Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Egyptians and modern history

The Daily News, Egypt (Dina Abdel-Mageed)

This short but fascinating article entitled "Is Egypt rewriting its history?" the author looks at the revival of interest amongst today's Egyptians about their pre-1952 revolution past. The Arabic media has recently aired a number of shows about modern Egypt which has led to some Egyptians taking a more active interest in their own history. Many commentators have observed that thanks to Egyptian politics the current Egyptian society and economy are at best stagnant and at worst riddled with corruption, leading to widespread apathy amongst ordinary Egyptians. An interest in Egypt's past, even the dubious royal past, may be a positive sign that ordinary people are beginning to question what they are being taught and to see that there are many ways of playing the political game. I have never quite got to grips with how Egyptians relate to or are interested in the Pharaonic past. Perhaps more articles will be forthcoming.

CAIRO: Any observer of the Egyptian sociopolitical scene would not fail to spot the changing public perception of the monarchical era of Egyptian history.

A few years ago ordinary Egyptians knew their controversial ex-monarch Farouk merely as a corrupt womanizer and a gambling addict.

Yet, the King Farouk TV series, which was aired in 2007, put Egyptians face-to-face with the fact that they knew very little about their country's modern history, and that the very little they knew had been shaped by movies and school textbooks that spared no effort to discredit the monarchical system.

But it seems that the passion of drama makers for royal history is still running high.

Early this year there had been reports about two competing TV series on Queen Nazli — the last mother queen of Egypt — being aired in Ramadan before one of the two production companies postponed its series to next year.

“Malika Fil Manfa” (A Queen in Exile) is the series that will be aired on the small screen this year. The grand production is starred by Nadia El-Gindy and produced by Ismail Kutkut, who produced the King Farouk series a few years ago. The script is based on a book that carries the same name.

According to some views, the "royal nostalgia," which has been sparked by the media, will not end any time soon, and that TV drama will serve only to enhance the rising interest in monarchical history.

One-sided media

For decades, the mass media and school textbooks have regularly highlighted the shortcomings of the monarchical era, portraying its major figures as incompetent and corrupt.

"All I knew about Farouk was that he was a cruel, evil king," says Rana El-Menshawy, 27, describing how school curriculum taught her that the 1952 revolution saved Egyptians from tyranny.

She describes how she joined the Facebook group “Egyptian Royalists” after watching the King Farouk series.

The 30-episode series has ignited much interest in the monarchical era by offering a different portrayal of Egypt's ex-royal family and introducing a revisionist reading of an important part of Egyptian history.

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