Egypt’s Ramadan still has a Chinese flavour

An April decree bans importing imitations of traditional Egyptian handicrafts, including Ramadan lanterns. But is it enough to revive local handicraft businesses?

Lamia Hassan, Tuesday 9 Jun 2015 (Ahram Online)

unnamed2Islamic Cairo’s Khan El Khalili market is crammed with shoppers buying the goods they need for the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan. From its entrance on Azhar Street to its smallest alley, the neighbourhood is brimming with people, mostly locals, examining the products displayed in shops and on the side of the street.

As Ramadan approaches, the season’s colourful lanterns have just made a comeback around the market, starting from the tiny LE 5 lanterns to the bigger ones selling for hundreds of Egyptian pounds.

Known to be the hallmark of unique Egyptian products, Khan El Khalili and its surrounding streets have long bustled with shoppers from all over Egypt and the rest of the world. With its handmade copper plates, cushions, clothes, alabaster, jewelry, lanterns and even chandeliers, Khan El Khalili caters to all different tastes.

But, while the products cramming the market have remained the same for years, their origin has recently changed.

Especially when it comes to Ramadan lanterns, Pharaonic-themed souvenirs and jewelry, cheaper Chinese imports now outweigh local products.

“People used to come from all over to buy the finest goods made by Egyptians, but then the cheap [imported] products took over the market,” says Hassan Mohamed, the owner of a small workshop in El Darb El Ahmar that makes engraved copper plates.

Chinese products started appearing in the market 10 to 12 years ago, says Amr Abdallah from Awlad Ezzat (Ezzat’s Sons), one of the big lantern shops on Al Azhar Street.

“Chinese products weren’t very popular when they first appeared, but over the years more shops started importing and replacing their local products,” says Abdallah.

When the Chinese Ramadan lanterns became popular, Abdallah himself started importing them, he says.

But five or seven years ago, he changed his mind.

“I decided that it was time to stop buying imported lanterns and to support local business,” he says.



Ban on imported imitations

Amid concerns about foreign imports putting local craftsmen out of busines, Egyptian Minister of Trade and Industry Moneer Fakhry Abdel Nour in April announced an import ban on all imitations of Egypt’s traditional handicrafts, as a move to protect Egyptian identity and intellectual property rights.

The ban comes as an application of Article 20 of the 1994 international General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) which gives any country the right to take the necessary measures to protect its “national treasures of artistic, historic or archaeological value.”

“It’s our right to protect our intellectual property and our identity and to take the necessary measures to do so, and all the countries do the same,” says Yasser Gaber Shaker, the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s spokesperson.

The ban includes Ramadan lanterns and Pharaonic-themed souvenirs such as papyrus.


But it remains unclear to what extent the ban will help to revive local handicraft production and sales.

While the ministry says the decree has already been implemented, some vendors claim that they have not yet seen a clear document detailing its terms. Most salesmen have already placed their orders for the season, they add.

Ministry spokesperson Shaker however claims that importers have spread a rumour that the ban has been postponed so that they can continue to sell their imported products.

Preserving crafts from the past

Not far away from Khan El Khalili and Al Azhar, Taht El-Raba’a, the production house behind many of the market’s lantern shops, is all geared up for Ramadan.

Unlike the other shop owners, Abdel Aziz Hashim hangs only the old-fashioned tinted glass lanterns outside his shop.

“For me, these are the only lanterns I know,” he explains. “Everything else they added or brought in from China has nothing to do with Ramadan.”

But over the last decade, plastic lanterns from China have flooded the Egypt market.

“Try asking kids who are born in the past 10 years about the traditional lanterns,” echoes Salama Hanafy, whose family has run a lantern making business from a tiny room in the neighbourhood for over 50 years. “They will know nothing about them.”

Although both Hashim and Hanafy welcome the new ban, they say that its implementation will be difficult.

Importers might already have enough imported goods in storage for the next year or even two, says Hashim.

And traditional lanterns will remain more expensive due to a rise in the cost of the materials needed to make them, says Hanafy: “We used to buy the glass for the lanterns for LE0.60 a kilo, but now it’s LE 3, which will definitely increase the cost of a lantern.”

Emphasising quality

But Hisham Raslan, another Khan El Khalili shop owner, relates the recent shift to Chinese products to a decline in the quality and creativity of local work.

“One of the reasons we have always depended on local handicrafts is for their quality, but when this started deteriorating and the Chinese manufacturers started to coming up with ideas for new products, we started to depend heavily on Chinese products,” he says.

Raslan, who is against the ban on imports, says that the products imported from China are different to those produced locally.

For example, Chinese manufacturers have innovated with pens covered with images of Pharoahs, Pyramids and Ancient Egyptian statues, he says.

The new decree is a positive step in the right direction, but more efforts are needed to revive local handicraft industries, says anthropologist Nawal El Messiri, who has worked on reviving local traditional craft industries for years at the Egyptian Folk Traditions Society.

