Will it ever change?

Rosa Parks on the bus

Yesterday i took a flight from Cairo to Johannesburg, but stopping first in Addis Ababa. The first flight went well, as well as the second one too, except for one incident. Almost everyone was on board already waiting for the plane to move when one guy insisted that someone else wouldn’t sit next to him. Sitting few seats away from him, i was able to get what the story was all about. The man stood up and told the flight attendant that he was sitting next to this other guy on the first flight, and that he has personal issues with him. The story turned out to be that (and im sorry for using labels but this is how it went) a white man decided than a black man shouldn’t sit next to him and his wife.

Almost everyone sitting around us got really angry because of the racist man, and not only this, but the flight attendant actually asked the guy to come with her so that could find him another seat. Passengers started screaming at the young guy telling him not to give up his seat or right, and if the other man and his wife are not happy then they should leave. But, the other man looked back at us saying ‘ it will never change.’

Rosa Parks refused to leave her seat, and it is not really about the seat, but actually about the idea and rights of these people. But even with her being the first woman (or black) doing so, they are still discriminated against, which proves that the other people dealing with them will never change; may be they just got a bit better. We call for a world where racism, but in every country we exclude a group for some reason, whether it is Egypt, US, or anywhere else in the world. I guess we just enjoy labeling people and then call ourselves non-racists.

Check this link for words from Parks

http://politiku.tumblr.com/post/6684283994/kindlemyheart-people-always-say-that-i-didnt

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Opening Soon?

The local movie industry is in a major slump and it could be years before it gets back on its feet again. By Lamia Hassan

of the 2010 Egyptian summer movies

 

(Business Today Egypt Magazine, November 2010)

Every year during Eid El- Fitr, Ibrahim Said and his wife Hoda Kamal take their three children to the movies. For most of the last decade and a half, they have been going to the Miami theatre in downtown Cairo, where massive banners outside the theater entrance usually advertise scores of top-flight Arabic-language movies.

But this Eid was different. There were only four locally-made films playing, none of which were in the running to win any awards.

“This Eid […] none of the movies are a good value,” says Said. “It’s not like in the past when people waited for the holiday season to see good, new Arabic movies.”

Miami is not the only Cairo movie theatre to face a shortage of local films. At the Galaxy theatre in El Manial, eight of

the nine movies showing at the end of September were in English. This marked the first Eid in recent memory where Arabic films took second billing.

Producers, actors and other film industry insiders say this is emblematic of a larger decline in local movie making. They blame the falloff on increasingly close ties between major studios and theaters, which have edged out smaller production houses, the global economic crisis and a short summer season punctuated by the World Cup and Ramadan. Some believe it could be years before the industry is back on its feet.

“The movie production business has been declining recently, and will continue to decline going forward,” says producer Gamal Al-Adl of Al-Adl Group. “This past summer season witnessed the success of only a couple movies, while all the others were failures.”

For years, the summer and the two Eid seasons coincided with the release of new Arabic movies. Between 2006 and 2008, the Egyptian cinema industry was booming; in 2008, over 50 films were produced, 41 of which made it to theaters. But in 2009, that number dropped into the 30s before bottoming out in 2010 with just 16 Egyptian films released through Eid El-Fitr.

Al-Adl says the main reason behind the recent drop is a fundamental shift in the way movies are released. In the past, production companies, distributors and theaters were separate entities. But now, several large companies own and control all three layers, squeezing smaller filmmakers out of the game.

“The market is dropping because these production companies are monopolizing the market and giving their movies better distribution, leaving out the other movies,” says Al-Adl.

Meanwhile, producers planning to release their movies this summer held back out of fear that a season shortened by Ramadan and the World Cup would diminish their chances of success at the box office. Some have postponed releases until Eid Al-Adha, when people traditionally have more time to see movies. Those films include Ahmed El-Sakka’s Ebn El Qonsol (The Son of the Consul), Adel Emam’s Alzheimer and Karim Abdel Aziz’s Faswel Wa Nowasel (A Break and We Get Back).

Broader economic trends have also taken their toll on the country’s film industry.

