Obelisque Magazine 2016

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Articles featured in Obelisque Magazine 2016

Indigo and the Turban

read article here

(Text and photography by Lesley Lababidi)

Indigo18 .Nov. 30, 2015, finalpdf-001

Kaber Sobhy, The Street of the Food. 

Read article here.

(Text by Lesley Lababidi; Photography by George Fakhry)

Sobhy 05 final Dec 6, 2015-001

Raouf Zaidan, Egyptian Opera

 Read article here.

(Text by Lesley Lababidi; Photographs by George Fakhry)

raouf article 12 .Dec 6, 2015pdf-001

Mahmoud Mandour, Artist and Potter

Read article here

(Text by Lesley Lababidi; Photography by George Fakhry)

Mohamed Mandour 6 .pdf final November 8th-001

From Lebanon With Love

read article here

(Text and photography by Lesley Lababidi)

From lebanon Dec 2,2015 final pdf-001

Street Art – Ibrahim Pasha

(Text and photography by Lesley Lababidi)

street art final .Nov 29,2015pdf-001

Book Review by Lesley Lababidi: Discovering Downtown Cairo

Book Review 144..pdf Final Nov 5,2015-001

 


 

*Copyright 2016 by Lesley Lababidi. All rights reserved under international copyright laws. To copy or re-produce photography and/or writings, written permission from Lesley Lababidi is required.

**Articles are seen in Obelisque Magazine 2016, all rights reserved. Photographs and text cannot be reproduced without the written permission of Obelisque Magazine and Lesley Lababidi and George Fakhry.

***To purchase the magazine, in Cairo, the best place is at Tanis at the First Mall, Giza. They usually always have a copy. The new, annual 2016 just came out so they should have the 2015 and 2016. Also in Zamalek there is a Tanis on 32 Mohamed Anis and Diwan Bookstore on 26th of July, Zamalek (sometimes sold out but they try to keep it in stock). Outside of Egypt, contact: obelisque_magazine@yahoo.com or info@obelisquepublications.com. Telephone: +201094449762.

‘Abbasiyya: a walk through a forgotten royal district

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Rococo decoration on Sakakini Palace built in 1897. See: http://nomad4now.com/articles-egypt/sakakini-palace-19th-century-luxury/

‘Abbasiyya, the place of Abbas, is a middle class district northeast of Cairo. ‘Abbas Hilmi I (r.1848-1854), nephew of Mohamed Ali Pasha, took over the administration after the Ibrahim Pasha’s death in 1847. He began to devote his attention to building palaces (7), a hospital, military schools and military barracks in a new suburb he called after himself, ‘Abbasiyya. He gave land to members of the royal family for them to build palaces. ‘Abbas extended the road system from Cairo to ‘Abbasiyya to encourage the royal family and ministers to live in the new district. Accounts from travelers at the time stated, “ ‘Abbasiyya claim that ‘Abbas’s palace “set an example for palace beauty and that the royal princes, like ‘Abbas himself, preferred to build in European fashions.” ( Pollard, Nurturing the Nation. p42).

From the city of Fustat in 640 that evolved in 750 to the Abbasid city of Al-Askar; to Ibn Tulun’s al-Qatai in 870 and finally the in 969 the Fatimid city of al-Qahirah—Cairo, each newly-found area stimulated the economy to promote public allegiance to the regime through expansion and by  destruction or neglect of the old system. It seems ‘Abbas Pasha might have decided to follow other rulers of Egypt by looking northward to create a new royal city himself. Unfortunately for ‘Abbas Pasha, he was murdered before his royal ambitions could be attained. Sa’id Pasha, his successor, let the burgeoning quarters fall into neglect.

Eclectic architecture of nineteenth and twentieth century in ‘Abbasiyya:

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‘Abbasiyya went under another period of growth under the Khedive Tawfik (r.1879-1892), who built his palace in the quarters. In 1892, the tramway lines operated to the neighborhood and ‘Abbasiyya became a popular residential district for palaces and villas for Egyptian elite, the British, and Egyptian middle class.

