2011/02/15

The (very) real Egypt

Former GMTV reporter Lara Logan suffers 'brutal and sustained' sex assault covering Egypt uprising

Was set upon by mob of more than 200 in Tahrir Square

Saved by group of women and 20 Egyptian soldiers

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The Yacoubian Building

The Yacoubian Building (Arabic: عمارة يعقوبيان‎ ʿImārat Yaʿqūbīān) is a novel by Egyptian author Alaa-Al-Aswany. The book was made into a film of the same name in 2006 and into a TV series in 2007.

Published in Arabic in 2002 and in an English translation in 2004, the book, ostensibly set in 1990 at about the time of the first Gulf War, is a roman à clef and scathing portrayal of modern Egyptian society since the Revolution of 1952. The locale of the novel is downtown Cairo, with the titular apartment building (which actually exists) serving as both a metaphor for contemporary Egypt and a unifying location in which most of the primary characters either live or work and in which much of the novel's action takes place. The author, a dentist by profession, had his first office in the Yacoubian Building in Cairo.

The Yacoubian Building was the best selling Arabic novel for 2002 and 2003, and was voted Best Novel for 2003 by listeners to Egypt's Middle East Broadcasting Service. It has been translated into 23 languages worldwide.
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The stories of each of the primary characters are often intertwined, very horrible at times colliding or converging with one another. Together, they give a biting condemnation of a nation that has squandered its promise and which has been forced to compromise its own principles, resulting in a corrupt and undemocratic political system dominated by a single party (the fictitious "Patriotic Party", a thinly-veiled version of Egypt's National Democratic Party), a society whose most talented members abandon the country for promising careers abroad, and an increasingly disenchanted and restive populace that has no loyalty to the government and which sees extremist Islam as one of the few viable options to counter growing poverty, economic stagnation, and a perceived degradation of morals and lack of social cohesion.

The Yacoubian Building's treatment of homosexuality is taboo-breaking, particularly for contemporary mainstream Arab literature. Khaled Diab, in an article entitled Cultural rainbows, explores this aspect of the novel, and how this can help change popular attitudes to homosexuality in the Arab world. wikipedia

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