Ode to Alexandria – Where it all began

Inside the decrepit remains of a former malahy space, Azarita Corniche.

Inside the decrepit remains of a former malahy space, Azarita Corniche.

Definition of irony: I lived almost twenty years in Alexandria, but it was only after I moved to Cairo and started writing about graffiti that I found all threads leading me back home.

It seemed that everyone I spoke to about graffiti claimed that the movement was born in Alexandria in the early 2000s, with visual artists like Aya Tarek, Wensh (check out his behance gallery) and Amir Rizk cited as the pioneers.

Visiting home over three years, I came across a lot of fascinating street art, some of which were quite old (B.T.: Before Thawra) and experimental, more nuanced in their messages.

Smouha/Sidi Gaber, behind the train tracks.

Smouha/Sidi Gaber, behind the train tracks.

Like any homesick Alexandrian, I found myself driving along the corniche a lot, noting the architectural and visual changes, the disintegration of the sites of my nostalgia, be it the Dome of St. Marc School, the steps to Sayed Darwish’s house or the forlorn boat hulls next to Anfoushi’s fish market (the real fish market, not the Fish Market restaurant).

I came across this collection of street art by accident, in one case sneaking into the shell of a decrepit building by the sea, and finding the beautiful mural at the top of this blog post.

Twitter themed graffiti near the EGC.

Twitter themed graffiti near the EGC.

I won’t pretend that this is a comprehensive collection of Alexandrian street art, nor will I claim to know all the names of all the artists who made these pieces. I regret that I didn’t spend more time in Alexandria to document its street art; I have no grasp of what art I may have missed and was never documented. I regret that life took me away to Cairo when the hub of creative expression seemed to be brewing in Alexandria.

As my city falls deeper into a state of decrepit demise, with our heritage sites demolished and cultural icons neglected, I think of these photos as testament to the complexity, creativity and inspiration of Alexandria, but also perhaps, some proof of hope.

Smouha/Sidi Gaber area

Smouha/Sidi Gaber area

This is probably another collaborative project with foreign artists but I don't know any further information

This is probably another collaborative project with foreign artists but I don’t know any further information

Down with Khedive Ismail.

Down with Khedive Ismail.

Next to Zahran, Roushdy on the tram.

Next to Zahran, Roushdy on the tram.

Graffiti by Aya Tarek, Sultan Hussein.

Graffiti by Aya Tarek, Sultan Hussein.

graffiti by Tween

graffiti by Tween

Graffiti by Ma'Claim

Graffiti by Ma’Claim

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Vintage Kareem Gouda, Azarita corniche

Vintage Kareem Gouda, Azarita corniche

Part of the Woman on Walls project, made by Mona Lisa Brigade and others, Azarita corniche

Part of the Woman on Walls project, made by Mona Lisa Brigade and others, Azarita corniche

a different version of Banksy, across the equestrian club in Smouha

a different version of Banksy, across the equestrian club in Smouha

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graffiti by Aya Tarek

graffiti by Aya Tarek

alex tahrir 007

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The best spots for graffiti sightings are in Smouha behind the train tracks and across from the Equestrian club, on the Corniche after San Stefano bridge, in the back streets of the Faculty of Engineering and the EGC, the Officers’ Buildings on (Roushdy) Corniche, and of course, in the area of the Faculty of Fine Arts, Gleem on the tram.

For more photos of Alexandrian graffiti, please click here. Also, read Amro Ali’s piece about Alexandrian street art. Other published articles on Alexandrian street art include this piece, this article, this article and this post.

PS: Ma’Claim returned to Alexandria in 2013 to make this fantastic graffiti on my school’s wall. I never got a chance to take a photo of the final product, but it made me very happy.

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7orreya: Graffiti Exhibition on Freedom of Expression in Cairo

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No matter how seasoned and jaded you are, it’s always a shock to see the ultimate Egyptian symbol of violence and oppression – the police state- on a pair of naked legs or on the back of a dirty, sodden toilet in a decrepit room. But that’s exact what 7orreya does. Continue reading

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Belal Ali Saber: Graffiti by Ammar Abo Bakr and El Zeft

photo courtesy of Abdel Rahman Zin Eldin

photo courtesy of Abdel Rahman Zin Eldin

At some point, it seemed realistic to aspire to live with dignity in Egypt. Now, two years on and with thousands of Egyptians dead, the right to live now depends on who’s side you’re on; us or theirs. Death is acceptable if you’re not with us. Continue reading

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Street Art and Morsi – Cairo Artists Continue the Fight

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Super Morsi, with the MB logo changed to ‘if it happens, he will deny it’

