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The Saturday Salon: June 10 edition
The one about a shark attack.
There is a lot happening in the news right now: Ukraine appears to have launched its much-discussed counteroffensive against Russia; the U.S. Justice Department officially brought federal criminal charges against former president Donald Trump for his alleged mishandling of classified documents; smoke from forest fires are engulfing large swaths of North America, while the Webb space telescope has detected complex organic molecules in a galaxy more than 12 billion light-years away from Earth.
But I wanted to write about something else today: a shark attack that took place a couple of days ago by my childhood home and which continues to weigh heavy on my mind.
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On Thursday, a Russian man was mauled by a tiger shark by one of the Red Sea resorts in Hurghada, Egypt. A video circulating online (which I will not share here) showed the man thrashing about in the water before being repeatedly attacked by a shark then being dragged under. By the time help arrived, it was too late.
The shark has since been reportedly been captured and is currently being examined in a lab in an attempt to determine the reason behind the attack. Shark attacks are exceedingly rare in the Red Sea region, though two women were killed in consecutive days by shark attacks in 2022, while others have been injured in similar scattered attacks over the past few years.
Egypt’s Environment Ministry issued a two-day ban on swimming starting Friday, which included all water sports activities and spanned a 74 km area between El Gouna to the north of Hurghada and Soma Bay to its south. That entire region holds a dear place in my heart—it is where I spent the vast majority of my childhood and teenage years, and the place I still call home. Now, it is the site of much debate and concern.
While Egypt’s entire Red Sea coastline boasts some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, years of political instability, as well as the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine have taken their toll on what was once a thriving tourism sector. This tragedy marks the latest setback for a country struggling to revitalize an essential component of its fragile economy.
As I already mentioned, there are bigger stories happening around the world right now. But this happens to be a story that matters to me on a personal level. I did not know the young man who died that day but I am heartbroken for his family and the suffering they endured while visiting my home.
Furthermore, I hope the rest of you reading this are not discouraged from visiting Egypt in the future. I cannot recommend it enough. Though maybe skip the snorkeling.
Welcome back to the Saturday Salon, friends.
I’ve been listening to a lot of Ibrahim Maalouf’s music lately. The renowned trumpeter and composer is known for his unique blend of jazz, classical, and Middle Eastern influences, drawing from his Lebanese heritage, French upbringing, and formal training in Western classical music and jazz.
What is fascinating about Maalouf’s music is that he incorporates traditional Middle Eastern quarter tones into his playing, which involves using valves on his trumpet to create notes that fall between the standard Western musical scales. These allow him to play standard Arabic “maqams” (melody type).
Maalouf’s music celebrates diversity and promotes cultural understanding, resonating with audiences who appreciate the harmonious coexistence of different musical and cultural traditions. As an Egyptian who spent more than half his life living in the West, Maalouf’s music certainly resonates with me.
I hope it does with you as well.
Shameless Self Promotion
The one-time UFC title challenger has gone from helping children deal with trauma to a mouthpiece for Vladimir Putin’s regime
“The wrestlers, sobbing on the crowded riverbank, stopped short of discarding their medals at the end of two hours of high drama, as community leaders stepped in to ask them to give their pleas five more days. But their desperate act, after they were forced out of New Delhi’s main protest site, laid bare the shrinking space for protest in India’s capital nearly a decade into Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rule.”
“Situated in a desert, Nimruz is famous for its dunes. It is of strategic significance and has served as a source of income for short-lived Afghan regimes. It was used by the Mujahideen in the ‘90s; by drug smugglers; and by refugees escaping the country’s endless wars and economic crises. Nimruz was the first province captured by the Taliban, on Aug. 6, 2021. Images of a dusty convoy of former Afghan officials, queuing at the Iranian border in their eagerness to flee, shook every official in Kabul.”
“Manahel al-Otaibi, a 29-year-old certified fitness instructor and artist who frequently promoted female empowerment on her social media accounts, was arrested in November 2022. Among other charges, Otaibi was accused by Saudi authorities of using a hashtag – translated to #societyisready – to call for an end to male guardianship rules.”
