Monday, December 24, 2007

Light Blooded Egyptians

All photographs in this post copyright Yasir Khan 2007

As we drove by the presidential palace a few days ago, my taxi driver pointed to the large, treed compound that was surrounded by guards, and smiled.

"Look mister! Look all ze security!"

"Zey keep zem here to protect us from our president."

If good humour comes from great pain, then Egyptians have got to be some of the funniest people in the world. This is a country where things are just barely bearable. Just barely.

And just enough effort is made by the powers to keep it that way - if there's too much prosperity, people no longer depend on the government, and bureaucracies become irrelevant; too much poverty, and you will have a revolution on your hands.

There's virtually no middle class here. Just the very rich, and the very poor. About 44% of Egypt's 80 million people live on $2 a day. Every year, Egypt's free universities churn out thousands of graduates who can't find work. Engineers make about $300 a month, and usually have second jobs. The police force and most government institutions are make-work projects so unemployment won't spiral out of control.

They call it ad-damm khafif, or "light blood". It's the Egyptian term for a sense of humour. Every day, I see Egyptians' light, acidic blood work its magic. And they love to turn it upon themselves.

Take for example, the local english language music channel here. It's called Melody Tunes. They play the usual MTV/VH-1/BET fare, and are fairly up to date.

The best part of watching the channel, though, are their promo videos - hilarious 30-second spots where ordinary Egyptians make complete fools of themselves with popular western songs in everyday scenarios. And they sing them in their heavy Egyptian accents:

Sometimes I'll watch Melody Tunes only for these.

There are a few more on youtube.


Atique Azad said...

Glad to see the blog is up and running again. Can't stop laughing watching all the Melody Tunes promos on youtube. The Egyptians certainly do have a sense of humour. Miss you guys. Eid Mubarakh, Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year...atique and maha

lisa said...


I hope Michael has a conference or something soon in Egypt so I can tag along and visit you guys.


Shireen said...

Yasir, this was fantastic. Now if only the world would sing Madonna tunes in heavily-accented English.
Who needs Peace and Love when we can all laugh at each other watching Melody Tunes!?!
Belated Eid Mubarak and Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

I am sitting on the beach in Dahab, and the cafe plays that Shakira song about every 40 minutes.

I can now only picture the fellaheen yelling "SHAKIRA" every time I hear it.


I think.