CAIRO: About a month after the protests started in January, Mariam El-Hitami was speaking with a friend of hers who had been active in the demonstrations and was recovering from a rubber bullet that hit his left eye.
“Let us build Egypt,” El-Hitami, one of the organizers of Egypt.Now, remembers Jawad Naboulsy telling her.
Friday, July 1, marked the beginning of the 18-day Egypt.Now Festival in Cairo and Alexandria, a joint-initiative between Naboulsy’s Nebny (Build) Foundation — a youth-formed NGO that aims to encourage employment and economic development in Egypt — and the Egyptian Tourism Authority. The festival expects as many as 500,000 visitors, including Egyptians and foreign tourists.
Organizers hope that the program, a combination of art exhibitions and employment education, will capture the spirit of the youth who took to the streets for 18 days before the president was ousted on Feb.11.
The festival will feature exhibits of Egyptian art, music, and film at the Gezira Promenade and Al Andalus Garden in Cairo, while hosting concerts in Alexandria and a forum on the nation’s employment opportunities at the city’s Bibliotheca Alexandrina.
“Its main objective is to create a brand event that will capture Egypt’s essence — youth for freedom — inviting the world to support Egypt 2011, serve as a guide to the [world’s] developing countries, and turn into a yearly global event,” festival organizers wrote in a statement.
Already, the festival has 400 volunteers and more than 2,100 people attending the Facebook event.
“The revolution is still in the making,” said El-Hitami, who describes the project as an extension of the ideals of the popular movement that arose on Jan. 25.
Only days removed from a revival of police confrontations in Tahrir Square reminiscent of the early days of the protests, El-Hitami said there is still work to be done on the streets of Cairo to complement the festival’s goals to build the nation.
“Protesters, stay there and keep the pressure. Some people have to do the politics,” she said, “Others have to do the development.”
For El-Hitami, the festival is a national project. A partnership with MTV had secured the American hip hop star Kanye West for a concert near the pyramids. But on El-Hitami’s recommendation, the concert was canceled.
“I want something at the heart of Cairo where every Egyptian from every walk of life can enjoy the entertainment for 18 days,” she said.
Instead, the festival will host performances from popular local bands, including Wust El-Balad and Zabaleen. The arts and craft fair currently has more than 200 local exhibitors registered.
The unlikely alliance between youth activists and a government ministry has boosted confidence on both sides.
“They have opened their eyes,” said El-Hitami.
At a press conference on Wednesday leading up to the festival, Minister of Tourism Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour praised the youth “who inspired the whole world by their peaceful revolution.”
“Now they are giving us another example to be followed, to build Egypt,” he said.
11 – 12 July 2011
Bringing the world’s experts to discuss and explore Egypt’s economic and employment opportunities.
Music & Co
Cairo (Gezira Promenade, Zamalek) and Alexandria
1-18 July 2011
A line up of young Egyptian artists performing in different events held in venues across Cairo, Alexandria.
Art & Craft Fair
Gezira Promenade, Zamalek, Cairo
1-18 July 2011
A multi faceted fair, encouraging Egyptian arts and crafts, from a modern art exhibition to a big open air markets downtown Cairo.
3 Days of Film
Al Andalus Garden, Zamalek, Cairo
16-18 July, 2011
The event aims to provide opportunities for young filmmakers from Egypt.
For more info visit: http://www.egyptnowfestival.com/