Tuesday, October 27, 2009

London Fashion Freestyle

As a very curious person and a Journalism student, I tend to look at a lot of things around me. You have to keep the observant eye, always searching for something. Also, as a woman, there is one thing I particularly enjoy looking at everyday : the million different styles and outfits that people put on. It is amazing how everyone is just so unique in their way of dressing, their hairstyle, their bags, shoes everything.. rarely will you find  two people wearing the same things. I just thought about how everybody is just different and expresses this difference without any shame and without even being aware. 

It makes me think about Egypt a lot,  and about how every girl looks like the other one. Who doesn't have a Longchamp Bag? Ray Ban aviators? ( or the latest fashion item, just go to AUC or the ultimate place-to be Tamarai to find out) I personally love my Longchamp bag, it is so practical and looks so nice, as for my aviators, I think they're amazing, they look good on everyone, and they make me feel hippie. But sometimes it gets just so annoying and so strange to see how everyone is looking the same. Same style, same clothes, same hair do, even same way of dancing! I don't think it has anything to do with being a fashionista, I can't think of a specific reason for this because I sometimes do follow these trends.  
Although all my friends in Cairo call me Rambo when I wear it, I love wearing my hippy-rambo headband but I only wear it on two occasions, on the beach and when I'm out at night(sometimes I end up by removing it because of the weird stares I get). In London, I wore it more than once and I did not get any comment. I wear my super hat ( I know someone who particularly hates it) and no one says anything and I just love it! 
When I look at people around me, especially at university I see them wearing items that I would never have thought could be combined together! But still, it looks nice you know why? Because it is their own way of putting it together expressing their uniqueness. 
I know that girls all wearing the same clothes and looking all alike is a widespread phenomenon called "fashion" but there is a difference here, in London, you can wear the "in" item any way you like it or you can just not wear it, nobody will look at you and judge or criticize. 
I guess this also has a lot to do with the culture. If you think about it, freedom of expression is not only about politics but about everything and in Egypt I don't think there is freedom of expression at all. I don't want to generalize but being part of the mainstream is so easy and I sometimes fall into it , I admit. We are being dictated everything in our life. We are brought up in a way that standards always have to apply. But says who? Who made these standards? I am not playing the role of the Arab woman who comes to be liberated in Europe, but I just ask myself why do we all follow this mainstream? What is wrong with being yourself and accepting others the way they are? 
It is part of our judging culture in Egypt , I can't stop thinking about how people stare when someone just enters into a place and no it's not the- normal stare- because- someone- just- walked- in, it's the who-is-she-what is she wearing-is it a Prada bag- isn't she loulou's cousin -stare. Trust me, I know this look, I once caught myself doing it and I got it from other people so many times. 
 About fashion in Egypt, we must not forget that there isn't a real wide range of places to shop at, this is why you will find every girl wearing the same Zara, Mango name any brand, name any item. Still, I am pretty sure that in London many girls must shop at those stores but we can't see it, and it is because they have their own sense of fashion. 

When we look at something like Portobello Market (the picture), it is amazing to see how many items are so unique, you have so many markets, so many stores that cater to everyone, every size, every shape everything! Why don't we have things like this in Egypt? Although we have this new trend of small vintage boutiques, they are so expensive, plus, it is the new trend to be vintage and buy from boutiques. Still, I am sure there are alternatives and ways of being unique in fashion but still, I see this step being very hesitant in Egypt. 

Isn't it enough that we have to deal with the issues we have in our complex society,  like the poverty, the twisted politics, the corruption, the backwards mentalities and so on. I think it is time to start opening our minds a bit, at least by wearing what ever suits us and what ever we like and by accepting other's style. That's a good start for freedom I think.  

(Photo By Randa El Tahawy)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Representing the people? Egyptian Apathy

On a visit last Wednesday to the Parliament, or I should say Westminster Palace, I noticed many things and asked myself a lot of questions.
I never saw my Parliament, I never went to Maguliss El Shaab,( i.e The Egyptian People's Assembly or lower house) nor to Maguliss El Shoura ( The Consultative Council or upper House.) Is it even open to the public? I should look into that.

I am aware of its role and I have seen some sessions on TV but they were about angry MPs being thrown out of the room, throwing shoes or protesting, nothing very informative.

One of the things I felt as an overall impression after this experience at the Parliament is how U.K citizens and to my experience British citizen, are very much in touch with their politics and their representatives at the parliament.

I guess in my case, it is a lack of information because I still need to do some effort to get infiltrated into the Egyptian society because of my background but als0, I am sure my case is the same for a lot of people. We don't really know anything about our parliament, most of us do not really know who is our local MP. Well actually, if I talk about the group I fit in and the generation I come from, some of us do not even know how to read and write Arabic which is very sad but true. Still I do not think that language is such a barrier so I wonder: Where does this apathy come from?

We have been so alienated by our government never seeing an end to the oppression the misinformation, the corruption and all the other majors problems that Egypt has, to the extent that we do not even care or we are not even aware of our local politics. I am fascinated by how citizens in England are so aware of their politics, so active in their communities.

