Alaa Al Aswany

Nota: Este archivo abarca los artículos publicados por el autor desde el 1 de enero de 2008. Para fechas anteriores realice una búsqueda entrecomillando su nombre.

Some years ago, I was invited to a literary festival in London whose slogan was “change the world.” I had some festival brochures in my hand as I went through the usual entry process at Heathrow Airport. But before I reached the exit, I was surprised to be stopped by a police officer. He examined my passport and leafed through the brochures. Then he asked, “How do you wish to change the world?”

His demeanor was apprehensive, so I took the question seriously and started explaining, in simple terms, that I was an author invited to the festival, that I had not personally chosen the slogan but it implied changing the way people think by means of writing.…  Seguir leyendo »

“I blew a few smoke rings, remembering those years. Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it ... And if the high didn’t solve whatever it was that was getting you down, it could at least help you laugh at the world’s ongoing folly and see through all the hypocrisy and bullshit and cheap moralism.”

This testimony does not come from a reformed addict or bohemian artist, but from the autobiography of President Obama, “Dreams From My Father.” He is not shy about confessing that, in moments of weakness, he resorted to drug use, but then willed himself out of that dark tunnel and set about working on a path that would lead to the White House.…  Seguir leyendo »

“I love Egypt and cannot live anywhere else, but as long as Europeans live in the country without restraint or laws, I find it impossible to live here. I suffer, I feel alienated and the injustice pains me.”

That paragraph was written not by a modern Egyptian militant but by Nubar Pasha (1825-99), a Christian of Armenian descent, who was Egypt’s first prime minister. Nubar served under six Egyptian rulers, including Muhammad Ali, who ruled for 43 years (1805-48) and established a modern state.

At first, Nubar was devoted to defending the trammeled rights of Egyptians — abolishing an oppressive system under which peasants had to work for no pay on government land.…  Seguir leyendo »

One day in the summer of 1974, I was getting ready to go to the swimming pool with a mixed-gender group of friends when my mother took me aside. “Remember,” she said, “that a well-brought-up young man does not ogle women.”

I was a teenager at the time, subject to all the usual hormonal energies, but I listened to my mother’s advice and to this day observe it. But as far as Egyptian society was concerned, within a few years hers had become a voice in the wilderness.

There is scant data about the incidence of sexual harassment in Egypt before the 1970s — the phrase hardly appeared in the news media until the ’90s.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Muslim Brotherhood supporter at a protest outside Cairo University last month against the government crackdown on dissent. Credit Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

There is an old Jewish joke about a man who went to see his rabbi. “I have a wife and five children and we all live in one small room and I can’t afford to support them. Please pray to God to help me.”

The rabbi asked him to come back the next day. When the man arrived, he found the rabbi holding a goat.

“The Lord commands you to take this goat home with you,” he was surprised to hear the rabbi say.

The man complied, but a week later, he went back to complain about the goat. The rabbi counseled him to be patient until the Lord sent a new command.…  Seguir leyendo »

Egyptians are currently suffering from a grinding economic crisis, hefty inflation, a breakdown of security and widespread terrorist attacks. Despite these trying times, the most watched clips on YouTube are of Oriental dance (as raqs sharqi is often translated).

In just one recent month, a video by the Egyptian-Armenian dancer Safinaz was viewed by Egyptians more than four million times. The Lebanese star Haifa Wehbe’s dance video got more than 10 million hits. Oriental dance evidently provides light relief from the general state of tension, but there is more to it.

Oriental dance has always been controversial in Egyptian culture. Egyptians love belly dancing, as it is commonly known in the West.…  Seguir leyendo »

Egyptians are attached to soccer the way the French are to wine. It’s well-nigh impossible to find an Egyptian who is not a fan. When major matches are being broadcast, Cairo turns into a quasi ghost town. The only sounds are the shouts of the fans huddled in front of televisions when a goal is scored.

