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Cairo

10.07.15
1 min
Voyage

We still live in a world that is divided along cultural and economic lines – we want to change that and try to turn the perspective around: It is important to question the Western hegemony on the narratives of today. 

For this reason we’ve have come to Cairo: To listen, to learn, to explore. We’ve found beautiful minds, people and stories. 60voyages Cairo is a joint production of 60pages and MiCT

We begin to tell them here, until the authors we’ve met, will tell their own. 

Learning from Cairo

Georg Diez about about our first 60pages writers workshop
17.05.17
4 min
Voyage | Cairo

This was an experiment. We were going to Cairo for a workshop on the art of longform writing, with the generous support of MiCT and at a time of new tensions between the government and the press. The workshop was hosted by Townhouse Gallery, not far from Tahrir Square. Sep 1–3, 2015, morning, afternoon, dinner, tea and talk in between. 25 writers, activists, journalists. We wanted to talk about what stories need to be told and commission five to eight of them and publish them.

We always believed that part of today’s problems, both politically and journalistically, was a limitation of scope and perspective. What Indian essayist and novelist Pankaj Mishra called “the West and the rest” turns into a true liability if it comes to describing this world and how it changes. The West looks at Egypt and sees first an uprising, violence, a revolution; then change, the end of the old, the beginning of something; democracy? The election turns out differently. The Muslim Brotherhood is not what the West bargained for. So when the new president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi took over, there was a very loud silence from the part of Western governments.

It has been a rollercoaster ride and we came to listen and learn. Probably the most fascinating thing somebody told me in the last two days here in Cairo, the thing with the most far reaching implications, spanning the private and the political, the family and the state, regression and aggression and an overall unease with the way men are, was Egyptian writer, performer and director Nora Amin who said that Egyptian men are so spoiled by their mothers, so doted upon, so smothered with love that they go through life expecting this to never end.

Would the Middle East be a different place without these men? Probably. Is there a chance of that happening? Probably not. Do they care? No. Do they know? I guess not. Nora’s text was the first one that we published, it was a strong, moving, vulnerable text about rape and Tahrir and the everyday sexism of the Egyptian society. It was also about survival.

“Migrating the Feminine”, Nora Amin’s text, was published just after there were attacks by supposedly refugees on women in Cologne on New Year’s Eve of 2015/2016. Her text was like a commentary to everything that went wrong in the German debate after the events, the blame, the prejudice, the xenophobia and islamophobia that was growing more and more at the time. We were proud to publish this text, and the German newspaper “taz” picked it up as well.

The next text was Youssef Rhaka’s very daring essay on “Arab Porn”, a provocative and mindful examination of the fundamental changes the Egyptian society is living through as seen through the prism of sexuality and home-made porn — it is also a questioning of the self-understanding of protest and activism about producing change versus the change that is happening anyway, away from the streets, apart from the news.

We will publish two more from the Cairo workshop in the coming weeks. One is by Alia Mossallam who tells the story of loosing friends in the Arab Spring, of torture and fear of oppression and the deeper story of migration across the Mediterranean — all channeled through her very difficult and painful childbirth; only this pain, it seems, allowed her to access the other pain.

The final text by Amr Ezra will be the most genre-bending, an account of a double-life, to say the least, the life of a member of the Muslim Brotherhood turned activist in the Arab Spring movement — without telling his father about it. It is a story about the basic contradictions that run through every society, but those in particular where religious fanaticism is ruling; the basic contradictions that run through every family, but those in particular where the fear of the open and the other is cultivated to a degree that encourages lying.

What can we take away from all of this? There is so much we don’t know. It is best if we just come to learn and listen.

Freud without Freud

Georg Diez about the secret of Middle Eastern men
07.09.15
2 min
Voyage | Cairo

Probably the most fascinating thing somebody told me in the last two days here in Cairo, the thing with the most far reaching implications, spanning the private and the political, the family and the state, regression and aggression and an overall unease with the way men are, was Nora who said that Egyptian men are so spoiled by their mothers, so doted upon, so smothered with love that they go through life expecting this to never end. They have wives whom they expect to behave like their mothers, they think of themselves as strong men but are still the little sons they were thirty, fourty years ago. I don`t know if this explains everything, I don`t even know if it is true. But it totally makes sense, in the way that Freud without Freud always makes sense. Would the Middle East be a different place without these men? Probably. Is there a chance of that happening? Probably not. Do they care? No. Do they know? I guess not. But I trust Nora somehow on this as she is as smart and sharp as an Amazon Warrior has to be. This is what someone at the workshop called her. At least this is what I thought. It turned out that I did not hear correctly. But there still is some truth to this name, Nora said, and laughed.

