Geopolitics

Journey Back To Tahrir For A Disgraced Actor And Mubarak Nostalgic

Spat on and kicked out of his job running a top Cairo theater company, Tamer Abdel Moneim, a bona fide *fulul*, says he's proud he always stuck by the deposed former strongman.

Aug. 2013 pro-Mubarak demonstration in Cairo
Aug. 2013 pro-Mubarak demonstration in Cairo
Christophe Ayad

CAIRO — Tamer Abdel Moneim is no longer scared of Tahrir Square.

On the eve of the massive demonstration on June 30, calling for the resignation of President Mohamed Morsi, Moneim rented a room at the upscale Hotel Semiramis on the edge of Cairo's iconic central Square. He spent that evening drinking whisky, emptying glass after glass while contemplating the people coming together on Tahrir.

"I was scared. I didn't want to go down there. But on the Friday, at noon, I did," he recalled. "People recognized me, and they were very welcoming. Some even applauded."

Moneim, 38, wears a gold necklace and is clean shaven: It's the fulul look. He introduces himself laughing, "I am the ambassador of fululs." During the past two years, the word had come to symbolize evil incarnate. It comes from an ancient Arabic word and means "relics" or even, "the abandoned and used weapons that the enemies left on the battle field after they lost."

In Egypt, fulul became a synonym for the supporters, those who were members of or benefitted from the former regime of Hosni Mubarak. The Muslim Brotherhood even extended its meaning to all their opponents during Morsi's tenure.

But Moneim is truly fulul, an authentic fulul. On January 28, 2011, the "Battle of the Bridge" took place, in which the regime unleashed its repressive forces on demonstrators, but without managing to quash the rebellion that was turning into a revolution. That day, the young film star went on television to say everything he thought of this uprising. "For me, it was a coup from the Muslim Brotherhood backed by the CIA," he explains. "I said that we wouldn't be able to find anybody better than Hosni Mubarak. That without him, the country would plunge into ruin and chaos."

Moneim instantly became an outcast. One woman even spat in his face in the street.

Mubarak resigned on February 11, 2011. Three months later, Moneim lost his job as director of the Cinema Palace (a network of art houses). He received fewer and fewer roles in movies. His patron inside the government, Culture Minister Farouk Hosny, fled to France. Moneim chose to stay. "Suddenly, everybody became a revolutionary. I saw high officials change sides and then oppress me — but I never changed."

Shunned, but with chauffeur

He got directly involved in politics, helping Omar Suleiman, former spy chief under Mubarak, who was considering running for the presidential election, before his candidacy was nullified. He then worked for Ahmed Chafik, a former general and last Prime Minister of the old regime, who lost by a small margin (with 48.27% of the vote) against the Muslim Brotherhood"s Morsi in the second round of the June 2012 election.

Moneim says his journey through the wilderness was not too difficult; he still had his Jaguar with chauffeur. His father-in-law is none other than Farid Al-Dieb, the Mubarak family's lawyer.

After Morsi came into office, Moneim found a new job hosting a political talk show on Tahrir, a private channel. It had been bought by Christian businessmen and became a stronghold of the opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood. As the Islamist power grew more and more unpopular, his show, Al-Assima ("the capital"), attracted more and more viewers.

And then came June 30, "the real revolution," according to Moneim: "The young revolutionaries were 300,000, the Muslim Brotherhood 3 million and we were 30 million. Everyone was out in the streets: the fululs, but more importantly the so-called "couch party" — those who used to watch the events happening from their living rooms. The Egyptians took Tahrir."

Once Morsi was overthrown, the fululs started reappearing in public life. The transitional government welcomes some of them, like Minister of Information Doreya Charaf Eddine, former member of the political office of the National Democratic Party, which was in power under Mubarak.

Moneim is nostalgic for Mubarak himself even more than he is of his system. "Our great democrats who led the "revolution" two years ago now wave portraits of Nasser and of General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. What a joke! Everybody used to make fun of Mubarak because he was weak, but he developed Egypt more than his predecessors. Remember the state Egypt was in when he came into power in 1981? Telephones didn't work, cars were too expensive, there were no hotels for tourists, no bridges… And I also respect him because he could have fled abroad before he was imprisoned and he didn't."

Hosni Mubarak is now out of prison, and for Moneim, Egypt has returned to normal.

