Graffiti in Cairo and Tahrir Square

Today, Egyptians have revived their ancestors’ art of graffiti in order to document their revolution. Photo: Anwaar Abdalla

CAIRO, February 19, 2013 — Ancient Egyptian Graffiti is often classified as a literary genre. It was a spontaneous art form for the ancient Egyptians around 5000 B.C., used as a tool for recording and explaining special historical events. Several tombs, temples and pyramids are major sources of ancient graffiti. Scribes and priests as well as political activists left graffiti messages on the walls of sacred buildings, perhaps to document certain important events.

King Zoser's Pyramid

King Zoser’s Pyramid

In ancient Egypt, graffiti was used mostly to document political or social events. For instance, in the southern house of King Zoser’s pyramid complex at Saqqara, a 3000 year-old graffiti written by a subject of King Tutankhamen tells us about the King’s visit to his ancestors and how he came as a pilgrim to pay homage to the pyramid of Zoser.

Other graffiti attributed to King Ramses or Tutmosis III has enriched the knowledge of historians and scholars. Fischer Elfert distinguishes the ancient Egyptian graffiti as an important literary genre.

Today, Egyptians have revived their ancestors’ art of graffiti in order to document their revolution. Tahrir square is considered the pounding heart of important events, hence the importance of the graffiti there, or the so-called “street-art,” which expresses the people’s frustrations and expectations.

Graffiti (Anwaar Abdallah)

Many of the graffiti’s themes are political in their content, mocking the former regime, the present government, or certain political parties.

Several murals as well as graffiti are used to remind the public of the revolution’s martyrs and the basic demands of the people. Some scenes urge the solidarity of Muslims and the Christians, some proclaim Egypt as an Islamic state, and others emphasize that the revolution continues.

Since the 2011 Egyptian revolution, graffiti have appeared and disappeared at a rapid pace. The walls of Cairo are transfor

ed into a site of ongoing debate. Some conservative Parties consider graffiti a kind of subversive vandalism and are calling for a law to prohibit it. Several walls in the centre of Cairo have been quickly scrubbed in order to erase the provocative graffiti.

Creators of the graffiti have succeeded in turning metro stations and walls under several bridges into revolutionary picture galleries for weeks at a time. Some Egyptian artists have described the graffiti as political cartoons which reflect society’s feelings of unrest and dissatisfaction. Mohamed Mahmud street, one of the side streets off Tahrir square, is one good example of this.

Indeed, the most notable and moving scene is the Egyptian’s deep love and attachment to their country.

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Anwaar Abdalla

Anwaar Abadallah Khalik Ibrahim has her Ph.D. from Ain Shams University (1999, first degree honour) and currently lectures on Civilization and Cultural Affairs for Helwan University.  Dr. Abdalla Kahlik Ibrahim also works as an official coordinator for the cultural exchange program between Helwan Uni and TSU in the USA entitled “Cultural Immersion 2011-2014.”

Additionally, Ms. Abdallah is a member of the Egyptian and Arab women’s writer’s union and the Cairo Women Association.  She is also the translator of several books published by the Ministry of Culture including Shadows on the Grass, Impossible Peace and The Secret Rapture. Dr. Ibrahim is also an accomplished author and essayist in both Arabic and English publications. 


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