The Strange Curve of History

Georg Diez about the second birthday of 60pages in Cairo
05.09.15
3 min
Voyage | Cairo

We were walking along July 26th Street, Murat and me, carefully avoiding the sun, trying to stay in the shade, when it dawned upon me that yes, today was the second birthday of this very site, 60pages. We were on our way to the Townhouse Gallery which Murat had a little trouble finding. We had both arrived in Cairo the evening before, and Murat had been at the Townhouse for a few hours, preparing everything for the workshop, but somehow the impression of this city which so much reminded him of the Istanbul he remembered from the months he spent there as a child confused him a little bit and he was taken back all those years while forgetting on the way the path, the indeed tricky path to Townhouse. You turn right a little past the very good pastry bakery, it is a street full of little stores selling car parts, something, Murat said, the Armenians used to do in his childhood memory of Istanbul. Then you turn left, try not to fall over the plastic chairs that substitute for a cafe, turn left again, and there you are. Sarah was already there, it turns out it was also her birthday, the 25th. Happy birthday, Sarah! And thank you for putting together this fabulous group of people, writers, journalists, activists, all there to discuss the beauty and necessity of longform writing. It was hot, it was long, but what a great conversation we had. Among the many beautiful and memorable things being said was Wael`s statement, the big bearded Wael, the poet who said that journalism should be considered as a form of art and not as the 4th estate of a democracy that is bound to a nationstate that Wael believes is about to fall. Not today, not tomorrow, not in Egypt specifically, but more generally, a brief and bloody episode in human history which is going to end soon. Wael looked not mad as he said this, rather benign. So what could this journalism be that is more than another accessory of the nationstate? Maybe just the same, only better? Lina of Mada Masr made her argument for longer and better writing, something we here want too, and she mentioned Walter Benjamin as a storyteller, going back from the early 21st to the early 20th century while still going forward. A very inspiring exercise in time travel. Alia also of Mada Masr was also for time travel, she proposed to talk about migration at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century, among the migrants Italians coming to Egypt to build the Suez canal. History is strangely curved, it turns out. And that time is not linear is something we had always suspected, no? July 26th, by the way, was the day that Farouq, the son of Kind Fuad, was forced to abdicate in 1952. In 2013, General Sisi called on the population to demonstrate against the Muslim Brotherhood. This is what our new friends at Mada Masr wrote back in 2013. They are lovely people. As are most of the Egyptians we talked to today. What a very nice birthday. Happy 60pages.

The West and the Rest

Georg Diez about the 60pages workshop in Cairo
01.09.15
2 min
Voyage | Cairo

This is an experiment. We are going to Cairo for a workshop on the art of longform writing, with the generous support of MiCT and at a time of new tensions between the government and the press. The workshop will be hosted by Townhouse Gallery, not far from Tahrir Square. Sep 1 till 3, morning, afternoon, dinner, tea and talk in between. We expect 20 to 25 people, writers, activists, journalists. We want to talk about what stories need to be told and commission five to eight of them and publish them here, at 60pages. We also want to expand our network of people trying to figure out the present.

We always believed that part of today’s problems, both politically and journalistically, was a limitation of scope and perspective. What Pankaj Mishra called “the West and the rest” turns into a true liability if it comes to describing this world and how it changes. The West looks at Egypt and sees – what: first an uprising, violence, a revolution; then change, the end of the old, the beginning of something; democracy? The election turns out differently. The Muslim Brotherhood is not what the West bargained for. So when Sisi took over, there was a very loud silence from the part of Western governments.

It has been a rollercoaster ride. We don’t pretend to understand it. This is why we come. To listen and learn. We plan more of these – what should we call them: workshops, pop-up editorial sessions, voyages? Let`s call them voyages, because the goal in a voyage is exactly that, learn, listen, change. This we want to share with you, here and now. So join us.

Learning from Cairo

Georg Diez about about our first 60pages writers workshop
17.05.17
4 min

Freud without Freud

Georg Diez about the secret of Middle Eastern men
07.09.15
2 min

The Strange Curve of History

Georg Diez about the second birthday of 60pages in Cairo
05.09.15
3 min

The West and the Rest

Georg Diez about the 60pages workshop in Cairo
01.09.15
2 min