The government and concerned organisations should raise awareness among manufacturers on the importance of quality for business growth, she says.


“When manufacturers understand that people will stop buying their lanterns if they continue to make them with sharp edges or in poor quality, they automatically put more effort into what they make,” says El Messiri.

When tinsel embroidery from Upper Egypt was in danger of disappearing, her organisation helped to train local youth to master the technique and managed to sell their products outside Egypt, she says.

Beyond traditional handicrafts and Ramadan items, the government could also help to protect other local craft industries from foreign competition, she adds.

“Some of the best local furniture comes from Damietta, but many similar items are also imported,” she says. “There should be bans on all of these.”

For his part, Shaker stresses that the trade ministry supports local craft businesses with more than just the April ban on imports.

“We are working with 39 small and medium industries in 17 governorates across Egypt to help them develop their business and up their standards to revive the local industries,” he says.

As Ramadan approaches, Hashim says he wishes to one day see all shops only selling local tinted glass lanterns like his, although this is unlikely to be soon.

“We have been wishing for a decree like this for years, and it’s about time we use our dollar reserves to buy only the essential items that we cannot produce, and instead depend heavily on local businesses,” he says.

“يحكون في بلادنا يحكون في شجن .. عن صاحبي الذي مضى وعاد في كفن”

photo taken at port said stadium the next morning after people were killed after the match- by Ian Lee

اخويا نازل ماسك علمه !… رايح الماتش وكان مبسوط! فجأه اتقلب الحال لسكوت..! قريت أخبار ده فيه ناس بتموت؟؟!! قلت أكيد قنوات اشاعات…! فتحت موبايلى لقيت رنات !! كلمته مره …! كلمته التانية !! انسان غريب رد عليا !!! أقوله ميـــن !!…يقولى الفاتحة…!! أخوك مــات !!!!!!! … … بتقول ايه !!! بلاش تهريج .. ادينى أخويا أبوس ايديك ! أصوات كتيـــر ! زعيق و صريــخ !!! أخويا راح .. والله بــريــئ !! مصرى ده !!!  ولا احنا يهود !!!  أخويا نزل !!… و رجع فى تابــــوت
عن مجزرة بورسعيد 01/02/2012

Snow on Cairo-Alexandria agricultural road

When I went back to Cairo last December, I was thinking that I will be able to enjoy the warm weather after months of cold in New York. Well, it was warm sometimes in the morning, but not as I expected it to be.

Now that we are in January, the fact that Cairo sees snow this year before New York is definitely worth mentioning. Who would have ever thought that Cairo will have snow or hail? Here we are, the world is changing!


Bursting My Bubble

Wandering aimlessly the chaotic streets of Cairo was something that I have always loved to do. Whether by night or day, I always thought there is something charming about it. But, as I grew up, I came to realize the ugly truth: there’s no way to enjoy it without going through the awful sexual harassment on the streets everyday.

Starting from when I used to park my car few streets away and walk to the university’s campus on Mohamed Mahmoud Street, this is when I started changing my views about the streets of Cairo. And, even when I finished school and moved to Mohandessin for my first job, then Maadi for my second, it was still the same old story.

I bet we all agree how awful and common the harassment is in Egypt, and some ladies know how to deal with it, and some blame it on what you dress (which is definitely a lie), but for me it was different; yes, I try to fight it by writing and talking about it, but because I can’t stand it I will just put my headphones and music on every time I leave my car. I just chose to live in a bubble I created, but replacing the ugly words with the music I choose for myself.

It became something essential to me to an extent that if I forget my headphones at home I would be so nervous and don’t want to leave the car. I was always aware that people on the street verbally harass me as I pass by and sometimes I could guess what they are saying, but at the end of the day I felt okay as long as I don’t actually have to hear it.

For years now, I chose the headphones thing as my defense mechanism against harassment and tried to be alert all the time. Sometimes I just pretended that music is on so that I don’t have to hear anything. I was always aware that it is a very weak one, but it was the only way for me to partially enjoy walking in Cairo.

Only this year (or last year as we just started a new one), I got a chance to spend my first four months ever away from Egypt. As much as I hated the homesickness experience, spending four months with almost no harassments on the streets at all gave me a chance to realize how weak I was. I realized that instead of trying to solve the problem I just tried to live in my bubble by not listening to any harassments, while I’m aware that they will never go away like this. I always used to give myself the excuse that I have tried, given that I talked about the issue several times and during the International Women’s Day march in 2011, which was a complete failure.

This December when I went back to Cairo, I thought I should change. I was still scared of being harassed since the moment I walked out of the plane, and it actually happened. But, I just decided I will stand up for myself. I will not let anyone change the way I live or stop me from doing something I always loved to do.

