SOLITAIRE, written and directed Dalia Basiouny at Rawabet Theatre, Cairo. Photo. M.Abdelfattah. Photo 5
Volume 1

Solitaire

Solitaire, an Egyptian Multimedia Performance by Dalia Basiouny
 ­Arab StagesVolume 1, Number 1 (Fall 2014)
 ©2014 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center Publications

This is a section from a larger play that traces the lives of three Egyptian women; an elderly mother and her two daughters. The mother, Nagaat, lives in Cairo, and reminisces about the older way of living while playing Solitaire on the computer. She speaks in classical Arabic. The young daughter, Noha, goes through an identity crisis while stuck in Cairo traffic with her husband, her language is colloquial and hip. The older daughter, Mona, lives in New York and is trying to figure out who she is as an Arab American after 9/11. Following is the monologue of Mona.

Stage right there is a modern armchair, next to a side table with books, crayons, a small statute, kid’s soft toy, a vase of flowers.
Center stage, there is a simple rug and a cushion. Behind it, at the back of stage is a low, backless seat.
Stage Left, a screen hangs, where projections of still images, videos, and energy images and colors are projected.
Opening Ritual:
The actress greets the audience as they enter the space with incense and blesses them at the doors, or in their seats.
Then she walks slowly around the stage anti-clockwise, holding smoking incense.  When she finishes making three circles, she sits on the cushion center stage, and places the incense in front of her.

Mona:

(Mona kneels down, in silence, with her eyes closed. She breathes deeply in meditation. Then she opens her eyes and looks at the audience.)

On this day each year I hold a special ritual,
A silent ritual,
For me and my daughter!
To understand what happened,
And set my intentions for the year to come.
But this year is so different.

(Mona walks to the arm chair, and stands behind it.)

I moved here in 2001.
You all know how expensive New York is.
I got so lucky.
I found this cute one bedroom
That overlooks the United Nations.
Can you see it, there, from the corner window?

(She sits and addresses the audience.)

I came to New York on a short visit before, and I liked it.
It felt like my wild home town, Cairo.
Al-Qahera. The Oppressor.
Named by its founder to oppress its enemies,
Now it oppresses its children!

(Imitating her sister’s voice)

“Kneading and squeezing and squashing us into each other.
Whether we are in a bus, a minibus or a private car,
All squashed together in the traffic,” as my sister says.
You might not believe this, but it’s true.
New York is just like Cairo,
It has the same buzz and overcrowdedness.
Of course Egypt wins in the overcrowdedness department!

(She picks up her crochet, and starts crocheting a scarf for her daughter.)

I came here to study pharmacology,
But became an expert in alternative medicine.
I hadn’t expected that, when I started off.
But so much has happened that no one could have ever expected.
I changed . . . just like the whole world did!

Whenever I told my family about my activities;
The workshops or the training I attended
My dad would laugh and he would say:

(She speaks in Arabic first impersonating her father, then translates.)

“Khlaas mafeesh ‘elm we toknologia . . . kolu sha’waza zayyna?”
Is there no more science or technology in the States?
Is it all hocus pocus like us here?”

This used to upset me,
But I now know that he was right.
Most of the things I was learning are so alien to his world
In Egypt, we are barely emerging from the age of “hocus pocus,”
So people are holding tightly to science and medicine
And distancing themselves from the traditional knowledge and the popular wisdom and natural medicine.

(Video of energy images projected on the screen.)

Here, in the West, they have made scientific progress,
And continue to go further every day,
But in the midst of it, there is also a strong current of alternatives:
Homeopathy,
Alternative medicine,
Herbs,
Energy Healing.
Seeing humans as a spirit in a body,
Not a body that has a spirit.
And this is a big difference.
I used to read about this, but never fully understood it,
Until I became pregnant!

(Video of Mona, her husband, and her daughter projected on the screen.)

A soul enters a body,
A small body,
As it forms inside mine.
A miracle!
A marvelous miracle that my mind can’t fathom
My daughter came into my life to teach me so much.
Not just patience,
And coping without sleep.
She was my first real connection with the spirit of the universe
With my identity as a woman.
With the miracle of creation
With the motherhood that was hiding deep inside of me.

(Mona is crocheting and singing to the images of her daughter on the screen.)

Amourty el helwa ba’et te’ma, ba’et te’ma we laha sehr kebeer!

Rana is turning eleven

(Note: change the age of the daughter who was born  June 2002)

Many children were born
Nine months
After the towers were hit. Exactly!
People needed to make sure that they were alive
They wanted to feel safe in the arms of their loved ones!
From their fear a new generation was born,
I hope they never feel the same fears.
I was afraid,
And she gave me so much comfort.
Now, I am not sure how to comfort her
Or even decide which place is better for her?

My baby is growing up
I don’t know where I should raise her so that she may grow up in a safe environment, as a respected human being.
I grew up in Egypt,
In an environment that was neither too liberal, nor too conservative.
Things have changed since then
When we go back for summer vacations
I fear for her, from what she sees and hears!
I understand that religion is important to a lot of people,
But the cheap version of religion that has become widespread on pavements and cable channels, actually scares me.
They terrify people with stories of doomsday and eternal Hell,
Each side accusing “the other” of definitely getting “it” wrong,
Although we are in reality very similar to each other.
I am talking about Muslims and Copts here.
It’s is really sad!