“Right before the economic crisis, the cinema industry in Egypt was booming. The revenues of the movies were doubling as compared to years before that, but the crisis came and brought everything down,” says Adel Adeeb, CEO of Good News production company.

Miami Cinema, one of Downtown Cairo's busiest cinemas (photo credit: Panoramio)

About 80% of a locally-produced film’s revenue comes from Gulf countries, which were hit especially hard by the downturn.

At the beginning of the 2009 summer season, revenues for the film industry were down 30% year-on-year. By the middle of the season they had dropped 50% and by the end they had plummeted 70%.

But while filmmakers blame things like piracy and the short seasons on the decline of the movie business, audiences place responsibility on studios which they say produce lackluster movies. “Most of the movies that I have seen at the movie

theatres recently are chick-flicks, and even those that are not have repeated plot lines and lack quality,” says Engy El-  Etreby, a frequent moviegoer. “Out of 10 Arabic movies that I have seen recently, I can only say that maybe one or two were good.”

Throughout its history, the Egyptian cinema industry has had its share of peaks and valleys. It flourished in the 1940s and 1950s, a time known as the “Golden Age” of Arab film, sagged in the 1960s, entered a transitional period in the 1970s and eventually picked up again in the mid-90s.

But local cinema’s current stagnation doesn’t spell the final chapter of Egyptian filmmaking. Adeeb sees the industry recovering a few years down the line. While some filmmakers are looking towards Eid releases this month for signs of a slight improvement, El-Adl is skeptical that the few movies that do come out will make a difference.

“The three or four movies that will be released will not really make a difference and the market will still be left without good movies,” says El-Adl.

“But the producers who are monopolizing the business are like supermarket vendors. They will soon realize they are out of quality produce and they’ll have to start looking for solid products again.” bt

MENA’s Hollywood?

With nation’s first private studio, film company hopes to entice foreign movies makers back to Egypt By Lamia Hassan

Screenshot- Yacoubian Building

(Business Today Egypt Magazine, November 2009)

  The upcoming blockbuster about the builder of modern Egypt, Mohamed Ali, was originally scheduled to shoot both here and in Syria.

But with production costs at Egypt’s state-owned film lots running almost double those of Syria, the maker of the LE 50 million film, Good News Company, moved shooting out of Egypt.

The decision was perhaps the ultimate condemnation of Egypt’s bureaucratized state-run studios — and it was far from the only one. Since the golden era of Egypt’s film industry in the 1970s, foreign and domestic filmmakers alike have been steering  clear of the increasingly costly local scene.

It is a situation that Good News hopes to change through the creation of the country’s first private studio.

Good News, which was behind hits like the Yacoubian Building, Haleem and Ibrahim El-Abyad, is planning to build 14 studios in Sixth of October City, with the first phase of construction slated for January 2010.

The plan represents the culmination of a two-year struggle for Good News CEO Adel Adeeb. For decades, the Egyptian government had denied applications by private companies to build film lots. At the same time, rates at the country’s handful of state-run studios were steadily rising.

Adeeb discovered, though, that there was no legal basis for the rejections.

“I found out that this had been just a custom and not law. I kept after it daily for two whole years. [I was hoping to] to change the situation for the benefit of the cinema industry,” he says.

Good News eventually got the sign-off from Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni,

Baby Doll Night movie poster

Minister of Trade and Industry Rachid Mohamed Rachid, Minister of Investment Mahmoud Mohieldin and Minister of Information Anas El-Fiqqi, allowing the company to begin the LE 35 million first phase of the studios.

With the ministerial go-aheads, as well as approval from the Egyptian Cinema Chamber, Good News got busy. In August, the company signed a deal with ARRI Group, the world’s largest camera manufacturer, during a press conference in Cairo.

ARRI will work as consultants for Good News, supplying camera equipment, training local staff, maintaining and upgrading gear and consulting on studio construction.

“I want our studios to provide better special effects, more space to be creative and technology that will save you time. This is the added value that we will be providing to the market,” says Adeeb.

Bringing Back Business

Once renowned as an international shooting location due to both its scenery and studios, Egypt as a filmmaking destination has been in decline since its peak in the mid 70s, when it was nicknamed the “Hollywood of the Middle East.”