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food / travel

The True Horrors Behind 7 Haunted Locations Around The World

With Halloween arriving, we have dug up the would-be ghosts of documented evil and bloodshed from the past.

Inside Poveglia Island's abandoned asylum

Laure Gautherin and Carl-Johan Karlsson

When Hallows Eve was first introduced as a Celtic festival some 2,000 years ago, bonfires and costumes were seen as a legitimate way to ward off ghosts and evil spirits. Today of course, with science and logic being real ghostbusters, spine-chilling tales of haunted forests, abandoned asylums and deserted graveyards have rather become a way to add some mystery and suspense to our lives.

And yet there are still spooky places around the world that have something more than legend attached to them. From Spain to Uzbekistan and Australia, these locations prove that haunting lore is sometimes rooted in very real, and often terrible events.

Shahr-e Gholghola, City of Screams - Afghanistan

photo of  ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola,

The ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola, the City of Screams, in Afghanistan

Dai He/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire


According to locals, ghosts from this ancient royal citadel located in the Valley of Bamyan, 150 miles northwest of Kabul, have been screaming for 800 years. You can hear them from miles away, at twilight, when they relive their massacre.

In the spring 1221, the fortress built by Buddhist Ghorids in the 6th century became the theater of the final battle between Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, last ruler of the Khwarezmian Empire, and the Mongol Horde led by Genghis Khan. It is said that Khan's beloved grandson, Mutakhan, had been killed on his mission to sack Bamyan. To avenge him, the Mongol leader went himself and ordered to kill every living creature in the city, children included.

The ruins today bear the name of Shahr-e Gholghola, meaning City of Screams or City of Sorrows. The archeological site, rich in Afghan history, is open to the public and though its remaining walls stay quiet during the day, locals say that the night brings the echoes of fear and agony. Others claim the place comes back to life eight centuries ago, and one can hear the bustle of the city and people calling each other.

Gettysburg, Civil War battlefield - U.S.

photo of rocks and trees in Gettysburg

View of the battlefields from Little Round Top, Gettysburg, PA, USA

Unsplash/@nemo23


Even ghosts non-believers agree there is something eerie about Gettysbury. The city in the state of Pennsylvania is now one of the most popular destinations in the U.S. for spirits and paranormal activities sight-seeing; and many visitors report they witness exactly what they came for: sounds of drums and gunshots, spooky encounters and camera malfunctions in one specific spot… just to name a few!

The Battle of Gettysburg, for which President Abraham Lincoln wrote his best known public address, is considered a turning point in the Civil War that led to the Union's victory. It lasted three days, from July 1st to July 3rd, 1863, but it accounts for the worst casualties of the entire conflict, with 23,000 on the Union side (3,100 men killed) and 28,000 for the Confederates (including 3,900 deaths). Thousands of soldiers were buried on the battlefield in mass graves - without proper rites, legend says - before being relocated to the National Military Park Cemetery for the Unionists.

Since then, legend has it, their restless souls wander, unaware the war has ended. You can find them everywhere, on the battlefield or in the town's preserved Inns and hotels turned into field hospitals back then.

Belchite, Civil War massacre - Spain

photo of sunset of old Belchite

Old Belchite, Spain

Belchite Town Council


Shy lost souls wandering and briefly appearing in front of visitors, unexplainable forces attracting some to specific places of the town, recorded noises of planes, gunshots and bombs, like forever echoes of a drama which left an open wound in Spanish history…

That wound, still unhealed, is the Spanish Civil War; and at its height in 1937, Belchite village, located in the Zaragoza Province in the northeast of Spain, represented a strategic objective of the Republican forces to take over the nearby capital city of Zaragoza.

Instead of being a simple step in their operation, it became the field of an intense battle opposing the loyalist army and that of General Francisco Franco's. Between August 24 and September 6, more than 5,000 people were killed, including half of Belchite's population. The town was left in rubble. As a way to illustrate the Republicans' violence, Franco decided to leave the old town in ruins and build a new Belchite nearby. All the survivors were relocated there, but they had to wait 15 years for it to be complete.

