August 25, 2008

Current Thought – Al Lemby

Lord Allenby is a symbol for an important era that shaped the history of Egypt and the whole Middle East. He was a man of war and a man of politics two things that harmed Egypt for many years.

Egyptians hate Allenby (at least those who know history do), not only because he was the British high commissioner sent by the government of his majesty to control the
1919 revolution but also for his role in the WWI and forcefully using the Egyptians in paving his way to conquer Palestine and Syria as he chopped the last pieces of the old Ottomans empire. (I know that Arabia love Allenby as they love Lawrence but this is another long story).
Out of that hate, Egyptians (those who live in the Canal area) celebrate their oldest feast
(Sham El Nessim) by burning a dummy representing Allenby. A tradition that was passed through generations and is still maintained though a lot doesn’t even know who that Allenby was.

And because many kept burning the dummy without knowing the symbol, a movie genius took the Egyptianized name of Lord Allenby and made a fortune selling a character that represents the crisis of the Egyptian community.
In Arabic, the word “Al” is equivalent to the English “The”. So Allenby’s name was promptly broken to “Al” “Lenby” making a noun out of the word “Lenby” a noun that is completely meaningless. And because of some Egyptian phonetic problems the letter “N” is sometimes confused with the letter “M” (and this deserves a whole post) so the new born noun was pronounced “lemby” not “lenby”. And consequently “Lemby” has become a description not only for the dummy burnt every year but for that bizarre character representing the collection of Egyptian negativity.

The new Al-lemby can’t be called a typical Egyptian because he is everything but typical. But though he is nothing like a typical Egyptian he resembles the original Allenby in being a symbol for an era. Allenby was a symbol for Egypt under the British influence. Al-Lemby is a symbol for Egypt under the new world system influence. He is a combination of the worst of everything in Egypt. He is illiterate, with no definite job, which leads him to use whatever he can to earn his day, he uses scams, little insignificant jobs and anything that will lead to a few pounds so that he can eat and get stoned or drunk according to the case.

He represents Egypt under the influence of the new world system because he prefers unconsciousness as means to face the cruelty of life. He represents Egypt under the influence of the new world system because he is a first degree consumer regardless the fact that most of the time he can’t afford his basic needs. He is Egyptians under the influence of the new world system because his moral system has been affected by those who found there ways up the ladder and he doesn’t really mind the means to get him where they are.

He is Egypt though he represents the worst in the Egyptians. He is Egypt because he was created to criticize Egypt. He is Egypt because making fun of things is the one thing Egyptians didn’t lose through time.

And though he was created to be shallow & illiterate and those movies about him was categorized as for laugh only yet he still represented the deep Egyptian philosophy, unintended philosophy of course which is another thing that makes him representing Egypt in away, as every Egyptian is his own philosopher. Egyptians make fun out of their miseries and find the virtue in the darkest moments.

Mr. AL-Lemby in one of his movies posed a very important question that made everyone including me laugh. The scene was about two prisoners who tried to escape prison and as the new prison governor he was supposed to punish them. So in between laughter he asked are you punishing them because they tried to escape or because the failed?

Just like Hamlet’s eternal to be or not to be the question poses itself do we punish people because they tried breaking a rule or because they failed breaking it?
The question might seem shallow, because typically we will punish those who will fail not on their failure but because if they succeeded we won’t have anyone to punish.
At least that was the answer I had in mind until recently, when something popped up. When we punish someone we don’t punish them because they failed and not even because they tried we punish those we punish only because we can.

For everything we do (good or bad), it was never about the reason we give for doing it. If we do something we do it only because we can!
Picture by: Hossam Hammad


Anonymous said...


A refrshingly gripping yet didactic analysis.

Egyptian phonetic problems the letter “N” is sometimes confused with the letter “M” (and this deserves a whole post)

Please do,

Regardless of accent, be it southern, midwestern or northeastern. Growing up in the US english was always english. Yet when i'd visit egypt as a child I was always confused by how one word can sound 5 different ways coming out of 3 different people. It always threw me for a loop :/

Shimaa Gamal said...

Hello Pax Machina

Thanks for passing by :) actually the Egyptian phonetic problem goes beyond the “M”’s and “N”’s to the “T”’s & “D”’s and the famous “B” & “P” :)
It really deserves more than just one post because even the same Arabic word will sound different coming from different people.

Thanks for commenting, come back often ;)

LiL^OrioN said...

haaaa.. an interesting post.

and lemby is a slang for lembik, a word in malay which means "weak".
fitting, doesn't it? LOL!

Shimaa Gamal said...

Hello Haz
Finally I found a meaning to the word lemby :) weak really fits ;)

I will be waiting for your come back after Ramadan.

Ramadan Mubarak for you too.

LiL^OrioN said...

salam ukhti shima..

just wondering, do you happen to have a multiply account?

Shimaa Gamal said...

Hello Haz
Yes, I have a multiply account. But I didn't login for a while.

LiL^OrioN said...

ohh.. well, i have been doing some updates there. more of a just-girls-only posts. i like the fact that when i update it there, it will do cross-posting to blogger as well. heee.. well, just add me in any cases, =)

Shimaa Gamal said...

done ;)