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The Battle for Power in Zamalek

Following the decision for an independent Zamalek, Mouwafak Chourbagui is back to profile the groups now vying for power in the newly-sovereign state...

It took many years of sacrifice, compromise and bloodshed for the Democratic Republic of Zamalek to finally become a functioning state. After the UN officially declared the island a sovereign nation on February 11, 2011, chaos reigned as local competing forces fought vigorously to ascertain dominance and control over the newly born nation. Before I delve into the chronological history of post-Egypt Zamalek in future articles, let us first look at the main groups fighting for power.  

1) The Nostalgocrats

Robert Menzaman - Leader of the Nostalgocrats (Photo by Nada Elissa)

Bringing together the last generation of chic madams and elegant monsieurs, The Nostalgocrats lament the disappearance of panache from the contemporary visual landscape. They console themselves by posting black and white pictures of a bygone era on their Facebook pages and by eating escalope pané at Nady Gezirah. They also cling on romantically to the past by staying faithful to the concept of Nubian sofragis, having successfully resisted bourgeois peer pressure of substituting them for more modern choices of ethnic household help. With time, the group overcame its “old is gold” restrictive policy and began welcoming young gentlemen fond of wearing sweaters around their shoulders and young girls who get wet on etiquette.
Political Ideology: Monarchists.
Political Demands: To criminalise the practice of growing long fingernails on the pinky finger, to force chauffeurs to wear white gloves and black suits, to get state recognition that Molto isn’t a real croissant, to have the word “mashi” removed from the lexicon.
Slogan: Zamalek needs Za Malek back.
Headquarters: Pub 28.
Leader: Robert Menzaman (age 54)
Robert was born into a wealthy family that lost their fortune during the Nasser nationalization era. His family used to own a textile empire that used to provide the uniform of the British soldiers during the colonial era. His parents fled to England and Robert grew up there before returning to Egypt as a young teenager, completing his education at an elite international school.  He later studied business and made a fortune as a construction and media tycoon. He is currently the wealthiest man in Egypt. He is married to Georgette and they have one son together, Marc. Georgette doesn’t work and spends most of her time at the Gezira Club with friends, playing cards and gossiping. Marc, meanwhile, cut ties with his family and left for Canada to study. 

 2) Kolo Haram 

The Milk Sheikh - Leader of the Kolo Haram Party (Photo by Nada Elissa)

In the summer of 2010, a charismatic preacher known as the Milk Sheikh introduced Islamism to the island by delivering an impassioned speech. He seduced a number of dissatisfied island workers with his fiery rhetoric against imperialism and his vocal opposition to what he called the Western culture of “Kleenex dressing.” Five years later, Wikileaks would reveal that the Milk Sheikh has been suffering from a chronic masturbation problem since puberty and that every time he sees a girl with exposed legs or arms, he cannot resist the temptation to milk himself with a set of chopsticks he stole from Chin Chin when he was a 9-year-old boy. He was once caught in the act by an ardent follower but managed to avoid a scandal by insisting that he was illustrating, in physical terms, the economic rise of China.
Political Ideology: Between IkhwanMax and Diet Salafi.
Political Demands: Make February 14th Veilentine’s day, send Mohamed Al Sagheer to Tora prison,  have the state declare Gillette as a Zionist product designed to effeminate men, kidnap Bruce Willis and only release him if he says “Allah is la Vista Baby” at the end of Die Hard 55.
Headquarters: Alex Top .
Slogan: I want you to play Hide and Seek. Hide your face, seek Allah.
Leader: The Milk Sheikh (age 54)
The Milk Sheikh wasn’t always a religious fanatic. He and Menzaman were classmates at an elite international school, often played tennis together and even had a shared first childhood crush. While studying Management at AUC, Sheikhsbeer fell in love with Amy Grashon, an American exchange student, and subsequently completed his M.A in California to be with her. But when he proposed, she turned him down citing cultural differences. He returned to Egypt heartbroken, humiliated and bitter; the world that educated him, the world he embraced, rejected him. He found solace in the confines of his core identity. At war with his Westernization, he renounced all components of its culture except one: the milkshake. He was often spotted in his signature elegant linen galabeya queuing up at McDonald’s after Friday prayers, impatiently waiting for his beloved strawberry milkshake to invade his body in a stream of creamy ecstasy. When he turned 26, he married his second cousin FATMA and fathered two children: YOUSSEF (known as DON EKHWAN) and LEILA. They grew up in a very strict and conservative home and while Youssef effortlessly absorbed his father’s ideology, Leila rebelled and would later flee the household. Now 54, his last true goal in life is to spearhead an Islamic rebirth and witness the Muslim World return to its former glory