Maged Butter ( @MagButter ) recounting his detention by CSF

Written & video testimony of what happened to Maged

In the coming tweets I’ll tell u a brief of how I was detained and beaten up. I was w/ @monaeltahawy at Mohamed Mahmoud st, while the police is heavily shooting, a couple of persons in civilian clothes surrounded us.

They pushed us aside 2 a nearby alley (bon appetite) claiming it’s a better refuge, while they pushed us, 1 of them groped @monaeltahawy.

..@monaeltahawy slapped him & tried to beat him, while the other defended him. I tried to pull mona’s arm & run from the shooting but they didnt let her ago & I heard her shouting “my phone, u animal,” and in less than 10 seconds, csf surrounded us & pulled us apart.

I didn’t see @monaeltahawy since then. 5 soldiers surrounded me, beat me with batons all over my body w/ extra dose for my head, and dragged me along M.Mahmoud st, 2 beating me with batons, 1 kicking me, 1 fingering my ass, 1 checking my pockets, till the end of the st., also kicking my balls.

Then they handed me 2 a police officer, who also gave me a couple of punches. He dragged me along while I’m screaming, bleeding like a fountain of blood. He asked me “where r u from”, I answered “Alex”..he “no, u r not Egyptian, u r a spy”. Me “u can see my ID”..He “I dont see IDs u cant speak Arabic well” Me “my mouth/lips r severely beaten, I cant speak at all not only Arabic ”
Then he handed me to 2 soldiers, also kicked me in the chest. I saw many army officers, & cried for their help but they seemed happy w/ my blood.
1 man in a civilian clothes came out of a crowd & stopped us, asked “what’s going on here?”..”they beat me up..” He asked “where r u from?” Me..”Alex”..He..”Take him”..then they sent me to a kiosk where they put another 28 detainees among them a Dr.
They got me an ambulance & put a bandage for my bleeding head. And they put us in a car, and we were sent to Torrah Cen. Police Camp.
We were there past 2am, they collected everything we have & told us we will be released at 10am. I asked for medical help but, no answer.

At 8am, we were sent in the same car back to M.Mahmoud st. & set us free. but they didn’t give us the stuff they took at the prison.
While we r walking from the car to the protesters on the other side of the street, army soldiers greeted us calling us “heroes” !! and I met the same man in civilian clothes whom I saw the night b4. I asked “why u didn’t help me?” “I don’t recognize u” he smiled.
I told him what happened, he apologized & hugged me. I asked about my phone as I need to call my family, He “I don’t know who took it”. Me “How come u dont, I can recognize last night officer who was responsible of what happened” He “I don’t know who were the soldiers”. Me “How come u dont know ur soldiers?” He “Come back later I’ll find u ur phone” Me “I wont come later, I need to contact my family now”.

He gave me his phone & offered 2 dial my family but I insisted on having mine. then I asked “who r u?” He “I’m major general Maher “. Me “police or army?”, “police” Me “How can I reach u?” He “Here is my phone number ****, now u need to go” with a big smile on his face.

I left, we didn’t get our stuff back, they threw them among protester to claim that the protesters stole them and disappeared. I went to the field hospital, I got 5 stitches in my forehead, 3 beside my eye, and lots of bruises all over my body & endless chest pain.

Worst thing, they beat me b4 they accuse me of anything. no interrogation, no accusations, nothing! the only question was “where r u from?””

I can’t go to #tahrir or #Smouha in the coming weeks, I beg everyone who’s reading this to head there instead of me because u might be next.

Tantawi tesfies in Mubarak’s Trial

In case you are wondering what everyone was retweeting this morning, here is the full English/Arabic text of Tanatawi’s testimony in Mubarak’s trial yesterday. The text was published by Mohamed El Garhey ( @mohamedelgarhey ) via journalist Al-Waleed Ismail

Judge- Q1:” A meeting took place on January 22, was
the ex-president notified about what happened during that meeting and what were
the results of it?”

Tantawi- A1: “The meeting was headed by the former prime
minister [Ahmed Nazif], and I think he [Mubarak] was notified about it.”

Judge- Q2: “Starting from January 25 events and
until February 11, did any meetings take place between you and the former
president Hosni Mubarak during this period?”

Tantawi -A2: There were no direct meetings, but on
January 28 when were given the order by Mr. president, I was then in contact
with [him]”

Judge- Q3:”And what did the president say during
these meetings?”

A3: They were held to know the role of Armed Forces, especially on Jan28.”

Tantawi -A3: The meetings between us were held to know
the position of the Armed Forces, especially on January 28. And when the Armed
Forces were given orders to take its position in the city and help the police ,
there was prior planning for this, and the armed forces were trained on that.
The Armed Forces starts taking position on the streets when the police needs
help if they are not able to take control on their own. And the president gave
orders to the head of the Armed Forces to guard/protect some buildings and this
is what happened.”

