Monday, 11 February 2013

A spy in a family home

This is the test. The first time I'm invited into an Egyptian home, and a minefield of faux-pas potentially lays inside. Before leaving the UK I had a few cultural crash courses from an Egyptian family friend. But she was a Copt, and this is a Muslim household. There are differences. Apparently guests should have taken off their shoes at the door.

The village is Kafr Hamam, just north of an equally inconspicuous town called Zagazig. No tourist beats the tracks here, only the donkeys and oxen whose hooves sink deep into the mud, traipsing the road alongside tuk-tuks and pulling behind them carts of gas canisters delivered door-to-door.

امبوبة / امباويب imbūba (pl. ambawīb) gas canister
بتاع امبوبة bitāʕ imbūba man who delivers gas canisters

Gas supply isn't the only thing these houses lack. Many are occupied only half-built, but where else could the people live? The house I enter is a comfortable one: it has a phone and a small TV. The winter would penetrate its thin brick walls were it not for the small blue باجور | bagūr | primus stove burning away in the corner.

Mr Ashraf, my host, and friend of no more than a few hours, disappears behind a curtain to pray and change into a freshly ironed جلابية | galabiyya | robe. Meanwhile his wife bustles through the front door, making to remove her برقع | burʔuʕ | veil but leaving it as she notices a guest present. I give a few tentative greetings.

As Mr. Ashraf reappears, he strikes up conversation and his wife goes off to prepare food. Before long, a huge platter arrives and is laid onto the floor:

محشى كرمب maḥši kurumb stuffed cabbage leaves
فلفل محشى filfil maḥši stuffed peppers
سبانخ sabānix spinach (stew)

There's a bowl of chicken that can't be avoided too (I'm normally a vegetarian), despite feigning a blood problem and that meat was against doctor's orders.

This is the closest that Egyptian society has allowed me to the traditional side of its spectrum. It would be very forward to address the mother by or even to know her name (this is something kept for her immediate family). Instead the term of address is ام | umm... | mother of... followed by the name of her eldest son, so in this case Umm Mahmoud. (For more terms of address, see this post.)

It's also dangerous to compliment her too much on the cooking, even though it's the best I've tasted in Egypt. It could be interpreted as an expression of envy for her cooking skills - worse, envy for her as a wife. These envious compliments, known as عين الحسود | ʕēn ilḥasūd | the evil eye have the power to bewitch. Safer to utter the formula that thanks God for the situation at hand:

ما شاء الله mā šāʔ aḷḷāh God has willed it

My plate is filled and re-filled and there is no sign of this ceasing unless I do something about it. My mind whirs back to a fish restaurant down a alley in Alexandria, by the name of Sha'baan. During a meal I was arguing with a friend about the meaning of the name. He claimed it was a month in the Islamic calendar; I claimed it meant being "full up". I still believe the latter would make more sense for a restaurant, but when we checked, he was right. The confusion arose because both words share the same three principal letters making up its root, but in a different order:

شعبان šaʕbān eighth month of the Islamic calendar
شبعان šabʕān full (with food), satiated

It seems long-winded way of remembering how to tell the family I'm full, but after several months in this environment this is how my mind works now. This is how it has to work in order to survive in a different language. Words connected to words through association, whether linguistic (in the way that šabʕān is connected to šaʕbān) or contextual (in the way that šaʕbān is connected to the fish restaurant). It's impossible to retain vocabulary without the mind fusing links between it and the network of words that it already holds.

After dinner, I meet Mahmoud's cousins (Mr. Ashraf's nephews) who live just a few houses along. We play a game of guessing each other's ages, until Mr. Ashraf manages to put us in exactly the right order. I ask how he knew my birthday. He reminds me that he'd seen it in my passport.

Earlier in the day, I was detained in a vestibule on a train from Port Said to Zagazig. I had been caught leaning from the train door to snap photos of an impressive bridge over the Suez Canal. The train guards didn't approve. I was made all the more suspect by my skin colour, for no foreigner would visit this area unless they really were an Israeli spy planning a strategic attack from the Sinai.

After an hour convincing them that I was just a study-abroad student who liked bridges, I was reunited with my passport and sent back to my seat, though one of the train guards remained unconvinced and spent the rest of the journey in the seat opposite. As the conversation went on, his interest in me grew friendlier, eventually insisting I became his guest in Zagazig. I took the minibus with him to his village, ate with his family, and there I was, meeting his nephews.