I was amazed yesterday when we saw David Cameron ( leader of the Conservative Party) come out of the house of Commons so casually whereas in Egypt, you only get to see Fathi Sourour or any other parliament member in VIP events if you are an average citizen( putting journalists, activists aside). Then, the guide explained to us that you can even meet your local MP out of the session and talk about your issues and sometimes let him ask questions for you at the session. I noticed some firefighters all gathered outside of the session probably from a union asking for issues being all united and active.

In the recent past years the youth in Egypt has started to move. I will never forget the 6th of April strike, a movement that was created by the youth and that spread through networking and Facebook. The power of internet in Egypt is great, blogging, groups etc.. we are starting to get pro active in the community and this is a good start. But still, there is this lack of action and a kind of apathy regarding politics and organizations.

It is such a wide topic that needs experts and analysts it is all interrelated to so many issues and problems in Egypt. To put it simply, I do not have the feeling that I am being represented in the parliament, I do not have the feeling that I am a citizen in my country. Not only we have a lot of social restrictions, we also have political ones and on top of all of this, our voices are not even heard by the government because we are too passive to participate.

(Photo By Randa El Tahawy, part of the Parliament)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Reuters Dream

I don't know if at some point in every journalists life Reuters means the top of the top, the thrill of a journalist's job. Journalism at its best wow "Reuters". Even though I had a preview of a Reuters bureau before, I still get so fascinated by it. On Monday, with my MA class we went to visit the headquarters of Reuters next to Canary Wharf Station. Just by getting out of the tube and seeing the tall business buildings you feel important. There it was, the huge Reuters building with the headlines, the stock market. We were all so excited we took pictures outside of the building we even took pictures of our badges (My name was spelled wrong as usual but it's fine it's Reuters!).

However, I guess some people with me may have had this impression after leaving the building : Wait, where are the reporters screaming with the latest scoop, the big TV screens with the latest event, this media rush we saw in the movies? Well this is not Reuters. When I went for a small internship at the Cairo Bureau, Jonathan Wright at the time the Bureau chief and the reporters there made me understand that this was just an image of Reuters that people often get especially eager little journalists like myself. What really happens is what we saw today: a big newsroom full of computers, people talking but mostly computers and phones.
It is kind of disappointing when you have these images to see the calm newsroom, all the people talking and discussing, all in a very serious atmosphere. But when you come to think about it. Those editors that we saw, they are responsible for all those instant headlines, those top stories that we see everyday from Reuters. Managing the world desk, managing the financial, equity and monetary policies stories etc... is a big job. Not only you need to be an experienced, quick editor but also an amazing writer and have so many communication and management skills. Great journalist, great editor, great everything! If you see the amount of stories that go on the wire every day it is simply amazing. It is like a big news factory.
Reuters might not be the experience of running in the streets with the latest scoop, hiding behind a car while a town is exploding but it is creating news in a major factory experience.
When you see how a news agency functions in such harmony, so quickly and so efficiently it just makes you confused as a journalist, thinking that the world is so big. Still, it is nice to know that there is always something going on. Something significant.
I don't like Financial news and the other types of it, I am trying to like it but it is so hard for me. Unfortunately what we usually don't know is that the major news from Reuters are financial and the rest is all media and general news.
Here are some facts Anne Senior told us when we were at the visit ( it might not be completely accurate but it is just and idea) and I just think it is amazing. Reuters works with around 20 languages in almost 22 different countries and they select around 800 pictures per day to publish!
So, after all Reuters still sounds "wow" to me.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Twitter Trend

I joined the world of Twitter today.

I was quite opposed to joining it as I thought who would ever want to follow my daily updates on Twitter? Ever since I started my MA I noticed how Twitter has made many achievements in getting the news quick with journalists' tweets or with the average citizen's post on the scene of a major event. I already knew it, but I became more aware of Twitter's power when I started my Journalism courses. Also, when John Gripton the News Editor of The Online version of Sky News came to Westminster and spoke to us, he mentioned Twitter almost a thousand times; focusing on how important it was for him as a source but also as a medium for spreading the news fast.

When I tried to describe Twitter, I didn't exactly know how to describe it, I just said "it is like a social networking website, where you publish your updates like on Facebook when you publish your status". Does the sentence even make sense? I honestly still don't know how it works, I tried to upload a picture but could not find a professional one so I kept it for later, then I just made my first post which was Randa: trying to figure out how this thing works" or something like that. But I have one follower already! Well I also subscribed to follow her so I guess it is not a major achievement. But I am also following Reuters, BBC, Sky News etc… Since my main purpose of joining Twitter is to enter the new world of online journalism, blogging, tweeting etc..

