Recognizing the Mother of Cities

“The mother of cities” they call it, I had never heard the term until I arrived in Cairo earlier this week. If I were to imagine what the mother of all cities would look like, I guess like Cairo, it would have to be massive. It would also, like Cairo, have to be a place that cannot be ignored, drivers honk all day and all night, and dusty weathered buildings loom large in every direction you look. And then I would top it off, as Cairo does, with a powerful river – in this case, the Nile definitely fits the bill.

No one who has been here for a week can really tell you about Cairo. I imagine you could be here a year and still not know every corner of a place that is so vast and overwhelming. They say New York City never sleeps, but Cairo turns the night into day. And when you can top it all off with a world reknowned cultural movement for creativity and change, it makes for an extra interesting time to be in the heart of the mother of cities.

But don’t let me romantize the worst quality air imaginable where everyone must automatically smoke the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes per day just by walking down the street. Where some areas don’t feel all that welcoming and even if you were welcome, the standstill traffic would never let you get there in a reasonable time. You sit in a cab for an hour but you only rack up a tiny bill. In fact, you could have probably walked faster but its Cairo and sometimes its more about being comfortable than being logical.

I’m yet to sit in a cafe without someone joining in my conversation and offering a testimony about what has been going on and what they have experienced. It seems no one is afraid to speak anymore, and its hard to imagine them keeping quiet.

That about sums up my first days in Cairo: loud city, talkative people, mind boggling scale.

How to See and Hear Egypt

Since the revolution began in 2011, many a foreign journalist has gone to Egypt filled with good intentions and enthusiasm. And while some have done interesting or inspiring work, there are still many in the international media that consistently get half the story or hardly any of it and go home proclaiming that they know what’s what.

With our upcoming journey to Tunisia and Egypt, our challenge is to get past those tendencies and see beyond our own natural limitations. To best do that, we turn to our Egyptian friends in-country and from the diaspora, and ask about their experiences and what they most wish journalists would take note of and stay open to while doing their work.

Today on the podcast I speak with a new friend of the program, herself an Egyptian living abroad and living-breathing the revolution everyday even if she isn’t on the streets or in the square; Hanna Yousef is my special guest as part of a conversation to learn her beautiful story and ask what advice she would give to a outsider-journalist like myself, heading to her beloved country for the first time, in search of stories. In many ways this is the preparatory conversation that every journalist should have yet we rarely get to hear as its considered unworthy for your ears; too candid and imperfect. exactly the type of conversation that makes me love podcasting.

Into the Heart of a Revolution

This week two crazy journalists and audio fanatics joined forces to launch a campaign to get to Egypt and Tunisia this fall. The goal is to hear from the artists, the heart and soul of a culture that is much bigger and more complicated then the sound-byte size version we got from the 24 hour news networks last year.

To better explain the hows and whys of our bold new project, Christopher Lydon joins me to discuss our kickstarter campaign “Arab Artists in a Revolution”.  A dream we are in the process of making a reality, one which we hope you will support by donating to our campaign. (And thanks to those who already have!)

Once again, our kickstarter campaign, click, support, spread the word!

A Call To Action: Arab Artists in a Revolution

To all my readers, listeners, viewers, followers, friends, family and random acquaintances from across the planet, I bring you some significant news.  This fall, together with the great journalist, broadcaster, listener and my friend Christopher Lydon, we have decided to embark on a journalistic journey to North Africa.  Egypt and Tunisia specifically, to seek out the storytellers. We want to hear from the heart and soul of the revolution, beyond the politics, beyond the expert analysis, there are those who create, challenge and observe culture, who can give us the long view of what is such an ancient and inspiring part of the world.

In order to do this, we’re calling on our audiences to support the project. There are many kickstarter projects out there these days, but as the marine saying goes “this one is ours.”  

That’s where you come in, as the people to whom we answer to, without need of advertisements or institutions telling us how to do our work, your financial support is vital.  Go check out the kickstarter page, where we hope you would be a part of this experience by backing us and getting us ever closer to the financial goal.  Those funds will take care of travel, shelter, and communication costs on a shoe string budget, as has been my specialty for the past 10 years as a traveling new media reporter. From there we will bring you the voices as podcasts and radio programs, as well as some video and photo reports.  The stories we intend to get will be both insightful and inspiring, in ways no conventional media would bother trying to do in this era of fast and shallow journalism.

So there you have it, if ever there was a time to take action, if the work on this site or the fantastic body of work Christopher Lydon has compiled through the course of his long career has ever spoken to you, then let this be the project you really join us on.  Get involved, help us reach the goal, and this fall – enjoy the results you helped produce!

ctrp367 Reflections on Revolutions

It is a new day in Egypt. You’ve heard about the tools, you’ve heard about the youth, but what happened and what happens in not only the region but in places like the United States.  What do Egypt and the United States have in common and could youth in the US be inspired? And what can be said about Algeria, Iran, and other areas where something big might be happening and what is the nature of that something?

My guest is John G. Mason, professor of Political Science at William Paterson University (the same department and classroom in which I became socially and politically conscious).  He does not claim to be an expert with all the answers on Middle East or North African politics.  What John does know about is asking the right questions and keeping a critical eye on events even in a time when many have taken the focus off of the process now taking place in Egypt and Tunisia.

Liberation Square

Some of John’s recommended sources:

Juan Cole | Tom Dispatch | Courrier International

Complicated Cairo

I often listen to stories of other people’s visits to Cairo, Egypt.? A place famous for so many things, what always strikes me about how people describe Cairo, is the huge clash between traditional and modern, or what some would call, East and West. Naturally I’d like to learn more and go see it for myself one day soon.? But until then, the world of podcasting and radio provides me with lots of second hand experiences I can live through.

The latest comes from Australia’s ABC radio national, the program background briefing, which last week put out a show about Cairo and the modern versus the old fashioned and all the problems it has brought the city.? Highly recommended listening, I felt the journalist did a great job. Moreover I listen to this show and I think to myself, I’d like to be funded and be able to do similar; bringing my audience with me as I explore and look into the changes a place is undergoing.? Perhaps with my upcoming trip to Istanbul, I can do a little bit of this.

Bonus, follow the link to the Background Briefing post, they included great photos and video. Again, I’d love to do similar.