Mahmoud and his cousins take me to explore the fields surrounding their village. They are greener than any place I'd seen in Egypt, being well irrigated by the various Nile tributaries clumped within the Delta. There are orange trees and date palms, but most of all clover fields.

برسيم barsīm clover (used as animal feed)
لارمج lāring, nāring Seville oranges
غيط / غطان ġīṭ / ġeṭān field
كشك / كشاك kušk (pl. kišāk) small wooden hut

This is the environment these guys grew up in. They have little exposure to the places I come from - their idea of a dream holiday might be up to Alexandria on the coast - although they've heard rumours of what the west is like. Away from the village, they have the chance to ask me the usual questions that have been bugging them: Do I drink beer? Am I allowed a girlfriend? Have I had sex? Do Europeans really have carpet in their bathroom?

It's clear there's a lot we don't have in common. It would be a long time before they ever understood my vegetarianism, or what my home is really like. Likewise I will always feel a little uncomfortable to be doted on by a woman whose very presence I have to address with caution. Nevertheless this is a family who really have time for others, and is happy to welcome them into their home, no matter how strange they are.

I become increasingly aware that there's no escape for tonight; despite my best attempts to return to Zagazig and find a hotel there, the family decide to sleep in one room so that I could have the other to myself. After being shepherded from house to house to have photos taken and to drink salep after salep, I sink into the bed exhausted. Extremely grateful, but exhausted.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Winter warmers

Fenugreek with milk
Cinnamon with milk

Another haunt of ours is القهوة التجارية | ilʔahwa_ttugariyya (which translates to something like The Commerical Coffeehouse), a bustling institution covering a whole block just down the road from the last one I mentioned. It's been an informal centre of trade for the past ninety-odd years and it was here over a glass of tea that we signed the contract on our latest flat (the third one this year, but that's a story for another post).

A cloud of shisha smoke seems to hold up the high ceiling, and between there and the sawdust-strewn tiled floor echoes a constant clamor of dominoes and backgammon counters.

The waiters pretend they've never heard of Coca-Cola, and seeing as the menus are unwritten, often I can only guess what we're ordering, sometimes still guessing as I get up to pay. The drinks seem to change seasonally and at this cold time of year, we've been presented with various herbal infusions and steaming hot milky drinks, each going for about 3LE.

My favourite is salep, a thick, sweet drink made from the ground, dried roots of the orchid, and topped with crushed nuts, raisins and shredded coconut. Aniseed infusion, meanwhile, has been knowingly prescribed to us on several occasions as a miracle cure for everything from a cold to chronic colitis.

سحلب saḥlab salep (see above)
ينسون yansūn aniseed infusion
حلبة ḥilba fenugreek infusion
قرفة ʔirfa cinnamon infusion
نعناع niʕnāʕ mint infusion
كركديه karkadēh hibiscus infusion

It's common to find some of these drunk with milk too:

باللبن ... bi-llaban ... with milk
بالحليب ... bi-lḥalīb ... with milk

Or even just:

حليب ... ḥalīb milky ... (i.e. ... with milk)

Arabists reading this post might be interested in knowing that حلبة | ḥilba | fenugreek and حليب | ḥalīb | milk, despite all appearances, aren't from the same root. I hope this coincidence makes you just as a excited as it made me.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Anniversary of the revolution

Today is the second anniversary of the day that the revolution started.

The realisation that citizens could have an impact on politics, and that the haggard, complacent leaders of the previous thirty years were not invincible must have felt seismic.

A large proportion of the population is now happy to see a new leader who seems to represent them. Mohamed Morsi has provincial origins in the Nile Delta. His party, the Freedom and Justice Party, belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, one of those organisations whose wings were clipped under Mubarak but are now stretching them wide and making its first flights. He is a devout Muslim and has brought his religion into the political realm, and is an advocate of the social implications this entails.

But today's atmosphere on the streets has not necessarily been celebratory. Mohamed Morsi has a sizable opposition to contend with, and they were out in force today, claiming that the path paved by the revolution has been hijacked. The Brotherhood and their Islamist allies are taking an increasing monopoly over political processes, and recently managed to rush through a constitution that represented first and foremost only their own interests.