Anyway, I think those kinds of things are very important for us aspiring journalists: Trying to get into the journalism world especially the modern one. Even though I would not compare my blog posts or Tweets to those of an experienced Journalist, I have to keep this in mind " Citizen Journalism" you never know, I might be posting ideas or noticing something that really means something for the world of news?( plus I’m not only an average citizen I am still in the process of becoming a journalist) I guess my ideas and thoughts are still worthy maybe not breaking news worthy but at least news worthy if you take them from the angle of "exploring the learning journey of an aspiring journalist". (The purpose of my blog actually)

So Tweeting, Blogging, Facebook updates and all of this, it is quite important to have in order to know what's going on in the world or in a specific community. This is exactly what John Gripton, was saying. They were looking into all of these social networking websites to understand what happens, what are the latest issues that people are facing because after all, our audience is the people.

Here is an example, I am not in Egypt anymore but when I get into Facebook all I can see is groups about the upcoming match between Egypt and Algeria ( I also have a source that keeps me updated especially on those topics) but it was everywhere, pictures, groups, videos, because this game is so important for Egypt, we could be going to the World Cup! I also saw many things about The Aqsa Mosque, so mainly all the issues that matter to the people are spread on Facebook through groups discussions, pictures, videos and updates.

So yes, these websites are important, from now on I will not think I am wasting time by getting on Facebook and reading every single update of every single person on my Friends list, “no it's not Stalking, it's the new Journalism”.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Artificial Virginity Sold to Egypt

This is a story that we were asked to write up in a news exercise. I particularly chose this story as it raises many debates and issues about Egypt and the double standards that live in our society.

Thursday 8th of October:

"Virginity Faking Device Stirs Controversy in Egypt

A Chinese-made device enabling women to fake their virginity could be banned if Conservative Egyptian politicians succeed in their campaign.

Sheikh Sayed Askar, a member of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood who is on the parliamentary committee on religious affairs, told the Daily News Egypt that the government must take responsibility for fighting the product to uphold Egyptian and Arab values.

The Artificial Virginity Hymen kit distributed by the Chinese company Gigimo and advertised for export to the Middle East costs around $30 (£19). The product simulates virginity by leaking a blood-like substance when inserted and broken.

Reports say the device is intended to help newly-married women fool their husbands into believing they are virgins, an essential marriage requirement for women in much of the Middle East.

The kit is also seen as a cheap and easier alternative to hymen repair surgery which is secretly carried out by some clinics in the Middle East.

The anger over the device raises many questions about Egyptian society that condemns pre-martial sex despite it happening commonly.

Lina Samaan, an accountant quoted by the Los Angeles Times, said this debate raises many questions about the double standards that often apply to women in Egypt.

"Sex is a right for every woman but unfortunately we started turning to products like these because men - even non-religious ones who have sex before marriage - wouldn't marry a girl if she's not virgin."


Clearly, there is a problem. The issue here at hand is not whether the product should be banned but rather questioning its existence. Did people lose their mind and became so shallow on lack principles that women need a product like this? What does it say about our culture? We are so wrapped with double standards that a Chinese company is selling us this product to make our lives easier. I wonder how they knew this product would appeal to so many women because if it was not that appealing then no controversy would have surrounded the virginity kit. I am just so surprised by the lack of principles this product creates. I have many opinions about this or I should say many points.

First of all, as romantic as this could sound but Virginity is not something that can be faked, people did you forget the whole meaning of it? This post should also be called "the controversial piece of fabric" (i.e my previous post a month ago). What happened to our mind us women, you men, that a simple piece of skin makes you lose your principles. How can a woman vows to marry a man basing her fist intimate symbolic moment on a lie that she is a virgin. I cannot imagine myself spending the rest of my life with a person and hiding one of the most important aspect of my life (yes it is important we should not be afraid to accept that sexuality is important).

Women who resort to this have issues but sadly it is not their fault, the society is at fault men are at fault. Because women cannot be accepted as sexual being outside and inside of their marriage. Still just because men and I confidently say most Egyptians men think that a girl who is not a virgin is not worth marrying does not justify lying and drowning yourself in those dark ages ideas because by faking the virginity those women are promoting those stupid thoughts. We women say that our submissive situation is like this because men are in power, because a man can do whatever he wants but a woman can't, the society sets the rules etc... but do you think that by doing this you are protecting yourself?

By letting products like this invade our minds and brain wash our thoughts we are just letting the society win, the society that dictates how we should behave, think, and live, this society that causes for so many of us women to fall into depression and live miserable life.

Virginity is an important issue in our societies and I agree it is important as it is important to any woman in the world. But judging a woman by a piece of skin is just becoming so sad. It is such a big debate because we should not forget to mention that it deals with religion and the Arab world lives under the principles of Islam. But I will not go into that as my points of view about religion only concern me and God. If someone really has faith and truly believes in God and wants to follow religion then let him follow it right. Whatever it means for this person to follow it right, as long as there are no Chinese products to hide the true nature and needs of this person.

Blog Updated

 The blog will be updated everyday or at least 3 times a week. It will be featuring some news and more journalism related posts as I have to do it for my Masters program. 

This being said, I would like to say that the picture that appear on the blog unless I did not state that I took them are not mine, and I just learned today that technically I stole them. So sorry...

Enjoy the new features of my blog, it really needed a fresh start.