In 1885 Baedeker’s guidebook, Egypt, Handbook for Travellers,writes:

We follow the road to the left, leading direct to Abbasiyeh. On the right we pass a modern public fountain, and on the left an old burial-mosque and the ‘European Hospital.’ ‘Abbaisiyeh is a group of houses and cottage, founded by ‘Abbas Pasha in 1849, i order to afford suitable accommodation for the Beduin shekhs whose friendship he was desirous of cultivating, and who objected to enter the city itself. A large palace which formerly stood here has been replace by barracks in the most modern style, besides which there are numerous older barracks and a military school with a gymnastic-ground. The English troops are at present encamped here. Near the last barrack on the left is a palace of the ex-Khedive’s mother, and a little farther on, also to the left, rises the meteorological and astronomical Observatory. At the end of the houses of ‘Abbasiyeh begin the new garden which have been reclaimed from the desert. The road crosses two railways, passes the village of Kubbeh (Qubba), intersects beautiful orchard and vineyards, and leads under handsome acacias and past numerous sakiyehs to the Palace of Khedive Tewfik.  The vineyards, which were planted by Ibrahim Pasha, the grandfather of the Khedive, and contain various kinds of vines from Fontainebleau, are celebrated. This property formerly belonged to the late Mustaf Fazil-Pasha, the uncle of the Khedive.  The present palace , however, has been entirely erected by Tewfik himself. In the desert, is situated the Race Course, where races formerly took place annually in January.

 

(Hover cursor for information about Villa Yousef Pasha Soloman built in 1914. For more information and to see the interior  read: Egyptian Palace and Villas, 1808-1960 by Shirley Johnston, p130-133.)

‘Abbasiyya was a diverse district of various religious groups and nationalities. Churches, mosques, synagogues and hospitals, schools, cemeteries were developed for specific groups who lived in relative harmony. People from the Levant and Europe settled in ‘Abbasiyya built schools, factories, businesses, and considered Egypt as home. As for the Jewish community ( Read: Lucette Lagnado’s Man in a White Sharkskin Suit and Egypt Today, “Oral History of Egypt’s Jewish Minority.” May 2005.) , they had religious freedom, held government positions and many were part of the elite society.  After the UN approved the Partition Plan in 1947 to create Israel and after the Egyptian 1952 coup d’etat, everything changed.

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‘Abbasiyya was founded as a royal district in the middle of the desert by ‘Abbas Helmi I. A satellite settlement that started without roads, water, or  sewage works was certainly one reason for its slow beginnings. After ‘Abbas Pasha’s death,  the transferral of military power to the Qasr el Nil barracks by Sa’id Pasha changed the area of urbanization followed by  Ismail Pasha’s master plan of Ismailiyya in 1869, ‘Abbasiyya district remained stagnant until Khedive Tawfik took power with the British occupation. At the turn of the nineteenth century, palaces and European villas, upper-class apartment houses grew steadily with schools, hospitals, and religious institutions complimenting all groups. Unfortunately little survives of these archaeological gems and what remains will probably not survive much longer.

Some ‘Abbasiyya sights:

Further Reading: Nihal Tamraz. Nineteenth-Century Cairn Houses and Palaces, “Abbasiya as a Case Study of Nineteenth-Century Upper-Class Domestic Architecture.” AUC Press. 1998. p56-76.

*Thanks to Ahmed el Bindari for organizing the ‘Abbasiyya Walk’.

Heritage vs Urbanization: A Balancing Act

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**All rights reserved by Lesley Lababidi. To copy or re-produce photography and/or writings, written permission from Lesley Lababidi is required.

 

 

Announcements!

DSC_0262Announcement #1: A new sister blog: nomad4nowheritagecrafts.com features the Durbar celebrations in Nigeria.  Northern Nigeria has a long, rich history that has strong connection North Africa and the Middle East by way of the Saharan trade routes. The history, culture, and traditions celebrated during the Durbar is strongly influenced by trade and diffusion of culture. Beautifully handcrafted and dyed textiles, turbans, leather-works, armor, musical instrument handed down from generations to generations for the yearly celebrations are fascinating to study.  As an appreciator of authentic and traditional handicrafts, Nomad4now – heritage crafts intent is to focus on handmade crafts in Nigeria starting with Durbar heritage.

Announcement #2: New travel magazine, only Africa:
ModernAfricanCulture.com is a one-stop resource for contemporary African culture and products and festivals. See the Kano Durbar Festival here.

Click Here and let me know what you think!

MEDIA, REVOLUTION AND POLITICS IN EGYPT THE STORY OF AN UPRISING

Hassan ThumbnailNew Book by long time, dear friend, Abdalla Hassan, published by Reuters Institute, Oxford University. 

MEDIA, REVOLUTION AND POLITICS IN EGYPT
THE STORY OF AN UPRISING
Author:
Abdalla F. Hassan

For too long Egypt’s system of government was beholden to the interests of the elite in power, aided by the massive apparatus of the security state. Breaking point came on 25 January 2011. But several years after popular revolt enthralled a global audience, the struggle for democracy and basic freedoms are far from being won.