Further afflicted by the country's deepening economic woes, the national opposition is becoming forlorn at where the revolution has led them. One development they can be proud of, however, is the new-found freedom to make this discontent clear. Protests, political organisation and the voicing of opposition take place in a far freer environment than they ever have done in Egypt. That achievement would not have been reached were it not for the protests that started in cities across the country two years ago today, most famously in Tahrir Square in Cairo, to whom the band CairoKee (featuring Aida El-Ayoubi) produced the following ode.

ياه يا الميدان
كنت فين من زمان؟
هديت السور نورت النور
لميت حوليك شعب مكسور
اتولدنا من جديد
واتولد الحلم العنيد
بنختلف والنية صافية
أوقات الصورة مكنتش واضحة
هنصون بلادنا وأولاد ولادنا
حق اللي راحوا من شبابنا
yāh yā_lmidān
kuntə fēn min zamān
haddīt issūr nawwart innūr
lammīt ḥawlīk šaʕbə maksūr
itwaladnā min gadīd
w_itwalad ilḥilm ilʕanīd
binixtalif w_inniyya ṣafya
awʔāt iṣṣūra ma-kanitšə wadḥa
hansūn biladnā wi_wlād wiladnā
ḥaʔʔ illi raḥū min šababnā
Oh! Oh, Tahrir Square!
Where were you all this time?
You brought down the wall, you lighted the light
You gathered around you a broken people
We were born anew
And so was a tenacious dream
We've disagreed, but our intentions are pure
Sometimes the vision wasn't clear
We'll protect our country and our children's children
And the rights of the young ones we've lost

The above is the second verse of the song, sung by the 90s star Aida El-Ayoubi. It is one of her first musical appearances after ten years of retirement. My translation is based on that by one of the bloggers on Wil Ya Wil, one of the beacons of Egyptian post-revolutionary social media.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Street art of the revolution

In a country where everyday life has been upheaved in the name of democracy, it is reasonable for citizens to want to do everything they can to feel that their new-found voices are being listened to. Perhaps this is an explanation behind the massive increase in graffiti since the start of the revolution. What better medium can there be for an artist to feel their voice is gaining exposure than to publish it across a large, blank wall?

"Street art ... connotes a decentralized, democratic form in which there is universal access, and the real control over messages comes from the social producers. It is a barometer that registers the spectrum of thinking, especially during democratic openings."

(Lyman G. Chaffe, Political Protest and Street Art)

An article released today by AFP describes how on the walls of Cairo, President Morsi can be found depicted as "a pharaoh, an octopus, a snake, a clown or a hero, depending on which side of the political divide the artist falls".

Specifically, the article reports on one piece of street art in Cairo that succinctly summarises the Egyptian revolution so far. The three sentences of graffiti read: "2011: Down with Mubarak's rule! 2012: Down with military rule! 2013: Down with Brotherhood rule!".

These chants, rather like the الشعب يريد | aššaʕb yurīd chant that I described in my last post, are of a formulaic nature and have been applied to various different leaders in Egypt's post-revolutionary history. In 2011:

يسقط يسقط حسني مبارك
yasquṭ yasquṭ ḥosni mubārak
Down with Hosni Mubarak!

After Mubarak's departure in February 2011, leadership of the country was entrusted to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. But even by April, major protests were occurring again, this time against the new leaders:

يسقط يسقط حكم المشير
يسقط يسقط حكم العسكر
yasquṭ yasquṭ ḥakm almušīr
yasquṭ yasquṭ ḥakm alʕaskar
Down with the rule of the Field Marshal!
Down with military rule!

After more than one turbulent year in power, the leadership of the country was handed over to Mohamed Morsi, who was sworn in in June 2012. The opposition, whose concerns I describe in my next post, once again adapted the chant:

يسقط يسقط حكم المرشد
يسقط يسقط حكم الإخوان
yasquṭ yasquṭ ḥakm almuršid
yasquṭ yasquṭ ḥakm alʔixwān
Down with the rule of the Supreme Guide (of the Brotherhood)!
Down with Brotherhood rule!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Violence outside Alex police trials

Police clashed with demonstrators today along the Corniche after a judge investigating the killing of protesters announced the case would be transferred to another court.

Only a week remains until the second anniversary of the revolution during which, according to Amnesty International, 840 people died. Trials are still ongoing for many of the security officials held responsible for civilian deaths.

