A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, February 11, 2011

Al-Ahram, The Morning After

The most common chant in Tahrir in recent days was al-Sha‘b yurid isqat al-nizam (The people want the fall of the regime).

Via Zeinobia, an early edition of Saturday's state-run Al-Ahram. The headline reads, "The people toppled the regime." (Same Arabic verb in both cases.)


David Mack said...

Interesting that there was not the normal diglossia between the fusha headline and a chant of the demonstrators. I'm surprised that the crowd did not chant ash-sha'b 'awz isqat an-nizam. When I first arrived in Cairo in 1964, I went to a newspaper vendor in Midan at-Tahrir and said, "Urid an ashtara geridat Al-Ahram." To which he replied, "Eh da?" His perplexed "Huh?" was a crushing example for this young would be Arabist that I was unable to communicate the most basic desire to a man of the Egyptian sha'ab.

David Mack said...

I think I know the answer to my question. The demonstrations, at least at the outset, were largely those of better educated young people who might well use modern standard Arabic rather than Egyptian street Arabic in their anti-government chants.

Michael Collins Dunn said...

I think you did answer your own question. It was a fairly literate revolt.

Michael Collins Dunn said...

A late-night thought on David's point. Another possible reason for the choice of yurid over`awiz is the suitability for a chant. The beat was da-Da, da-DA, da-DA da-da-DA: al-SHA`B yu-RID is-QAT al-ni-ZAM. AY-iz (or AW-iz) doesn't fit. Of course if al-Sha`b took a plural verb, which it doesn't, aw-ZIN (or ay-ZIN)would have fit the meter.

David Mack said...

According to Anthony Shadid in the Friday NYT, the chant was borrowed from the demonstrations in Tunisia! That fits with the notion of an educated and wired in young elite, along with the Aljazeera effect. At least on a cultural level, pan-Arabism may finally be happening.