When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

In Egypt, A Flourishing Culture Of Tattoos Tests Taboos

In Egypt, A Flourishing Culture Of Tattoos Tests Taboos

CAIRO — "Everyone wants a tattoo now in Egypt," says 23-year-old Kareem Shaheen as he sits on his bed sketching the outline of a flash of lightning.

Shaheen started to tattoo less than a year ago under the name "Monkey Tattoo," and hopes to open the first street tattoo studio in Cairo.

"People relate getting a tattoo to freedom," he says, "It's something just for you."

Orne Gil arrived in Egypt in 2012 and has spent the last four years creating Nowhereland Tattoo Studio in Zamalek, contributing to a growing tattoo subculture in a country where this form of body art is taboo for some.

The practice has evolved, as is evident in the design choices Gil's clients make. When she first started working in the country, she used to receive requests for small, simple tattoos — often a copy of a tattoo similar to that of someone famous — but now, she says, things are changing and people are more creative.

"People often come to their appointments either with a bad design, or with no ideas at all," says Shaheen, the former manager of Nowhereland.

"After talking to them and showing them books, pictures and ideas, they often choose differently," he says, adding that up until four years ago this kind of tattoo art was relatively unknown.

A type of tattooing has been widely used in the Christian Coptic community for years. The small black cross many Copts wear on their wrists is an indelible mark of their faith, an identifying symbol in a nation where they are a minority. With time, this Coptic tattoo tradition is also evolving, with many young people opting for bolder, less traditional designs.

Sherif, a 35-year-old lighting designer, just got his first tattoo. "People often stare at me in the streets," he says. "But lots of things are changing, from girls driving motorbikes or sitting in cafés smoking shisha, to the way we dress.""

"One day I was in the metro and a man grabbed my arm, twisting it strongly to check if my tattoo was real or not," says Shaheen. "I would like to have piercings and more tattoos, but I don't know if I can handle the behaviour of people in the streets."

Gil started a tattoo convention in Cairo in 2014, bringing together a number of Egyptian tattoo artists on a small scale. A year later, she organized the Cairo International Tattoo Convention, held over two days in November and involving 18 tattoo artists from Chile, Spain, Turkey, Russia and Egypt.

Many places refused to hold the convention and people had little idea of what it would entail, she says, explaining that some attendees either wanted temporary tattoos or expected free body art as part of their entrance fee. One of her biggest concerns was security, she says, fearing police would shut down the event.

Gil says the convention was a huge success and beyond her expectations. "People had a chance to talk with the artists and choose their tattoos," she says.

"At this stage...it is no longer just about breaking taboos, whether religious or social. Younger generations are looking for something more," says Gil.

Esraa al-Mowafy, a 21-year-old student, sits in Nowhereland studios before getting her first tattoo despite being worried about the reaction from her parents. "Egyptian youth are, without a doubt, becoming more open," she says. "We have more understanding about other cultures. We are more rebellious regarding traditions and restrictions because we are trying to give ourselves a better chance to choose, to be ourselves and act freely."

*Some names have been changed at the request of those involved.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


The Unsustainable Future Of Fish Farming — On Vivid Display In Turkish Waters

Currently, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming, compared to just 10% two decades ago. The short-sightedness of this shift risks eliminating fishing output from both the farms and the open seas along Turkey's 5,200 miles of coastline.

Photograph of two fishermen throwing a net into the Tigris river in Turkey.

Traditional fishermen on the Tigris river, Turkey.

Dûrzan Cîrano/Wikimeidia
İrfan Donat

ISTANBUL — Turkey's annual fish production includes 515,000 tons from cultivation and 335,000 tons came from fishing in open waters. In other words, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming.

It's a radical shift from just 20 years ago when some 600,000 tons, or 90% of the total output, came from fishing. Now, researchers are warning the current system dominated by fish farming is ultimately unsustainable in the country with 8,333 kilometers (5,177 miles) long.

Professor Mustafa Sarı from the Maritime Studies Faculty of Bandırma 17 Eylül University believes urgent action is needed: “Why were we getting 600,000 tons of fish from the seas in the 2000’s and only 300,000 now? Where did the other 300,000 tons of fish go?”

Professor Sarı is challenging the argument from certain sectors of the industry that cultivation is the more sustainable approach. “Now we are feeding the fish that we cultivate at the farms with the fish that we catch from nature," he explained. "The fish types that we cultivate at the farms are sea bass, sea bram, trout and salmon, which are fed with artificial feed produced at fish-feed factories. All of these fish-feeds must have a significant amount of fish flour and fish oil in them.”

That fish flour and fish oil inevitably must come from the sea. "We have to get them from natural sources. We need to catch 5.7 kilogram of fish from the seas in order to cultivate a sea bream of 1 kg," Sarı said. "Therefore, we are feeding the fish to the fish. We cannot cultivate fish at the farms if the fish in nature becomes extinct. The natural fish need to be protected. The consequences would be severe if the current policy is continued.”

Keep reading...Show less

The latest