Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Is there a "Western underground" in Egypt?

Michael Totten explains:
The first time I traveled to Egypt I was shocked at how Islamicized the place is compared with other Arab countries I’ve visited. It’s liberal compared with Saudi Arabia, but that’s not saying much and, besides, I’ve never been to Saudi Arabia. Egypt is still the most conservative Muslim country I’ve ever seen.

It’s hardly less Islamicized now than it was in the middle of the last decade, but modern liberal “Western” culture is nevertheless a little more visible now than it was. And that’s something. It’s not yet enough to bring Egypt fully into the 21st century, but it’s something.

This summer in Egypt my colleague Armin Rosen showed me a copy of magazine called Awesome that he found in a coffeeshop. We were both surprised to see anything like it in Cairo at all. A magazine like that in the United States would be described, if you’ll allow me to use an outdated term, as part of the counterculture. Awesome is in some ways like an Egyptian version of Vice, which makes it defiantly anti-Islamist and anti-traditional even though little of the content is actually about politics.

Egypt’s 21st century underground, which seemed to scarcely even exist in 2005, has begun to emerge in public. If I lived in Cairo, the people I’d want to hang out with in my spare time are those who write for and enjoy reading this magazine.

You can now read all the digital copies yourself online.

Founder and publisher Asem Tageldin lived in the United States for a few years when he was a kid, so you could say he was partly Westernized by immersion at an impressionable age. He has been living in Cairo since he was ten, though, so he’s really more Egyptian than he is American. Since he never did get American citizenship, he’s technically strictly Egyptian.
It's a longie but a goodie.  Check it out.

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