Faith in the known

A man of unidentifiable age gathers together all his hope and crosses Tala’at Harb Street. In his left hand is a thick stick, held slightly aloft, a sign rather than a support. His right hand is extended in front of him, his palm pointed backwards at him, his fingers bunched together like open-mouthed starving baby birds in a nest. Patience the hand says to the world, patience. His eyes closed, the man crosses the unknown, slowly, steadily, led by the semaphore of his hand, and his blind faith.

In another part of the city life is led inside wheeled and un-wheeled frozen universes where faith is worn on heads and around necks, and where hope is distilled into formulaic mantras for a future already assured. Passwords. Life is solid, tangible, purchasable; separated and arranged in levels of glass and copper. Blind men and their searching hands are kept out: no vulgar reminders of fallibility here in this place with its guardians and gates and fountains.

Up at the top and crowds have gathered for a film premiere of a film in which real-life singers play themselves – who needs fantasy when the facts are this good? Some of the stars will be here tonight, walking talking embodiments of perfection in this perfect place. Cameramen and photographers, that strange separate species, are poised for attack. Clusters of young men smoke furiously, factories emitting fumes of hormones from their chimneys.

Suddenly a kafuffle at the door and a huge terrifying tide of a mess of humans and cameras rolls forward. Big men in suits surround the very special guest, cameras borne aloft on arms stretched upwards are blinking antennae transmitting the news: she’s coming…she’s coming.

It is Haifa Wahby coming. The cat-eyed middle-aged teenager who peddles sexless sex. She is swept in – rather than sweeping in – to the cinema where she will watch herself on screen. Her head is briefly visible through the throng. She has raised her chin up imperiously as she is buffeted about.

Inside the cinema she occupies a whole back row to herself, guarded by huge men who form a semi-circle around her. Incongruously, she sits and pretends to do things with her mobile phone while the determined photographers look for different angles, chinks in the smiling blandness. Beautiful and empty, she doesn’t speak (what’s the need) and is instead simultaneously present and absent, visible and unreachable, yet another priceless and worthless commodity.

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63 Responses to Faith in the known

  1. ramy says:

    this is a real treat sarah. i wait for your brief, wayside reflections.

    ahh, shari3 tal3at harb! i cant think of him without thinking of his most famous words (and the only ones i know he said): 2ana ely bad3ak we baneek. ya donya!

  2. NIDAAL PAL says:

    Did not succeed, so that a singer can succeed as representative
    HAIFA It only plays with her body on the T.V screens and young people jump out of joy while viewing
    And we must ask ourselves to be able assess the Haifa ” el-Haifa “
    Do young people ” youth” listen to Haifa songs as MP3 not as clip
    you get that .. Start with her because they enjoy it ” body” very cheap commodity
    with Just less than 10 piasters price of electricity
    That is the price
    that is true price to sex with Haifa ” EL – HAIFA ”
    like shaggy do on the stage
    he is practice a sex with HAIFA on the stage with Enjoy rather than
    on the bed

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  3. fully_polynomial says:

    “hh, shari3 tal3at harb! i cant think of him without thinking of his most famous words (and the only ones i know he said): 2ana ely bad3ak we baneek.”

    Not sure if Sarah will get that as it was probably before her time (in Egypt). That was one of the best TV ads ever, anywhere!

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      I’ll bookmark your blog and test again here frequently.
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  4. Q says:

    polynomial dude, i never saw the ad myself. bas bad3ak we baneek sounds universal to me. egyptians have a way of distilling the essence of things, such as capitalist philosophy: bad3ak we baneek. very zen.

  5. Amnesiac says:

    Ramy: Ta.

    Ramy & Fully P: Is one of these words very naughty indeed or have I misunderstood?

    If I haven't misunderstood, how could it feature in an advert?

    Please explain.

