssen hingegen auf jede Form von staatlicher Unterstützung verzichten.

In ihrer Eröffnungsrede gab Basma El-Husseiny, Leiterin von Culture Resource, einer gemeinnützigen Organisation in Ägypten, die junge Künstler unterstützt und den kulturellen Austausch stärkt, einen umfassenden Überblick über die Situation der Kulturlandschaft in Tunesien und Ägypten. „In kaum einem arabischen Land wurde bisher eine Kulturpolitik formuliert“, so El-Husseiny, die sich aktiv für die Einführung einer solchen einsetzt.

Restriktives Zensurgesetz

Eine Kulturpolitik biete dem Künstler in der Gesellschaft einen gewissen Schutzraum. „Und es ist auch wichtig, dass diese Politik von Künstlern und der Zivilgesellschaft verfasst und dem Kulturministerium diktiert wird, nicht andersherum“, sagte El-Husseiny.

Neben der finanziellen Notlage ist zwar auch das restriktive Zensurgesetz ein Grund zur Sorge, jedoch lässt sich in Ägypten zumindest seit der Revolution deutlich mehr Meinungsfreiheit in der Kunst beobachten sowie auch die Möglichkeit, Kunst im öffentlichen Raum zu verwirklichen – war die Idee des öffentlichen Raums doch eine der bedeutendsten Errungenschaften des Arabischen Frühlings.

„Wir alle wissen, dass dies nur eine temporäre Freiheit ist“, erklärte Ahmed El-Attar, Theaterregisseur und Veranstalter des D-Caf Festival, das in diesem Frühjahr zum zweiten Mal die Innenstadt von Kairo mit interdisziplinären künstlerischen Arbeiten aus der ganzen Welt bespielte. Nach Meinung El-Attars dulden die Behörden die Kunst nur deshalb, weil es gerade andere Prioritäten für sie gebe. „Irgendwann wird sich das ändern, und darauf müssen wir uns kollektiv vorbereiten, denn es wird uns alle gemeinsam treffen“, warnte El-Attar.

Das ist keine Schwarzmalerei, dafür genügt ein Blick nach Tunesien, wo brutale Maßregelungen bereits stattgefunden haben. Im Juni 2012 etwa wurde eine Kunstausstellung von islamistischen Demonstranten angegriffen, die die Kunstwerke als blasphemisch empfanden. Eine Reaktion vom Kulturministerium gab es nicht, die Ausstellung musste abgebrochen werden. Zudem gab es in den letzten Monaten zahlreiche Anklagen gegen Rapper, die in Tunesien große Popularität genießen. Der Vorwurf lautet: Beleidigung.

Festiwalla Berlin

Berlin’s refugees express hardships through theatre and dance

On the last day of Festiwalla, Syrian and refugees from other nationalities stage a performance portraying their suffering and lack of freedom in Germany —- article published in Ahram Online.

A gathering in the form of a theatre festival dubbed ‘Festiwalla’ ended on Sunday 20 October in Berlin with a contemporary dance performance by Syrian refugees, among others from different countries, featuring theatrical elements to depict the issues asylum seekers face in Europe’s strongest economic power.”Impulse is a project to give impulses, it’s a way to better express yourself,” said Maryam Grassmann, a coordinator of the project and worker in the camp hosting more than 600 refugees. “Art gives them a way to get to know which voice they have in Germany and, more importantly, that they have a voice here.”

The project, carried out by the ‘Motardstrasse’ refugee camp coordinators along with contemporary dance choreographers Gianna Grunig and Franziska Roelli, as well as theatre director Ahmed Schah, has been taking place for six months.

The artists worked with the refugees on expressing the frustrations they face in their everyday lives as refugees, along with repressed emotions from their past.

The process was documented into a 30-minute moving documentary film by Susanne Dzeik, and shown in Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of Cultures of the World), where Festiwalla’s events were hosted prior to the performance.

In the film, the project’s staff members tell their story of trying to create safe spaces for the participants to form a group — a new family – where they can share their emotions and tales.

“It’s not easy to motivate people because of this situation where they wait and do not have a daily routine, without knowing if they can stay or have to move on. Also knowing you left something behind…” Grunig says in the film. “It’s hard to convince them that this could be good for them.”