If nothing particular happens in new Belchite, home to around 1,500 residents, the remains of old Belchite offer their share of chilling ghost stories. Some visitors say they felt a presence, someone watching them, sudden change of temperatures and strange sounds. The ruins of the old village have been used as a film set for Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - with the crew reporting the apparition of two women dressed in period costumes - and Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. And in October 1986, members of the television program "Cuarta Dimensión" (the 4th dimension) spent a night in Belchite and came back with some spooky recordings of war sounds.

Gur Emir, a conquerer’s mausoleum - Uzbekistan

photo of Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) i

Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Chris Bradley/Design Pics via ZUMA Wire


The news echoed through the streets and bazaars of Samarkand: "The Russian expedition will open the tomb of Tamerlane the Great. It will be our curse!" It was June 1941, and a small team of Soviet researchers began excavations in the Gur-Emir mausoleum in southeastern Uzbekistan.

The aim was to prove that the remains in the tomb did in fact belong to Tamerlane — the infamous 14th-century conqueror and first ruler of the Timurid dynasty who some historians say massacred 1% of the world's population in 1360.

Still, on June 20, despite protests from local residents and Muslim clergy, Tamerlame's tomb was cracked open — marked with the inscription: "When I Rise From the Dead, The World Shall Tremble."

Only two days later, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, with the people of Samarkand linking it to the disturbing of Tamerlane's peace. Amid local protests, the excavation was immediately wrapped up and the remains of the Turkish/Mongol conqueror were sent to Moscow. The turning point in the war came with the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad — only a month after a superstitious Stalin ordered the return of Tamerlane's remains to Samarkand where the former emperor was re-buried with full honors.

Gamla Stan, a royal massacre - Sweden

a photo of The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

Unsplash/@hkblind


After Danish King Kristian II successfully invaded Sweden and was anointed King in November 1520, the new ruler called Swedish leaders to join for festivities at the royal palace in Stockholm. At dusk, after three days of wine, beer and spectacles, Danish soldiers carrying lanterns and torches entered the great hall and imprisoned the gathered nobles who were considered potential opponents of the Danish king. In the days that followed, 92 people were swiftly sentenced to death, and either hanged or beheaded on Stortorget, the main square in Gamla Stan (Old Town).

Until this day, the Stockholm Bloodbath is considered one of the most brutal events in Scandinavian history, and some people have reported visions of blood flowing across the cobblestoned square in early November. A little over a century later, a red house on the square was rebuilt as a monument for the executed — fitted with 92 white stones for each slain man. Legend has it that should one of the stones be removed, the ghost of the represented will rise from the dead and haunt the streets of Stockholm for all eternity.

Port Arthur, gruesome prison - Australia

a photo of ort Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Port Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Flickr/Eli Duke


During its 47-year history as a penal settlement, Port Arthur in southern Tasmania earned a reputation as one of the most notorious prisons in the British Empire. The institution — known for a brutal slavery system and punishment of the most hardened criminals sent from the motherland— claimed the lives of more than 1,000 inmates until its closure in 1877.

Since then, documented stories have spanned the paranormal gamut: poltergeist prisoners terrorizing visitors, weeping children roaming the port and tourists running into a weeping 'lady in blue' (apparently the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth). The museum even has an 'incidence form' ready for anyone wanting to report an otherworldly event.

Poveglia Island, plague victims - Italy

a photo of Poveglia Island, Italy

Poveglia Island, Italy

Mirco Toniolo/ROPI via ZUMA Press


Located off the coast of Venice and Lido, Poveglia sadly reunites all the classical elements of a horror movie: plagues, mass burial ground and mental institute (from the 1920's).

During the bubonic plague and other subsequent pandemics, the island served as a quarantine station for the sick and anyone showing any signs of what could be Black Death contamination. Some 160,000 victims are thought to have died there and the seven acres of land became a mass burial ground so full that it is said that human ash makes up more than 50% of Poveglia's soil.

In 1922 a retirement home for the elderly — used as a clandestine mental institution— opened on the island and with it a fair amount of rumors involving torture of patients. The hospital and consequently the whole island was closed in 1968, leaving all the dead trapped off-land.

Poveglia's terrifying past earned it the nickname of 'Island of Ghosts'. Despite being strictly off-limits to visitors, the site has been attracting paranormal activity hunters looking for the apparition of lost and angry souls. The island would be so evil that some locals say that when an evil person dies, he wakes up in Poveglia, another kind of hell.

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