Adeeb says his main goal for the new studios — which will be filled with digital equipment — is to lure international filmmakers back to Egypt. For years they have favored locations such as Malta and Syria.

“They will be saving almost 50% because the cost of using digital equipment is much cheaper than normal equipment,” says Adeeb. He also says that cheaper Egyptian currency will reduce costs for filmmakers.

Adeeb’s cost savings received a boost early this year with the government’s decision to exempt filming equipment from customs duties. The decision will ensure that international and domestic filmmakers can use the latest technology here.

But luring international films back to Egypt is not just about costs and technology; Egypt’s infamous bureaucracy represents another major hurdle.

When foreign companies shoot in Egypt, they have difficulty getting permission to film at historic locations, waste time waiting for the censorship bureau to approve scripts, and sometimes get harassed by police when filming on the streets, says Adeeb. “Even when the police cooperate with us while shooting on the streets, people keep on harassing us [wanting] to appear in the movie, or make noise to ruin the shot.”

According to Adeeb, local filmmakers pay LE 10,000 per hour to shoot at a site with antiquities, “and the hour does not start from the moment we start shooting, but it starts from the moment we enter the site.” Foreigners are charged around double, he says, claiming that prices in nearby Syria are around half of those here. “When I asked there [in Syria], while shooting Leilet El Baby Doll [Baby Dolly Night], for battle tanks, they charged me $20 per day for each, with ammunition. Can you believe that?” he asks incredulously.

During a series of March meetings between the Egyptian Cinema Chamber, producers and heads of artistic syndicates, Moneeb Shafie, head of the chamber, discussed ways to draw filmmakers here.Shafie listed three major steps that need to be taken: decrease custom charges, speed up censorship bureau script approval — it currently takes 30 days — and reduce prices at shooting locations.

Change is slowly taking place, as the decision to remove customs on equipment is showing results.

One notable success was the filming of sections of Transformers II — one of Hollywood’s biggest hits this year, earning $200 million in its first five days — at the Pyramids, in Luxor at the Valley of the Kings and at the Egyptian Media Production City (EMPC) studios.

“It was generally a very enjoyable experience but there are things that definitely could be improved,” says Ilt Jones, the film’s location manager, of shooting here.

European filmmakers, with lower budgets than their American counterparts, are also being encouraged to come back. “We shot part of a feature film in Egypt, mostly at EMPC last summer, and our experience was positive,” says producer Roy Anderson of the Norway’s Nordisk Film. “The production went smoothly because Egypt has a very talented crew regarding the film industry.”

He called the venture “cost effective” and the location convenient. “I would like to film in Egypt again if the possibility presents itself in the future.”

Good News hopes its cutting edge technology and professional expertise, along with state-backed legislative changes, will usher in a new golden era for the Egypt’s cinema industry.

Already, the reviews have been good.

“Good News provides great facilities, offering a great potential for the film industry,” says director Marwan Hamed, who worked with Good News on The Yacoubian Building. “It should make it easier for production companies around the world to come shoot here.” bt

Egypt: new vision/division?

 

Sitting with friends joking about the latest gossips in town, one of my friends brought up that her sister was at H&M CityStars the other day and saw that they started covering the models’ bodies in the photos like they do in some countries (i.e Saudi Arabia). When that first came up we just made fun of that and laughed about it, as both my friend and her sister were not sure then what this is really about or if it happened by mistake in one photo. But, it wasn’t until the next day that my friend’s sister went back to the store and this is when we saw the first actual photo from there.

H&M CityStars covering the model's leg (photo by Dalia Rabie)

 

What started as a joke turned into a serious concern when i decided to go beyond the photo taken at the story, and dig more in the website.

 

When I saw the first photo my intention was just to simply go on the website and find the same photo of the dress there, and see whether it is the same on the website or they just covered in the store. My surprise was when i decided to open both the Egypt and US versions of the website and compare the latest collections. It was funny to see the two sides of it as the same model appears in one photo wearing shorts and on the other version with legs covered.