The Motardstrasse is the first reception institution for asylum seekers where they stay a maximum of nine months until their residence status is cleared and they see if they will be allowed to stay or must leave the country. German law also dictates that refugees are assigned a specific city to live in, which makes it difficult because when they leave Berlin, they have to start over building a life once again.

With the difficulty of finding work, and this constant waiting, a group of Syrian, Afghan, Pakistani and other men joined the project and started to experiment with movement — without past history of artistic activities.

“It is some sort of coping,” Grunig continues. “If you feel well in your body, you’ll be in better mental conditions; [whether it is] connected to their experience or not, I noticed that there is severe tension in their bodies.”

In a series of movements, signifying the displacement they feel, the group performs an emotional 30 minute piece also characterised by somewhat political undertones. They use their bodies to show the rejection they feel from society, the never-ending administrative paperwork they go through, and remind people at the end that the Human Rights Declaration’s 13th Article reads: Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

“I see theatre as the only way to show German and European people what life [is like as] a foreigner here; it’s about suffering,” said Ibrahima Belde, one of the participating refugees who had never experimented with theatre before this project.

The performance was also attended by the families from Motardstrasse who came all the way to support their fellow refugees in their performance, although they had already seen it when it was performed at the camp.

Ibrahima’s case

Following the performance, the actors and project staff took to the stage and drew the audience’s attention to an important fact: Ibrahima — who gave an impeccable performance — was to be sent away from Berlin, after seven months, to Dortmund.

“It is very hard for our group that he has to leave,” Grassman said, explaining how Germany deals with refugees. “Even if he has family or contacts here in Berlin, he still has to leave.”

As it announced its resolve in preparing a petition to get Ibrahima to stay, the group demonstrated the project’s success: not only did it help open a window of expression to these refugees, but also formed a strong bond within the group allowing them to become friends, even family, to each other.

“We want to show that young people who [could] be integrated do not have the possibility to become so,” Grassman continued. “[A refugee] starts to make his roots here and with his [forced departure] it’s like cutting up the roots.”

“I don’t know anybody there in Dortmund. This is my family now; this theatre, Festiwalla and the refugee group,” Ibrahima said, overwhelmed by the support and cheers.


Berlin refugees performance

Ibrahima Blade (Photo: Rowan El Shimi)

The performance and the film were simultaneously moving and light-hearted. Most importantly, both served to humanise refugees and give them a voice in society.

Under the theme “Who is not educated?” the topics these youths covered in their plays, films, discussions and other activities ranged from protests, to water consumption, history of social democracy, gender roles and many others.

“The youth – coached by the Festiwalla team — are the directors and researchers of these plays,” Schah, one of the founders told Ahram Online.

As well as hosting the youth theatre, Grenzen-Los! also run NARI (Network Against Anti-Muslim Racism and Islamophobia) addressing anti-Muslim racism within German society – issues around which they host various exhibitions and plays.

To conclude the Festiwalla days, Schah announced that all refugees in Berlin were welcome in their space in Moabit every Wednesday to create theatre pieces and be part of the association.


Ein hohes Maß an Verbundenheit (VIDEO)

This article was published in the Taz newspaper in Germany about Egypt’s Al Nour Wal Amal blind girls orchestra performing in Berlin. Below a video about the performance published in Ahram Online.


BESUCH AUS ÄGYPTEN Ein blindes Frauenorchester spielt in der Urania – Proteste am Rand des Konzerts

Auf Einladung der ägyptischen Botschaft in Deutschland reisten am Dienstag vierzig blinde Frauen und Mädchen des Orchesters Al Nour Wal Amal (Licht und Hoffnung) aus Kairo an, um in der Urania aufzutreten. Sie spielten über zwanzig Stücke klassischer westlicher und orientalischer Musik, von Mozart über den indischen Komponisten Shankar-Jaikishan bis hin zum ägyptischen Komponisten Abu-Bakr Khairat und viele mehr.