“Dozens of Sudanese journalists have been subjected to horrific violations, including physical assault, home invasions, terrorizing their families, and disrupting their work, especially those who rely on local journalism for their livelihoods. This has led to the spread of rumors and false content.”
Multiple studies focusing on heat exposure risks in Gulf states found a strong correlation between heat stress and deaths due to cardiovascular problems and indicated that extremely hot days are associated with higher mortality risk, with migrant workers disproportionately exposed.
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Arguments & Essays
“As Sudan’s neighbor, Egypt will arguably be the foreign country most directly affected by the continued conflict—particularly those effects created by the impending economic and refugee crises. Though it has thus far avoided backing either military and has not been involved in ongoing cease-fire talks, Egypt now finds itself in a bind: It does not have the resources or the desire to fight a war, yet it cannot afford to ignore the situation any longer.”
“So what about targeting the huge blank checks for a military-industrial complex so behemothic that it can’t keep track of Pentagon waste, fraud, and abuse, let alone rampant profiteering by defense contractors? No, no, no. Taking meaningful steps to address the Department of Defense’s excess spending is most definitely off the table.”
“If the Nakba hadn't happened, I would have written about the beaches that compete with the most beautiful beaches in the world in attracting tourists because our weather is the best, our beer is colder, our summer is longer, and our wine is sacred. And because the restaurants that serve Gazan fatteh alongside beer compete with the most delicious restaurants in Naples, on the other side of the Mediterranean.”
“Far worse is the onslaught of discriminatory legislation, and accompanying hateful rhetoric, in a growing number of states. These new laws and regulations are particularly aimed at transgender individuals, who are continually portrayed – including too often in the media -- as some sort of dreaded societal problem about which something must be done. And, of course, this is all part of a broad and determined effort to go after these communities as part of what some glibly term “the culture wars,” but which often amounts to the politics of cruelty.”
“The provocative plot of the newly released show “Dahaya Halal” (Halal Victims) — an allusion to the operation’s apparent compliance with religious law, since none of the victims was committing adultery or fornication — on Shahid, Saudi Arabia’s rival to Netflix Arabic, has stirred drama, with people from across the Arab world going as far as calling for it to be pulled off the air. It was already taken off when it first began airing in 2020, but it returned this month.”
“May 22 marks the 400th anniversary of that unprecedented moment, when English soldiers gave poisoned wine to 200 Powhatans, members of a confederacy of about 30 Native groups. The historical record is unclear on how many of those who were poisoned died. But even during a war that ravaged Indigenous and colonial communities, the incident stood out because Europeans at the time believed no civilized nation should employ poison in war—an idea later embodied in the 20th-century Geneva Conventions.”
“In 2001, the libertarian anti-tax activist Grover Norquist gave a memorable interview on NPR about his intentions. He said, “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I could drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” Everything about the line was designed to provoke: the selection of a bookish and easily horrified audience, the unapologetic violence of “drag” and “drown,” the porcelain specificity of “bathtub.””
I just finished reading a fascinating book called Shalash the Iraqi—a collection of sketches and blogs originally published online in Arabic shortly following the U.S. invasion of Iraq by an anonymous blogger using the pen name Shalash. Their identity remains a secret.
From the Wall Street Journal review:
In the autumn of 2005 an Iraqi writer using the pen name “Shalash” began publishing blog posts about the absurdity of life in Baghdad in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion. The items took the form of neighborhood gossip, tall tales, sarcastic news commentary or cathartic rants, but what made them a sensation was the irrepressible playfulness with which they dealt with all the chaos. The blog posts were shared widely, but because few Iraqis had internet access they were also printed and distributed by hand or recited from memory. By the end of the following year, when Shalash was finally retired, local politicians—the frequent subjects of the spoofs—were emailing his creator to plead for further entries.
On a side note, the cover art for the book uses artwork from the same artist that we selected for the Saturday Salon cover as well, Faisal Laibi Sahi.
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