Judge -Q4: “Did the former president Mohamed Hosni
Mubarak give orders to the minister of interior Habib El Adly for police to use
force against protesters?  using force
against protesters including rubber and live bullets from January 25-28?”

Tantawi- A4: “I have information regarding that and I don’t
think it happened.”

Judge- Q5: “Did the president give instructions to
the defendants on how to deal with the situation?”

Tantawi -A5: “I have no information on that.”

Judge- Q6: “Were you informed or received any
reports on how the police treated protesters?”

: “This matter concerns the police and their training, but I
believe dispersing protests was to be done with no use of bullets/ammunition.”

Judge -Q7: “Did any of the departments within the
Armed Forces detect any use of snipers by the police during those events?”

Tantawi- A7: “I have no information.”

Judge- Q8: “Investigations indicate that a lot of
injuries and deaths within protesters were caused by the use of bullets. Were
you notified of that and how do you explain it?”

Tantawi- A8: “I don’t have information on that. There
are many possibilities, but I have no information about it.”

Judge- Q9: “Is the police solely responsible, with
no else, for killing and injuring protesters?”

Answer- Q9: “I don’t know what happened.”

Judge- Q10: “Can you specify if there were other “elements”
involved [in the killing of protesters]?”

Tantawi -A11: “It’s not confirmed but I think yes, there
were other elements involved.”

Judge- Q11: Who might be these other elements?”

Tantawi -A11: “They could have been outlaws”

Judge- Q12: “Do you have
any information that there might have been foreign elements involved? ”

Tantawi A12: “I have no confirmation on that, but it’s

Judge- Q13: Generally, could the president, with his
authority, give orders or instructions on how to deal with the situation in order
to insure the country’s safety and security?”

Tantawi -A13: The president could give orders – of
course it’s his authority, but everything is usually planned in advance and
everyone knows their role. “

Judge -Q14: “And to whom does the president usually
give these orders?”

Tantawi -A14: “It is known who takes these orders, but
there is definitely no doubt that the president can give orders.”

Judge- Q15: “Is the person given the orders obliged
to follow them no matter what the consequences are?”

Tantawi- A15: Definitely, the orders are discussed and
the person given those orders discusses them with the president, especially if
they are decisive orders.”

Judge- Q16: “Is Mubarak directly or solely
responsible along with the person who was given the orders to deal with
protesters, personally given by him?”

Tantawi- A16: “If he has given orders to deal with it
by using ammunition then I believe it’s a joint responsibility, but I don’t
know if he has given those orders or not.”
Judge- Q17: “Do you know if the former president was
aware through his sources that the protesters were killed?”

Tantawi- A17: In this
case, the assistants who notified him should be asked if he was aware or not.”

Judge- Q18: “Do you know if Mubarak intervened in any
way to stop the spilled blood of protestors?”

Tantawi- A18: “I think he intervened and gave orders to
investigate what happened and about the killing of protesters.”

Judge Q-19: “Can you absolutely determine to which
extent is Mubarak responsible in terms of the factors that led to injuring
& killing protesters?”

Tantawi -A19: “This is the responsibility of the
investigations’ authorities.”

Judge- Q20: “Based on your experience, generally, can
the minister of interior individually take decisions and plans to deal with the
protests without referring back to the president?”

Tantawi -A20: “actions are usually planned ahead and
are announced to everyone in the ministry of interior, but in all situations he
reports to president on protests.”

Judge- Q21: Did Habib Adly take decision to deal with
the protests, including the killing & injuring of protesters, on his own
with the help of the other defendants, according to the information you know
regarding that case?”

Tantawi -A21: “I have no information on that.”

Judge- Q22: Do you think the orders to open fire on
protesters and the use vehicles to run over them were given by Adly & his
assistants alone?”

: I can’t specify what happened, but it’s possible he [Adly]
issued orders. I don’t know, and the one who took them is responsible.”

Judge -Q23: “Is it solely true, and without any doubt or
suspicion, that the former president does not know or have any information
about the police’s performance, or did not give any orders to the first on how
to deal with the situation, as he is the person responsible to maintain the
country’s security?”

Tantawi -A23: I don’t know what happened exactly but I believe
that the minister of interior is supposed to report that and maybe he [Mubarak]
does not know but I personally don’t know”

Judge -Q24: “Were there any deaths or injuries within
the army?”

Tantawi -A24: “Yes, there are martyrs.”

Judge -Q25: “Did minister of interior cooperate with
the Armed Forces to secure the protests?”

Tantawi -A25: “No.”

Judge- Q26: Were you informed of the loss of
ammunition that belonged to the Armed Forces?”

Tantawi -A26: “There were no losses, but some equipment
were damaged and repaired now, so there is no problem regarding that.”

Judge- Q27: “Were you informed about anyone from
Hamas or Hezbollah infiltrating through tunnels to cause riots?”