H&M website Egypt Vs. US (photo credit: H&M website)

I was faced by a question: is that a new direction H&M Egypt is taking or it was always there but we never noticed? Being a frequent visitor to the store, i remember well that i have seen photos of models wearing shorts and skirts without having their legs covered, which makes me sure now that this is kind of new, but just not sure how recent it is. What i found funny is that unlike Saudi they are not covering all the skin, but they cover the legs and arms in one photo, legs only in one and then arms in another, which was a bit weird and not clear. I understand that in Saudi it is part of their culture that they cover-up the models in photos as women are all covered there, as well as doing it from a religious side. But, the fact that maybe the owner took this decision lately or suddenly noticed that the store here is different than other stores needs to be justified. We have a totally different culture here, one that we even see now stricter than how it was back in the 60s and 70s, but still not a seriously strict one; not as free as Lebanon now, but at the same time different from Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

H&M website Egypt vs. US (photo credit: H&M website)

 

Living in this country for over 24 years now, I am totally aware that there might be many frustrations about life in Egypt, but there were also some privileges that I always enjoyed and was not sure that anything would ever change those privileges. Although women get harassed almost anywhere they go, no matter what they are wearing or their age group, but at the same time we enjoyed some freedom that maybe some other countries in the Middle East (example: Saudi Arabia and others) might not have. Visiting Saudi Arabia once, i might not be the best judge, but i was able to notice some of the differences between Egypt and there. While shopping there, i noticed that most of the international stores there have a specific fashion line for ladies there, for example Mango, Vero Moda, as women there wear long skirts or dresses underneath their abayas most of the time.

H&M website Egypt vs. US (photo credit: H&M website)

When i went to looking for the fitting room in most of the stores i found out that women are not allowed to try the clothes in stores, instead you have to buy them, maybe go try them at the rest room in the shopping mall, and if they do not fit you go back to exchange them. Walking around with my cousins at the mall, when we tried to find a cafe’ or somewhere to sit for a bit, i found out that many of the cafe’s and restaurants wouldn’t let you sit unless you are with your family. Not only that, but most of the cabs wouldn’t take you if you are a girl on your own; we were in groups most of the time. Other than the shopping and cabs’ experience, most importantly, women of the country were always prohibited from driving, and also Saudi women, as well as those visiting, are not allowed in or out of the country unless they go with their guardian (mehrem).

 

Back to Egypt, although the numbers of veiled were dramatically increasing over the past years, still we never had the pressure of having to be all covered to leave the house, like in Saudi, no one limits who you sit with at restaurants and women were allowed to drive. Also, men and women sit together normally, without someone asking how they are related to one another, like the ‘Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice’ Committee in Saudi do, as they enforce the Saudi rules on people of the country and visitors there.

 

I remember maybe a year or couple years ago Egyptian businessman Naguib Sawiris brought up that the country we’re living in is not the Egypt he knew. He pointed out that the veil covering almost half the body (what’s referred to in Arabic as khemar) and the niqab (full-face veil) were transferred to our country from other countries (like Saudi and Afghanistan). When he said so people attacked him claiming that he offended the veil, but what he said was actually true. It’s not that the other countries are bad or it is a shame to have these veils, but it is just that it’s not our country.

 

The H&M thing might be a coincidence, and I might be overreacting about it, but it is just that i feel that our country might be moving to a new direction, a kind of backward direction, one we did not plan or aim for. I guess I or someone needs to visit the store to find out the story behind that because it is not like a trend in CityStars. It is more an H&M thing as i saw the same in H&M Dandy Mall.

Please check the website to see the difference yourself: http://www.hm.com/eg/summertime#path=1.1.7&transition=10&duration=500 & http://www.hm.com/us/summertime#path=1.1.7&transition=10&duration=500

Who Are the Sufis?

Considered more mystical than political, Sufis have enjoyed relatively little harassment from the authorities By Lamia Hassan

photo credit: Islammemo

(Egypt Today Magazine, May 2011)

Sufis, more often than not, are not media-savvy, and they keep away from the limelight, giving

the impression that there aren’t many of them in Egypt. However, Sufis do have a strong presence; in fact, unofficial reports put the number of Sufi adherents across the country at 10 million.

