A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, December 12, 2013

You May Find This Amusing Though I Feel it Needs Some Explaining First

This is going around. It's funny in one of those "the joke is great after you have it explained to you" ways:
This should be obvious to anyone who has been following Egyptian social media the past few days, and also is pretty familiar with the iconography (in the literal sense of the symbolism of icons) of Eastern Christian saints. (Though the Coptic label is a big clue there. If you know some Coptic of course.) And that's an Omega watch, of course, and Sigmund Freud in the role of Saint Basil of course, and ...

Just in case a few of you are still a little puzzled or don't fit all the above, let's start with General Sisi's dreams.

An audiotape appeared on a YouTube video yesterday, posted  by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party. It purports to be (though it's not confirmed genuine) an interview between Egypt's General Sisi and the Editor of Al-Masry al-Youm. In it Gen. Sisi allegedly reveals (though he goes off the record to do it) that for the past 35 years he has had dream visions, in which he saw himself as ruler of Egypt wielding a sword with the slogan "There is no God but God" in red, and wearing an Omega watch.

First, the Arabic audio (transcript in Arabic), followed by an English transcript from this website:

Interviewer: Had you expected to take on the leadership of the Egyptian Army?
El-Sisi: The leadership of the Egyptian army, or something greater than that?
Interviewer: Fullstop.
El-Sisi: I am of the people who’ve had a long history of visions. This is only for you.
Interviewer: Okay, I’ll listen, I’ll only write later.
El-Sisi: 35 years ago…well, I’ve stopped talking about visions 7 or 8 years ago, from 2006.
Interviewer: I understand this part…
El-Sisi: I stopped talking about these things. I said I wouldn’t talk about it again. But I’ve always had visions…
Interviewer: You see yourself on the throne of Egypt?
El-Sisi: No, that’s not it. I’ve seen a lot of things…
Interviewer: That happened?
El-Sisi: That happened afterwards…nobody could explain it. For 35 years, nobody could explain it.
Interviewer: Like what?
El-Sisi: But this won’t be said.
Interviewer: Not in this interview, but whenever God wishes.
El-Sisi: For example, many years ago, I saw in a dream, that I was raising a sword, on which was written “No God but God” in red…this was 35 years ago…
Interviewer: “No God but God” colored red…?
El-Sisi: In red, yes – on the sword, raised like this. Another in which I had on my wrist, a watch, with a very big green star on it…and Omega, and people are asking “Why you? Why do you have this watch?” and I said this watch is named for me, it’s an Omega, and I’m Abdel Fattah, so I put the Omega, with…the global nature, with Abdel Fattah. Not me, the dream, that’s just an example. In another dream, I was told I would be given what nobody else had been given…
Interviewer: Who?
El-Sisi: In the dream, we’ll give you what nobody else had been given. In another dream, I was with Sadat, and I was talking to him, and he told me “I knew that I would be the president of the republic”, and I said to him “I also know that I’m going to be the president of the republic.”
Interviewer: What do you feel when you see your pictures raised next to pictures of Abdel Nasser, and when Abdel Hakeem said you are an extension of the leader, and that you are the most capable of leading the country?
El-Sisi: There’s a prayer I always say, that I could be that.
Okay, that explains (in so far as it is explicable) the red-labeled sword and the Omega watch, and offers at least a clue to the presence of Sigmund Freud. And the spear of course is poking at Muhammad Morsi, and has knocked off his crown.

Now for the rest of the imagery. Despite resembling the typical images, it does not represent St. George and the Dragon (with Morsi as the dragon), but rather the dream of Saint Basil, in which Freud is Basil and Sisi is Saint Philopater Mercurius (a Coptic version of whose name is the label, but the twin swords also give it away).  Here is a non-Sisi version of a similar icon:

Saint Philopater Mercurius  was an early Christan soldier-saint and martyr. Legend has it that the Archangel Michael came to him and gave him a divine sword to go with his physical sword as a Roman soldier: in Arab Christian tradition he is known as Abu Saifain, he with two swords; hence the sword in each hand. He was martyred in 250 AD by the Emperor Decius, the same Emperor he had previously served.

A Cappadocian, he was buried there, but years later the Armenian Church gave some of his relics to the Coptic Church, and he became the subject of popular veneration.

But you can't keep a good saint down. Over a century after his death, in 363, Saint Basil the Great, also Cappadocian, was imprisoned by his former schoolmate Julian, now the notorious Emperor Julian "the Apostate," who had reverted to paganism and started persecuting Christianity anew. Legend says he prayed for deliverance, and in a dream was told he would be President of Egypt with an Omega watch had a vision in which St. Philopater Mercurius appeared and told him that he had struck the Emperor Julian with a lance. Julian was indeed pierced through the liver with a lance in a battle with the Sassanid Perisans, and soon died; Christianity was restored and St. Basil freed.

So that's the rest of the imagery: Morsi is the despised Julian; Sisi wields the twin swords of the saint, but bearing an Islamic slogan. It falls apart a bit in that Freud is Saint Basil, since despite the connection with dreams, it wasn't Freud's dream here, it was Sisi's. And then there's the Omega watch. (At least he didn't dream of a Rolex.)

But you all knew this already, right?

So Sisi's not just Nasser. He's Saint Philopater, but with the Muslim shahada on his sword.

I still don't get the Omega/Abdel Fattah link though.


Anonymous said...


"at least a clue a to", "legemd", "dicine"

Andrew Reid said...

Apparently it is something to do with the letter A looking like the Omega symbol in Greek.

David Mack said...

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but a dream is seldom just a dream.

Anonymous said...

"Every giant ... presupposes a dwarf, every genius a hidebound philistine.... The first are too great for this world, and so they are thrown out. But the latter strike root in it and remain.... Caesar the hero leaves behind him the play-acting Octavianus, Emperor Napoleon the bourgeois king Louis Philippe."

And one might add "Nasser the leader leaves behind the Generalissimo Sissy".

Michael Collins Dunn said...

I know it's a quote but Louis Napoleon might make the point even better than Louis Philippe. Sedan.

Anonymous said...

The choice of this iconography may be its use by the 25 January revolutionaries in its martyrology throughout their months of struggle. They used this style, including the faces of their famous martyrs like Jeeka and Mohamed El Guindy, with the wings and truncated bodies is their grafitti, intentionally using the authentically Egyptian [which Coptic is] artistic form.

Mohamed Hani said...

The Omega and Abdulfattah is a reference to the Bible's Revelation 22:13 that says: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End."

Sisi thinks that it is a sign because, like Alpha, his first name begins with A (he pronounces it in English in the leaked tape).

This design is mine by the way. Thank you for posting about it.

GW Bush said...

Just what Egypt needs a sober thinking President who thinks that God has selected him to run the country.

Sadly for the Egyptians unlike a more advanced country like the USA this sort of lunatic isn't constitutionally limited to the years he can serve and thus the damage he can do.