Sometimes when I am in Cairo, I get an urge to take off the veil.
Unfortunately the veil is dividing society.
We don’t approve of discrimination in America, but
There is a lot of racism in our country.
Yes, in our blessed Egypt!
Classes constantly judging each other,
Too many jokes about Upper Egypt, “el Sa’aida,”
Making fun of the southern Egyptian accents,
[in Sa’idi accent] “Am Othman the porter”
“Africans are violent!”. . . which continent do you think we are from?
And off course light skin is good, while dark skin should be avoided
With whitening creams . . . or applying an egg and starch face mask.

Can you believe that a relative of ours, from a diplomatic background
—Supposedly well-read and well-traveled—
The first time she saw my daughter, she came to console me
[In thick French accent]
“How unfortunate!
Why is she so dark?
You are much lighter than her
Why your mother’s complexion is very fair!”
She conveniently forgot that her dad, my husband, is from Upper Egypt.
Is this the society I would want my daughter to grow up in?
I am not sure!
And yet we need to make a decision.

(Light fades, indicating time passing. In the dark, Mona sings a song about travel and being a stranger in a strange land.)

“Ah ya lalaly, Ah ya lalaly
‘aly etgharab keteer wala galy”

It’s starting to get cold.
I am making a hat and scarf for Rana.
Manual work is really good for both the mind, and the spirit.
And it allows me to instill good energy into each stitch . . . a blessing, “Baraka!”
If I get distracted, and knit a few stitches or even a few lines without this intention
I undo them!

(She pulls the thread to undo the last few lines she croched.)

The purpose is not just to protect her from the cold,
More importantly, from the negative energy.
She is joining a new school this year.
Who knows what she will encounter there?.
Of course, there is hatred of Arabs.

After 9/11, I found this handwritten paper in the subway.
It says: Kill Evil, Kill Islam, Kill Muslims!
I know that not all of America wrote this or feel this way, but
Awareness programs are so limited in comparison to the media effect.
The enemy is always “A-rab”
This did not just happen after the fall of the towers,
It started a while back.
Since the fall of the Berlin wall,
And the dismantling of the Soviet Union
Russia turned capitalist
And we Arabs became the weak link.

As you know, each protagonist needs an antagonist.
And as the Russians won’t fit the bill anymore,
“The Arab Enemy Era” started.

(Video montage of selections of films depicting Arabs as evil, from Jack Shaheen “Reel Bad Arabs”)

Film after film
With or without a reason
The enemy is an Arab.
There is this movie I used to like, before I understood.
See if you can guess the name.
In it, the American President is a widower
And is romantically interested in an activist
He invites her for dinner at the white house,
Then he excuses himself to take care of a small urgent matter:
Attacking Libya!
Why? Not expressed clearly . . .
He could leave her to deal with any of the thousands of national problems, financial crisis, or political scandals.
But no!
“We’ll attack Libya.”
And the cute, kind American president played by Michael Douglas
Tells his advisors to
“Attack at night,
So that most of the employees would have left,
And we don’t kill too many innocent people.”
“Ya Henayyen”
Oh, how kind!
Truly, there is no dramatic need for this.
They are just wiping their feet on us.
Because . . . Arabs became the official doormat.

The same happens in the comedy “Father of the Bride 2”
They sell the house to an Arab looking man
Who has an entourage of covered women.
When they decide to buy back the house,
The man raises the price,
And the audience are manipulated to hate this olive-skinned man from the Middle East,
Who is bothering the protagonist!

No, I am not in drama studies, I am a pharmacist . . .
But drama is so important in understanding our world.
Drama exists in medicine and pharmacology too.
There is a hero and an anti-hero.
That’s what you take antibiotics for.
And the friends of the hero are like the white blood cells
They help the hero in fighting the enemy.
But the villains in the human body are not all from the Middle East.

(She puts the crochet aside.)

This “Middle East” business infuriates me as much as American drama.
We used to be called “the Arab countries.”
When the occupations came to an end
We became the “Arab World.”
In school, there was even a map next to the world map.
But after they planted Israel in the middle, suddenly they changed our name:
“Za Middle East” “Al Sharq Al Awasat.”
The catastrophe is that we Arabs—including our writers and analyst,
Even our opposition newspapers—
Followed this labeling
That distorts our reality.
The papers discuss “the crisis of the Middle East”
The News presents “the Middle East file”
No. . . It’s called the “Palestinian Problem,
And Israeli occupation of Palestine and parts of neighboring countries.”
How come that we are that naive?
It’s like New Yorkers who
Call the salad made from tomatoes, cucumber, and parsley
“Israeli Salad.”
Or call the “ta’meya”
“Israeli Falafel”
Of course I won’t keep quiet.
I ask them:
“Which of their grandparents had falafel in their heritage?
The Russians or the Polish?”