It feels like I keep writing the same post over and over again: images of sexual harassment, police violence, military violence, more martyrs, young martyrs, poems and tributes to martyrs, satire against Morsi, against religious and political hypocricy, against censorship and in support of freedom of speech. Continue reading

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Art in The Streets: Videos on Beirut, Palestine, Tripoli and Cairo for MOCATV

Kabreet and EPS hard at work on a Beirut wall for MOCATV

Kabreet and EPS hard at work on a Beirut wall for MOCATV

It’s not every day that total amateurs get the chance to make a video for a contemporary art museum, but that’s exactly what happened to me when Jeffrey Deitch, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, emailed me out of the blue to ask if I wanted to make a video about graffiti in Cairo for the museum’s new Youtube Channel called MOCA TV. Continue reading

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Graffiti for a Social Cause: Zeft, Nazeer, Nemo and Mona Lisa Brigades

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Street artists painting Maadi bridge for #Coloringthrucorruption. Photo courtesy of Nazeer

Egyptian graffiti artists are doing more than just painting art on street walls, they’re creating social awareness campaigns against corruption, media brainwashing, poverty and sexual harassment, and also using graffiti to beautify slum areas of Cairo to restore a sense of pride, ownership and hope to its residents.

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Women in Graffiti: A Tribute to the Women of Egypt

Pharaonic women in battle by Alaa Awad

Pharaonic women in battle by Alaa Awad

It’s a battle, being a woman in an Arab country, but perhaps the dire conditions makes us fighters. Since January 25, so many foreign reporters have waxed on about the awakening of Arab women in the Arab Spring; and how the revolutions liberated us/made us wake up and smell the coffee/made us throw off our headscarves and run happily through the meadows.

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Return to Tahrir: Two Years and Graffiti of the Martyrs

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the Mohamed Mahmoud mural and the brutal reality of the martyrs’ deaths

It was my first time to walk through Tahrir after three months away from Egypt, and I don’t quite know why I was so bewildered and shell-shocked. Perhaps it was the heaviness of the atmosphere in the square, the squalid tents and crowds of resilient protesters holding onto the last threads of dying hope. Continue reading

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Graffiti in Palestine: Female Street Artist from East Jerusalem and Rockets over Gaza

‘Fee Amal’, there is hope. Photo courtesy of Areej Mawasi

I wanted to post this later, but given the IDF’s current military operation against Gaza now with dozens of civilian deaths just last night alone, the artist Areej Mawasi asked me to post this in order to shed light about what’s happening in Palestine.

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Egyptian Graffiti Artists Exhibit Around the World

Mural by Ammar Abo Bakr for White Wall Beirut. Photo courtesy of White Wall.

The past two years have given good exposure to the Egyptian street art scene. With increasing international media focus on graffiti artists – I’ve lost count of the number of print articles, news shorts and documentaries made – comes increasing interest on the part of foreign delegations looking to support and endorse the Egyptian art scene, as well as books and films that will hopefully strengthen the graffiti scene’s legitimacy in Egypt.

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The Art of Movement: Another Chapter of Mohamed Mahmoud Graffiti

Wipe it off, and I’ll Paint Again

Keep Wiping off [Graffiti], You Cowardly Regime

Painting over graffiti in the dead of night while soldiers guard you is stupid. Painting over then denying you knew anything about it shows that you’re a regime not in control of your own police; which begs the question, who controls the country?

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For the Love of Graffiti: Cairo’s Walls Trace History of Colourful Revolution

This article was originally published in The National on August 18. I’ve republished it here to include some of my favourite images of graffiti over the past 20 months.

Mazinger Mural by Aref and Hoda Ismail in Maadi

A street artist once told me: “Graffiti is the one tangible thing we have gained from the revolution,” and I agree with him.

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Beirut Graffiti: Quirky, Colourful Street Art in Lebanon

Om Kalthoum sings ‘Boos El Wawa’ with what I sincerely hope is a ginger beard

This is definitely not meant to be a comprehensive post on all the graffiti in Beirut, nor am I going to pretend that I know what I talk about, because milling around the neighbourhood of Hamra for one day should not make me an expert on graffiti in Beirut.

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Tripoli Graffiti: Revolution Street Art in Libya

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to visit Tripoli during Libya’s first democratic National Congress elections in 40 years since the downfall of the Gadafi regime.

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The Presidential Elections – Revolutionary Graffiti Continues

Eighteen months on, their names are forgotten. They’ve become numbers, over a thousand people who died bravely and innocently, shot dead, electrocuted, beaten and tortured by police and soldiers who – 18 months later – are either found innocent or were never there in the first place, due to lack of evidence. Because photographs, videos, testimonies and countless reports by human rights groups don’t count. It must have been Hammas.

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