Media, Revolution, and Politics in Egypt: The Story of an Uprising examines the political and media dynamic in pre- and post-revolution Egypt and what it could mean for the country’s democratic transition. We follow events through the period leading up to the 2011 revolution, eighteen days of uprising, military rule, an elected president’s year in office, his ouster by the army, and the re-establishment of the military presidency. Activism has expanded freedoms of expression only to see those spaces contract with the resurrection of the police state. And with sharpening political divisions, the facts have become amorphous as ideological trends cling to their own narratives of truth.

Download the first chapter PDF

Author biography: Abdalla F. Hassan has worked as a multimedia journalist, editor and documentary filmmaker based in Egypt for nearly two decades. In 2010 he was a journalist fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford.

“This is a careful account of journalism’s roller coaster ride in the course of a decade in Egypt, by a writer, fully engaged with the country’s politics and culture and its struggle for a civil society. It is rigorously detailed and sourced, and breathes the air of liberation. Abdalla Hassan has shown, uniquely well, the forces at play in Egyptian society and the result is a most valuable testament.”

John Lloyd, Contributing Editor at the Financial Times and Senior Research Fellow, RISJ

Purchase a copy of the publication via Amazon or IB Tauris

– See more at: http://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/publication/media-revolution-and-politics-egypt#sthash.H2yMnBZV.dpuf

Cairo Sounds – Egyptian Folk Music

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El Baramka troupe: These are working fishermen from El Manzala Lake. Their dance is spontaneous and not choreographed, and rooted in their long-standing traditions.

El Mastaba Center has a brilliant line-up of Egyptian Folk Music in the month of October, 2015 (see schedule). Every Thursday at the El Dammah Theatre for 30 EGP (20EGP with reservations) enjoy an interactive evening of dance and song with troupes such as El Tanbura from Port Said and the Bedouin Jerry Can Band from Sinai.

El Mastaba Center celebrates its 15th anniversary, founded in 2000 by Zakaria Ibrahim,  and Cairo The Family Guide (AUC Press)  is proud to have been the first publication to write about the Center in its 2001 edition. Here is an excerpt from the Guide:

El Mastaba is an independent cultural center, which is dedicated to collecting and documenting Egyptian music, song, and dance, and recording it. Folkloric music is passed down through generations connected by instruments, language, beliefs, and communities. For example, the music of Rango developed when people from Sudan and Ethiopia began to settle in northern Egypt.

RANGO

Mohammad Ali’s army conquered Sudan in 1820. During the next  fifty years, Sudanese joined the army. Slaves were brought from Ethiopia and southern Sudan to work in cotton cultivation. People from these tribes formed communities such as one found today in Ismailiya—Arayshiyyit al-Abid (the Slaves Stockades), and they developed their music, which has similarities to Middle Eastern culture but with its own sense of rhythm and meaning. -Cairo the Family Guide.

The music of RANGO is performed on homemade instruments. There are only a few rango idiophones left in existence; the rango is a Sudanese marimba that is made of wooden keys with gourd-like resonators. The percussionists play on goatskin drums, use a recycled steel girder and shakers from aerosol cans. Wrapped around the dancer is a mangor— a belt made of hundreds of dried goats’ hooves. The tanbura—a huge wooden lyre draped in tassels and  beads—plays and important role in Zar music and probably originated in Upper Egypt.

NubaNour

NubaNour

NubaNour

 

NubNour presents traditional Nubian music, dances, and songs, many of which reflect the suffering of the Nubian people: in the 1960s, around 100,000 Nubians were forced to resettle in the desert without compensation when the rising waters from the construction of the High Dam flooded the villages of their homeland. Since then, they have suffered political marginalization and, as their way of life was tied to the Nile, a loss of identity and culture. However, their music continues to be inspired by this displacement and loss which figure prominently in their music. This music plays an important role in keeping alive the Nubian heritage and languages.

“Amandujr” is an ancient Nubian legend about the Nile. It tells how people drowned beneath the currents of the world’s greatest river never die and how their souls continue to live deep in the River bed.

Nubian people felt a great affinity with nature, living their lives in accordance with the seasons and continual ebb and flow of the Nile – the earliest Nubian songs were inspired by their farming origins. Nubian hand drums, known as “Duff” (fashioned from goat skins and wood) were thought to be a key link between their people and their environment, with the ability to produce the sounds of Fire, Water and Air through complex rhythms. In addition to songs for cultivation and harvesting the Nubian people sang epic poetry of Love and religion, recognising both Islam and Christianity. – el Mastaba Center

Concerts start at 9:00 pm at El Dammah Theater: (check time! in the winter months time might change to 8:00pm)

30 Al Belaasi, Al Balaqsah, Abdeen, Cairo, Egypt.

Doors open at 8:30 pm
Tickets at the door, 30 LE
Reserved tickets 20 LE (Telephone 011 50 99 5354)

One more thing —the Simsimiyya, an ancient Egyptian lyre.

