'Fed up' Egyptians Respond to Election Poll with Cooking Tips

Published January 31st, 2018 - 03:23 GMT
When an Egyptian news site requested responses to a poll about the upcoming election they could little have anticipated the flood of food-related replies they would receive (Wikimedia Commons)
When an Egyptian news site requested responses to a poll about the upcoming election they could little have anticipated the flood of food-related replies they would receive (Wikimedia Commons)

When an Egyptian news site requested responses to a poll about the upcoming election they could little have anticipated the flood of food-related replies they would receive.

Alhayah Alaan asked Egyptians a simple question via its Facebook page: “Will you be participating in the upcoming elections?” The survey would remain open for 24 hours, it said.

That was last Thursday, and users are still adding to the already 30,000 comments. But, for the most part, they are not focused on the issue of electoral turnout.

Instead, the post has been taken over by Egyptians discussing ins and outs of the popular food “molokhia.”

“Why are you all joking about a topic that is related to the history and future of Egypt… it is far too much to use a whole garlic!” read the top comment from Fadel Soliman, with over 13,000 likes.

Molokhia, a vegetable that is boiled into a stew and often served with chicken, might be labeled one of Egypt's national dishes. Along, of course, with koshary and ful medames.

“What is this disrespect in the comments?” joked Khalid Jarrar. “I am completely offended by this people: molokhia without chicken?! Where are you headed Egypt?”

Hamada Abu Ziad meanwhile was among those who responded by saying “let’s get back to our important topic, how to cook molokhia,” before offering a complete recipe.

Others gave suggestions on how to cook courgette or eggs.

As strange as they may seem, the responses were actually a satirical comment on the upcoming vote. After nominations closed Monday, Egyptians have the “choice” of current President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, or a candidate who has publicly backed the incumbent for a second term.

That, after all true potential opponents for Sisi were forced to withdraw, either arrested or under alleged government intimidation.

Making a food-related link to the elections, Yousef al-Demouki joked that they would choose between different kinds of dates, but in the end they would end up with “balaha,"  the unfavorable nickname for Sisi meaning date palm.

Journalist Eric Knecht tweeted that the bizarre turn of events “summarises” the absurdity of election season in Egypt.

 

In a similar vein, a hashtag launched by Sisi supporters on Twitter, asking Egyptians to “go out, participate, your voice will make a difference,” was ruthlessly mocked by some.

"Why is the person in charge of the hashtag trying to make me feel that I have options? It is a question with a mandatory response,” tweeted @HerzallahSamiha.

@mr_looka_ responded: “I will not take part in your play," while @moOnboom__ asked “is this hashtag serious?” 

“I saw the hashtag and died of laughter,” added @Madridy_92l48. “Do you think you’re German, son? You’re Egyptian!”

Others compared the ballot paper for this election to that of Egypt’s 2012 elections. The photoshopped form has Sisi alongside the options “killed,” “in prison,” “forcibly disappeared,” and “committed suicide.”

 

Social media posts like these, and especially the surreal debate on molokhia, might seem lighthearted. They come, however, amid what Human Rights Watch has called a “zero-tolerance policy towards dissent” under Sisi.

In that context, those making a mockery of the president or his commitment to democracy risk arrest. An Egyptian student was jailed for three years in 2015, for instance, for posting a picture of Sisi with Mickey Mouse ears on Facebook.

Egyptians seem undeterred, however, will election-related humor inundating the internet in recent weeks, ahead of the March vote, much of it directed at their president who is unlikely to leave office any time soon.


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