Well-to-do Egyptians play soccer in private clubs, whereas the poor play in the street with a type of ball they have improvised from scraps of old socks and pieces of sponge. These street games are the training ground from which most soccer stars emerge. Every large club has a scout whose job it is to go watch these ad hoc matches and sign up talented players.…  Seguir leyendo »

In 1798, after Napoleon Bonaparte occupied Egypt, some local grandees wanted to get close to him, so they gave him six slave girls. At that time, Egyptians were under the influence of the Turkish taste that considered a fulsome figure a prerequisite of feminine beauty. Napoleon was more fired up by Parisian elegance and refused to sleep with any of the women because they were, in his opinion, fat and reeking of fenugreek.

Misinterpreting his aloofness, the Egyptians mocked Napoleon for a lack of virility, contrasting him and his troops unflatteringly with the Egyptian “manhood” of Ali Kaka dolls — figurines with enormous penises.…  Seguir leyendo »

Last month, on the third anniversary of the revolution of Jan. 25 that led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, millions of Egyptians came out onto the streets carrying Egyptian flags and pictures of Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, the army leader whom they considered their hero for siding with the will of the people and overthrowing the Muslim Brotherhood government in June. At the same time, supporters of the Brotherhood’s deposed president, Mohamed Morsi, continued their confrontations with the police, which resulted in 49 deaths and scores of injuries.

There was a third position taken by some of the young revolutionaries who played a role in ending Brotherhood rule last year, but were terrified at the prospect of the return of the police state they had opposed when Mr.…  Seguir leyendo »

In December 1933, an air race from Cairo to Alexandria was held. The first plane to cross the finish line was piloted by a 26-year-old woman named Lotfia El Nadi, Egypt’s first female aviator.

To have a flying career was not easy for Lotfia. Her father had rejected the idea, but she did not despair. She persuaded the director of the Institute of Aviation to let her work, free of charge, as his secretary — in exchange for flying lessons. As she later explained, “I learned to fly because I love to be free.”

Lotfia became a hero and a national treasure in the eyes of Egyptians.…  Seguir leyendo »

Mariam Ashraf was an eight-year-old Coptic girl. On Oct. 20, she went with her family to the Church of the Virgin, in Cairo, for a relative’s wedding. She was thrilled with her new hairstyle and the new white dress her mother had bought for the occasion. She stood on the street outside the church with other guests waiting for the bride and groom to arrive. Then a motorbike sped by. On it were two men who opened fire indiscriminately, killing Mariam and three others, and wounding scores of guests. According to an official medical report, eight bullets pierced her body; she died from gunshot wounds to the chest.…  Seguir leyendo »

¿Qué haría usted si el ejército de su país estuviera librando una guerra para defenderle pero usted se diera cuenta de que estaba cometiendo graves errores? ¿Le criticaría abiertamente en mitad de la batalla, o aplazaría sus reproches hasta que terminase? En general, para estas preguntas suele haber dos respuestas: algunos dicen que criticar a cualquier ejército en medio de una batalla contribuye a confundirlo y debilitarlo mientras se enfrenta al enemigo. La otra opinión —que yo suscribo— es que la lealtad a la nación y al ejército nos obliga a hacerle reconocer sus errores cuanto antes, para que los corrija de inmediato y gane la batalla.…  Seguir leyendo »

¿Qué piensa usted de Saad Zaghloul, Mustafa el-Nahas y Gamal Abdel Nasser? ¿No fueron grandes líderes que lucharon durante mucho tiempo por la independencia y la libertad egipcias? ¿Por qué todos defendieron un Estado laico, no religioso? ¿Eran ateos u hostiles al islam? No, más bien musulmanes convencidos, y Mustafa el-Nahas era conocido por su devoción.

Otra pregunta: ¿antes de la década de 1980 los egipcios eran menos musulmanes que ahora? No, más bien la mayoría cumplía con sus obligaciones religiosas y en la medida de lo posible se mostraba temerosa de Dios. Los egipcios eran musulmanes antes de que llegara la propaganda wahabí.…  Seguir leyendo »

La tarde del 11 de febrero iba caminando por la calle Kasr el-Aini hacia la plaza Tahrir cuando algunos de los manifestantes se agruparon a mi alrededor para preguntarme qué creía yo que iba a pasar. Mientras charlaba con ellos oí de pronto un fuerte griterío. La cosa me preocupó, ya que había oído gritos parecidos los primeros días de la revolución, cuando unos francotiradores empezaron a disparar a los manifestantes, pero esta vez el griterío tuvo un efecto diferente. Una mujer con hijab salió corriendo de una tienda de zumos de frutas y gritó: "¡Mubarak ha dimitido!". No recuerdo con detalle lo que sucedió después de eso, porque yo, junto a millones de otros más, me apresuré a ir a celebrar la victoria de la revolución.…  Seguir leyendo »