Tantawi A27: “That didn’t happen during the protests.
We are fighting that and we destroy immediately any of [the tunnels] we

Judge -Q28: “Were there any foreign elements arrested
in Tahrir and referred to military prosecution?”

Tantawi -A28: “No, no one was arrested.”

Judge -Q29: “Was the decision to cut off
communication taken during the meeting that took place on January 20?”

Tantawi A29: “No, it didn’t happen.”

Judge-Q30: “Some generals claimed that they were
given orders to disperse protests by force. Were the Armed Forces asked to do

Tantawi- A30: “I said during Police Academy graduation
ceremony that it should be known for history that no one in the Armed Forces
will open fire on the people.”

س١ :
حصل اجتماع يوم 22 يناير، هل ورد إلي رئيس الجمهورية السابق ما دار في هذا
الاجتماع وما أسفر عنه وما كان مردوده ؟

ج1 :
الاجتماع كان برئاسة رئيس الوزراء واعتقد أننه بلغ

س2 :
بداية من أحداث 25 يناير وحتي 11 فبراير هل تم اجتماع بينك وبين الرئيس السابق
حسني مبارك ؟

ج2 :
ليست اجتماعات مباشرة ولكن يوم 28 يناير لما أخذنا الأمر من السيد رئيس الجمهورية
كان هناك اتصالات بيني وبين السيد الرئيس

ما الذي أبداه رئيس الجمهورية في هذه اللقاءءات ؟

اللقاءات بيننا كانت تتم لمعرفة موقف القوات المسلحة خاصة يوم 28 وعندما كلفت
القوات المسلحة للنزول للبلد ومساعدة الشرطة لتنفيذ مهامها كان هناك تخطيط مسبق
للقوات المسلحة وهذا التخطيط يهدف لنزول القوات المسلحة مع الشرطة وهذه الخطة تتدرب
عليها القوات المسلحة .. القوات المسلحة بتنزل لما الشرطة بتكون محتاجة المساعدة
وعدم قدرتها علي تنفيذ مهامها وأعطي الرئيس الأمر لقائد القوات المسلحة  اللي هي نزول القوات المسلحة لتأمين المنشآت
الحيوية وهذا ما حدث

س4 :
هل وجه رئيس الجمهورية السابق المتهم محمد حسني مبارك أوامر إلي وزير الداخلية
حبيب العادلي باستعمال قوات الشرطة القوة ضد المتظاهرين؟  استعمال قوات الشرطة القوة ضد المتزاهرين بما
فيها استخدام الاسلحة الخرطوش والنارية من 25 يناير حتي 28 يناير ؟

ج4 :
ليس لدي معلومات عن هذا واعتقد ان هذا لم يحدث

س5 :
هل ترك رئيس الجمهورية السابق للمتهمين المذكورين من أساليب لمواجهة الموقف ؟

ج5 :
ليس لدي معلومات

هل ورد أو وصل إلي علم سيادتك معلومات أو تقارير عن كيفية معاملة رجال الشرطة ؟

ج6 :
هذا ما يخص الشرطة وتدريبها ولكني أعلم ان فض المظاهرات بدون استخدام النيران

س7 :
هل رصدت الجهات المعنية بالقوات المسلحة وجود قناصة استعانت بها قوات الشرطة في
الأحداث التي جرت؟

ج7 :
ليس لدي معلومات

س8 :
تبين من التحقيقات إصابة ووفاة العديد من المتظاهرين بطلقات خرطوش أحدثت إصابات
ووفيات..هل وصل ذلك الأمر لعلم سيادتك وبم تفسر ؟

إنا معنديش معلومات بكده.. الاحتمالات كتير لكن مفيش معلومة عندي

س9 :
هل تعد قوات الشرطة بمفردها هي المسئولة دون غيرها عن إحداث إصابات ووفيات بعض
المتظاهرين ؟

ج9 :
إنا معرفش ايه اللي حصل

: هل تستطيع سيادتك تحديد هل كانت هناك عناصر أخري تدخلت ؟

 ج10 : هيا معلومات غير مؤكدة بس اعتقد ان هناك
عناصر تدخلت

: وما هي تلك العناصر ؟

: ممكن تكون عناصر خارجة عن القانون

12: هل ورد معلومات لسيادتك ان خناك عناصر اجنبية قد تدخلت؟

ليس لدي معلومات مؤكدة و لكن ده احتمال موجود

: وعلي وجه العموم هل يتدخل الرئيس وفقا لسلطته في ان يحافظ علي أمن وسلامة الوطن
في إصدار أوامر أو تكليفات في كيفية التعامل ؟

: رئيس الجمهورية ممكن يكون أصدر أوامر – طبعا من حقه ولكن كل شئ له تقييده المسبق
وكل واحد عارف مهامه