For several years in New York,
Every time someone arrived from outside the city they would ask
—Hoping for even more drama—
“Where were you when the towers were hit?”
I felt that this was insulting . . .
Milking the pain!
I refused to participate in that game.
But of course I remember well
I was in my room getting dressed for work,
My husband was in the living room practicing his espresso and TV morning routine.
He called from outside,
“Mona, there is a fire in the World Trade Center.”
I was teaching at a college on Chambers Street, next to the towers,
I jumped on one leg, as I was half way into my tights,
And my eyes were fixed on the screen.
A few minutes later they showed the scene from a different angle . . . and we saw the plane entering the tower.

(Mona walks stage left to watch a projection of photo of the Twin Towers, pristine, in full day light. The she stands between them as she speaks the next lines.)

This is not a fire!
Moments later the other plane flew in . . . and smash
I fell on a chair
And started banging on my head
“They will definitely blame us”
Amr kept asking “us who?”
“They will make us suffer even more.”
We went to the roof of the building and saw the smoke from the towers
And the burning smell started covering the whole of New York.
A few minutes later we heard the reporter
Saying stuff about Ben Laden!
In the Land of Freedom and American Democracy
An accusation . . . live, on air
From the commentator on  ABC’s channel 7
To Ben Laden
While the event was still taking place.
So how did this reporter know?
Morning TV is usually light conversation, fashion, traffic news,
Suddenly he became endowed with the capacity to offer international political analysis . . .
To the extent that he is able to identify who was behind these events,
Before we heard that there is an attack on the Pentagon,
And a kidnapped plane in Pennsylvania,
And a fourth one whose fate remains unclear up till now!

(Mona walks back to her chair during the following lines.)

Of course my world changed
And my political awareness had to change
I needed to have a clearer perspective of my world.
Of the country I live in, and the country I belong to.
I went to so many demonstrations
We were so so many
Covering the eye of the sun,
Or Times Square or Washington Square,
Or Second Avenue, near the helpless UN.
Thousands demonstrated.

Hundreds of thousands marched against the random American foreign policy
“Why should we attack Afghanistan?
What did they do to us?”
But the hundred or two hundred thousand voices were lost amidst
The rest of the American population, charged by the media, and wanting revenge . . .
You see, they have never been defeated in the American movies
And this film was “live.”
It was on all the channels
All the time!
“The American people have been attacked.
On their own soil.”
And someone has to pay for it.

In the beginning, I was so happy with the freedom to demonstrate in the US.
The freedom to express one’s opinion, against the government.
’Cause when I was at Cairo University, and the political kids or the Islamists demonstrated,
The special forces would barricade the whole neighborhood,
And everyone, demonstrating or not, would be stuck inside the campus,
And gets their share of the goodies: tear gas bombs, smoke, beatings.
When the attacks occurred in New York, and DC.  Arabs were motivated, as well as some conscientious Americans,
It was the first time I truly participated . . . playing “a political role”.

(Photos of post 9/11 peace marches in New York. Photos of the missing on walls around the city.)

I was not just marching, but I helped organize the marches.
I made banners and distributed signs,
As a true rebel!
And my family in Egypt worried about me, and searched for my face on the TV screen.
But it all boiled down to nothing.
As if I was blowing a balloon which kept growing bigger and bigger until it exploded in my face.
They still attacked Afghanistan . . . “A pre-emptive strike!!!”
Just like the poet Para says in Spanish
“The United States of America,
Where Liberty . . .
Is just a Statue.”

(Video of the siege of Ramallah)

(Mona walks stage left, and sits on the ground in front of the large screen.)

After that came the siege of Ramallah
Truly, the worst days of my life.
I was so depressed. I couldn’t breastfeed my daughter.
I’d be feeding her milk full of oppression, injustice, and discrimination.
Poison would be gentler!
I used to sit in front of the television for hours,
In disbelief that this siege is happening in front of the whole world
And no one is lifting a finger
Or doing a thing.
Letting a bully with a few tanks
Enter another country and
Confine its president in his compound
Kill and destroy . . . enforce a curfew.

(In an Israeli accent as if the sound is coming from a Megaphone.)

“No movement in the streets, whatever the reason.”
To the extent that people could not bury their dead.
For a family to live with the body of their dead son for two, three weeks
Who would accept that?
But the whole world was witnessing it, silently.

(Music from Sol Seppy’s song “Enter One”)

(Video of the Mona’s feet walking through New York streets, in the woods, then jumping on a garden xylophone.)

(Mona gets up slowly, imitates the walk in the video, moves stage right, then starts to dance to the music.)

(Mona walks center stage, and kneels on the cushion.)

When I was young, I used to dream of the year 2000
The beginning of a new era.
I would be old enough to follow the historic change
And witness the shift.
And here come the twenty-first century!
I would have never thought it would be like this.
Is this what humanity decided to do, when it grew up and
Comes of age?