Although it is said that Sufism first appeared during the ninth century in Iraq, Sufis usually trace their origins and roots to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), who they consider to be their first sheikh. The 11th-century Persian Imam Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali and the 13th-century Mawlana Jalaludin Rumi, from what is now Tajikistan, were among the early popular Sufi thinkers. Another revered scholar is the 14th-century Shah Naqshband Muhammad Bahauddin Uways al-Bukhari from what is now Uzbekistan and for whom the Al Naqshabandi order is named.

Sufism first became popular in Egypt following the 1952 Revolution and during the rule of the late President Gamal Abdel Nasser.

 

Beliefs

 

Unlike other movements or religious sects, Sufism is more about philosophical or spiritual thinking than it is about dogma or political practice for instance. Sufism involves self discipline, above all, and regulating day-to-day behavior in an attempt to submit to God in preparation for the day when the soul meets Him.

Over 70 schools of thought and religious orders fall under the umbrella of Sufism in Egypt, but many of those orders originated outside of Egypt.

There aren’t any constraints or rules for people to become Sufi; anyone can become a Sufi, choosing the school of thought or sheikh they would like to follow under that umbrella.

Unlike Salafis, Sufi Egyptians have one sheikh leading the group — Sheikh Al- Toroq Al-Sufiya or the Sheikh of the Sufi orders, appointed by the Egyptian president — under which all the different Sufi schools fall. In practice, Sufis seek divine truth and love through ‘direct encounters’ with God, as shown in their prayers and the way they address Him. The origin of the name itself might not be very clear to the followers. Some believe it is derived from the Arabic word suuf (wool), since some of the early adherents used to wear worn-out wool, a harsh fabric that was meant to symbolize their disinterest in the material world.

Sufis achieve a mystical state of mind when performing their rituals. They are very famous for zikr, a ceremony that involves repetitive prayers coupled with certain movements aimed to be an act of remembrance of God.

Sufis visit shrines regularly and celebrate mulids (religious festivals) honoring the birth and death days of revered sheikhs or thinkers at mosques housing their shrines. The city of Tanta is famous for the popular Al Sayed Al-Badawi, while Alexandria has numerous shrines and a concentration of Sufi adherents as well.

Sufis are not confrontational in nature and have not been perceived as a political threat over the years.

 

Role in Post-Mubarak Egypt

 

Sufis are one of the few sects that did not have negative encounters with former President Hosni Mubarak’s government.

Although apolitical during the Mubarak era, Sufis have made a more open appearance in the public sphere post-revolution and for once showed their anger at the destruction of several Alexandrian Sufi shrines, allegedly by Salafis. So far, however, they have not shown significant interest in politics. et

 

Who Are the Salafis?

A look at the school of thought inspiring a controversial group By Lamia Hassan

(Egypt Today Magazine, May 2011)

Contrary to popular perception, Salafis — unlike the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic Jihad or Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiya — are not a faction, but a school of thought comprising individuals who follow a dogmatic approach to Islam.

Salafism is a form of al daawa (the call), and its adherents do not follow a specific leader or guide. They do share, however, the rules and curriculum that none of them deviates from — but the degree of observance of these rules and what they see as the uncompromising tradition of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) ranges from extreme to moderate.

To understand the way they think, one understand how this fikr (thought) seeped into Egyptian society. The root of the word Salafis comes from the word salaf or ancestor and refers to the first three generations of Muslims who are considered exemplar models. The full reference is sometimes Al-Salaf Al-Saleh, or the Pious Ancestors — a phrase that is also remnant of early Islam.

The Salafi movement first emerged with Imam Ahmed Ibn Hanbal during the Abbasid era, circa the eighth century AD. The prominent scholar is also the founder of the Hanbali school of Islamic thought, credited with influencing the

rise of Salafism.

Following Ibn Hanbal came Ahmed Ibn Taymiyyah, who appeared after the fall of the Abbasid empire. He was stricter than Ibn Hanbal in terms of keeping to the verbal tradition of the earliest generations of Islam, down to the details of everyday living.

A third person who influenced the evolution of the Salafi movement, especially in its modern form, is Mohamed Ibn Abdel Wahhab, the 18th-century Saudi thinker and scholar who founded Wahhabism. The term Salafi first appeared in Egypt in the 19th century in Al-Azhar University through scholars such as Imam Mohamed Abdou and Gamal Eddin Al-Afghany.