One such trial had been taking place this weekend in Alexandria, where around 300 people died in the revolution. Family members of the martyrs gathered alongside other demonstrators outside Alexandria Criminal Court, where two security heads, as well as four other officers have been standing trial.

The judge's announcement that the case would be transferred led to an eruption of anger both within and outside the courthouse. Protesters hurled rocks and fireworks, and the police responded with tear gas and bird-shot. At least two police cars were hijacked and eventually set alight, along with legal documents that were raided from the courtroom.

The following video is footage I took from our rooftop on the Corniche, the promenade that runs around the city's Eastern Harbour.

These events would look out of place on this blog if there wasn't some sort of language learning involved. The chant that can be heard from the ten second mark is one that has swelled up in every Arab country undergoing revolution:

الشعب يريد إسقاط النظام
aššaʔb yurīd ʔisqāṭ anniẓām
The people want to bring down the regime

The phrase originated in Tunisia in the revolution of late 2010, but it's not Tunisian Colloquial Arabic. The young people of Sidi Bouzid, the epicentre of the Tunisian revolution, or perhaps those of the neighbouring towns to which the revolutionary fever spread, must have made a conscious decision to demand the fall of the regime in Modern Standard Arabic. The pan-Arab nature of MSA facilitated its spread to Libya, Egypt, Syria and other Arab countries where upheaval is underway.

Chants like these have become formulaic and can be adapted, depending on what it is exactly that the people want. When the judges announced at Alexandria Criminal Court that they were transferring the case, a feeling of betrayal brought about the following chant from demonstrators:

الشعب يريد تطهير القضاء
aššaʔb yurīd taṭhīr alqaḍāʔ
The people want to purge the judiciary

You'll just have to believe me that these phrases sound more rousing in Arabic than they do in English.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Garbage City

In addition to the rag-and-bone men mentioned in my last post, and to the official waste collectors that are becoming more common through multinational contracts with the government, there exists (in Cairo, at least) yet another community of waste collectors.

At the start of the twentieth century, Muslim migrants from the desert oases moved to Cairo and found work collecting scrap paper and selling it as fuel. Around forty years later, another wave of migrants came from Upper Egypt and began to collect organic waste as food for their pigs (most of these migrants were Copts, who are not prohibited from eating pork).

These pig farmers wanted no beef for encroaching on the Muslim paper-collectors' established presence, so they made deals with the latter to work on their land. As petrol and gas became more widespread and the demand for scrap paper decreased, the paper-collectors' new role as middle-men between the Copts and the buyers became more reinforced.

واحي / -ية wāḥiy (pl. -ya) migrant from the oases
زبال / -ين zabbāl (pl. -īn) Coptic waste collector
معلم / -ين miʕallim (pl. -īn) middle-man in garbage collection

The Coptic waste-collecting community settled in an area in the east of Cairo officially called Manshiyet Nasr, hidden away from the rest of the city by the Muqattam hills. This area has also become informally known as مدينة الزبالة | madīnit izzibāla | Garbage City and الزرايب | izzarāyib | The Sties, after the pig pens that were set up here. They manage to recycle up to 80% of the waste they collect, although organic waste is no longer used by the community itself since the government ordered the culling of their pigs in 2007. This was officially to prevent the spread of the H1N1 strain of influenza, but as pigs cannot transmit this strain, it's also been suggested that the government had religious motives.

زريبة / زرايب zarība (pl. zarāyib) sty, pen
زبالة zibāla rubbish (n.), waste, garbage
زي الزفت zayy izzift rubbish (adj.), lousy, awful

Monday, 10 December 2012

The cosmopolitan dustmen

The voice of a sheikh calling the faithful to prayer is not the only familiar voice to bellow through an Alexandrian street. In the morning, the loud, sloppy call of the rag-and-bone man alerts local residents to his presence, and anyone with an old fridge, valuable scraps of metal, or even a few planks of wood responds the call from their window and trades the goods in for a few Egyptian pounds.

The call these waste collectors use comes from what was originally an Italian phrase, "roba vecchia", meaning "old stuff", and refers to those household goods that in English we'd refer to as "ready for the charity shop". The influence of the Italian language on Egyptian Arabic was at its strongest just before the Second World War, when its community of speakers numbered around 60,000.