3- Basiouny Solitaire Germany Tour
SOLITAIRE, Written and directed Dalia Basiouny at Rawabet Theatre, Cairo.
Photo. M.Abdelfattah. Photo 6

Human beings have seven major energy centers, the Chakras.
For centuries, people lived a life of survival
From the lower energy centers only.
When some of them evolved further they celebrated the age of science and jumped straight into the mind.
But they forgot to pass through the heart.
This is the secret that I started to learn
To get me out of the darkness,
So I can continue on the path, do my work and raise my child
“The Heart.”

How to love the world as it is.
I tried to love and to accept.

(Video of bombing of Iraq at night.)

(Mona gets up and stands facing the screen, with her back to the audience).

But the War on Iraq was too much for me.
It broke my heart!
I was so sad,
I had a miscarriage.
My baby refused to come to a world that is so mad and cruel.
With people attacking people,
And countries decimating each other without any conscience.
What really drove me crazy was how they mobilized public opinion,
To support the military’s decision that the whole world opposed.
How did people believe such absurdity?
That Saddam Hussein would attack the United States of America.
With what? Did you leave anything in Iraq for them to attack anyone?
Ten years of continuous bombing since Desert Strom,
Total embargo,
Forbidding the import of goods, even children’s medication.
How would they attack the States?

(Mona walks back to her chair, and impersonates two voices.)

“They have chemical weapons
Send the inspectors!”
“They found no chemical weapons.”
“No, it seems there is new evidence
Send the inspectors to check again”
The real manipulation was not at the Security Council,
It was inside the country.
They became masters of a new industry
“Fear making!”
They pointed to Saddam and told the people, “He is the reason behind your suffering”
People said, “Let’s get him” “Let’s attack Iraq, we might get some relief.”

(Images of color codes. Siren like lights in the auditorium.)

They put the whole country in a state of emergency.
Introducing The Color Code!
Yellow: Be Careful
Orange: Danger
Red: Extreme Danger
Every morning as we listen for the weather they inform us
“Alert! The color code is now Orange.”
What does that mean?
Inspection on bridges
National guards with machine guns in subways and train stations.
Any bag is subject to inspection.
And Americans are not like us Arabs
They are not used to police control in the streets and “Show me your ID!”
Ads everywhere “If you see something . . . Say something”
Open your eyes wide, be vigilant and alert because you are surrounded by danger.
If the Code became red . . . even more hell.
They operate an emergency law which they must have borrowed from us.
Very tough inspections
Random detentions and deportations
Long lines at airports
Take off your belt . . . take off your hat
Take of you watch . . . take off your shoes
And if you are not very white,
Or you have a passport written in a strange language and opens from the wrong side,
Welcome the physical handling
“Please remove your head scarf”
“My female colleague must inspect your hair to make sure you are not hiding explosives.”

I was not veiled during the events of September 11,
I covered after . . .
For political reasons.
I am grateful that God is part of my life,
He knows what’s in my heart, my intentions and deeds
I am the one who needed to connect with my brothers and sisters, the Arabs and the Muslims.
Who were being attacked, locked up or deported
Just because they were born in the wrong country
Or said the something unclear over the phone.
And in the atmosphere of fear, of colors and codes
Anything we say could be the reason.
We are all suspects,
And those accusing us, don’t know anything about us.
They translate our language inaccurately.
I know a guy from Arab origin who started working for the American authorities.
He justified his decision that he could help Arabs, because their lousy translators are messing things up.
They had just had a big operation and arrested many Arabs
After they heard them on the phone discussing the details of
“The big night, of the Victorious.”
They assumed that this means someone will be victorious on a specific date.
It was the wedding night of a Yemeni young man named Mansour, the victorious,
And the big night is the Arabic euphemism for the wedding night!

I lost my faith in everything when they attacked Iraq
All these demonstrations around the world did not stop them,
It did not change a thing!
I couldn’t go to any more demonstrations.
This is not wasting time,
It’s madness.
The scientific definition of madness:
“Someone repeating the same action, in the same way and expecting different results.”
We organize, get permits, make banners,
Walk with slogans, and chants,
We lose our voices cursing Bush and his government,
Then . . .

Nada

Nothing.

We go home, exhausted, feeling that we performed our duty.
Turn on the TV to find out that they are still going deeper into Iraq,
Informing us of the names of American and British soldiers who had died,
“And a number of locals!”
What is that number? How many?
What! Are they dogs, you won’t even count them?
Even dogs in the US are highly respected.
They have their gyms and saunas
And when they die they are mourned.
How about us?

(Screaming at the screen in Arabic)

Wehana eeh..malnaash deyya ya kafara?

I quit demonstrating.
This is not the way for me to change the world.

(Mona walks to center stage, and kneels on the cushion)

I focused my studies on energy:
How to heal people’s soul?
To seek out the love inside them, and inside ourselves.
How to forgive even those who attacked or hurt us, to feel peace.
Real peace.

(Sound ritual: with singing bowl and chanting. She asks the audience to breathe deeply as she rings on the singing bowl.)

I found peace in New York
That many consider to be the craziest city.
Because I got to understand
That we need to first find peace within ourselves
Then with those around us,
Then with the world at large.
When we see the Divine inside ourselves,
And in the hearts of those around us
We realize that we are all one.
The same spirit exists in all of us.

