As the title of this program, “Media in the Arab World,” suggests, the point of our time here is partly to dabble in reporting internationally.
Carlene assigned a few pairs of students stories and invited the rest of us to pitch ideas.
The tourist police in Egypt, lounging around at every corner, inspired my first story idea.
Carlene paired Clarice Connors, a grad student on the dialogue, with me to get the scoop. We reasoned visiting the place of the incident, what we believed was a cafe in the Khan (Egypt’s biggest market), was a logical way to begin.
When we got an unexpected chance to visit the Khan straight from lunch yesterday, we jumped. We entered the Khan, the largest souk (market) in Egypt, pens, without knowing the name or location of the cafe or other crucial details of the event, such as date and number of casualties.
We gripped pens and pads, Clarice boasted her wide lens camera and I thanked my Arabic teacher from last year, Nermeen for teaching me crucial words, such as bombing.
As we walked through the rambling alleys and smiling vendors on each side enticed us with scarves, jewels, perfumes and endless other trinkets, we pondered how to bring up the sensitive subject of the bombing. Wandering we knew, wouldn’t cough it up.
The Khan is huge. We don’t even know the name of this place. We’re going to have to ask to get anywhere.
A boy, who looked a few years our junior, smiled from store filled with fabrics.
Though he was perplexed by my stumbling Arabic, the next group of vendors we asked were a hit.
Follow him, they said, pointing to an older man who was already weaving his way down the crowded streets. I shrugged at Clarcie–here we go.
He took us to Naguib Mafhouz, a cafe named after the most iconic of Egypt’s authors. We thanked our guide with a couple pounds–a constant means in Egypt and surveyed the scene.
“I thought it was outdoors,” I said to Clarice. We didn’t see any damage.
A small security stand with a couple tourist police stood to the right. We tentatively approached and began our questioning. The officers didn’t say a whole much, but the vendors were happy to chat and directed us further down the street. We continued down the alley, conducting brief interviews and snapping pictures. Keep going, it’s further down, source after told us.
We turned around the corner and there it was.
A strip of open cafes adjacent to the Mosque of Hussein. The two Samy brothers were our final sources. They pointed out the spot of the attack and wrapped up the interview by scribbling their emails on my pad along with the words “Face Book.” “Look us up, and come back to our cafe,” the younger brother asked. We promised we would.
Writing, which I did earlier this evening was equally interesting. Clarice and I sat in a smoky cafe and she typed as we orally composed.
What were we trying to say? I was interested in why the event was labeled a terrorist attack. Was it because a Western tourist died? Would any random act of violence in a tourist destination automatically qualify? Would a similar act in New York city gain the same reputation? Our sources told us life two days after the event returned to normal. Was this desensitization toward violence or had the media blown a relatively small incident out of proportion? Katarina Kratovac, an AP reporter we met earlier this week, said the international media waited for hours and no government officials came to brief them. Did the lack of information and followup on the event contribute the publics seemingly lack of continued attention to it?
That one short story could have gone so many ways. Reporters’ choices are endless.