روبابكيا rubabikya house-hold junk
بيكيا bikya (a shortened form of the above)
بتاع روبابكيا bitāʕ rubabikya rag-and-bone man

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The windy season

A storm brews over the Med, © the fantastic Oz to Eire Overland blog

At first, it's just the windows I hear as they rattle in their frames, but it's nothing so powerful as to wake me entirely. My heavy eyelids drift back together and I catch the flickers of my last dream just before they disperse for good. Then the rattling becomes stronger, and my eyelids pull apart, this time wide, imagining the panes as they burst into a thousand tiny shards and rain down on me.

My mind has stirred and I hear the wind behind the windows, and between its ebbs and flows there is heavy rain pattering down into an empty street five floors below. Then the wind returns in an almighty bout, a bout that hurtles down the side street and pushes through the slats in the shutters like a chord through the reeds of an organ, and with a crash forces open the balcony doors, and the rain and the cold come billowing in and the net curtains are left grasping to their railing.

This morning's storm confirmed the arrival of the windy season, which will last throughout winter and until the end of spring. The winds will charge across the Mediterranean coast at regular intervals, each interval (known as a نوة | nawwa) arriving at the same time each year, and each lasting a predictable number of days. Each interval has therefore become known by its own unique name, this first one of the season being the Gale of the Broom.

نوة ...‏‏‏ nawwit ... The gale of ...
راس السنة ... raas issana ... the New Year
الفيضة الكبيرة ... ilfīḍa_kkabīra ... the Great Flood
الغطاس ... ilġuṭās ... the Epiphany
الكرم ... ikkarm ... the Grapevines
باقي الكرم ... bāʔi_kkarm ... the Rest of the Grapevines
الشمس الصغير ... iššams iṣṣuġayyara ... the Small Sun
السلوم ... issallūm ... Sollum (a town on the Libyan border)
الحسوم ... ilḥusūm ... Husum (see note below)
باقي الحيوم ... bāʔi_lḥusūm ... the Rest of Husum (see note below)
الشمس الكبيرة ... iššams ikkabīra ... the Great Sun
العوة ... ilʕawwa ... (perhaps from عوى | awwā | to howl)
باقي العوة ... baaʔi_lʕawwa ... the Rest of (the above)
المكنسة ... ilmuknisa ... the Broom
باقي المكنسة ... baaʔi_lmuknisa ... the Rest of the Broom
قاسم ... ʔāsim ... Qasim (a male given name)
باقي قاسم ... bāʔi_lʔāsim ... the Rest of Qasim
الفيضة الصغيرة ... ilfīḍa_ṣṣuġayyara ... the Small Flood
باقي الفيضة ... bāʔi_lfīḍa ... the Rest of the Flood
عيد ميلاد ... ʕīd milād ... Christmas

A couple of these windy intervals have clearly Christian names, because their arrivals coincide with important dates in the calendar of the Copts, who must have been the first people to coin these names. The Coptic calendar grew out of the Ancient Egyptian calendar and is made up of 12 months of similar length to Gregorian months, and a thirteenth month of only four or five days.

The seventh month is called Paremhat (which occurs between 10th March and 8th April in the Gregorian calendar), and the first seven days of this month is known as Husum. These seven days are popularly believed to be a bad time for planting. As you might expect, نوة الحسوم | nawwit ilḥusūm arrives at the same time as this special week. The way in which the other windy intervals relate to the relate to the Gregorian calendar can be seen in the graphic below (click the image to view it in full-size).

The Coptic calendar is still used in Egypt (alongside both the Gregorian and Islamic calendars) not only for certain aspects in the realm of weather but also the realms of agriculture and fishing, these three realms being what mattered to the Coptic civilisation and the Ancient Egyptians who preceded them.

Coptic was the main language of Egypt until the Arab conquest in 641AD (that's the Gregorian calendar!) and eventually died out as a spoken language a few centuries later. Certain items of Coptic vocabulary survived in Egyptian Colloquial Arabic, much like certain manifestations of the calendar have survived into modern times. Egyptian Colloquial Arabic is of course unique among the Arabic dialects for its inheritance of Coptic (and by extension, Ancient Egyptian) words.

Monday, 8 October 2012

The coffee menu

Spot the difference. Read on for the answer ...