I didn’t realize that I am a big lie, until they held me at the airport.

(She stands and walks back stage.)

We were coming back from Cairo . . . a 12 hour flight . . . totally exhausted hadn’t slept.
At JFK they took my photo and my finger prints, as if I was a criminal, before they could allow me to enter the country.
Then the security officer asked me with a fake polite voice: “Would you please come with me.”

(She sits on a stool.)

I waited in a side room in front of the boarder control officers who were checking our records on their computers.
A long wait.
I was feeling such negative energy.
I realized that I was in a room full of “Brown People.”
Since the first Americans got rid of most of the Native Americans,
The US had a Black-White tension,
Forgetting the suffering of the brown people.
Those who are not very dark: light skinned Africans, Arabs, many people from Asia and South America.
In my country, I am a brunette.
But Uncle Sam considers me “Brown.”
“Brown freedom fighter Mona” found herself with the other browns.
And I wanted to be strong to support my oppressed sisters and brothers from the third world . . .
But I am a mother
My daughter’s screams outside the room and her hysterical crying—when they made her leave with her dad—shock me to the core.
What hurt me more after, was her silence.
Her eyes were full of question but her lips were sealed.
At night, she’d get nightmares and scream.
Her father and I tried to comfort her, but we didn’t know how.

(Mona plays with her Egyptian passport, and hums a variation on the Egyptian National Anthem)

Amr and I have been talking about my Egyptian passport for a while.
I want to keep it and he believes it’s not practical as it delays us when travelling.
If we want to go anywhere, even Mexico or Canada, I have to apply for a visa,
And wait and wait, till they give it to me, or refuse to.
Amr feels he is Egyptian, regardless of the passport he is carrying.
I, on the other hand, am as stubborn as a mule. I want to keep carrying this large green monster,
That opens from the wrong side, and causes problems in all airports,
Because it is an important part of my Egyptianness.

After the last problem at the airport.
The problem was easily resolved, it had to do with a mistake with the university paperwork.
Our little family was not OK
We were messed up.
From the stupid investigation, and the inspection
And Rana’s state.
I decided that this was too much.

(Mona walks back to her chair.)

The following Monday, my husband took me to apply for the American nationality.
They ignored me for 8 months,
Secretly I was glad.
But last month they called me for an interview.
I passed.
And then assigned me a date to swear the oath of allegiance.

(Looking straight at the audience)

I don’t want to go.

(In defiance) I already have a country and a nationality.

Why another nationality? What would it do for me?
Would it really protect me if they decide to take me?
Nothing can stop oppressive regimes, neither here, nor at home.

I don’t want to go, but I want to feel peace.
May be this would happen if I swear the oath,
I’d be a “respectable” American citizen as my husband says.
I don’t believe him.
But I have no evidence to prove my feelings.
And I am not able to defend my Egyptian passport after the last problem at the airport, and all the stress we suffered.
So I started praying that something would happen so I don’t go.
I prayed so hard . . . that something would stop the treadmill I found myself on.

(Photos from January 25th protests are projected on the screen.)

Then the January 25 demonstrations started.
We were very disturbed by how the police brutally murdered the innocent Khaled Sayeed,
And we wanted something to happen.
But demonstrations in Egypt? What would that accomplish?
We have been to so many demonstrations here, in the land of freedom and democracy, and NOTHING happened.
But this time, it was different.
Friday of wrath started, and it got serious
The security forces brutally attacked the youth
As if it were Tiananmen Square in China,
And the whole world was watching.
Tear gas bombs . . . hosing the praying masses.
Rubber bullets . . . live ammunition at them . . . and driving over them with cars
And the wonderful youth didn’t even carry a stone.

(Siren like lights over the auditorium.)

And no one here was able to reach their families in Egypt.
The government’s pigs cut off the phone lines and the internet.
And their media frantically repeating:
Thugs in the streets!
Prisons are being opened!
People are attacked in their homes!
The same “fear making” techniques, if you notice.
We were furious. Arabs and Americans. And all those who care for freedom around the world.
On the weekend, many people here went on demonstrations against the oppression of the Egyptian government,
In front of the Egyptian consulate and the United Nations.
There were other demonstrations supporting the Egyptian’s struggle for freedom at the White House in DC, and many other cities.
But the work week starts on Monday, and everyone has to go to work
“And the Egyptians are holding strong in the square.”
On Tuesday, I couldn’t believe my eyes, while watching Al Jazeera.
A million people march!
Tahrir Square is full of people, who are not afraid to face the government
A million people in a peaceful march . . . a celebration of life.
I wished I was with them.
Amr was very excited that the Egyptian people finally woke up.
He kept saying “Who set the alarm clock, ha ha ha?”
But when I started saying aloud that I want to go to Egypt,
He said his famous words:
“It’s not practical!”
As if everything in the world needs to be practical, with concrete results that could be measured.