Many believe that Salafism was imported by Egyptians returning home after living and working for decades in the Gulf, specifically Saudi Arabia. This ideology is clearly manifested in conservative dress codes such as the niqab (face veil) for women and white ankle-length robes for men.

 

Beliefs

 

In a nutshell, Salafis follow what they consider the purest form of Islam, seeking to emulate the version practiced during the time of the Prophet, Al-Sahaba (his companions), and the two generations following them.

They do not advocate violence, but are partial towards jihad. They do not believe in the separation of religion from rule, since they advocate politics and economics should be inspired by Sharia.

They do not approve attempts of innovation and favor of a more literal understanding of Islamic laws.

A common misconception, however, is that Salafis prohibit Muslims from visiting graveyards. They allow visiting the dead, but prohibit visits to shrines, practicing rituals or making supplication to the dead. They also do not approve of building mosques around them.

 

Role in Post-Mubarak Egypt

 

Salafis have built grassroots support in the past couple of decades, gaining popularity among various socioeconomic classes.

As with many other religious movements, Salafi practices and movements were tightly controlled under Mubarak’s rule. Their sheikhs were present in mosques, but their tongues were tied. Salafis satellite channels, heavily funded by Saudi Arabia, were mostly popular among adherents only.

Following the revolution, Salafis have become more visible. A group that has never taken part in the political life, the Salafis are now trying to create a political force. Ironically, they had always criticized the Muslim Brotherhood for focusing on politics arena, as opposed to religion.

Many citizens are concerned about the rise of Salafis, especially over signs of extremism spotlighted in the mainstream media. Some Salafi sheikhs have also taken a stance against those who voted ‘no’ on the March 19 constitutional referendum, claiming that Article 2, which guards Egypt’s Islamic identity, would be scrapped. et

Bad Luck Haunts Advertising

Television advertising expects to see a bad year following the revolution By Lamia Hassan

(Business Today Egypt, May 2011)

Although many local and international satellite channels saw a sharp rise in viewership as unrest swept through Egypt, most also experienced a huge drop in their television advertisement revenues. The wave of protests here, as well as in several of Egypt’s neighbors, shifted what citizens watched. Instead of tuning into their favorite sitcoms, viewers were constantly checking for updates on 24- hour news channels, eagerly awaiting the latest information as Tunisia, Egypt and other Arab nations descended into chaos.

Like many industries dealing with the ramifications of the revolution, ad agencies are witnessing a serious slowdown in business, especially those specializing in television advertising. They, like many, are holding out hope that cash flows will return to this once profitable industry by the end of 2011, but insiders say they will be lucky to salvage even 50% of their business.

A murky path

When the protests began on January 25, people did not expect anything to come of the demonstrations, which meant companies and financial institutions remained

open for business. But soon after, the demonstrations became violent and commerce shut down around Cairo for at least a week. Many of those businesses stayed closed for much longer, with some shuttering offices even after former President Hosni Mubarak stepped down.

For television advertisers, the situation [would have been] even more complicated. “During the 18 days [of the revolution] it would have been impossible to advertise for anything, as this was a poke at the country and the whole world, so you definitely would not be advertising for toothpaste or anything similar during that period,” says Naila Hamdy, professor of journalism and mass communications at the American University in Cairo. “And, following that there was an economic situation, where people were still not sure and also advertisers were still not sure how to advertise.”

Usually, TV ads are booked depending on the viewership of a program or channel. The most expensive TV ads would often garner huge audiences thanks to their placement during breaks on popular talk shows. The highest rated shows enjoyed the premium advertisers, with the largest number and most costly ads booked during the muchanticipated Ramadan mosalsalat season that boasts the highests viewership ratings all year.

During the revolution, talk shows that used to discuss human interest stories, with a smattering of news, social and cultural

activities and entertainment, shifted their focus to hard-news coverage, while others shut down completely.

“For a very brief period of time at the beginning of the revolution, some channels

banned ads, but this was maybe a week only, while after this they started accepting ads

again, but the advertisers’ appetite was very low, as they were very suspicious about advertising,” says Shaheer Farag, head of business management at UM Egypt. “Mobinil and a minimal number of clients, for example, went on air with relevant [pieces] about the revolution, but there was definitely a delay in advertising during this period of time.”