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  6. Q says:

    here’s my take. ana ely bad3ak we baneek: “i conceived you and built you”, but also, “i am the one who rubs/fondles and fucks”. tal3at for all his intelligence in setting up the engine of capitalism must have understood the play on words! or maybe not.

    this is fun, you see, your piece satisfies me so much because it’s ambiguity gives rise to various interpretations. yours, mine, polynomial’s. the words and images are compact but the spaces between are wide and polymorphous. the encapsulated, segregated social strata created by capitalism: singers playing themselves, and haifa wehby autoerotically watching herself sexily peddling to her and others’ commodified sexuality, the very definition of perversion and transgression.

    who needs fantasy indeed! just people who write like you and that third eye: orwellian journalists and cameramen. and while haifa is both present and absent, and tal3at harb stands erect and petrified, the most present and living character is the man of unidentifiable age who could be anyone and everyone whose semaphore of a hand is directed to the flow of oblivious people and to heaven, as he sets his foot forward, precariously, in hope.

    ooof i could just go on.

  7. fully_polynomial says:

    q has it right. The TV advert had a guy dressed up as Talaat Harb, standing in front of Bank Misr and directing his speech to the bank, telling it “ana elli bad3ak, wana elli baneek” meaning “I created you, and I built you”, but with the double entendre that q spotted, and that somehow shockingly escaped the censors.

    The ad was pulled off after viewers complained. But it remains one of the best pop culture pranks in recent Egyptian media history.

  8. Q says:

    i do believe the motto is inscribed for infamy on a plaque at the base of his statue. something worth the detour on a late drunken night out around town looking for a public urinal though i cant be sure.

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  9. Tamiim says:

    “Clusters of young men smoke furiously, factories emitting fumes of hormones from their chimneys”

    Great image

  10. icroc says:

    2ana ely bad3ak we baneek – is their a plaque with this on it? I missed this ad – but i’ve heard it quoted so many times that it must be part of the cultural landscape. Thanks for giving it public space to air itself out – may it never die!

  11. icroc says:

    don’t be so hard on Haifa. she may may be plastic, but we made her that way. i’m sure she was flesh and blood prior to the attention we gave her. “we created her and we made her” – all she is is what she was made – by us/them. that’s what we do to our heroes/heroines – we kill them with adoration – we sell and buy them – then throw them away when the next one comes along, or when we have made them so plastic that it sticks in our throats.
    so haifa, nancy, and all the other plastic dolls are products that we drink and eat like cola and burgers – who coincidentally are the main sponsors of these ‘stars’ once they reach an acceptable level of plsaticity.

  12. Amnesiac says:

    Tamiim: Ta.

    icroc: yeah but I’m sure moneybags Haifa aint complaining.

    OK the whining bastards say that celebrity isn’t all fun, but you know what, if you’re talentless and prepared to prostitute yourself then take the flak.

    Haifa particularly gets under my skin cos of the simpering coy tarty virgin thing she does. And she can’t sing for toffee. Nor dance.

    Sometimes it’s just not enough to have a great pair of Bristols/arse, surely??

    I’m not bitter, honestly.

  13. icroc says:

    lol… you are wasted in inanities/obscurities… when haifa2’s pert titties and tight ‘arse’ sag down to her knees (simultaneously) you will still have ‘razor-sharp wit, rapid repartee and scintillating sarcasm’ – no need to be bitter :)
    A dinner with Haifa or with S…? I’d take the deadly sarcasm every time.
    But if I’m going to a concert? – Haifa might grab my attention (of course ideally we should go to watch Haifa together (‘wits and tits’!)
    Ah, the humid air affects my poor brain – ’tis time for a nap.

    there/their/they’re – just checking

  14. fully_polynomial says:

    “Sometimes it’s just not enough to have a great pair of Bristols/arse, surely??”

    No. It is *always* enough.

  15. NIDAAL PAL says:

    where the new posts
    OH.. enty kasola fe elblog ya Sarah
    m3a enk fe el-waq3 3’air keda khales

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