 There is evidence that the simsimiyya has existed for centuries in the Arabian Gulf and along East Africa. Her music (the lyre is always referred to as feminine and her players as lovers) is said to have the ability to calm the waters of the Red Sea. Another folk tale attributes her origins to a mysterious, enchanting Siren who slowly seduces both the lover and the audience with mesmerizing melodies derived from ancient exorcism rituals.-Zakaria Ibrahim

On one of my expeditions to Gilf el-Kabir, our guides built a simsimiyya lyre from a cupboard door (with handle), wire, and whittled pegs. Evening of sipping strong tea as the cold rose around us, we were warmed by delicate sounds that took their leave across the ancient sands.

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Music by Michael Levy
“My Heart Was Burnt by Love”
Album: An Ancient Lyre Echoes of the Ancient World – created at http://animoto.com

**All rights reserved by Lesley Lababidi. To copy or re-produce photography and/or writings, written permission from Lesley Lababidi is required.

Art of Thorn Figure Carving

trader from Ibadan at beach on a Sunday afternoon

trader from Ibadan at the beach on a Sunday afternoon

Legoland move over! Lego, a multi-million dollar toy industry, bases its building block toys on creating representations of a western society at work and at play. Ole Kirk Christiansen (1891–1958), a carpenter from Billund, Denmark and founder of Lego, began making wooden toys in 1932.

Nigeria Magazine No. 14, 1938

Nigeria Magazine No. 14, 1938 (See full article here)

At about the same time in Nigeria, Mr. J. D. Akeredolu, a craft teacher in Government School, Owo, Ondo Province, experimented with materials to carve name stamps. He discovered the conical thorns that grew at the base of some forest trees were suitable for carving detailed, miniature sculptures. These delightful figures featured everyday life in Yorubaland.

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Map of Yorubaland

The imagination of these two men mirrored the customs and culture of the life around them represented through  their craft. Whether in Denmark or Nigeria, Christiansen and Akeredolu carved their world. We are the recipients of this grand reproduction of cultural anthropological art.

In the 1930’s, Mr. J. D. Akeredolu taught the art of thorn carving to his pupils and generations later thorn carvers still produce charming, miniature sculptures of a traditional life style. Mr. Akeredolu’s philosophy was similar to that of the Lego philosophy: to build something amazing from the tools at hand.

Thorn carvings are unique to Nigeria. The thorns come from cotton trees come from a cotton tree. The thorns grow up to 5 inches in length and their relative malleability makes for easier carving with a simple pocket knife. The thorns come in three different colors: beige, pink and brown. The brown color comes from the thorn of the Ata tree while the pink and softer wood of the Ogungun tree is used to carve small pieces like hats, dishes, legs and arms, which are glued into place with a paste made from rice water.

The Nigerian Teacher, Published for Education Dept. of Nigeria, by West African Publicity LTD, London & Lagod Vol. 4, 1935

The Nigerian Teacher, Published for Education Dept. of Nigeria, by West African Publicity LTD, London & Lagos Vol.I, #4, 1935. Article by Mr. J.D. Akeredolu. See full article here. 

From the typical Yoruba village life of pounded yam and palm wine tapper to a commentary on social issues of 1970s Bar Beach executions of criminals to satirical visa queue, thorn figures have the absorbing quality to relate traditional Nigerian lifestyle on a diminutive scale.

The carvings are specific to the Yoruba culture and mirror life events such as women preparing food, fishing and hunting, transportation, even a nativity scene or a mosque. After ‘mammy wagons’ were banned, the carvers turned to crafting the more common mode of transportation: the motorcycle and the ke-ke (tuk-tuk; auto rickshaw). There are carvings of a kidnapped oil executive being taken away by heavily armed men in a canoe with the military in pursuit telling the story of on-going kidnappings in the Delta area of Nigeria.

Thorn figure carvings may not develop into an industry or a theme park. Yet they still capture the imagination of young and old alike. Whether coming upon them in a local market or perchance finding a trader on the beach, it is always a delightful pastime to study and appreciate the intricate carvings that provide us with an excellent illustration of Yoruba culture and customs.

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**All rights reserved by Lesley Lababidi. To copy or re-produce photography and/or writings, written permission from Lesley Lababidi is required.

thorn carver, Lagos market, 1997 photo credit: Saadia Lababidi

Thorn carver, Lagos market, 1997
photo credit: Saadia Lababidi