Si usted es egipcio y le interesa el futuro de su país, tiene, según algunos, dos opciones: apoyar a los Hermanos Musulmanes y los salafistas para que obtengan el poder o, si no está de acuerdo con ellos, soportar las acusaciones de hostilidad hacia el islam. Sobhi Saleh, el miembro más destacado de los Hermanos, ha dicho que no existen los musulmanes progresistas ni los musulmanes de izquierdas, solo los musulmanes y los infieles. Eso significa que la ideología de los Hermanos es la única que representa el islam, y cualquiera que discrepe es un infiel. El jeque Al Mahallawi lo ha afirmado con claridad: "Quienes reclaman un Estado aconfesional en Egipto son infieles y adoradores de ídolos".…  Seguir leyendo »

Qué admirables me parecen los jóvenes manifestantes ante los que hablé el otro día, esos egipcios unidos contra las injusticias y que comparten una ira que nadie va a poder dominar. El martes fue para mí un día inolvidable. Me uní a los manifestantes en El Cairo, junto con los cientos de miles de personas que, en todo Egipto, salieron a la calle para exigir libertades y enfrentarse a la terrible violencia policial. El régimen posee un aparato de seguridad con 1.500.000 de soldados e invierte millones en entrenarlos para una tarea: reprimir al pueblo egipcio.

Me encontré en medio de miles de jóvenes que solo tenían en común su valor increíble y su determinación de hacer una cosa: cambiar el régimen.…  Seguir leyendo »

Depuis dix ans, mes amis et moi avons pris l'habitude de tenir chaque jeudi une sorte de salon littéraire auquel participent des amoureux de la culture de tous âges et de toutes tendances. Cette semaine, une trentaine de personnes y assistaient. "Qu'avez-vous ressenti en apprenant que (le ministre de la culture égyptien) Farouk Hosni avait perdu l'élection au poste de directeur de l'Unesco ?", leur ai-je demandé.

Je fus surpris des réponses. Une personne déclara que Farouk Hosni avait été traité de manière injuste alors qu'il méritait le poste en raison de ses talents, et deux personnes affirmèrent regretter qu'une fonction internationale de premier ordre ait ainsi échappé à l'Egypte.…  Seguir leyendo »

Denny Pattyn is an American priest of a special kind. In 1996 in Arizona, he set up a programme by the name of the Silver Ring Thing with the aim of urging young Americans to refrain from sex before marriage, convincing them that it is fornication, and sinful. Pattyn regularly holds events attended by hundreds of young Americans who read the Bible with him and then pledge before the Lord to preserve their virginity for their future spouses. At the end of the celebration, each puts on their left hand a silver ring inscribed with Biblical verses, which they wear until they marry.…  Seguir leyendo »

Denny Pattyn es un sacerdote estadounidense un poco especial. En 1996 creó en Arizona un programa llamado El anillo de plata cuyo objetivo fundamental es instar a chicas y chicos a abstenerse del sexo antes de casarse y convencerlos de que el sexo fuera del matrimonio es malo y pecaminoso. Pattyn celebra actos periódicos a los que asisten cientos de jóvenes estadounidenses que leen con él la Biblia y prometen ante el Señor conservar su virginidad para sus futuros esposos. Al final de la celebración, cada joven se coloca en la mano izquierda un anillo de plata que no se quitará hasta que se case.…  Seguir leyendo »

President Obama is clearly trying to reach out to the Muslim world. I watched his Inaugural Address on television, and was most struck by the line: “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers.” He gave his first televised interview from the White House to Al Arabiya, an Arabic-language television channel.

But have these efforts reached the streets of Cairo?

One would have expected them to. Mr. Obama had substantial support among Egyptians — more than any other American presidential candidate that I can remember. I traveled to America several days before the election. The Egyptians I met in the United States told me — without exception — that they backed Mr.…  Seguir leyendo »