Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Three Years Blogging

My first blog post was in the 19th of February 2005, and since then I've met many bloggers and read different blogs. However the Egyptian blogosphere is always more interesting to me than any other blogosphere, and that's why I always dreamed of writing about it's ... ehm ... history, and the various blogging movements there. And here I am celebrating my blog's third birthday, and I think it will be good to start writing such report on this occasion.

The Technosphere

The first time to hear about blogging was when I installed Google Bar in my browser, and saw the Blogspot icon there. I guess Rami Sidhom (Ikhnaton2) was introduced to blogging the same way. Then I found Manal and Alaa's Bit Bucket, which was a Blog Aggregator created by two married Linux and Programming Gurus. As you can see, at that part of the Egyptian blogosphere history, many blogs were into computers and IT, such as JPierre and Mohamed Sameer's FooLab. And even now, when there is diversity in blogs topics, away from the technical ones, you can still notice that many of today's bloggers are Engineers.

Bloggers Without Borders

One of the main advantages of blogging is that you can choose whatever pen ... ehm keyboard-name you want and write anything you want. Most of the media here also is owned or even controlled somehow by the government, and sometimes we have the feeling that the people who work in the media belong the the Jurassic Age. That's why gays, lesbians, and those who don't believe in Allah started to have their own blogs, where they anonymously write stuff they cannot say anywhere else.

Manal and Alaa's Bit Bucket was really very famous then, and for many ones the blogs that are not aggregated there were simply not existing. They also started a blog hosting service on their site. Many of those blogs hosted in Manalaa, as well as their friends and those one who consider the a blogging role models shared some common characteristics; they are focused on human rights and defended free speech and many of them joined movements such as Kefaya and participated in protests and many were put into jail for that such as Malek, Alaa, and Sharkawy. However the first blogger to be put in jail for what he writes and not for participating in a protest in the street was Abdul Karim Amer. Anyway, their blogs also had something else in common, they preferred to use the language of the street. As you know the newspapers here use Traditional Arabic, but Manalaa et. al. are used to write in the Egyptian Slang, and they also use some rated words that may not be accepted by conventional media. I've also noticed that many of the active bloggers then were leftists.

Actually, the freedom available in blogs as well as the rise of Manalaa's Culture was the dynamo of what I may call, Political Blogging. Many resistive movements and journalists started to join the blogosphere, such as Wael Abbas and his famous Anti-Government and Anti-Torture Videos.

The Religious Bloggers

In a society like the one we live in, where religion is everywhere from Politics (The Muslim Brotherhood) to Mobile Ringtones, and where there is a rise in Pantacourt Guys and Ninja Girls phenomenon everywhere, it is really odd not to see religious blogs. Religious bloggers have their own characteristics too. They prefer to use the Traditional Arabic language (The language of the Quraan). Their writings emphasise Islamic Standards such as morals and following Allah's rules. They are sure against the use of rated and dirty words in their blogs, and they even organize campaigns in their blogs in order to fight such language. On the other hand, many of them aren't really pleased with free speech and human rights, they prefer to put some boundaries on those rights. And like many other bloggers, some of the Religious bloggers have political background, such as El-Ghareeb, some others are daughters of MB members, and some blog for the sake of blogging such as Te3mah, City Bird, and Al-Sarem Al-Hasem.

Today's Flood of Words

Now a days, the blogging phenomenon is getting more fame. The mainstream media, and even the governmental media, has played a role in introducing people to blogs. Manal and Alaa decided to move their blog aggregator to a new site called Omraneya, which is not as famous as the old Manalaa Aggregator. And between the rise of Facebook and the fall of Manalaa Aggregator's leading role in the Egyptian Blogosphere, thousands of new bloggers are getting into the blogging game every month. The are now blogs that offer Food Recipes, other for Sports News and for sure there a thousands of personal blogs with the "Chinese Girl Pink Blog" flavour.

Actually now a days it is really hard to find good posts in that flood of words. Google Reader may sometimes offer us help to follow our friend's favourite blogs, however it is not very efficient. Global Voices Online is also offering some help by finding and translating the good posts that worth reading; however the word "good" here is still limited to GVO Team's own point of view. There are also some book publishers who found their way into the Egyptian Blogosphere and picked some blogs and started to transform their posts into books.

Notable Bloggers

Finally, after publishing this post, I realized that it is hard to write such analysis without mentioning the following blogs:

The Big Pharaoh, Rantings of a Sandmonkey and Miss Mabrouk of Egypt are three old blogs, which I prefer to call News Jockey kind of blogs. Sandmonkey is more active now a days than the other two, however they are all known to foreigners than to fellow Egyptians, and you can see this in the comments they receive on their posts. This may be due to the language barrier, as you may have noticed, these guys blog in English.

Zeinobia (Egyptian Chronicles) and The Arabist. Those guys are into News Analysis more than Jockeying, they also suffer somehow from the Language barrier (Zeinobia started an Arabic blog now), however their ideas and writings are a bit more in tune with the Arabic and Egyptian streets more than the three other bloggers mentioned above, and that's why they are more readable here.

Lasto Adri, DB Shobrawy, Jar El Kamar and Myself, are active members in Global Voices Online and work on introducing the Egyptian blogs to the rest of the world. Jar El Kamar also won in 2006 the Deutsche Welle's BOBs Award for the Best Arabic Blog, and Lasto Adri had a great role in encouraging a lot of people to start blogging.

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