3) The Tok-Tok Mujaheddin (TTM)

Madame Badass - Leader of the TTM (Photo by Nada Elissa)

The Tok-Tok Mujaheddin are a militant group formed after poor workers (koshk owners, sofragis, drivers, low-level employees, etc…) united in favor of the construction of a metro station in Zamalek.  Most residents of the island opposed the metro, perceiving it as hostile soil for Prada shoes, but the poor workers saw it as an ideal means of transportation. They later met MADAME BADASS, a retired Grandma Gangster who had been Fidel Castro’s last lover.  She had opened her house to them and granted them access to her impressive library. Together, would roam the streets at night, terrorizing the residents by cutting their subscriptions to OSN, calling girls ugly on their way out of Mohamed Al Sagheer (upscale hairdresser) and eating food in public with their mouths open.
Political Ideology: Revolutionary Socialists.
Political demands: A metro station, minimum and maximum wage, have rich people call them basha, free watches for dof3as, access to Gezirah Club. 
Headquarters: Ahwet Hyundai.
Slogan: A democracy without equality is a de-mock-racy.
Leader: Madame Badass (age 80)
Nobody knows her real name. She used to be an ardent Nasser supporter but became recluse when the Pan-Arab dream collapsed. She never married and spends most of her time in her apartment in Zamalek that she inherited from her father. Now 80, she resurfaced onto the scene when the island became independent and its rule reminded her of the colonial era.

4) El Whoreyin

Ann Arki - Leader of El Whoreyin (Photo by Nada Elissa)

Not many recognize them as a legitimate group but they are a force to be reckoned with. El Whoreyin was founded by Ann Arki as a safe-haven for women tired of living under patriarchal control. When she was 17, she lost her virginity to her first love during a vacation in Sinai. On her return, her parents were suspicious; something seemed off… she looked happy. They made her take a virginity test and, when it was confirmed that she was no longer a virgin, she was shamed, punished and segregated from unrelated men. Finding the situation insufferable, she escaped from Zamalek a year later.  She would not be seen on the island for four years. When she finally came back, she had become a different person; she stood with confident posture, gazed with unforgiving eyes and spoke with unchained tongue. She had become a warrior.  No one is quite sure how the metamorphosis occurred but the most prevailing rumor is that she left for Asia to learn martial arts. She came back to Zamalek thirsty for revenge and created Al Whoreyin, a group of women ninja warriors. 
Political Ideology: Anarchy. 
Political Demands: rebrand cunnilingus as mandatory underground tongue exploration, have clerics and parents stay away from the vagina’s memory card, bitch slap Captain Mamdouh Farag, give men virginity tests, organise a Pussy Riot concert in Tahrir.
Headquarters: Undisclosed (believed to be inside the Yamama Center but nobody goes there so nobody really knows).
Slogan: Where are our 72 virgins?
Leader: Ann Arki (age 22)
Ann Arki is the adopted name of Leila Sheikhber, The Milk Sheikh’s daughter. Her personal backstory is presented above.

