Known to many in Egypt and abroad, the Annual Korba Festival was associated with Egypt’s former first lady Suzanne Mubarak, being the main fundraiser and organiser.
This year, The Employer and The Trainer magazines took the initiative to revive this growing annual tradition by providing a different day of entertainment, education, career building, and tourism.
However, only a week prior to the event, scheduled to take place on Friday 1 July, The Employer and The Trainer backed off claiming the security of attendees to be under threat.
“Although we have taken all possible measures to ensure the security of the place through the police force, the army, and G4S security company, we have no intention to risk the security of any company or any person,” Hend Mitkees, sales and marketing executive at The Employer and The Trainer magazines, told Ahram Online.
According to its plans, The Employer and The Trainer will take the festival to another location later this year. “We plan to have the festival at the Chinese Garden at the Conference Complex, by mid-October,” Mitkees says.
Aiming at highlighting Egypt’s culture to the world, The Employer aims to help Egypt rise to prosperity; “therefore, we believe the Chinese Garden to be more secure as it is cordoned from all sides, giving security officials more hold on who’s going in and out of the place,” Mitkees said.
Security issues were put into high relief after shop owners along Baghdad Street, where the festival was initially taking place, claimed to have been threatened by anonymous sources because of their proximity to the festival.
“We received several threats as the organiser announced the event,” Heba Kamel, a worker at Kik’s, one of the female clothing shops on Baghdad Street told Ahram Online. Nabil Naguib, the owner of the shop, among others signed a petition to district officials requesting the cancellation of the festival.
“An interesting threat we received was an anonymous message, which we believed to be from thugs, saying that the Korba area of Heliopolis has remained untouched by violence since the onset of the revolution, and that if the festival is held all shops and citizens on Baghdad Street would be attacked,” Kamel confided.
Despite drastic security measures taken on behalf on the organiser, along with government assurances, shops like Kik’s remained afraid. “About a week ago, the army forces for the very first time sent a few wagons to tour this area, showing us that they are there to protect us, but we cannot [be assured] that easily, given the current conditions in Egypt,” Kamel states.
A few doors down Baghdad Street, employees of Al-Shorouk bookstore shared their fears of having a street festival in the locale. Ezzat Zahran told Ahram Online, “The minute we heard of the festival in progress, we joined the rest of the shops to have the festival canceled.”
“Al-Shorouk never received a threat, though we have heard about a number of shops that have been threatened. But based on our past experiences with the major Korba Festival of Suzanne Mubarak, we thought it best not to have a festival this year or any other year until Egypt gets on its feet,” he said.
To Al-Shorouk, the festival for the past seven years since Suzanne Mubarak first took matters into hand was fruitful. “We used to take advantage of the event … It increased traffic to the store, our profit increased, and activities were always planned for attendees of all ages,” Zahran said. “Yet, given the fact that this safe area of Cairo might be threatened, we had to join others to cancel this year’s event,” he added.
“The first year Suzanne Mubarak organised the festival was the best because the area gained international recognition,” Kamel recalls. “We had international exhibitions and participation, but afterwards it got worse each year and our business suffered,” Kamel says. “People would use the store to escape the hot weather outside. Other female visitors would come in only to fix their makeup and clothes,” she claims.
Further, policemen used to enjoy the sun and the free drinks and entertainment on the street. But they never cared about security, according to Kamel, “So how can we trust that it would be any different this year?”
Zahran agrees. “Last year, while Egyptian musician Omar Khayrat was performing, a group of young men started harassing some women and the incident escalated into a huge fight underneath Al-Shorouk window.”
Although relief is spreading among business owners along Baghdad Street, Ibrahim Ouf, owner of a clothing shop called "33", is sad, seeing nothing wrong with having the festival on Friday as scheduled. "Festivals bring high traffic to the street, although my business doesn’t actually benefit.”
He assured Ahram Online that he has not received any threat and had heard no one on the street being threatened.