Friday,26 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1372, (7 - 13 December 2017)
Friday,26 April, 2019
Issue 1372, (7 - 13 December 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Celebrity status Egypt

Egypt has tremendous cultural and historical cachet, yet fails, time and again, to capitalise on it, writes Hany Ghoraba

“I am in Cairo as I am not gonna let anybody scare me, inshallah,” said the Hollywood actor Nicolas Cage during the finale of the Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) in its 39th edition. With an authoritative tone and an inspiring speech befitting a military commander, the Oscar-winning American actor has shown solidarity with the Egyptian people and sent a message to the world assuring all of Egypt’s safety and hospitality. 

The scene of Cage on the CIFF podium was one of the most culturally inspirational moments of the year in Egypt. It was a message of solidarity and peace from the heart of the Egyptian capital delivered by a world class actor. But Cage was not alone as he was accompanied by equally talented fellow Hollywood stars such as Oscar-winning Adrian Brody and Hillary Swank, who graced the finale of the prestigious film festival. 

The opening and closing ceremonies of the festival seemed like a far cry from the mental images conjured of Egypt in the international media. Whatever room remains for improvement, Cage, Brody and Swank were already preceded by a list of Hollywood A-listers, singers and sports superstars, including Will Smith, Helen Hunt, Vanessa Williams, Luis Fonsi, Kourtney Kardashian, Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Michel Salgado, Ryan Giggs and Floyd Mayweather, among many others. A country’s image relies on how it presents itself to the world. Unfortunately, despite that a few ministries and authorities — such as the ministries of tourism and culture — are conducting significant efforts to promote Egypt as a tourist attraction, in many cases the fruitful results stem from individuals who took it upon themselves to do that. 

A strange example of this is a video game that carries one of the most famous franchises, the “Assassins Creed” series. The latest iteration of the game, “Assassins Creed: Origins”, is set in Ancient Egypt during the turbulent period of Alexandrian rule and the reign of Queen Cleopatra. The game’s realistic graphics, action and scenery have captured the hearts and minds of millions of gamers across the world, becoming one of the best-selling games of the year. The player gets to explore ancient Egyptian cities in near full scale, including temples, palaces, houses and even natural attractions. The game developer, Ashraf Ismail of UBI soft, is a Canadian of Egyptian origin who along with his incredible team of developers paid greatest homage to Ancient Egyptian civilisation and revived worldwide interest in Egypt and its glorious touristic sights. Now, millions of gamers are looking forward for the day to visit the old nation and witness firsthand the beauty of Egypt beyond the twisted dark headlines and editorials of The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Guardian.

UTILISING EGYPTIAN SOFT POWER: For decades, Egyptian authorities have neglected Egypt’s soft power in face of organised anti-Egyptian propaganda by many international news media outlets. Even with the existence of great Egyptian figures worldwide in all areas of life, authorities didn’t connect with them seriously enough to produce the image desired for the Egyptian state. An example being footballer Mohamed Salah, whose amazing skills have secured a place for Egypt at the World Cup, and who is currently displaying great form in the English Premier League. His inspirational performance for Liverpool Football Club has created a cult-following for the talented Egyptian to the extent that British well-known sports journalist Dave O’Connel has tweeted: “I’m applying for Egyptian citizenship. Salah makes me wanna be an Egyptian.” 

If this seems to be an exaggeration for some; it still manifests what one talented Egyptian can do to portray the true Egyptian spirit and strength. 

Accordingly, it is up to all able-bodied Egyptians to assure that Egypt would be in the top list of dream holiday destinations, on par with Paris, London and others. Dubai has used its great marketing and public relations prowess to position the metropolis as a great destination for shopping, vacations and even filmmaking. The city provides facilities for movie producers to shoot movies in Dubai, garnering both tourism revenues and investment opportunities. That is exactly the same path that Egypt should be following in the upcoming period, instead of placing ridiculous hurdles on filmmakers attempting to shoot their movies in Egypt and ending up with them shooting in Morocco or Tunisia.

A modern and developed Egypt built on the basis of its ancient and great civilisation and multi-cultural strength is exactly the image that all Egyptians should be aspiring for. 

It is high time to brush away the dust cast upon on the great nation by Islamists, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and radical Salafis, who attempted nothing but bringing the country centuries backwards. It is time to place Egypt in celebrity status among nations.

The writer is a political analyst, writer and author of Egypt’s Arab Spring and Winding Road for Democracy.

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