Monday, June 28, 2010

Protests and Elections

There are lots of protests here. But so far no significant movement on political reform or the lifting of the Emergency Law. Parliamentary elections are in October 2010 and presidential in early 2011. I heard Nathan Brown speak a few weeks before moving here and he emphasized that the Muslim Brotherhood was at a critical point after experiencing success in the 2005 elections but then being largely banned from participating in the 2007 and 2008 elections. It will be interesting to see how the Muslim Brotherhood navigates the upcoming elections (and how the government deals with the Brothers) and what position the Obama regime will take in terms of placing pressure on Mubarak to open up the elections. Adam Shatz offers an interesting view on the subject, stating that both the Mubarak regime and the Muslim Brotherhood "have reason to portray the Brothers as the only real alternative to the regime." According to Shatz, for the government the image of a Muslim Brotherhood electoral victory allows them to appeal to the West and evade any pressure for democratization. For the Muslim Brotherhood, it allows them to maintain their influence in Egypt and avoid total annihilation at the hands of the Egyptian security services.

Like Shatz, I have heard a few different names for the presidential race if the aging Mubarak decides not to run: Gamal Mubarak, his son; Omar Suliman, head of the Egyptian General Intelligence Services and one of the lead negotiators between Fatah and Hamas; and finally, Mohammed ElBaradei, the previous Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency. 2010-2011 will be an interesting year to test Shatz's theory that the National Democratic Party, Mubarak's party, and the Muslim Brotherhood have a shared interest in limiting the role of any other opposition party or movement, particularly in light of Brown's observation of growing frustration among the Brothers following what they view as a political re-stagnation since the 2005 parliamentary elections.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Egyptian Museum

I went to the Egyptian Museum yesterday for the first time and it was, as everyone says it is, an overwhelming experience. There are tons of incredible statues and mummies and busts. And at the same time it is not very well organized or well marked. There is so much history and no museum big enough to capture it all. However, we had a great AUC guide who took us through the museum somewhat chronologically and gave us a great overview of how ancient Egyptian art developed. We saw a selection of King Tut's treasures (and if anyone is trying to think of a gift for me, a pair of King Tut earrings would be great...). And it turns out that James Patterson's guess at King Tut's murder in his recent (bad) book is not that far off from what experts now think happened.

Last night I watched the USA-Ghana soccer match. It seems like Egyptians are really split over their soccer preferences. In my discussions with taxi drivers, all of them wish Egypt were in the World Cup and a number supported the USA against Algeria simply because they still have a strong hatred for Algeria since Algeria beat Egypt last year. The rest supported Algeria because they felt obligated by their Arab nationalist sentiments to support the only Arab representative. Last night was very similar--it seemed like most were supporting Ghana because of African unity and the desire to see Africa represented in the next round. Qaddafi must be proud. Although I wanted the USA to win, now I am supporting Ghana against all the European and South American teams. Y’alla Africa!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Getting Settled

Lev and I have finally settled into our new apartment in Zamalek, an island in the Nile in the center of Cairo. It's a great location and has a nice balcony with an almost-Nile view. Otherwise, the weather has been hot and our classes are in full swing, leaving us both exhausted and busy every day. I have 4 hours of class 4 days a week and a Qur'an reading class one day a week. Outside of class, I have tons of reading and other work to do and enough World Cup games to keep me entertained for a month or two (Go USA!).