Das Besondere an diesem Ensemble ist die Fähigkeit der Frauen und Mädchen, sich all diese schwierigen Musikstücke nicht nur einzeln, sondern im Rahmen der Interaktion des Orchesters einzuprägen und ohne einen Dirigenten vorzutragen. Jede der Frauen lernt ihren Teil des Stückes mithilfe von Braille auswendig. Dann probt der Dirigent des Orchesters Ali Othman mit verschiedenen Teilen des Ensembles und anschließend mit dem gesamten Orchester. “Die Stücke auf diese Weise zu lernen ist so einfach, dass ich es schwierig finden würde, sie zu spielen, wenn Gott mir eines Tages mein Augenlicht zurückgeben würde und ich Partituren lesen könnte”, meint Shahinaz Salah, eine Kontrabassistin des Orchesters.

Vom Publikum aus kann man Othman hinten in der Ecke der Bühne stehen und seinem Orchester zuschauen sehen, er nickt im Takt, und sobald das Orchester ein Stück zu Ende gespielt hat, verbeugt er sich vor dem Publikum und zählt das nächste Stück für die Musikerinnen an. Mit einem Stück nach dem anderen führt das Kammerorchester die Zuhörer von klassischer westlicher Musik zu der des Orients und zurück. Sie spielen mit solcher Leidenschaft und Präzision, dass man das hohe Maß an Konzentration und Verbundenheit des Orchesters förmlich sehen kann. Das Publikum belohnte den Auftritt mit langanhaltendem Applaus.

Protest auf der Bühne

Doch während der folgenden Dankesrede des ägyptischen Botschafters Mohammed Hegazy sprang ein Mann auf die Bühne, dankte dem Ensemble auf Arabisch und teilte dem Publikum mit, dass er nur zweimal stolz gewesen sei, Ägypter zu sein: während dieses Konzerts und während der Revolution am 25. Januar. In deutscher Sprache fuhr er fort, wie unangebracht er indessen finde, dass ein solches Konzert die Tatsache ausblende, dass erst zwei Tage zuvor über fünfzig Menschen den Tod gefunden hätten. Der Mann wurde jedoch rasch von den Mitarbeitern des Theaters und der Botschaft zum Schweigen gebracht und von der Bühne geführt.

Unmittelbar danach stimmten Teile des Publikums und das Orchester ein mit nationalistischer Rhetorik verbundenes, ägyptisches Volkslied an, und die Menschen verließen verwirrt den Saal.

Vor der Urania hatte sich eine Gruppe von zwölf Demonstranten versammelt, die “Verräter” und “Nieder mit der Militärdiktatur” riefen. Sie hielten gelbe Schilder hoch, die die Räumung des Rabaa-Platzes vor etwa zwei Monaten symbolisierten. Organisiert hatte den Protest die ägyptische Arbeitsgruppe “Together for Egypt” in Berlin. “Als Gastgeber derartiger Veranstaltungen versucht die ägyptische Botschaft der Welt zu zeigen, dass das, was in Ägypten geschehen ist, normal ist und dass die Menschen dort den Militärputsch akzeptieren”, so ein Demonstrant, der anonym bleiben wollte. “Der Botschafter lädt Menschen zu diesem Konzert ein, obwohl am Sonntag bei Zusammenstößen 52 Menschen ums Leben gekommen sind.”

Während einige Zuhörer mit den Demonstranten sympathisierten, reagierten andere aufgebracht. Eine Dame sagte der taz, sie finde dies bei einem Konzert unangebracht, besonders angesichts der hoffnungsvollen und schönen Atmosphäre, die die Frauen untereinander und im Publikum geschaffen hätten.

Eine Erfolgsgeschichte

Tatsächlich war es das dritte Konzert des Ensembles in Deutschland. Es hat Konzerte auf fünf Kontinenten, in vierzehn europäischen Ländern, fünf arabischen Ländern, fünf asiatischen Ländern und sogar in Kanada und Australien gegeben”, erzählt Amal Fikry, die stellvertretende Vorsitzende der Nichtregierungsorganisation Al Nour Wal Amal. Al Nour Wal Amal wurde 1954 von einer Gruppe weiblicher Freiwilliger im Rahmen des Schul- und Lernzentrums für blinde Frauen gegründet. 1961 folgte eine Musikschule, aus der das Kammerorchester hervorging. Die Musikerinnen lernen schon in sehr jungen Jahren Instrumente zu spielen.

