Archive for January, 2011

Egypt, I don’t know where to start….I feel restless, can’t sleep and keep watching Al Jazeera, BBC world news, tweets about Egypt and everything that will give me news about Egypt.  I’m lucky as I returned back to the Netherlands just before chaos started. But I’m worried.  I left dear friends behind.

In the seven months that I spent in Egypt I got a sense of the dissatisfaction of people with the situation in Egypt and at the same time their fear of overly expressing their grievances. Poverty and high food prices were the main issues for people that I and my colleagues spoke to within the context of a study looking at the impact of bird flu and the rise of food prices on people’s livelihoods in Upper Egypt. Unemployment, lack of freedom of speech, financial insecurities are issues my personal friends had been struggling with.

A few of my friends, although lucky enough to have a job in the private or public sector, haven’t received their salary for months. Another does receive his salary; 140 Egyptian pounds per month but this salary, equivalent to about 17.50 euro, would not even be sufficient to buy a week’s basic food supplies, let alone other basic needs such as housing, electricity bills, clothes and transport. Another has big debts at several banks because he can’t find a job. The future doesn’t look particularly bright for people like them; people in their end 20s beginning 30s, who finished university or college and are eager to earn an income and maybe start a family. As a consequence these people accept any type of job, whether it is cleaning, serving tea or any other job far below their aspirations. No wonder these people become frustrated and disheartened. These protests give them an outlet for all the build up frustration and a sense of significance; of being part, and contributing to major changes in Egypt which are Insha’Allah for the best. I seriously think that most of these people are willing to stay put and fight if necessary regardless of the consequences for their safety. Egyptians are tremendously proud and fierce if tempted, this is something I learned quickly while in Egypt.

I’ve been able to communicate with my friends everyday for the past week, mainly through Skypecalls. They are all physically ok, although one of their friends has been arrested by the police for filming the demonstrations and haven’t heard from him so far. Some of my friends have been part of the demonstrations but most are now at home where they feel prisoners in their own house. Some of them have joined neighbourhood watch teams as armed gangs of idiots are abusing the current situation of lawlessness and chaos by robbing ordinary peoples’ homes and shops. Many are anxious and the situation seems to be worsening for them. Telephone cards are no longer sold so there is no way of communicating with the outside world and they are running out of cash to buy food as ATM machines are not operational and transportation is coming to a halt (no petrol is available and trains are no longer running).

I just received a message from one of them:

Dear Ellen i am OK
Don’t worry about us we are out calling for our freedom and we will not rest till we get it.
it is not easy but also we are not weak thousands of us has moved if not millions we will rest after we through [throw] moubarak away wish us luck and pray for us

I am proud, worried, excited and sad all at the same time but what can I do but pray and wish them luck…?


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Last week I went to a Tanoura performance with some of my Egyptian friends. I didn’t know what to expect as I didn’t know much about the meaning and origins of the Tanoura dance. The performance was amazing and touched me. Some of my Egyptian friends even had tears in their eyes…  I was eager to know more about the origins of this dance.  It turns out that Jalaluddin Rumi – a thirteenth century Persian Sufi and poet, whose poetry I love – is the founder of Tanoura dance.

These are some pictures I took of the performance, I love particularly the senior dancer who whirled for more than 30 minutes and truly seemed to be in a state of trance. I hope my pictures are able to transmit some of the beauty and mystical athmosphere of the evening.

'Tanoura dance is one of a variety of practices to induce mystical states of consciousness. The concept is built around the idea that the universe stems from the same point of rotation. Starting and ending at the same point, represented by the senior dancer, “Lafife” and symbolizes the Sun, while the junior dancers “Hanatia” are the constellation revolving around him.'

'The whirling motion itself reflects the importance of circles in Sufi philosophy and cosmology, within which revolution is the fundamental state of all beings. The aim during this ritual is to desert “the nafs” or ego (or personal desires) and listening to their master and Sufi music, thinking about God and whirling on a spiritual journey to reach the “Kemal” (the perfect).

The Alchemy of Love (by Jalâluddîn Rumi)

You come to us
from another world

From beyond the stars
and void of space.
Transcendent, Pure,
Of unimaginable beauty,
Bringing with you
the essence of love

You transform all
who are touched by you.
Mundane concerns,
troubles, and sorrows
dissolve in your presence,
Bringing joy
to ruler and ruled
To peasant and king

You bewilder us
with your grace.
All evils
transform into

You are the master alchemist.

You light the fire of love
in earth and sky
in heart and soul
of every being.

Through your love
existence and nonexistence merge.
All opposites unite.
All that is profane
becomes sacred again.

Sources I used for this blog:


The Love Poems of Rumi (edited by Deepak Chopra)

All the photos posted on my blog are owned by me and they should not be used without my permission

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