: ولمن يصدر رئيس الجمهورية علي وجه العموم هذه الأوامر ؟

ج 14
: التكليفات معروف مين ينفذها ولكن من الممكن ان رئيس الجمهورية يعطي تكليفات مفيش

: وهل يجب قطعا علي من تلقي أمر تنفيذه مهما كانت العواقب ؟

: طبعا يتم النقاش والمنفذ يتناقش مع رئيس الجمهورية وإذا كانت الأوامر مصيرية
لازم يناقشه

هل يعد رئيس الجمهورية السابق المتهم محمد حسني مبارك مسئول مسئولية مباشرة أو
منفردة مع من نفذ أمر التعامل مع ألمتظاهرين الصادر منه شخصيا

: إذا كان أصدر هذا الأمر وهو التعامل باستخدام النيران أنا اعتقد ان المسئولية
تكون مشتركة وأنا معرفش ان كان أعطي هذا الأمر أم لا

وهل تعلم ان رئيس الجمهورية السابق كان علي علم من مصادره بقتل المتظاهرين ؟

يسأل في ذلك مساعديه الذين ابلغوه هل هو علي علم أم لا

وهل تعلم سيادتكم ان رئيس الجمهورية السابق قد تدخل بأي صورة كانت لوقف نزيف
المصابين ؟

: اعتقد انه تدخل وأعطي قرار بالتحقيق فيما حدث وعملية القتل وطلب تقرير وهذه

هل تستطيع علي سبيل القطع والجزم واليقين تحديد مدي مسئولية رئيس الجمهورية السابق
عن التداعيات التي أدت إلي إصابة وقتل المتظاهرين ؟

: هذه مسئولية جهات التحقيق

هل يحق وفقا لخبرة سيادتكم ان يتخذ وزير الداخلية وعلي وجه العموم ما يراه هو
منفردا من اجراءات ووسائل وخطط لمواجهة التظاهرات دون العرض علي رئيس الجمهورية؟

اتخاذ الاجراءات تكون مخططة ومعروف لدي الكل في وزارة الداخلية ولكن في جميع
الحالات يعطيه خبر بما يخص المظاهرات ولكن التظاهر وفضه ولكن التظاهر وفضه هي خطة
وتدريب موجود في وزارة الداخلية

: وهل اتخذ حبيب العادلي قرار مواجهة التظاهر بما نجم عنه من إصابات ووفيات بمفرده
بمساعدة المتهمين الاخرين في الدعوى المنظورة وذلك من منظور ما وصل لعلم سيادتك ؟

ج 21
: معنديش علم بذلك

: علي فرض إذا ما وصلك تداعيات التظاهرات يوم 28 يناير إلي استخدام قوات الشرطة
آليات مثل اطلاق مقذوفات نارية أو استخدام السيارت لدهس المتظاهرين..هل كان أمر
استعمالها يصدر من حبيب العادلى يصدر من حبيب العادلى ومساعديه بمفردهم؟

ج 22
: ما أقدرش أحدد اللي حصل أيه ولكن ممكن هو اللى اتخذها وأنا ما أعرفش واللى
اتخذها مسئول عنها

هل يصدق القول تحديداً وبما لا يدع مجالاً للشك أو الريبة أن رئيس الجمهورية
السابق لا يعلم شيئاً أو معلومات أيا كانت عن تعامل الشرطة بمختلف قواتها أو أنه
لم يوجه إلى الأول سمة أوامر أو تعليمات بشأن التعامل والغرض أنه هو الموكل إليه
شئون مصر والحفاظ على أمنها ؟

: أنا ما أعرفش اللى حصل أيه لكن أعتقد إن وزير الداخلية بيبلغ وممكن ما يكونش مش
عارف بس أنا ما أعرفش

: هل هناك اصابات أو وفيات لضباط الجيش ؟

ج 24
: نعم هناك شهداء

: هل تعاون وزير الداخلية مع القوات المسلحة لتأمين المظاهرات ؟

 ج 25 : لأ

: هل أبلغت بفقد ذخائر خاصة بالقوات المسلحة؟

مفيش حاجة ضاعت لكن هناك بعض الخسائر في المعدات واتصلحت ومفيش مشكلة

هل أبلغت بدخول عناصر من حماس أو حزب الله عبر الأنفاق أو غيرها لإحداث إضرابات ؟

: هذا الموضوع لم يحدث أثناء المظاهرات واحنا بنقاوم الموضوع ده واللي بنكتشفه
بندمره وإذا كان فيه حد محول لمحكمة فهذا ليس أثناء المظاهرات

هل تم القبض على عناصر أجنبية في ميدان التحرير وتم إحالتهم للنيابة العسكرية ؟

لا ..لم يتم القاء القبض على أى أحد

فى الاجتماع الذي تم يوم 20 يناير هل تم اتخاذ قرار بقطع الاتصالات؟

: لم يحدث

بعض اللواءات قالوا طلب منا فض المظاهرات بالقوة..هل طلب من القوات المسلحة التدخل
لذلك ؟

أنا قلت فى كلية الشرطة في تخريج الدفعة إن أنا بأقول للتاريخ إن أي أحد من القوات
المسلحة لن يستخدم النيران ضد الشعب

Hanging by a Thread

photo credit: Première Vision (website)

Liberalization unravels one of Egypt’s prized local industries

(Business Today Egypt, April 2010)

The showroom of El-Hosseiny textiles in the Delta town of Salmone El-Omash is one large open space.