“Die Mädchen reisen gerne, weil ihnen im Ausland so viel Wertschätzung entgegengebracht wird, da man dort klassische Musik eher schätzt”, meint Fikry. “Wir können unser Publikum zwar nicht sehen, aber wir können es fühlen”, meint Salah. “Wir spüren, ob sie uns wirklich zuhören.” ROWAN EL SHIMI

Rowan El Shimi ist Teilnehmerin eines Fortbildungsprogramms des Goethe-Instituts für Kulturjournalisten aus arabischen Ländern und hospitiert zurzeit in der taz.


Film series takes viewers on a musical journey through Morocco

Veteran Moroccan filmmaker Izza Genini presents three of her 1980s documentaries on Moroccan musical traditions in one of the final days of the Docu.Arts Festival in Berlin — Originally published in Ahram Online.

Standing as a testament to the memory and vitality of Morccan folkloric music, Izza Genini’s project Maroc Corps et Âme (Morocco Body and Soul) includes ten short documentary films, each focusing on a different region and musical tradition of the North African kingdom.

Three of the films from this project, produced between 1987 and 1992, were shown at the Docu.Arts Festival in Berlin last weekend. As part of the program, Genini was invited to the German capital to meet the audience and introduce the films that began her long career in documentary filmmaking.

Starting the discussion with an overview of Moroccan musical traditions, Genini invites the audience to see Rythmes de Marrakech, which was filmed during the Achoura Festival, an annual celebration in southern Morocco.

In this film, Marrakech is filled with music, from women singing, dancing and drumming in their homes, to shopkeepers in the old market of Jamaa El-Fna, leaving their shops to follow groups of musicians through the allies of the old city.

The second film in the series, Louanges, follows the eight-day pilgrimage to Moulay Idriss, a sacred site in the country, during which people spend their days listening to religious sermons and chanting in attempt to achieve a state of trance that will bring them closer to God.

Louanges shows men and women dancing side-by-side to achieve this state of trance, an uncommon practice in most other Arab states. During the trances “there is no frontier between men and women,” Genini commented. “When someone is going in a trance you must never stop,” she added, explaining that men and women actually help each other in seeking this trance state.

The final film shown, and perhaps the most extraordinary of the series, was Aita. This film portrayed female “cheikat” groups, musical groups who sing, dance and cry out, turning their cries and sways into a moving song.

The film shows performances of the cheikat, but it also their group lunches and behind the scenes moments. This is the only one of the three films in which the musicans speak directly to Genini, which shows her unique relationship with these women.

“I was very facinated by this woman Fatna Bent El Hocine,” Genini said. Rightfully so — Bent El Hocine and her company Oulad Aguida’s songs trancend personal limits by using stories rooted in Moroccan folklore. The result is gripping and beautiful.

Originally a distributor and producer of feature films, Genini found herself making documentaries as a way to explore her Moroccan past.

“My personal way crossed my professional way in these projects,” she said.

Born in 1948 and part of a generation that often feels disconnected from Moroccan culture and history, Genini lived and studied in France for more than a decade. Upon her return to Morocco, she began to reconnect with Moroccan culture through films and music.

“In this reintegration and re-identification to my culture the people took my hand. Most of the musicians in the films, I spent moments with them without knowing that I would make a film with them,” she said. “It was really something I received and wanted to share the process.”

“I had no idea it would be a work for memory, it’s just my emotion and feelings that drove me to make this work,” she added. “Everything I have done was by instinct. Through these songs and rythyms I found my own memories and learned about my background. Nothing was intentional. For me it was natural I was showing something i was experiencing myself,” she explained.

Genini did not stop at the ten films included in Morocco Body and Soul. She spent the rest of her career making documentary films about the rediscovery of her Moroccan heritage. In one of these films, Malhoune, which was screened all over the world, she portrayed the personal story of her families’ Moroccan Jewish heritage.

Morocco’s rich cultural heritage is beautifully represented in Genini’s documentary project Morocco Body and Soul and throughout her many documentaries.


Cinderella story of Egyptian cinema told through film on Soad Hosny

Lebanese filmmaker Rania Stephan uses snippets from Soad Hosny’s 82 films to re-tell the story of a cinematic icon and the history of Egyptian cinema in ‘The Three Disappearances of Soad Hosny’ — Originally published in Ahram Online.

The DocuArts film festival at Berlin’s Art Week featured a screening of ‘The Three Disappearances of Soad Hosny,’ which tells the Cinderella story of the screen and analyses Egyptian cinema from the 60s to the 80s by editing the icon’s old films into a new work of fiction.

