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My Tribe

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every time I visit an African country I find myself asking people quite rudely about their ethnic and tribal backgrounds (including the whites). being in a place where people know so much about their immediate history is fascinating, compared to Egypt where one might know loads of things about our ancient history but won't even remember where one's grandfather came from (of course this being Egypt nothing is uniform, many do know about their family trees and tribal backgrounds and all).

Now young arabs are supposed to have an identitiy crisis, we are supposed to spend the nights sweating over post modernist exestential question of belonging or not and the mere fact that we enjoy holy, boly and cairo wood at the same time is supposed to be very significant (what with haifa wahby being shiaa and nancy being whatever and all).

it doesn't work that way of course, I don't give a rat's ass about identity or belonging, not in the sense that I deny there is such a thing, but just in the sense that it doesn't bother me.

but being here in South Africa (and having way too much free time) I decided to play a bit with identity and ask myself what is my tribe.

if I'd define my tribe on ethnic basis then there isn't much I can say about that.

but if it's culturally then my tribe is Egyptian muslims, in the sense that I used to expect a hefty 3edeya (a gift of money) every eid and now I'm expected to hand out a hefty some of money every eid. that is very much my culture, which has alot in common with other arab and islamic cultures but has enough unique aspects to make it my tribe (and hence that controversial protest we organized in sayyeda can be seen as an attempt to revisit my roots and must have been inspired by my two recent African trips at that time).

but my tribe can also be defined based on which groups of human beings I choose to care more about. not in the sense that I don't give a damn what happens to anyone else but in the sense of which news am I following for instance, I'd feel sympathy for people in Peru if I stumble upon their news, but normally I wouldn't seek news about Peru.

so in that sense one has to also consider tribes that are subsets of larger tribes.

my most immediate tribe is the Qaheri tribe (that is people living in Cairo), and then the Egyptian tribe (and here I like t believe that I'm doing a better job than average I do try to keep up with what happens everywhere in the country and not just the delta or the nile valley).

immediately after the Egyptians comes Sudan, Palestinians, Lebanese and Syrians. does this come from the centrality of the Arab Israeli conflict in my consciousness of does it come from some old historical/ethnic ties?

then there is Iran, Algeria and Morroco, and the rest of the nile countries.

now this is obviously political, and it might seem just rational, but it isn't it really is about identity, the interesting part is not which people belong to my tribe, but wich people don't.

Libya, Tunis, Gulf arabs, Saudis, non nile Africans are not my tribe, I care about them as much as I care about Brazilians (which is more than I care about Americans but you know :-)

there is probably something to do with large populations and old history too.

but IMO the best way to define my tribe is subscription based, my tribe is EGLUG (which is also a subset of a larger tribe). so watch out, it means I'm willing to compromise Egyptian nationalt security if it means more widespread adoption of FOSS (and now let's sing the GNUnternational).


Kanss el sayyida was your idea? Nice touch, I liked that one:-)

Hi Alaa:

You said " if I'd define my tribe on ethnic basis then there isn't much I can say about that.

but if it's culturally..." I do not know what you mean by ethnic basis. As far as I know (though I am not sure), ethnic basis and cultural identity are one thing--they are the same.

Hear from you. Best, Ahmed

ان شاء الله

Interesting thoughts Alaa... Safe trip, and see you in Cairo soon.

يا علاء مصر كانت قبائل و بلد عندها حضارة .

نظام القبائل يماثله هنا في مصر اللي بيسموه عائلة.

الصعيد معظمه كدة و ناس عندها اصل.

تيجي علي الوش البحري و المقاطيع بيبانو اللي هما بواقي الاتراك و الشوام و الخره ده.

الصعايده هما السكان الاصليين بتوع مصر ، يعني الوش البحري ده لازم يترمي في البحر.

و بصراحة موضوع القبائل ده مرتبط باللغة ، يعني لو مفيش لغة لكل قبيلة صعب تعرف الفرق ، و ده هو اللي بيحصل هنا في مصر ، 99 في المايه بيتكلموا عربي.

what is this crap?!, A new middle eastern version of nazzism?... if you are serious about that then u need a hell of a serious help.

المحترم اللى بيتكلم عن ان الصعيد كلهم ولاد اصول ميعرفش انه كان فيه اتراك ومماليك عندهم اراضى فى الصعيد وبعدين حضرتك مسمعتش عن العند الصعيدى لما يكون فيه عرق تركى ؟ مش الوجه البحرى بس اللى فيه مقاطيع مع الشكر