The walls are lined with sun-bleached mannequins, their features covered in a thick layer of dust. The room is packed with overflowing boxes of brightly colored garments, leftovers from last season.

And there isn’t a customer in sight, despite the fact that it’s past noon and El-Hosseiny is one of the few stores open in Salmone, long-renowned as the country’s premier locale to buy wool clothes.

“The place never used to be like this. It used to be packed with people all the time, and we used to make LE 3,000–4,000 in profit per day,” says Ahmed El-Hosseiny, who runs the store and a textile factory in neighboring Mansoura.

“But every year it gets worse. One day we make LE 50, and another day we make nothing.”

At this time of year El-Hosseiny, like many of Salmone’s other 40,000 residents, should be brainstorming new ideas for the coming season. But with last year’s clothes gathering dust, producing a new line is more than futile — it’s a guaranteed loss.

In 2008, Salmone’s factory owners sold roughly 50% of their manufacturing quota. In 2009, that number dropped to 25%.

Salmone El-Omash was once a major hub of textile production and clothes making. Part of its name, El-Omash, literally translates to textiles. But in recent years the town’s roughly 1,500 workshops and 25 stores have seen business collapse. A lethal combination of the financial crisis, deregulation and an influx of inexpensive imports, especially from China, have leveled the local economy. And just as Hosseiny exemplifies what is happening in his village, Salmone is a microcosm of broader changes taking place throughout the country.

Homespun Industry

Villages usually evoke visions of a simple agrarian life. But Salmone turned that image on its head. For nearly 70 years, residents have been making textiles. Homespun wool workshops predated electricity in the region, and as technology was introduced, manufacturing kept pace. What began in homes evolved into workshops and factories; what sustained a region then supplied a nation.

The residents of what was once known as “Mini Japan” established an industrious reputation. In 1986, President Hosni Mubarak highlighted their contribution to the national economy with a visit to the town.

But today, the spirit is gone. “We don’t wake up before 5pm each day. We all just stay up trying to do anything that would make the night pass, then sleep all day,” says workshop owner Hassan Shafie.

Historically, production season in Salmone spanned 10 months — these days it’s lucky to last four. The inability to turn profits predictably led to decreased wages and large scale layoffs. In a local economy based around a single industry, failure also has social ramifications. Workers have abandoned the village, and desperation has fueled a rising tide of criminal activity and increased tension among neighbors.

“The thefts that are occurring now come from the village residents stealing things from each other,” says El-Hosseiny.

Free Fall

Through much of the 1990S, textile imports were banned by the Egyptian government, which allowed local manufacturers to thrive.

But in search of growth, Egypt joined the World Trade Organization in 1995, setting it on a path of market liberalization.

A series of cuts in tariffs during the last decade leveled the playing field for foreign manufacturers, and by 2007 imports were surging.

At the head of the pack were Chinese manufacturers, who “showered the market with their cheap products,” says Mostafa El-Samouly, the owner of a textile factory in Mahalla and a member of a key industry association.

Even when Salmone manufacturers switched to inexpensive fabrics like acrylic, they could not match the prices of imports.

“In China, they have subsidized fabrics, factories and everything they need to be very productive,” says Mo’awad El-Shafihe, who owns a Salmone plant. “Everything for us is overpriced; taxes are high and we have to pay a lot for water and electricity. I started selling the pieces that were worth LE 26 for only LE 13, and people are still not happy with the prices.”

Factory owners also face high import and port tariffs on foreign-made fabrics.

The combination of those factors has industry players worried that they will never be able to make up the gap with foreign manufacturers.

“Today everything in our life is Chinese and they will keep expanding everywhere until one day […] there won’t be anyone else to compete against them,” says Ahmed Sakr, a Salmone native who has a business in Cairo.

While Salmone and other industrial regions were reeling from a market saturated by international competition, the economic crisis may have put the final nail in the coffin. According to Dr. Amirah El-Haddad, an economics professor at Cairo University, textile production has dropped 25% since fall 2008.

Losing the domestic sales battle in the short term does not always spell the end of an industry. The export market, where Egypt had found success in the past, offered the potential to compensate for losses.

But the lowering of international trade barriers in the middle part of this decade put the country in direct competition with textile powerhouses like China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia. (In early 2005, just after one major trade barrier was dropped, exports from China and the US doubled.)