Set in three acts, a prologue and epilogue, the 2011 docu-fiction film is constructed as a dramatic tragedy – a piece that could be categorised as a documentary, feature length video art piece or an entirely new fiction film, by Lebanese filmmaker Rania Stephan.

Entirely edited to tell a new story from old VHS tapes, which Stephan collected over ten years, the film deconstructs the iconography of Hosny using archival cinematic footage to tell the story of her life. It also examines Egyptian cinema, which had a monopoly on cinema in the Arab world until the 90s, and Hosny’s career within it.

Stephan chose an alternative route to the traditional documentary in capturing the story of an icon of Egyptian cinema. Hosny’s life, both on screen and in person, has intrigued audiences for decades – especially after her 2001 death in London, which is presumed to have been suicide or murder,

“I didn’t want to make a film about her real life but about her persona,” Stephan told the audience at the talk following the film’s screening. “I didn’t want to take the route of the traditional documentary, asking people who knew her to recount experiences, because so much gossip surrounds her and I really didn’t want to go there. The film is about the image; how any actress is stuck with an image and cannot escape it.”

For audiences familiar with Hosny’s body of work and Egyptian commercial cinema, the film presents a trip down memory lane, with snippets of footage depicting Hosny’s first roles in the 1960s and in the years following the 1952 revolution, during which time she played a number of roles about love, hope, innocence and empowering women. In the 60s Egypt aspired towards modernity, and cinema reflected a certain emancipation of women – marrying for love, claiming their right to co-exist in public space and the educational sphere, and even to flirt and date boys.

In the first act, the film reveals Hosny’s complicated family life, her relationship with her parents, and aspirations for stardom.

“Cinema works with layers. You feel it but you don’t need to know all the information,” Stephan says. “It’s real information if you inquire about it. The film is based on real-life scenarios, but I used fiction as a tool to document history. I created a parallel fiction; Is it fiction? Is it a documentary?” she enquires.

The film, set as a dream, shows fragmented memories, with repetitive scenes that aren’t chronological. In the second act, the film gets darker, reflecting Egyptian cinema following the 1967 defeat against Israel, which left a void in Arab consciousness, while at the same time depicting Hosny at the peak of her beauty, as a seductress, taking on more emotional depth in her roles than the girl-next-door figure.

The third and final act of the film represents a time when the open-economy started to show fruit, and Egyptian cinematic topics inquired more deeply into the polarisation of the country and corruption that was starting to manifest itself as a new reality.

“I use the black of the VHS as the base of her memory. A memory is never complete; It’s always fragmented, suspended. This is how memory works. The function of repetition serves the dream I used in the narration, but also reminds the spectator that we are viewing the image of an icon. We are not talking about the real Soad Hosny. She died. I didn’t meet her. The only thing we have left is her image. So what does this image tell us?” Stephan explains.

“This is the ambiguity of cinema. An actor is a real person that performs a role, often invoking confusion between the real person and the image. There is always this association between reality and the imagination. Even reality, when you live it, is sometimes confused for an imagination,” she adds.

“What is real? What is reality? Cinema is the place to ask this question per-se. We are asking about the image, which is so real that it’s an illusion. All these levels are at work in the film,” Stephan concludes.

Maii Waleed Zeid Hemdan Music Moga

Maii Waleed brings vivid sound to region’s independent scene

Scheduled to perform at El-Geneina Theatre this weekend, Waleed’s dark lyrics, soft indie-rock ensemble and recently produced Album ‘Moga’ by Zeid Hemdan is set to inspire. [Originally published in Ahram Online]

On Thursday 19 September, musician Maii Waleed is set to take over El-Geneina’s stage to perform a selection from her recently produced album ‘Moga’ by Lebanese independent music pioneer Zeid Hemdan, presenting heartfelt lyrics and unconventional musical arrangements to the audience.

While the mainstream music scene in Egypt and the Arab world continues to be centred on Arabic pop by highly choreographed artists, shaped by record labels to produce a certain expected image, some artists are breaking free of this mould. Maii Waleed is definitely one of them.

