Plein Air Gallery

Street art in Cairo, updated. Apologies in advance for the annoying yellow date stamps on all the pictures: jah bought a no-name digital camera in Bab al-Louq & there isn’t an option to turn off the date stamp–or even change the date!

The words dribbling from Mubarak/Tantawi’s chin read: He Who Delegates, Doesn’t Die. (When Mubarak abdicated power Suleiman announced that Mubarak was exiting the scene but “delegating” power to SCAF, thus personally appointing the legacy leadership.) BTW, Face/Off is somehow a very popular movie & meme here. Last Ramadan, Ahmed Micki starred in a popular comedy series that spoofed the Travolta/Cage art house masterpiece.

Along Mohamed Mahmoud, the street where revolutionaries battled security forces last December, artists have created memorial murals of the martyred youth.

The neon paint is somehow very affecting. Here, and the wings of the young men.

Many of the youth on the frontlines of this battle were Ultras, or soccer fan collectives. After a fan of Ahly was killed in a notorious shootout with the military, the head coach of the team—a Portuguese expat—instructed his coaching staff all to wear t-shirts featuring the boy’s face onto the pitch. Some in the press complained that the foreign coach was meddling in Egyptian affairs, but most applauded the rare prominent individual to rebuke military violence. Yes, his foreign passport shielded him from punishment, and yes he risked career not incarceration, but it was a bold and poignant gesture.

Martyrs Gallery along Mohamed Mahmoud. (These young faces died in the Port Said Stadium tragedy.)

The mixture of Pharaonic & contemporary motifs is stunning. I hope to learn more about the particular allusions. (In Alex there is a gorgeous, heavily stylized mural of a ghoul lassoing a crocodile, overseen by a peacock. I asked an Egyptian friend about the meaning. “It comes from mythology… the crocodile is Mubarak being punished for declaring himself a god… but the story is more complicated.”)

Pharaonic funerary procession along Mohamed Mahmoud St. (Right half of image)


Pharaonic funerary procession along Mohamed Mahmoud St. (Right half of image)




Hyenas, masks, gods. On the Nile side of the old AUC library.


Eldritch beasts, mythical turmoil.


Struggle as dance.


Three-headed Hydra of SCAF running the length of the block.


Hosni & Suzanne, two heads of the same serpent.

A few Fridays ago I was at the terrible scene of Abbasiya with several journalist friends and I was introduced to a young woman named Samira. We exchanged pleasantries, but didn’t say much in the hectic scene. When the violence got out of hand our group headed back to the car and someone mentioned, “You know Samira, right? She’s the only one who stood up to the military’s ‘virginity tests’ in court.” Oh my, that Samira. [The black inverse-logic of military authoritarianism: to ensure the ‘purity’ of Egyptian women, we will be the ones to violate them.] On the drive to Tahrir my journalist friend commented to Samira, “I love seeing your stencil around the city. Makes me smile every time.” Looking out the window, I began to notice on city walls the dignified face seated next to me.

Samira Ibrahim above the military. Heroine of personal rights, dignity.

Of course, the Egyptian judicial system cleared the perverted perpetrators of any wrongdoing.

Samira Ibrahim above the military, with anguished hieroglyph captions.

(I posted the picture below a few days ago, but just now noticed Selima’s face in the upper left-hand corner, above the Banksy dude’s projectile.)

Banksy + Ballerina + Farrah.

Quite like the impressionistic fluid urban stage the two dance in. And, yes, the Bart Simpson middle finger poking the Etoile David. And, speaking of impressionism, consider this small tangent: Cloisonnism.


In advance of the elections, someone tried to take Mubarak’s Face/Off face off.

But guess who had the last laugh?

BAM! Now we can see the full ancien régime entourage! Amr Moussa & Ahmed Shafiq.

(Again, the caption reads: He Who Delegates, Didn’t Die. When Mubarak fled to his resort on the Red Sea, he appointed Shafiq as Prime Minister. In Tahrir Square that February many people distributed bright yellow stickers that read simply “No To Shafiq”. I kept several as souvenirs. And now. Now, a year and a half later, Shafiq is in the run-off election for the presidency. SO DISPIRITING. What was this whole grinding struggle for? To get back to Zero? A joke you hear these days:: People used to say Mubarak was a good man; it was the people around him who were bad. Now that Mubarak is gone… they are voting for the people around him!)


P.P.S./ 2nd Update: Many of the murals photographed above are captured better by a blogger called suzeeinthecity. Suzee identifies many of the artists and provides background on the inspiration for many works. A wonderful archive.


3 Responses to “Plein Air Gallery”

  1. Vauxhall & Islam « Doom Spirals Says:

    […] Caption [Courtesy of Hell N. Carey]We shared these crucial lulz images with a few friends. Farrah [pic’d at bottom] nodded but shook her head: “I always favored Johnny Marr’s guitar chops… over […]

  2. Al-Catraz « Doom Spirals Says:

    […] to a rocky island, the island becomes an infamous prison and a set location for the movie Face/Off, Face/Off becomes a huge hit in Arabian lands… is this what T.Westberg was talking about when he was singing about “History’s […]

  3. Mr. Misr « Doom Spirals Says:

    […] (This mural was mentioned in an earlier post about revolutionary street art.) […]

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