This is the official portrait of Al Haj Abu Gamal. Look at it carefully for he is no ordinary villager. Abu Gamal translates to Gamal's father while Al Haj is an honorary title bestowed on Muslims who have been on pilgrimage to Mecca. And those two reasons aren't the only ones which give him the right to have an official photograph.
Al Haj Abu Gamal is the leader and owner of a farm estate, called El Ezba in the Egyptian dialect of Arabic, and he is also the main character in a satirical blog (Arabic), which is keeping some Egyptians in stitches nowadays as it mocks incidents and personalities which have incredible similarities to what is happening in contemporary Egypt.
So what does the anonymous blogger, who is entertaining us with tales and graphic images of Al Haj Abu Gamal, his family, projects, visits abroad and expansive estate, has to say about his main character and life at El Ezba?
Abu Gamal Knows Everything
ورد إلينا سؤال من واحد رخم عن إيه المخلوق اللى فوق ودان الحاج فى التصويرة الرسمية ويسعدنا إن احنا نقولكم ان ده هو ناقل الاسرار للحاج واللى اسمه بلبع الرغاى وبلبع ده بغبغان كان تايه فى البلد ا لسنة اللى فاتت والعيال جابوهلى اشوفه من حاكم مفيش حاجة تتلاقى فى العزبة الا ما يكونلى نصيب فيها وطلع شبه الغفير بلبع بس ده رغاى حبتين فسميناه بلبع الرغاى ودايما مستقرب ودانى اللى هى كبيرة حبتين وقاعد فوقيها ونط فى التصويرة الرسمى والواد جمال المحروس ابنى قاللى يابا ده يبقى رمز إلى انك بتعرف كل حاجة فى البلد مع انى مفهمتش يعنى ايه رمز بس حسيت كده ان الواد فاهم والعلام برضه بيفرق ده معاه ابتدائية يا بل
We have been asked by someone about the creature perched on Al Haj's ear in the official photograph. We are honoured to inform you that this is the Haj's informer and his name is Balba'a Al Raghay and he is a parrot who was lost in the village until last year and the children captured him and brought him to me because I have to get a cut of everything found on the farm. He looked just like the security guard Balba'a but this bird was very talkative so we called him Balba'a Al Raghay (the talkative). He is always close to my ears, which are rather large and he imposed himself on the official photograph. My son Gamal told me that he was a symbol that I knew about everything in the country and although I don't know what symbol means, I felt that the boy understood what he was talking about. Education creates a difference between people and my son has completed his primary education.
Among the highlights of the story so far are: a referendum on changing the constitution at El Ezba and preparations for Gamal's engagement. Al Haj Abu Gamal also attended a Summit for other nearby Ezba owners.
Meet Gamal, left, Al Haj Abu Gamal‘s pride and joy as well as El Ezba‘s future hereditary ruler, who is gearing up for a fairy-tale engagement.
صرح جلالة الحاج أن جمال بيه نجله سيعقد قرانه على ربة الصون والعفاف بنت بيت الكرم والحسب الشريف خضرة هانم بنت ابو حسين التى تبلغ من العمر عشرين سنة وبنت بنوت وعندها يجى تمنتاشر فدان قبلى ناحية ميت ابو سويلم وامها الله يرحمها سايبلها اطيان برضك، والحاج ابو حسين اللى شرفه نسب الحاج جه لحد الحاج وهو اللى اتحايل عشان البيه يرضى ببنته، البيه اللى ماكنش مخطط للزواج بسبب انشغاله بسياسيات العزبة وتسيير امورها طبعا فى معية الحاج وتحت اشرافه واوامره لان لابوه ونزل لطوعه بعد ما البت بصراحه عجبت الحاج نفسه واللى يعجب الحاج يعجب ابنه، والخبر السعيد ده مؤكد انه هايسعد البلد وكله يعلق الانوار والزينات ويا طبله دقى
“His Majesty Al Haj announced that his son Gamal will get married to the chaste and well-bred daughter of Abu Hussain, who is from a high-class family, and who is 20 years old. She also owns about 18 acres near the waters of Abu Suwaylem and has inherited spacious land plots from her mother, may Allah rest her soul in peace. Al Haj Abu Hussain who is honoured to become related to Al Haj was actually the one who came and talked Gamal into accepting his daughter's hand. Sir wasn't planning on getting married yet because of his involvement in the Ezba's politics and running its affairs in conjuction with Al Haj and under his complete supervision. However, he remains his father's son and had to follow his orders after the girl attracted the Haj. After all, what pleases the father, pleases the son too. It is certain that this news will make the entire country happy and make people hang up decorations and lights as well as beat the celebration drums.”