The young 25-year-old artist hails from Egypt’s seaside city of Alexandria and has been dabbling with music from a young age; playing a number of instruments in school and being part of several independent bands in Alexandria’s underground scene, such as all-girl metal band Mascarra and electro-rock ensemble Telepoetic, along with Samaka, Grin and Nail Polish.

Waleed moved to Cairo a few years back, and decided to focus on her own musical arrangements, producing acoustic tracks on Sound Cloud – a platform for sharing sound files online, along with a music video for ‘Moga’ with friend and bassist Perry Moataz, which was featured on Ahram Online’s best underground music videos for 2012.

Two underlining themes infuse Waleed’s music: love and identity. “It’s a matter of existence. I think there is always a battle for belonging to something: either to a person or to society. The experiences of these trials in my life are reflected in my songs. Sometimes I feel I don’t belong to this society, and other times I feel like I do,” Waleed told Ahram Online in May 2013 when her album ‘Moga’ was released.”I think my songs are very sad; based on disappointment, on my life. Now I’m going through a different phase, so I’m starting to be more positive,” Waleed says.

“I think the best thing in art is when you really become transparent and express whatever you have inside you,” she added.

Waleed’s love songs stem from her experiences, and do not necessarily convey a certain story or any direct emotion. Rather, they take on a more abstract emotional depth that is touching and powerful in spite of the simplicity and spontaneity of the lyrics.

One of the songs that reflects her place in society is, Ana Mesh Men Hena (‘I am not from here’), in which she analyses the kind of expectations society puts on her. Waleed states that she’s not from this place, as people refer to it: “They say girls have to be shy, balanced and not keen; dreams of freedom are limited. I just don’t understand,” the verse reads.

Another song, Hasafer Beid (‘I will travel away’) starts with a rebellious rock rhythm, and the first line says “I’ll travel away, with no authority telling me what to do; I’ll go live above, and find people who have taste, and live with people who have taste.”

Many have interpreted this song as a reference to political authority in Egypt, probably because of the line, “Old people, old people, locked us in…. They think we’re still young, but we are still young.” Whilst, according to Waleed, it is a song she wrote when she was younger, living in her parents’ house, and wanting to break free and find her independence.

Waleed has never really taken her music career seriously, shying away from playing to an audience.

“I just wanted to compose songs. I wasn’t thinking I would make money or reach people,” she said.

However, after meeting Hemdan through common friends one night in Alexandria three years ago, that fundamentally changed. Rushing back to her house, she grabbed her guitar and they recorded a demo of ten songs on guitar metronome the night before he flew back to Beirut.

“I spent a year and a half listening to these demos, imagining ways of producing them. In August last year I invited Maii to come and produce the album and finish it,” Hemdan told Ahram Online.

While the album is Waleed’s own lyrics and compositions, Hemdan focused on production and the instrumentals involved, with three tracks co-produced by Lebanese musician Sherif Magareb.

“The first thing that struck me was the texture of her voice, and then when I recorded her I realised her compositions were very nice, very inspiring. The style she has is very modern,” he said.

Hemdan is no stranger to producing music, dubbed “the Father of the Lebanese Underground” since his 90s project Soapkills with Yasmine Hemdan, in which they re-distributed old arabic music with a modern trip-hop beat. Later he went on to start new bands such as ‘The New Government’ and ‘Zeid and the Wings’ alongside collaboration with artists such as Egyptian singer Maryam Saleh.

Waleed and Hemdan share a similar taste for music and are excited by keeping the process of making music fun, playful and experimental.

“We have this mental and emotional connection and this friendship, which helped me to let go and experiment. Because I don’t know how to be professional. If it’s not playful and fun I have a hard time,” Waleed explained.

The duo performed two shows in Beirut during May and June, as well as appearing at the Jordanian DumTak festival in Amman. They are scheduled to launch the album in Cairo before the year ends. However, political developments in Egypt have postponed the launch, and Waleed’s performance this weekend will not include Hemdan.

The album ‘Moga’ can be found on sound cloud, bought on iTunes, or directly from Waleed in Cairo and Alexandria or Hemdan in Beirut.

The artists produced the album under Hemdan’s production label Lebanese Underground, which he uses to collaborate with interesting artists, promoting them through various online platforms.

“That’s what makes a scene: connected artists,” Hemdan said “That’s what is beautiful in the Middle-East; its like we’re one big country amongst musicians. It’s not like that with politics,” he added.