UM Egypt is an ad booking and buying agency. Its job is to tell advertisers where to put their ads as well as slotting the best time for them and then purchasing that air time on behalf of the company.

Farag says even after the 18-day revolution, some advertisers were still skeptical about conditions in Egypt and whether it was the right time to go on air, particularly since most of the programming was dedicated to revolution news coverage, which isn’t something most companies had appropriate material for. He says as of April, the sector has seen a 70% drop in revenues compared to the same period in 2010.

According to “Egyptian Revolution and Impact on the Egyptian Advertising Scene,” a presentation put together by Mindshare MENA media company last month, most advertisers abstained from airing ads during the first few days of the revolution, despite a dramatic increase in viewership.

At the end of the month, the number of viewers was still high as compared to previous rates. That’s when entertainment show ratings started going up again, bringing some advertisers back to the scene with programs dedicated to Egypt, the revolution and patriotism.

In March, viewer numbers started to return to normal, but ad agencies and on air bookers were still reeling from a 27% drop in February versus the 58% increase in television- advertising profits the year before. The presentation also pointed out that advertisers were split between airing material related to Egypt, patriotism and nationalism, announcing new corporate social responsibility projects or airing their usual lineup of ads.

“I do not really see a reason why the television advertising sector will not be affected like everything else in the country that was impacted by the current events in Egypt,” says Hamdy. “All businesses are affected at the moment, and I believe things will start improving again gradually when the economy starts improving too.”

Hamdy says though the actual revolution ended after the 18 days, its effects are still rippling outward. It seems every minute brings some change, which shows the situation is not stable for the media and advertising worlds.

Mindshare MENA’s study of television viewership and attitudes between Januaryand the beginning of March 2011 shows dubbed serials were the most popular programming, followed by talk shows and Arabic series during the third week of January. In the second and third weeks of February, the highest rated programs were talk shows, with most viewers tuning into Al-Ashera Masa’an on Dream channel and then programing on the Mehwar network. During the fourth week of February and the first week of March, talk shows again garnered the highests audiences. However, during that time, advertising numbers did nto improve.

Ramadan shift

But according to Farag, there is a possibility that the sector might not be able to recoup its losses during Ramadan because fewer new and innovative programs are expected to air.

“Out of the total profits of the year, 50% comes from the ads aired during Ramadan,” says Farag. “People this year are not expected to be going after new material, so for example if last year you had 60 series, this year you will have only 10, which will highly affect the sector.”

This is a serious charge in light of the role Ramadan plays for television advertisers. During an interview with Business Today during Ramdan last year, producer Gamal Al-Adl of Al-Adl for Media Production said the number of Ramadan series rises every year, as they have become a large part of the “advertising revenue cake” and that advertisers in Egypt and the Gulf spend a combined LE 1.3 billion during Ramadan.

Farag says there will likely be fewer shows this year because many of the series produced during Ramadan require government funding.

“As the government and the ministries are now going through dramatic changes, expect that there will definitely be a drop in the number of programs or series that they used to produce before,” says Hamdy. “Also, Egyptians will not be giving their full attention to series during Ramadan like previous years because the few months between the revolution and Ramadan (set to start in August) are not enough to make everything go back to normal.”

Oxford Business Group’s Egypt 2010: Media & Advertising report states average daily viewership hours jump to seven hours during Ramadan, as compared to four and a half hours the rest of the year. It also states Egypt has the largest number of televisions per capita in the Middle East and North Africa at 200 television sets per 1,000 people.

Due to the instability, there are no guarantees that the situation will improve any time soon, but industry watchers remain hopeful.

Hamdy she expects things may start improving after elections. “Once we have a president for the country, things will improve,” she says.

Farag adds that the advertising industry grew substantially over the past few years because of real estate projects, government- sponsored ads and high competition between different agencies. It will take time before advertisers are sure what direction they want to go.

“The quality will not be compromised, on the contrary, now people are expecting even better quality, but it all revolves around stability,” he says. “If we, by the end of this year, get to 50% of 2010 [profits], we will be very lucky.”bt