On Wednesday the fiasco of pro-Mubarak demonstrations started, and it turned to a massacre.
Horses and camels, and swords.
As if it’s a historic movie.
And of course this was on purpose.
Those in power wanted to send the world a message that we are still in the dark ages.
They were playing on Hollywood’s ideas about the East,
Scaring the West that unrest in this area would turn into something wild that no one in the civilized world would know how to deal with it.
And the peaceful Tahrir square turned into . . . a war zone.
My mind couldn’t fathom of what I was seeing on the screen.
The police are not there, but the government is sending armed thugs
And snipers.
Killing the Egyptian people, in front of the whole world.
I was depressed.
I thought they are going to vanquish the beautiful, peaceful revolution and
Wipe away the demonstrators.
But the Egyptian people protected their revolution, and defended Tahrir Square.

I couldn’t bear to be so far away and doing nothing.
I decided to travel to Egypt, to help my people.
Amr really did not get it. How could one deliberately choose to go to danger?
He saw the Molotov cocktails thrown at the square, and he heard the sound of the bullets on TV . . .
Now his wife, is leaving their peaceful home in New York, and heading to face death.
I couldn’t explain it in a practical or logical way . . . so I opened my heart.
I talked all night, about “the light” and “fear and love”
Most people live all their lives from fear.
Now finally there are a people who are moving from love.

(Images of Tahrir Square shining at night.)

Tahrir Square is a spiritual place.
Where the most positive energy on the planet exists at the moment.
Just as coal is purified under intense pressure,
And becomes a diamond.
Now, Tahrir is sparkling more than any diamond ring. A Solitaire!
With the light of the revolution, the energy of change, the souls of the martyrs.
I said a lot of things. I don’t remember them all.
My words really touched him.
He said: “Wait, I will take time off work, and we can all travel together.”
I couldn’t wait any longer. Though I really wanted my daughter to see the revolution with her own eyes. I had to go.
My mother, Egypt, was calling.

(Mona walks to stage left. Throughout the rest of the performance peronsal image from Tahrir Square are projected on the screen.)

I traveled alone
And arrived early on Friday.
I went straight to the square.

(Vidoe of images from Tahrir square, with Mona’s feet walking in the square.)

(Part of Sol Seppy’s Song “Enter One”)

The citizen patrol searched my bags carefully, apologizing before they opened each pocket.
It was early in the day, but there were many people entering the square.
Holding their IDs with pride!

I ran into two friends from college.
They were pleased that someone came straight from the airport to the square, and wasn’t afraid, and did not believe the fibs circulated by the Egyptian media.
I was the one who felt very proud of Egyptian women and their strength and fortitude.
They were bringing medicine, food and water for those injured during the attacks on Wednesday.

I accompanied them to the “hospital.”
A small mosque was made into a makeshift hospital.
Many head injuries, from the rocks that were thrown.
Lots of broken bones.
Those with severe injuries are lying on the rugs of the mosque, plastered, and bandaged.
Volunteer doctors and nurses.
Many people coming in with medicine and blankets

I saw a Doctor with a white coat covered in blood. She was helping the injured since Wednesday. They’d get hit, come to be stitched up, go to defend the square, get hit by another stone, get stitched up and go again, and sometimes they never came back.

And also heard for the first time about the martyrs.
The young men who were shot by the snipers’ bullets and died in this hospital mosque.
And how the other demonstrators threw rocks on the snipers to distract them in order to be able to carry the bodies of those who were hit.
The youth were sacrificing their own lives, going under fire, to carry the body of someone they didn’t know.
They only knew that he is Egyptian, and was killed because he was defending his country’s dignity.
Going to the hospital, made my heart ache for those killed and injured,
But it gave me great faith in the Egyptians’ understanding, heroism, generosity, and bravery. I knew they will not be duped ever again.

We went to the area around the statue of Omar Makram
I met the youth of 25th of January revolution.
Many men and women, young and old. From every age and background.
Living in Tahrir Square,
Sleeping on the pavement,
Learning democracy, live!
Discussing political problems and constitution referendums.
Egypt should be very proud of her sons and daughters.

Then Friday prayer started.
A million Egyptians prayed together.
They prayed Goma’ then ‘Asr, then the martyrs’ prayer.
The second they finished the prayer, saying:
“al salam ‘alaykum wa rahmatu allah we barakatu
Al salam ‘alaykum wa rahmatu all”
A million voices, at the same moment, and without prior agreement shouted
“Asha’ab Youreed Esqaat al Ra’ees . . . Asha’ab Youreed Esqaat al Ra’ees . . . Asha’ab Youreed Esqaat al Nezam.” (The People Want the President to Step Down . . . The People Want the President to Step Down . . . The People Want to Topple the Regime.)

There is no way I can express my feelings at that moment.
I was covered in goose bumps, as I shouted with them in a voice I had never used before.
A voice that was united with a million other voices,
All demanding the same thing at the same time.
People continued to come to the square and chant.

Masses of people who prayed in mosques and churches in other parts of Cairo.
The government stopped all the trains,
And blocked all the highways to control the number of people coming to the square.
Still two million Egyptians made their pilgrimage to Tahrir Square
They cleansed themselves of all fear, of the humiliation, of years of oppression.
They came to stand by the other free Egyptians,
Who are defending their dignity,
Discussing, chanting, and singing.
And their sense of humor is amazing. All the popular songs were turned to political chants.
Like the birthday song:
Yalla Halan Balan Balan Hayou Abul Fasaad.
Haykoon Eid Raheelo el Leila As’aad El A’ayad.

