Besides a number of fake news items and actual dramatic events, in 2014 there were important headlines of things that actually never happened.
The Parliament is a point in case.
Then there was the miraculous cure to end all diseases.
Films that never saw the light of day.
The Islamist Revolution that never was.
And, of course, the curious case of a puppet accused of terrorist conspiracy.
But first, there was…
After President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s sweeping victory in the two-candidate race this past May, it was expected that a Parliament would be elected and seated within the following six months, or by the end of the year at the latest.
Instead, we’ve remained Parliament-less for more than 17 months, which has left Egypt’s political space feeling a bit drafty. Since then, the legislative power has rested in the hands of the executive branch, with Sisi possessing the sole authority to ratify laws.
Both houses have been out of order since the dissolution of the Shura Council in July 2013, two days after the removal of former President Mohamed Morsi. The People’s Assembly, or the lower house of Parliament, was dissolved in June 2012, when the Elections Law was deemed unconstitutional.
So yes, we’ve gone long time without Parliament, which would seemingly leave a gaping hole in the functionality of the state. However, many feel that political parties are in such disarray and coalitions are so fragmented that it will make little difference if or when elections are finally held.
After numerous delays, the Electoral Constituencies Law was finally submitted to the Cabinet for approval in early December, which should pave the way for setting a date for the elections. And according to latest reports, elections will be held around March, just in time for a planned economic summit where investors and international donors would be eager to see the wheels of the political process moving steadily forward.
A miracle cure to end all diseases
In February, Major General Ibrahim Abdel Aty presented a device invented to end the plight of people who suffer from AIDS and Hepatitis C. The Complete Cure (CC) device may have been an ambitious enough claim alone, but coupled with a tight production deadline of the following July, the whole ordeal was slightly embarrassing for the Ministry of Defense, which initially embraced the invention.
The popular satirist and talk show host Bassem Youssef started a countdown for when the device would be ready — it was just too good of a punch line not to painstakingly track the progress of such a legendary invention.
The device can allegedly cure AIDS and Hepatitis C by “sucking AIDS out of patients, turning it into kofta and then giving it back to the patients to eat,” according to Abdel Aty. The announcement was thus ceremoniously dubbed “Koftagate.”
However, progress was abruptly stalled when the ministry said at the end of June that the device would need another six months of testing to be ready for market use. Recently, another six months were put on the clock, presumably giving enough time for everyone to forget this ever happened — but really, how irresponsible would it be for any of us to ever let it go? Here’s looking at you, 2015.
Local and foreign films
It has not been a great year for Egyptian moviegoers eager to see some highly talked-about films, which probably translated into a surge in their online viewership, so we managed to see them anyway. But still …
Despite global acclaim, and being Egypt’s first documentary film to be nominated for an Oscar, The Square has not yet been screened locally. Telling the story of the January 25 revolution through six characters, the film was scheduled to be screened twice in Cairo as part of the Panorama of European Film Festival in December, but both screenings were canceled at the last minute with the festival citing technical issues.
Just last week, Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings was banned from screening in Egyptian cinemas by the censorship committee, who attributed the decision to historical inaccuracies and the personification of Prophet Moses.
One Egyptian film faced similar issues this year on moral grounds. Halawet Rouh (Rouh’s beauty), starring Haifa Wahbe, was banned from cinemas after the prime minister decided that its “immodest scenes” go against the moral values of Egyptian society. But after months of being held up in a legal battle, a Cairo court ruled against the Cabinet’s decision to ban the film, and it was finally screened just before the end of 2014. In which case, it technically doesn’t belong on this list, but here’s a nod to anyone who waited for it all year long (and was too lazy to get the pirated version).
An Islamist Revolution
Late in the fall, out of nowhere came a call for protests on November 28 by the Salafi Front against military rule, which was later endorsed by the Muslim Brotherhood. As the call for protest seemingly began to gain momentum, it was quickly dubbed the Islamist Revolution and managed to whip up a chaotic media and security frenzy. Media personalities went unreasonably crazy, even more than usual.
Fear and anxiety ran high, and security was tightened at a level we’ve rarely seen, even during the most violent clashes in the past three years. Roads and squares were closed off the night before, people left the city for the weekend and the usual jittery question of “what do you think is going to happen?!” made a comeback in casual conversation. Analysts rushed to make sense of all the nonsense.
Then that dreaded Friday came, and no one was in the streets — not even the protesters. The end.
Mubarak behind bars
If you thought 2014 was finally going to be the year we see former President Hosni Mubarak receive a life sentence, or even something less ambitious like a few years here and there for his role in killing protesters …
Or if you thought that at least his interior minister or even his interior minister’s aides would serve some time — well, you were probably wrong about a lot of things this year.
No one is doing time. No one. Read this to find out why, because I can’t even.
A Disney park. Yes, Disney!
One good thing was going to come out of 2014: a plan for the first Disney Park in Egypt. It was the one good thing. But that hope was taken away the very next day.
Granted, we were incredulous the moment the news came out on the state-run news agency, but officials had spoken with such confidence, and we let ourselves hope. It created enough of a buzz for Mada Masr to reach out to Disney people for confirmation, who of course denied it.
And they blame us for bringing gloomy news — don’t shoot the messenger.
50,000 housing units
As part of a national housing project announced in 2013 when Sisi was still defense minister, 50,000 units of the planned 1 million homes to low-income Egyptians were due to be delivered in June. The delivery date has been delayed twice and so far less than 3,000 units have been delivered.
Since then, the implementing construction firm UAE-based Arabtec has said the project would be geared more toward middle-income citizens, once again leaving the low income housing segment direly under supplied.
It’s been suggested that the sheer scale and timetable of these mega-scale projects would cause them to break under the pressure. We will wait and see.
Justin Bieber in Cairo
Someone, somewhere thought that it would be a good idea to bring Justin Bieber to Cairo. Then someone actually managed to convince Bieber to plan a concert in the capital to launch Amer Group’s latest creation, Porto Cairo. We’re still not sure which one is harder to believe, but somewhere along the line the concert got canceled for some reason, and no one mourned its absence.
Except maybe the members of the Egyptian Beleibers Facebook page.
We’re still heartbroken about Disney.
Long Live Egypt Fund
One of Sisi’s earliest acts as president was to launch the Tahya Masr fund, calling on Egyptians to donate money to help revive and sustain the ailing economy. He donated half his salary and accumulated wealth to the fund to get the ball rolling. But despite Sisi’s not-so-gentle reminders asking businessmen to donate, until recently the fund failed to garner the anticipated LE10 billion.
In all fairness, the fund was predictably dwarfed by the bigger and badder Suez Canal project, which was financed by investment certificates issued to the public. Because they carry an attractive interest rate, the certificates sold like hot cakes and brought in more than the LE9 billion in the first 48 hours. They eventually exceeded the target sum of LE60 billion.
I guess people aren’t in the donating mood.
Abla Fahita on trial
A puppet was accused of conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood to send out secret terrorist codes on the group’s behalf through a television commercial. This is not an urban legend, this was Egypt in 2014.
The Vodafone ad featuring the beloved Abla Fahita was brought to the attention of state security by none other than Ahmed Spider, who had apparently cracked the code and then proceeded to swiftly bring it to the attention of the authorities.
Company officials were due to appear at an investigation, but the matter was dropped, probably thanks to the pressure created by the #FreeAblaFahita hashtag on social media.
This was all good, because Abla Fahita went on to collaborate with Hassan Shafei and bring us the summer smash sahel dance hit “Mahestahlooshi.”
Long live the puppet show … and on to the next year!