Dancing in Muqattam


An everyday story of life in Egypt.


Refaat Mohamed
4 March 2013

An old person peeks through the window of a building in the district of Muqattam. The building belongs to a group who used to be religious, but have always had political aspirations. They fought hard for their goals using a variety of methods that inexorably failed, until this old man came along. This old man goes by the initials MB just like his group.  KS, his right hand man, and second in command was as much as a decade younger than him, but they suited each other, the latter’s pragmatic, Machiavellian ways serving the aspirations and schemes of MB for a long time.

Then there turns up the third in command, MM, who was a nobody one year ago, but who is now the most powerful person in the country, despite ranking third in command in his group. Although there are a lot of people who rank lower than him, they usually outshine him, most probably due to his bad communication skills. He comes over as a vulgar, indecent man, and the way he speaks always leaves you with a feeling of mild distaste, as if you were in the presence of someone not quite honest. Despite the simplicity of his speech, and the rusticity of his gestures and vocabulary, he never could give a straight honest answer, even  if you asked him the simplest question.  He would always answer with an endless, meaningless speech.

When the old man MB took a peek from the window, he saw two young men holding cameras, directed at a small group of teenagers, young men aged 15-27. Then he saw the police car with three poor, skinny policemen sitting inside. He shut the drapes and paced the room in obvious disquiet.  Then he picked up the phone and called the police station. Knowing MB, the police officer responded as if he was talking to his superior.

Officer: Is everything ok Sir? I just checked with the officers in front of your building, and they said everything was quiet.

M.B: Yes, yes, it’s all quiet for now, but people are starting to gather in front of the building, and I am getting worried.

Officer: Yes, but I cannot bring any more forces to protect your building, especially since our forces are stretched out all over the country with all the protests everywhere, and civil disobedience in several cities.

MB doesn’t want to hear about the protests as he doesn’t believe that these are anything more than thugs who are trying to bring his victory into disrepute. So he ends the call abruptly, and calls KS.

MB: Did you see facebook and twitter ?

KS: No, not yet I have people especially hired for that, and I read the reports at the end of the day, why?

MB: It’s that stupid thing that was supposed to happen today: it looks like it really is happening. A lot of people are gathering now as we speak.

KS: Did you call the police?

MB: It’s no use, they won’t send more forces.

K.S: Mmmm, did you try to call MM, maybe he can call the Ministry of Interior or something.

MB, angrily: MM is a puppet, I will call him when I need to warm my hands

KS: Yes, yes, I know. Plus he is a pushover: they wont listen to him

MB: Wait, wait, I hear noises, and music.

He opens the drapes and peeks out again to find the number of kids increasing to a couple of hundred, and more press and cameras joining the crowd.

MB: Damn the press with their cameras.

KS: Just stay calm, and describe the situation to me, because if there are a dangerous number we can always mobilize our troops to beat the crap out of those kids. We don’t have to explain ourselves to no one, they are the ones who came to our headquarters.

MB: I don’t know, they are not doing anything - it’s just a lot of kids, wearing strange clothes. A lot of them are bare-chested. One kid is standing in the middle, doing some sort of strange dance.

K.S: What sort of dance?

M.B: You know, a dance

K.S: Just a dance?

M.B: Alright alright, he is air humping, he is pointing his crotch towards the building. I don’t get it. Is that it ?


Several witnesses said that they heard cries coming out of the building, that drowned out the sound of the music.

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