(Come on and greet the Father of corruption.
His day of departure would be a great party tonight.)

The Friday of Departure was a sacred day.
I was so happy I witnessed it with my own eyes.
As the song goes

“The Revolution will not be televised.
The Revolution will not be televised brother.
The Revolution will be live!”

No television could convey this feeling.
You have to be with two million people to feel their energy,
And your own energy merging with them, and moving towards one goal.

(Mona walks to stage center, and rests on the cushion.)

At night I went to my mum’s house. She was so happy to see me . . .
And shocked to know that I was in the demonstration.
Poor thing, she followed the Egyptian media.
She believed that those in the square are agents, who have “agendas” and are receiving monies from foreign sources.
The following day, she quarreled with me as I was heading to the square
She had heard that there are thugs surrounding the place.
True, there were armed thugs. But this did not stop millions of Free Egyptians from going to the square, or sleeping in it, in spite of the rain.
The government was playing its old political tricks.
Everyday they’d sacrifice one of the leaders or ex-ministers, to calm the people down.
So those at home would tell those in the square “Go home already!”
But you it’s hard to put the people who just woke up back to sleep.

On Tuesday, there was a third million-people march and it was huge.
The square, with all the surrounding streets and Kasr el Nile bridge were completely full of people . . . chock a block.
People increased, signs increased, and flags increased.
While the Egyptian official media is till saying “there are a few thousands demonstrating”

On Thursday, they announced that the president is going to give a speech at night.
People were so happy, and thought it’s going to be over.
Many gathered and moved toward the square.
Slogans and songs everywhere.
He is going to leave.

(Singing) “Hallu ya hallu . . . el Rayes sha3bu hallu/

Dalaou3 ya dalaou3 . . . Mubarak sha3bu khal3u.”

Finally the nightmare is gonna be over.

The speech was late, and the enthusiasm increased.

Then he spoke.
I have never seen a million people robbed of their happiness at the same moment.
The slogans started rocking the square.
Their anger, became determination.
Leave.
“Erhaal. Erahaal. Howa yemshi, mosh ha nemshy. Youm el goma’a el ‘asr, hanhed ‘aleeh el ‘asr!”
Leave. Leave!
You leave. We are not going to leave.
Friday afternoon . . . we’ll tear the palace on him.
As much as I was sad and heartbroken . . .
As much as I was comforted by the look of determination in the eyes of thousands who stayed in the square.

On Friday, I went to the University Professor’s March.

(Mona picks a flag from backstage, and marches on the stage, as the images of the marches are projected on the screen.)

We marched from Cairo University toward Tahrir.
When we passed in front of people’s homes we were chanting
“Our people, join us.
Freedom is for you and us.”
And some people left their balconies, and joined the march.

My friend called from in front of the presidential palace
She said “our numbers here are not great . . . tell those in Tahrir we need support.”
I couldn’t believe that my friend the architect, who hates crowds, is surrounding the palace!
We have changed . . . we became a revolutionary people.
A lot of marches did move toward Heliopolis.
By the palace the tanks were facing the people.
Behind them were the presidential guards, with raised guns, ready to shoot demonstrators, to protect the palace.
Anger increased. So the military officer moved the tank so the canon won’t be facing the people.
There was still a lot of tension, so he took the Egyptian flags from the people and hung them on the tank.
The protesters there calmed down.
But the floods of people who were coming from Friday prayer, were boiling with anger.
So the officer took the pictures of the martyrs who died during the revolution and hung them on the tank.
The people realized that the army there won’t attack them.

When I reached Tahrir Square with the Professors’ March
The square was boiling as well
And no one knew what to do.
Another friend called me.
She was standing with ten thousand people surrounding the National TV building, blocking entrances and exits, till a change happens.
As much as I was upset and angry with the president, the government and the army,
I was so proud of the new Egypt that was being born.
Hard to believe
That we are in our beloved Egypt
Participating in peaceful demonstrations
Without police, or security
And toppling the regime.
People were chanting to Egypt, the mother, and how they are ready to give their blood to for her sake. “Masr ya Om, Weladek ahom, Shayleen el ham, benzefu dam.”
Then they started calling on Egypt to give birth to Freedom,
As a woman is in labor, and they are asking her to breathe and push.

(Mona chants loudly and invites the audience to chant with her and she waves the flag.)

“Sheddy helek ya Balad . . . El Horrya bettwalad.”
Pull yourself together . . . Freedom is being born.
“Sheddy helek ya Balad . . . El Horrya bettwalad.”
“Sheddy helek ya Balad . . . El Horrya bettwalad.”
“Sheddy helek ya Balad . . . El Horrya bettwalad.”

