Laughing the pain away: How Egyptians talk about the economic crisis in memes

Zeinab El-Gundy , Sunday 29 Jan 2023

Just as they have done for centuries, Egyptians in the social media era are employing humour, memes and comics as they deal with the economic difficulties that the country is facing as a result of the consequences of the global crisis.



On 11 January, millions of Egyptians followed apprehensively how the Egyptian pound hit its lowest-ever value against the US dollar. Later that day, the pound lost around 100 percent of its value – the most severe loss since March 2022 –  reaching the price of EGP 31 against the US dollar. The pound, however, recovered some of its losses, reaching  EGP 29.60, hours later.

“We swear the jokes and memes are over,” said the administrator of Asa7be Sarcasm Society Facebook page, reflecting what many Egyptians felt as they began to realise the losses sustained by the Egyptian pound on that day.

Followed by 15.5 million followers on Facebook, Asa7be is one of the oldest Egyptian sarcasm pages on Facebook. It flourished during the turbulent years of the Egyptian revolution 2011-2012. Characterised by a sense of humour that did not spare anyone, whether politicians or public figures in Egypt or abroad, the page shared tons of memes, sometimes on a daily basis. The admins of the page then choose the best and most appropriate material.

Recently, the famous page avoided politics and the economy, but now it is back in the game with a focus on Egypt’s economic crisis and its impact on citizens.

Early on 11 January, the page posted a video meme featuring the price of the Egyptian pound on Google against the US dollar and late Egyptian comedian Talaat Zakaria saying his catchphrase from his 2001 candid camera show “Save us.”

The page released a meme one hour later, mocking how one Kuwaiti dinar jumped to EGP 100.33 on that day. The meme featured a scene from the 2005 comedy Booha starring comedian Mohamed Saad. 

Another meme portrayed the pound as if it were a mobile being charged. The meme was captioned “Okay, it has reached 100 percent, remove it from the charger.”  

On 13 January, the page pasted the viral tweet of Japanese Astronaut Wakata Koichi, which features a photo taken on 11 January from the International Space Station (ISS) showing Cairo's glittering lights at night, onto a screenshot of a scene from another film by Mohamed Saad.

The meme reads: "These are not lights; these are the prices on fire."

The page also covered other crises faced by the country as a result of the global economic crisis. For example, the page made fun of the rise in egg prices due to the poultry feed crisis.

The meme here features the viral news posted previously that Zambian footballer Kenneth Musonda received five cartoons of eggs as a prize for being the Man Of The Match award following a game of his own team Power Dynamos against Nkana in the Zambian Super League. 

The meme reads “How lucky you are.”

It is not only Asa7be page that shares those memes that reflect and mock the current economic crisis.

There are also individuals who found their funny posts going viral on social media after they hit a chord. For example, a wave memes went viral for focusing on the diminishing of the middle class following the depreciation of the Egyptian pound.

Facebook user Karim Salah posted this photo showing a Starbucks coffee cup, which is associated with the upper classes in Egypt, besides a plate of fol (beans), which is associated the with lower classes.

Salah commented "The social classes have been mixed up."

Spanish-Argentinian model and girlfriend of Nasr SC footballer Cristiano Ronaldo was a subject of another viral meme after visiting Riyadh’s Winter Wonderland fair two weeks ago while riding a merry-go-round while elegantly carrying her expensive Hermes Birkin bag.