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Opinion: A Side Order of Chaos - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Editor’s note: Although difficult to translate, we felt the following piece was worth bringing to our English-speaking audience. In this short, satirical story, renowned Egyptian comedian Ali Salem takes a look at Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi (the chef) and the recent events in Egypt. In Arabic, the word “soup” is also used as a metaphor for “chaos.”

As my friends and I contemplated where to eat one night in Egypt, preparations to break into the districts of Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square, the Media Production City, and Al-Nahda Square were in full swing. In a bid to relieve the tension we all felt, a friend of mine suggested that we go for dinner in the Transparency Restaurant, the sole restaurant in Egypt—perhaps the whole world—to notify its customers of all the steps it takes before dishes are served.

We were a group of artists and writers, and it was my first time visiting that restaurant. The place was comfortable and wonderful—and transparent. A few moments after we chose the dishes from the menu, the ambient music stopped and, instead, we heard something akin to official statements coming over the loudspeakers: “Ladies and gentlemen, the chef has received your orders. Now he and his team are getting ready to prepare the dishes. Bon appetit!”

Everyone was wondering: Do you think preparations for breaking into the sit-ins will take time? What about possible causalities? What about people who have already been injured or killed?

“When someone jeopardizes his own life as well as that of others, it means he has meddled with fate,” said one of the guests.

Once again, the voice of the restaurant director is heard: “We are ready to serve the food you ordered. We shall begin by serving the salads, but we can also begin with the soup if you wish. Bon appetit!”

We began chatting again, feeling desperately hungry: “No one must be excluded, this is what we all must be keen to do,” said one of us.

“This is not the question my friend, what is required is that they must not act to exclude us,” said another.

Yet another person at our table pointed out: “What matters now is that preparations to break into the sit-ins are completed.”

One outspoken guest interrupted: “Sit-ins? Do you believe there are really ‘sit-ins’ in Egypt? You all are aware that there are no sit-ins in Egypt, yet there is aggression that has no legitimacy or logic. It must be a problem of semantics, for we bring a word from the West and then Arabize it in order to fit our own use of it.”

By the way, hypocrisy is not a moral defect: it is a crime. Why are we always speaking of our respect for the right to protest, demonstrate and stage sit-ins? Everyone is aware that what is happening now are not sit-ins or strikes. The most recent victim was a patrol car that was destroyed and burned in the Media Production City.

“Calm down my friend, do not make haste. Officials now are being prepared to end this chaos just like the master chef is about to serve out salads and soups,” said one the calmer people among us.

Once again, we spoke in a harsher tone, as we were all ravenously hungry. Why didn’t they start with the soup? I asked the waiter: “Please, may I have a piece of bread and some salt?”

“Sure,” the waiter answered, leaving hastily.

We heard the same sound coming from the speakers a few moments later, saying: “An order has been given to the master chef to serve a piece of bread and some salt to one of our prominent customers.”

Ali Salem

Ali Salem

Ali Salem is a renowned Egyptian playwright and humorist. He is the author of several books, including Journey into Israel. He is based in Cairo.

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