Cairo's Day of Peace
Eleven years after a United Nations resolution established the International Day of Peace, artists, civil society members and a huge audience came together to promote a culture of peace on 21 September in Cairo.
The day started as a regular Friday, Cairo streets emptier than usual, encouraging more than 1000 Cairenes to head over to Darb 1718 to engage with Peace Day.
Organised jointly by several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) along with Darb 1718 staff, the event presented a successful collaboration between the worlds of art and civil society: two worlds which ultimately have similar goals.
The main organiser was CISV Egypt, a local NGO that is part of an international organisation promoting peace through intercultural and local education programmes and developmental initiatives.
Masterpeace, an NGO that works on promoting Peace Day across the world, along with establishing Cairo as the World Peace Capital by 2014, was also involved in organising the day. The event was entirely run by volunteers, all dressed in green t-shirts emblazoned with the Peace One Day logo.
"It is very important in the current difficult circumstances to put all this aside and embrace our humanity, even if just for one day," Ramy Tadros, one of the event's organisers told Ahram Online.
The event started around 2pm in Darb's main garden. During the afternoon, NGOs laid out their booths attracting potential volunteers from the crowd, as well as meeting fellow civil society members to establish partnerships.
Alwan w Awtar and CISV Egypt, which both deal with the informal education of children, had activities next to their booths attracting children to paint what peace meant to them along with other more active games centred around peace.
There were other NGOs such as Wataneya Society, which works to improve orphanages in Egypt, along with NGOs dealing with freedom of speech, the rights of people with disabilities, connecting civil society actors and others.
"We wanted to give other NGOs a chance to support Peace Day and promote themselves," Tadros said. "Even if their work is not directly about Peace Day, but somehow their work contributes to peace and understanding, such as Nabta who work on creating online and offline spaces for collaboration between different people in civil society."
Alongside the booths, there was also a bazaar organised by Darb 1718 where local artisans shared their original pieces, such as vases, clothing, and jewellery.
"We put out an open call to anyone who makes handmade things and wanted like to sell them at the event," May Shehab of Darb 1718 told Ahram Online.
As the sun came down, musicians started taking to Darb's elevated stage, playing alongside silent footage from a documentary on how Peace Day was established. Most of the musicians made a tribute to the day that brought everyone together before their performances.
The line-up was The Cassettes, Ahmed Safi, Abu from AbuMariam, High on Body Fat, Rash Radio, Like Jelly, Ze Khodz, Neobyrd and Shady Ahmed and finally Salalem. Each of the ten musicians performed a 30 minute set, giving the audience a taste of everything the young independent music scene in Cairo has to offer.
The first half of the line up was mostly acoustic music, spreading an air of peace in the crowd. Abu's performance was among the most relevant to the day, with his lyrics discussing human coexistence. One of his songs 'Oxygen' really summed up the spirit of the day with this line: "Don't tell me gender, colour or religion… we are all living, breathing oxygen."
Around 9pm, when Like Jelly took to the stage, some people started dancing to the band who sang a Brazilian song cover along with three original, catchy tracks revolving around Egyptian contemporary society. Ze Khodz and Neobyrd continued this air of festivity, with even more people joining the dancing in front of the stage, letting go of the daily stresses of Cairo.
The party continued well into past midnight. However, Peace Day celebrations in Cairo are not stopping there. Masterpeace continue with a series of workshops, film screenings and small events all leading up to a second edition of a Street Arts Festival taking place on Friday 28 September in Dokki, behind the Ministry of Agriculture. The festival will include painting the wall of the ministry with messages of peace organised by the Egyptian Designers Association, along with musical performances by Zap Tharwat, Shady Ahmed, City Band, Revolution Records, Alwan Band, Kayam Band, Mai Abdelaziz and Simplexity. There will also be other artistic activities like theatre, origami, a photography workshop, and a kids' corner. The event is set to start at 1:30pm.