Developed countries with highly efficient production facilities made gains in the international marketplace, leaving many Egyptian firms out in the cold.

Dusty Workrooms

The textile sector, which employs about 25% of Egyptian workers, has suffered the brunt of liberalization. But it is not the only domestic industry reeling from Cairo’s embrace of the free market. Former stalwarts like cotton, marble, and auto production have also experienced difficulty adjusting to global competition.

“Unemployment is a huge disaster now in Egypt that should be solved immediately, before it gets even worse,” says El-Samouly. With the government focusing on other aspects of economic recovery — the vast majority of its stimulus dollars have gone towards infrastructure — the textile industry, and the people of Salmone, will likely have to weather the storm on their own.

While business is bad, El-Haddad says a sector-wide recovery is possible

“After the crisis recedes, things are expected to get better,” she says. “If [manufacturers] hang in there for a year or two, they may be able to revive their business.”

Despite the challenges, some Salmone residents remain optimistic.

“We are capable of doing anything that the market requires,” says El-Shafie, the factory owner. “We just need chances. We need fair prices for the fabrics we are using. We need export markets to open. [Then] we will be able to revive the industry.”

Inside the small workshop he shares with brothers Abdo and Mohamed, El-Shafie stares at the floor. Colored threads, half unspooled, spill into a corner and mix with spider webs. Cloth has been left on the machines, and the dust is thick enough to taste. No one has entered the space for at least a month.

“The village is dying and no one cares,” says Mo’awad El-Shafihe. bt

Learning a lesson from ‘Tunis’

Visiting Fayoum last week for the first time after the revolution, I was actually expecting to see the people there in a bubble or as i see many people in Cairo, opposing the revolution and blaming it for everything. I though I’d find them not really aware that there are protests still going on, especially that it was not one of the cities that were making the news during the revolution, except for the prison incident.

Although the trip was not to cover anything related to the revolution or politics, it was good to hear from people there how they feel about the revolution and the situation now in Egypt. We drove around Fayoum, but our main stop was in ‘Tunis’, a beautiful village overlooking the lake, famous for pottery, and most of the people living there are farmers, foreigners, or Egyptians who come rest there away from the bustling city life. Although the word ‘journalist’ sometimes freak out people especially these days, the people of the village were very helpful and took as around, until we got to meet one of the village’s famous contractors Hajj Sayed Abdel Sattar.

When asked about the revolution and politics, he said that people here are happy about the change, adding that it was right about time that things change. He also said that protests are still going on there because people will continue to fight for change. But for me, I expected him to say that people were first supporting the revolution and then turned against it when they felt things are still not getting better for them, as it is the case with many people i spoke to in Cairo, and when he didn’t mention then i asked him. His response was actually the lesson i learnt. He said that although the majority there understand that we are in a transition period and things will not get better at the moment, there were others who thought when the money of the former officials is returned, it will be re-distributed among the people. “It is the job of those who understand that this a common phase in every revolution and that it will take time until we see the real change, to explain to those who do not understand so that they don’t blame the revolution for everything we are seeing now,” says Abdel Sattar. He adds that we might be seeing worst conditions now, but people should understand that things will get better on the long-term.

Tunis might be a tiny village as compared to Fayoum, and even a dot on the map as compared to Cairo, but i totally believe that it is the duty of those who read and understand how revolutions work to reach out to people on the street and  help in spreading political awareness. I do not think it will be easy to continue with a successful revolution if we keep losing people on the way. Hussien Younis, a cab driver in his early thirties, was an employee at one of Zoheir Garrana’s travel agencies for over eight years. He used to make LE 1800/month, which were enough for him to support his wife and three kids. But after Garrana’s assets were frozen, Younis, like many other employees had to go find another job. Driving the cab, Younis says he barely makes LE 500 after the revolution. Being a devoted Tahrir protester and supporter of the revolution during the first 18 days, starting January 25th, Younis says he turned against it all when he found the prices going on, lost his job, and everything is going worse for him. The good thing that talking to people like him helps them understand that the situation will hopefully get better, but like he says, “me and many of the business owners in Downtown that i spoke to already would love to believe that this is just a transitional phase and things will get better,” explains Younis. “But it is much easier to believe that when you don’t have a family to support and nothing else to lose more than what you lost already.”

It is pretty simple.. many of us had the privilege of good education and if we do an extra effort of reading more and explaining to the people on the street, we might end up with more people willing to work, instead of having people who want to hijack the revolution. It is not only that people are not aware of the different levels or steps in a revolution, but also many of people on the street are not familiar with any of the terms they hear in statements, news or anywhere these days, like: the articles of the constitutional declaration and the condition to apply them only after the emergency law is over, the martial laws, the importance of voting and how to choose candidates, etc. It is important to pass whatever we learn to those who do not know, even just among people in your house or neighborhood.