5) The Illamounati

The Illamounati (Photo by Nada Elissa)

The most powerful are often the most discreet. Naturally, some people have to safeguard the interests of the foreign meddling quartet of Iran-Hamas-Israel and Abla Fahita. Disguised as a bewildered nocturnal lamoun seller courting Drinkies, Poof Daddy has been fooling the citizens of Zamalek for years. In truth, he is the leader of a secret society with a cynical and citrusy goal of squeezing acidity into the atmosphere. The Illamounati want to foment sectarian tensions and inject divisive rhetoric into our hearts so that we can destroy each other. When the Rothschilds found out that Zamalek would become a sovereign nation, they hatched up an ingenious plan and summoned The Illamounati to implement it. First, they would close La Bodega and other nightspots and blame it on people with moustaches. Then, they will fuck with the island’s internet connection to send us towards exasperating boredom. This will go on for one year until tensions have peaked and insanity has fully struck. And then checkmate. They will invite the most reviled creature on the planet as the incubator for a mass suicide. In other words, The Illamounati aim to orchestrate the first self-inflicted genocide of the 21st century with a Justin Bieber concert. Why?  To finally complete the Zionist project. With everyone on the island dead, there will suddenly be a vacant country full of lamouns. That should entice the Palestinians to seek new pastures and settle in a new home and allow Israel to be what it always wanted to be: an exclusive nation of circumcised dicks.
Political Ideology: Mayan style mass suicide induced by Bieberian melodies.
Political Demands:, Reduce language to slogans, conversation to small talk and information to sound bites, to have Drinkies sell better Tequillla.
Headquarters: Abandoned Villa on 26 of July Street.
Slogan: Elamounate all obstacles to citrus domination.
Leader: Poof Daddy (some think he is the real Banksy, others believe he is the lovechild of Ahmed Spider and Abla Fahita). 

6- The Salvador Dalis
An apolitical group, the Dalis believe that “nothing is real” and therefore revere the surrealist artist. Disillusioned by nationalism, religion and the global economic system, they have squatted in and appropriated an abandoned villa in Zamalek as their refuge from the real world. There, “anything is possible” and a number of eccentric characters have made it their home. To survive, they engage in some petty theft. The group was started by TAYMOUR GALAL, an old classmate of Marc Menzaman who regards himself as a “poet in a world of vultures”.  Upon his return to the island, Marc Menzaman will join the group and, later, take over the reigns from Taymour to give it some purpose.
Political Ideology: Apolitical Surrealism (in the beginning) Political Progressives (in the end)
Leader: Marc Menzaman (age 23)
The only son of Robert and Georgette, Marc was overtly sheltered as a child and suffered the weight of his parents’ expectations who wanted to control every facet of his life: from choosing his career path to imposing their choices in his love life. When Marc was 18, he fell in love with Leila, the daughter of Ahmed Sheikhsber. They started a passionate romance. Marc shared his love for her with his parents but instead of supporting him, they asked him to stay away from her because she wasn’t from a “good Coptic family”. They then reported the love affair to Leila’s ultra-conservative parents.  She was shamed by her family, punished and segregated from unrelated men. Finding the situation insufferable, she escaped from Zamalek a year later.  She has not been seen on the island since. Marc couldn’t forgive his parents and decided to break ties and leave to Canada when he received a scholarship.

7- The 6th of Apron Movement
A movement that consists of the island’s foreign maids – Filipinas, Ethiopians, Eritreans etc… and the Nubian Sofragis-  the 6TH of Apron movement gained traction following several discriminating decrees, notably the Guezira club’s decision to force them to wear uniforms. The group was initially started when MIRNA, a Filipina maid, had her passport confiscated by her employers and was humiliated and beaten for daring to watch television while they were having dinner outside.
They have decided to go on strike until they are treated as equal citizens of the new Republic. Towards the end of the Zamalek tale, they were successfully in lobbying for maids to choose their own clothes with the help of the Whoreyin. Aprons would end up being worn only by hipsters.


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