Daily Archives: February 23, 2012

The Many Walls of Mohamed Mahmoud

This site is meant not only to show a broad representation of Cairo, but also to demonstrate how certain spaces happen to change over the course of a single year.  Amidst ongoing political unrest and periodic violence, the heart of downtown has undergone some of the most obvious transformations, and nowhere is that more clear than the Northern wall of AUC’s campus on Mohamed Mahmoud Street.

School and state authorities have contributed to these changes, reinforcing the wall, painting over graffiti, even making it higher.  Some of these aesthetic and functional changes have been documented on this very site.  Still, the latest “Mohamed Mahmoud Street Wall” is covered in a collage of murals and graffiti dedicated to the memory of the revolution’s martyrs, or الشهداء.  Vibrant pastel colors sweep across the wall, blending pharaonic motifs with contemporary political messages.

Walking down Mohamed Mahmoud yesterday, one graffiti artist was busy touching up the martyrs images and adding new additions to the wall, steadying himself with an old ladder that stood over a wreath-like devotion to the Ahlawy Ultras on the sidewalk.

The martyr portraits are bookended with two equally impressive commentaries on the security state still present in Egypt. On the left side of the wall, where there used to be a massive mural depicting demonstrators who had lost their eyes in front of the Ministry of Interior or on Mohamed Mahmoud, there is now a sprawling painting of security officers, who, as @suzeeinthecity points out in her terrific post on the very same subject (here), are depicted as terrifying monsters.

The latest renovation, or perhaps renewal, of the Mohamed Mahmoud wall of course comes in the wake of one of the bloodiest days in modern Egyptian history, the Port Said violence that took place a few weeks ago.  While a good portion of the artistry revolves around remembering those who died, including the 14-year-old Anas, the youngest of Egypt’s martyrs, there is plenty of room devoted to the spirit of martyrs past, like 19-year-old Ultra Ahlawy Mohamed Mostafa.

On the corner of Mohamed Mahmoud Street and Tahrir Square, there is a headshot that blends the faces of deposed President Hosni Mubarak and leader of SCAF, Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi.  Adjacent to the picture of “Hosni Tantawi” is a colorful representation of an activist who became well-known in December’s skirmishes in front of the Ministry of Interior and Majlis Al-Shab after apparently seizing weapons from state security personnel.

Compare the pictures above to what the wall to photos taken as recently as January 25th, and the evolution of the “Walls of Mohamed Mahmoud” comes into focus:

Finally, for a nicely written piece on the use of “martyrs,” check out this entry by M. Lynx Qualey over at Arab Lit.

See below for the entire gallery of pictures from the Mohamed Mahmoud wall.

Photos:  Mohamed Mahmoud Street, Cairo – February 22, 2012.