The word قهوة | ʔahwa has another use alongside meaning a coffeehouse, and that is the strong, grainy coffee that in English we call Turkish coffee. It is prepared by boiling بن مطحون | bunnə maṭḥūn | finely-ground coffee grains in a تنكة | tanaka or kanaka | small metal pot with a wooden handle, and decanted into a glass or cup at the table.

The coffee comes with three levels of sweetness, as I've experienced it:

سادة sāda sweet
مضبوط maẓbūṭ sweeter
زيادة ziyāda even sweeter

The national sweet-tooth has meant that سادة | sāda, which should be unsweetened, seems always to have a little bit of sugar chucked in out of sympathy, as you wouldn't drink plain coffee unless you were mourning. A useful rhyme I've learnt to counter this annoying phenomenon is:

السادة للسادة
issāda li-ssāda
Unsweetened coffee for gentlemen

which is used jokingly like the phrase "no sugar, I'm sweet enough" is used by English-speakers who don't like their tea tasting like cat piss. Despite the fuss, relatively little of a Turkish coffee is drinkable, because once it's settled it hides between a frothy, grainy surface and the thick, muddy dregs, either of which, if sipped, will result in something like GloZell's Cinnamon Challenge.

وش wišš frothy head of a coffee
تنوة tanwa sludgy dregs of a coffee
قرأ الفنجان ʔara_lfingān to read (the future in the dregs of) a cup

I noticed an old man in a coffeehouse chewing spoonfuls of dregs having finished a glass of tea, and asked an Egyptian friend why. I was met with a look of confusion, not at the man's actions but at my question, and only later did I learn that tea dregs are referred to with a different word to coffee dregs. This surprising linguistic richness has managed to both propel and stall my discovery of Egyptian culture.

تفل tifl dregs of tea
شاى فتلة šāy fatla (lit. string tea) tea made with a teabag
شاى كسرى šāy kušari tea made with tea-dust or tea-leaves
بالنعناع ... bi-lnaʕnāʕ ... with mint

The variety of tea made with tea-dust is thus named because the bits of tea resemble the mess of a bowl of كشرى | kušari, a carb overload of noodles, rice, macaroni, black lentils and chickpeas with a dollop of tangy tomato sauce and fried onions. (The dish probably has its origins in a similar Indian dish called "khichri", which British colonialists then spread to various parts of the world. It managed to evolve into kedgeree back in Britain, so I guess only the Egyptians can be blamed for its disastrous manifestation here.)

Monday, 1 October 2012

Life in the coffeehouses

Rarely does a day go by during which I fail to spend an hour or so at some point in one of Alexandria's many coffeehouses. Many of the older coffeehouses have remained unchanged since they opened in the first half of the twentieth century (for better or for worse) and now host a unique brand of faded, grubby nostalgia. Customers wind up by default, if not once a day then several times a day, and what emerges within the cracking wood-panelled walls are theatres of Egyptian social life.

قهوة / قهاوي ʔahwa (pl. ʔahāwi) coffeehouse (also coffee - see this post)
بتاع قهاوي bitāʕ ʔahāwi idler (lit. belonging to coffeehouses)

A favourite of mine and my friends' is New Crystal, where we're greeted by the old-timers, some of whose parents would have lived under colonial rule, with shouts of "the British are coming!".

Mohammed has been writing a novel for the past couple of years, and has just left his day job at a courier company in Cairo, and now calls this place his office. He keeps his eyes on the window seats that look out onto the Eastern Harbour in case they free up.

With him is Dr. Mahmoud, a free-spirited character with some eighteen languages under his belt, and somewhere in the rucksack of treasured possessions he always keeps by him is the newspaper article attesting his talent.

Sharing the spindly table is Mr. Yousef, a retired lawyer who leads prayers at the next café along and occassionally gibes Dr. Mahmoud for drinking wine and shunning religion, although another favourite pass-time of his is to test us on English synonyms. We humour him until the rules of the game become too obscure and we declare defeat, conceding to his delight that he is the true Englishman.

The man in the corner is rumoured to have stood for president in 2005 when, under international pressure, Mubarak hosted a multiple-candidate election for presidency rather than a simple yes-no referendum on whether his rule should continue, as had been the case for his second, third and forth terms. The result was, not surprisingly, rigged 88.6% in Mubarak's favour, and our audacious friend probably came and took political refuge here in New Crystal.