Protests mirror Egypt religious, cultural heritage

Witty banners show sense of humor


The latest protests that swept Egypt since Jan. 25 have not only shown the perseverance of Egyptian youths as far as political reform is concerned, but also reflected their cultural and religious heritage in addition to the sense of humor that they are famous for.

The names Egyptian protestors gave to the days on which they stage their demonstrations reflect the prevalence of religious symbols. Names like Friday of Rage, Bloody Wednesday, and Sunday of Martyrs as well as Perseverance Week mirror the Holy Week in Christianity and the names of Christ’s last days before Crucifixion—Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Palm Sunday.

Protestors vowed to give similar names to future protest days in case Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak does not step down like Tuesday of Rally, Wednesday of Unity, Thursday of Departure (when the president is supposed to board a plane), and Friday of Take Off (when the president’s plane takes off) followed by Saturday of Light (when the people see the light and are granted their freedom).

Prayers have also played a major role in Egyptian protests. Friday prayers inaugurated the protests of Friday of Rage and Friday of Departure, where the latter witnessed the rally of more than a million protestors in Tahrir Square in Downtown Cairo.

On the Sunday of Martyrs , Egyptian Christians prayed in a mass that blessed all the youths who lost their lives in the protests. The mass was followed by the Muslim noon prayers. Then both Muslims and Christians united together in singing patriotic anthems that dispelled all allegations about Muslim-Christian animosities in the country.

Camels and horses

The events of Bloody Wednesday, when a group of thugs entered Tahrir Square on camels and horses and attacked the protestors, revealed another side of the Egyptian culture that seemed extremely opposed to the general trend of the revolution.

The spectacle of horses and camels coming into the square and their riders displaying swords and whips took Egyptians back to the Middle Ages and established a stark contrast between the attackers and the organizers who started the revolution through social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter.

Horses and camels are only seen in Egypt in working class districts as well as in historic sites like the pyramids, where they are basically used by tourists, but are never used as a means of transportation by average Egyptians as they go about their day-to-day affairs. However, seeing them in downtown Cairo was both ironic and sad.

Egyptians’ sense of humor

The protests also revealed the way Egyptians maintain their sense of humor even in the toughest times. This is basically demonstrated in the banners protestors carry.

An example of this is a sign held by one of the protestors, addressing President Hosni Mubarak: “Please leave… my arm hurts.” A similar one is held by a man who has his child sleeping on his shoulder: “Please leave… my shoulder hurts.”

A newly married youth who obviously wants to start a new life and see his rights granted wrote: “Please leave. I got married 20 days ago and I miss my wife.”

Another protestor with long, disheveled hair held a banner that read, “Please leave. I want to get a haircut.”

Although Egyptians are generally known for being talkative and for their love of details, the Jan. 25 uprising revealed their talent in being to the point while never missing the point. In a couple of words and with an amazing wit, they sum up their demands and call for their right to be free.

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)