CAIRO: An Egyptian artist is using the back wall of a building in central Cairo to showcase virtual concerts and recitations of the Qur’an to break the monotony of the curfew imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The virtual concerts, which use a projector, begin at 8 p.m. every night in the El-Mounira area as the streets of the city fall silent due to the curfew.
The curfew, which started in mid-March, triggered the idea of the virtual concerts to experimental filmmaker and artist Mohamed Allam. The idea did not come to fruition until mid-June.
“I have tools, like the projector, and I know how to use them,” Allam said. “So I thought, why not take the projector to the street instead of keeping it within the walls of my home. I thought why not share this experience with the citizens of Egypt,” said Allam, who has been living in downtown Cairo for 11 years and has become familiar with the district.
“Most of those who live in the area are elderly people, and since the spread of the coronavirus they have not left their homes. As the sun sets they usually go out to their balconies and so I decided to offer them Umm Kulthum concerts,” Allam said, referring to Egypt and the Arab world’s most famous female singer who died in 1975.
The building opposite Allam’s house is free of residents, making it an ideal location for his projector because it does not disturb anyone.
As well as Umm Kulthum concerts, Allam presents Qur’anic recitations by some of Egypt’s most renowned sheikhs, most prominently Sheikh Abdel- Basit Abdel-Samad.
Although Allam’s project has been met with encouragement, he admits that he is yet to receive the opinions of his neighbors. However, he said the fact they go to their balconies and stay there throughout the virtual concerts indicates that they are enjoying them, which has led to him continuing the shows.
“I saw several of my neighbors go to their balconies with the start of the virtual concert. I also started live streaming the shows on my Facebook page,” Allam said.
Videos of his idea shared by his friends have reached tens of thousands of views.
“I read almost all the comments, and one of them asked: ‘Why would someone force me to watch something in particular? What if I dislike Umm Kulthum or one of the sheikhs being showcased?’ I respect his point of view but thinking about my project, its advantages outweigh its disadvantages,” Allam said.
Still, Allam is worried about the legal ramifications of his idea since projecting the images can be construed as an inconvenience or an annoyance to some residents living in the neighborhood.
At the same time he is thinking of ways to advance the project. He is searching for friends who live in nearby buildings to test the idea and see how people of different backgrounds will receive it.
He believes that breaking the daily routine of life under curfew frees people from feeling restrained within the walls of their households. The artist explained that the idea is not solely his, and encouraged others to take it up and expand on it.
According to Allam, the goal is to break the monotony of the curfew and produce something creative.