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Egypt revolution on a t-shrirt

Egypt's Revolution is not just about politics, as design initiative, Manshoorat 3al 7abl, or Leaflets on a clothes line, reveals

Mohamed El Hebeishy, Saturday 26 Mar 2011
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Photo: Mohamed El Hebeishy
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It is said the twenty five people are all that is needed for a Mexican wave to go around the whole stadium. It needed only four enthusiastic young Egyptians to create Manshoorat 3al 7abl; one of many post revolution initiatives, all spreading at the speed of a cheering wave.  

Inhaling the fresh breeze one sunny winter day somewhere in Cairo, I was punching keyboard letters when my work was interrupted by one you-have-got-mail type of alarm. Intrigued by the email’s title, Manshoorat 3al 7abl, I found myself clicking the message and following another Facebook link. It is no call for a protest, an organized event, or even a lightweight trivia, but rather an initiative. “Manshoorat 3al 7abl”, or leaflets hung on a rope as the translation might suggest, is a two-in-one initiative that combines economy building and identity awareness into one.

The idea itself is straightforward: a set of products, currently t-shirts, pins, and mugs, which are being sold mainly for charity. The twist, however, is in the designs. Six out-of-the-box designs are used to voice a statement that reflects a state of mind which today’s generation had lived, felt and experienced through the 18 days of the revolution. While one design has the word “Masry” written in Arabic script on a blue foreground that resembles the old street signs, other designs take a more caricatural outfit with one reading “I ♥ Legan Sha3beya” and another sees a red t-shirt with the word “Agenda” imprinted, again using Arabic letters. The only black t-shirt, to complete the three-colour set of our nation’s flag, comes in with a simple and symbolic design—“#Jan25”. We will always be grateful to Twitter. Speaking of which, my favourite Manshoorat 3al 7abl creation sees Twitter’s letter “T” famous design followed by “for Tahrir”. “T for Tahrir” is an eye catching design that, in a way, pays tribute to Tahrir Square; the revolution spotlight that grew to be a global symbol to freedom.

Manshoorat 3al 7abl bold designs complement the initiative’s second fold; in addition to contributing in building the Egyptian economy, they also aim at promoting identity awareness. “We didn’t want to see Egyptian youth wearing shirts with sporty trademark or foreign brands, of course they have the complete freedom to do so if they want to; however, we wanted to create an alternative, an option that they could exercise—a t-shirt that has a statement, a statement that reflects our Egyptian identity” says Eman Quotb who works as a copy writer and one of Manshoorat 3al 7abl foremen.

The launched designs do reflect the recent turn of events our country had witnessed, but it doesn’t stop at that. Manshoorat 3al 7abl has every intention to update their designs on frequent basis. Today, the designs may reflect the revolution; perhaps tomorrow they would reflect the free elections and the march to democracy. “Some initiatives are short-lived, be it for the expiry of the cause, the lack of funds, or other reasons; however, some initiatives are more like volcanoes; they leave sediments for years to come. By selling our products we ensure sustainability from a financial perspective, and by people keep using them, we hope that the awareness the designs aim to create continues to reflect both internally and externally” says Hazem Shoirah a resident of neuropsychiatry and one of Manshoorat 3al 7abl team members.

One might think that an initiative like Manshoorat 3al 7abl requires a substantial amount of capital, but that wouldn’t be necessarily true. Surprisingly, such a project is not capital-intensive, and can be adjusted according to your financial capability. However, if you lack the time to manage the details of production and sales and still want to contribute, there is a plethora of ideas that can be undertaken individually and leads to substantial benefits to the economy. Taking one as an example, when we travel abroad we often come back with some ten US dollars here or ten Euros there, which we often forget to exchange. Well, this is a good time to pay the bank a visit. By exchanging US dollars and other foreign currencies back to Egyptian Pounds, we have increased the availability of the foreign currencies and created a demand on the Egyptian Pound. This will stabilize the Egyptian Pound against other currencies and perhaps strengthened its position. If you haven’t travelled abroad recently or made sure you spent the last US dollar before boarding the plane, this doesn’t mean you can miss out on this idea. A lot of us have bank accounts in Egyptian Pound as well as in US Dollar. If so, just make a small transfer, be it a hundred US dollars or more, from one account to the other. The beauty of this idea is that your bank account is not impacted; you just take the money from one pocket to put it in the other.

Missing on dollars all together? No problem, here is an Egyptian Pound based idea.

We often go to cafés; be it to grab a coffee with work colleagues, chitchat with old friends, or simply for the solitude of a moment of silence. What about skipping on the cafe, at least once a week, and heading to one of the typical tourist sightseeing attractions? The recently renovated Al Moez Street, Coptic Cairo or even the Pyramids, these are all great places that we haven’t visited for month, if not years. By visiting these places we create an income that partly substitutes the larger one generated by foreign tourists. Tourists are not an income earner only for their respective tour operators and the government, in the form of entry fees to different sites, but also for a whole sector of small and medium businesses; from the restaurant where they eat to the small kiosk around the corner where tourists buy a bottle of water, a can of soda or just a pack of biscuits. And if the foreign tourism dollars is taking a short break for the moment, the domestic tourism pounds can certainly step in.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of ideas and initiatives are up for grabs; from creative t-shirt designs to heading to Islamic Cairo for an early morning stroll next Friday. It all depends on how much time and money you are willing to put it. As for me, I will start with a classical initiative: today I will leave my car parked and go around with cabs. By doing so, I have created an additional income for taxi drivers, saved Cairo’s jam-packed streets another car, and reduced my own carbon footprint. What a great three-in-one initiative.     

Mohamed El Hebeishy is the author of Frommer’s Egypt guidebook (second edition), and photographer and author of the widely acclaimed coffee-table book Egypt Rediscovered.

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