The Referendum on El Ezba's Constitution
اختار شعب عزبة أبو جمال بكل طوائفه وفئاته المستقبل.. وخرجت الملايين للاستفتاء علي التعديلات الدستورية استجابة لدعوة الحاج محمد حسني أبو جمال.. وشارك بايجابية في الاستفتاء وأعلنت الجماهير رفضها الوصايه والتناحة التى حاولت فئة ضالة فرضها.. وأيدت الأغلبية التعديلات الدستورية من أجل مستقبل أفضل لعزبتنا. أشاد المراسلون الأجانب بالتيسيرات التي وفرتها اجهزة الاعلام بقيادة بلبع الرغاى لتغطية الاستقراع بكل حياد وشفافية وديمقراطية
“All the citizens of Abu Gamal's Ezba, regardless of their sects and levels, voted for the future. Millions of them turned up for a national referendum on amendments to the constitution in response to a call made by Al Haj Mohammed Hosni Abu Gamal. They participated positively in the referendum and the crowds refused the restrictions imposed by a disenchanted sector of society. They supported the constitutional amendments for a better future for our farm. Foreign Press also praised the support provided by media officials, led by Balba'a Al Raghay, to enable them to cover the event objectively and in a transparent and democratic manner.”
Some of the new clauses in the Constitution include:
مادة تالته: الحاج أبو جمال هو الكل فى الكل
مادة رابعة: أم جمال ست الكل
مادة خامسة: جمال هو اللى هايورث الكل…مادة خمسة عشرة: الدستور ده هدية م الحاج لاهل البلد عشان يحسوا بانهم شعب نضيف متطور ساكن مع الناس بتوع الالفية الجديدة وبيناف
“Clause Two: Al Haj Abu Gamal is in charge of everything
Clause four: Umm Gamal is the First Lady
Clause five: Gamal will inherit everyone
Clause 15: This constitution is a gift from Al Haj Abu Gamal for everyone in this country so that they feel that they are a developed and civilised nation, competing with other developed estates living in the new millennium.”
Blogger's Reaction to El Ezba:
Blogger r, reviews the blog in The Arabist.
“Abu Gamal’s village, a little rural paradise nestling in the Egyptian countryside, governed and guided by village headman Mohammed Hosni (Al-Hagg Abu Gamal) and ably assisted by Al-Hagg Fathi Shurour and Kamal Al-Shatamouni (Fathi Evils and Kamal They-abused-me… ho ho). Things are hotting up in the village as it lurches into the new millenium: there’s much talk of — “praise be to the Prophet… wossit called again?”– Jamotratiya and other fiendishly modern ideas such as his latest wheeze, a new constitution. All he wants is a little gratitude. The “Little Bey” Gamal has been helping the great man get to grips with his Lab Tonb and the age of the Kumbuyutur (after a few trifling misunderstandings: the Hagg now realizes “Blog” isn’t a rude word), while Umm Gamal, First Lady of the Village, has been ear-bashing him about ladies’ rights. It’s tough at the top but the Hagg isn’t the type to give up: he’ll see it through.
“I spat coffee all over my keyboard when I first read this blog. It’s more than just satire: it’s a perfectly imagined and realized comic universe. Sorry for not providing more translation of the content but at risk of sounding like an Arabic snob (God rot them) much of the genius lies in the language. Anyway, I’ve pasted some of it below so you can get an idea. Reminds me of Muhammed Mustajab’s characters for those who know his stuff: violent, pompous, dishonest, idle rural types… it’s super,” explains r.