On Friday at 6 pm, the news reached the square and millions of people went to celebrate in the Tahrir.
The tyrant fell after 30 years of corrupt governance.
The party was as grand as the occasion.
It was the biggest party in the world.
Three million in the square, millions all over Egypt and celebrations around the world.
’Cause
A nation triumphed,
And fulfilled its will.
In spite of years of oppression
There is still hope in change.
I am so lucky I lived to see this day with my own eyes.

(Mona walks back to her chair stage right, carrying the flag as she returns to her apartment in New York.)

(Video of her feet walking and dancing as people celebrate in the square.)

(Sol Seppy’s Song “Enter One”)

The events of September 11th messed up the world
Changed it to the worse.
Then, ten years later,
The Arab Spring came as a surprise for humanity.
The Egyptian peaceful revolution inspired people all around the planet.
It returned the hope that people can create their own destinies, however long the injustice lasts.

Unfortunately, the Arab Spring turned into a nightmare in many places.
And I wonder, who wants to keep all these people in the dark ages?
Who benefits from that?
But that’s another long story.
What I know is that the change has already started,
And no power can stop it.
We don’t live in the same world anymore.
2011 was just the beginning,
The revolution is NOT over.
It is just starting.
We have a long way to go.
To change the way things are.
This beginning is very important to set the record straight.
The peoples that they insisted are in a coma
Proved to be alive
And are changing their worlds with their own hands.
To live in justice and peace.

(Straight to the audience.)

I won’t go.
I will not swear the American oath.
I will keep carrying the large green Egyptian passport that opens at the wrong end
And is celebrated in all airports.
And I hope my daughter will carry it in pride!

The End of Part One

©Dalia Basiouny 2012

Dalia Basiouny is an Egyptian writer, theatre artist, activist, academic, and translator. Her theatre work includes directing 18 plays performed in Egypt, England, USA, Morocco, Iraq, Zimbabwe, and Germany.
Basiouny’s PhD from CUNY Graduate Center, under the supervision of Professor Marvin Carlson, explores the political theatre of Arab American Women after 9/11. She is a recipient of many awards including the Fulbright Arts Grant (USA), and the British Council Chevening Scholarship (UK).
Basiouny’s first play as a writer Solitaire received the theater award from the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC). Solitaire which presents the world of an Egyptian American woman from 9/11 to the Egyptian revolution, had its world premiere in Cairo, March 2011, before touring internationally. Basiouny was commissioned to write Magic of Borlous which examines the role of powerful women who explore rituals and alternative spirituality in the Egyptian patriarchal society. This play opened in March 2012, and toured nationally.
She teaches theatre in Egypt, translates, writes fiction and tends a small farm in the western dessert. She is currently preparing a film about artists during the revolution.


Logo_Publications

Arab Stages
Volume 1, Number 1 (Fall 2014)
©2014 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center Publications

Founders: Marvin Carlson and Frank Hentschker

Editor-in-Chief: Marvin Carlson

Editorial and Advisory Board: Fawzia Afzal-Khan, Dina Amin, Khalid Amine, Hazem Azmy, Dalia Basiouny, Katherine Donovan, Masud Hamdan, Sameh Hanna, Rolf C. Hemke, Katherine Hennessey, Areeg Ibrahim, Jamil Khoury, Dominika Laster, Margaret Litvin, Rebekah Maggor, Safi Mahfouz, Robert Myers, Michael Malek Naijar, George Potter, Juan Recondo, Nada Saab, Asaad Al-Saleh, Torange Yeghiazarian, Edward Ziter.

Managing Editor: Joy Arab

Table of Content
Essays

  • Brecht’s Theatre and Social Change in Egypt (1954-71) by Magdi Youssef
  • Re-orienting Orientalism: from Shafik Gabr’s “What Orientalist Painters Can Teach Us about the Art of East –West Dialogue” to Ayad Akhtar’s Disgraced by Fawzia Afzal-Khan
  • ‘Now I will believe that there are unicorns’: The Improbable History of Shakespeare in Yemen by Katherine Hennessey
  • Radhouane El Meddeb’s Experiments With Gender: In Search of New Bodies by Omar Fertat
  • Coptic Christian Theatre in Egypt: Negotiations Between The Minority and The Majority by Mohammed Musad
  • A New Perspective on Mikhail Ruman’s Smoke in A President of His own Republic? by Anwaar Abdelkhalik Abdalla
  • Kheireddine Lardjam, Traveller Between Two Shores by Marina Da Silva
  • Where Theatre has failed Syrians by Rolf C. Hemke
  • The Arab Aristophanes by Marvin Carlson

Plays

  • Solitaire by Dalia Basiouny
  • The Imam and the Homosexual by Jamil Khoury

Review

  • Struggling Against Insurmountable Odds: Theatre in the Arab World/Theater im Arabischen Sprachraum A Book Review by Michael Malek Najjar

Malumat/Information

  • Malumat: Resources for Research, Writing/Publishing, Teaching, & Performing Arts compiled by Kate C. Wilson

www.arabstages.org
arabstages@gc.cuny.edu

Martin E. Segal Theatre Center
Frank Hentschker, Executive Director
Marvin Carlson, Director of Publications
Rebecca Sheahan, Managing Director

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