In photos: Street Carnival project brings minority cultures to cities across Egypt
Nourhan Tewfik, Friday 5 Jun 2015
The brainchild of Alexandria-based El-Madina foundation, Street Carnival is a street-theatre initiatives that aims to promote diversity and break stereotypes

Street Carnival, a street theatre initiative that seeks to showcase marginalised and minority cultures, recently concluded its second round of street theatre performances, which ran from 30 May to 4 June.

The round comprised a total of 14 performances, which were held in Ismailia, Port Said, Port Fuad, Suez and Damietta.

According to a statement issued by Alexandria-based El-Madina for Performing and Digital Arts cultural foundation, which runs the initiative, these performances “aim to break prejudices and stereotypes, promote diversity and acceptance, and praise the overlap between minority cultures and the main Egyptian culture.”

Preparations for the project’s first round began last February with a call for artist submissions.

Out of 90 applicants, 25 were chosen to participate in a two-week camp in Cairo during which they were trained by Egyptian and Swedish trainers on how to produce street theatre, and were taught the skills that could empower them as artists in the long run.


Director Ahmed Saleh put together a one hour-long performance combining modern dance, clowning, storytelling and singing.

“The artists start off with a march where people assemble, forming two lines, and stand facing one another, which is inspired by traditional Nubian dance. Each artist performs a scene as he walks through the passageway formed between both lines. As he acts out the scene, the other standing artists complement the act,” Mohab Saber, executive manager of El-Madina and the director of the Street Carnival project explained to Ahram Online.

“The choice to focus on Nubian culture is not only because it is marginalised or that we want to familiarise people with it, but also because we believe we can use some of this local community’s principles to solve some of our national problems,” he continued.


To do so, the initiative tries to familiarise society with Nubian culture and its beautiful particularities, rather than tackling the issue of Nubian marginalisation.

In that sense, Nubian culture is presented as an inspiring model for the rest of Egyptian society.

“For example, when it comes to the issue of sexual harassment, one that plagues Egyptian society, the performances seek to show how Nubian culture does not suffer from that problem, and reflects on the tolerance and lack of discrimination of Nubian culture,” he said.

“The performance also welcomes the audience’s interaction – and it happens. Audience members join the two lines and contribute to the performance in utter spontaneity,” he added.


Street Carnival’s first round kicked off on 20 April and ran until 3 May, holding performances in Cairo, Giza, Qalioubiya, Luxor, Qena and Assiut. Two additional performances were held at Kafr Ashri in Alexandria.

Future plans include holding a performance during the Bibliotheca Alexandrina's Summer Festival, which falls on 12 August. Parallel to the performance, the group plans to hold an evaluation session of the initiative’s first two rounds.

“We will publish a book outlining the experience, which we hope can be of help for researchers working on the topic of blending culture with development. Also, a film exhibiting the first two rounds is supposed to come out in October,” said Saber.


Moreover, ten out of 25 participating artists are scheduled to deliver the performance in Morocco, in performances in Marrakesh and Casablanca.

“As part of our Morocco trip, the ten Egyptian artists will hold a workshop at Casablanca during which they will train ten Moroccan artists on the methodology applied in the performance, and leave the latter to mould the scenes themselves,” Mohab said.

El-Madina was established in 2000 with the aim of “transforming public spaces and marginalised areas to spaces where people can practice free expression and create a cohesive social environment characterised by diversity and pluralism,” according to its website.


It provides training services, support to budding artists and new youth initiatives as well as management of cultural venues.

Street Carnival is part of the “Drama, Diversity and Development in the MENA region” project funded by the European Union, the Prince Claus Fund, and the Swedish Postcode Foundation; and is implemented by Minority Rights Group International, Civic Forum Institute, and Andalus for Tolerance and Anti Violence Studies.