Saturday, March 17, 2012

Coloring the revolution

The Cairo International Book Fair is a funny place. Between booths hawking ornate copies of the Qur'an and tomes detailing anti-Western conspiracy theories are even larger tents selling the provocative novels of Alaa al-Aswany and analytical works by Egyptian writers on the country's incomplete revolution. Across the Cairo International Fairgrounds are antique dealers, a tent with ties to Saudi Arabia, and major international publishers.

While plenty of Arab writers exist, the literacy rate across the Arab world is quite low and pleasure reading in Egypt is relatively unheard of. As the Economist put it: "The Middle East has a bad reputation when it comes to books; nowhere else do so few people read them."

So the Cairo book fair back when I visited in January was quite a sight. It was the first one after last year's uprising, and changes were evident: Muslim Brotherhood literature was on sale, as were scores of provocative works about Mubarak and the current political situation.

As were these cute kids' coloring books I snapped up. Entitled "The Arab Revolutions,""Elections,"and "Parliament," they're a primer on how things work in Egypt nowadays. Or at least how they're supposed to work.

The Arab Revolutions 

Right: The revolutionaries are those who rise up to eliminate corruption, calling for reform and construction.
Left: Freedom is like the water and air of the people.

No to tyranny and a lack of respect for public opinion.

The book shows scenes from other Arab uprisings, like the "Yemeni people's revolution"(right) and the "popular Libyan revolution"(left).

The Elections

Your vote is secure, so share your vote, and give it to the person who deserves it.

Right: The ballot box is the first way toward fair democracy.
Left: No to corruption... No to forgery... No to buying votes.

Electoral symbols: Every candidate and party has a certain symbol that represents it on the ballot.

The Parliament

Right: Members of the People's Assembly represent the people in discussions about the country's affairs.

An elected president of the republic is one who takes his office via elections by the people.

And, oddly stuck on at the end:
The national army protects the country's borders from enemies.

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