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A blind oud player from humble beginnings, Sheikh Imam’s destiny changed drastically when he met a dissident poet called Ahmed Fouad Negm, and they formed a duo. Together, they would go on start a new era in Egyptian popular music. Their songs would shake regimes, travel the world on cassette tapes, and transcend their own time to become part of the soundtrack to Egypt’s revolution decades later. Today, the story of Sheikh Imam: the Egyptian singer who became an icon of dissent. This episode was produced by Nadeen Shaker, Heba El-Sherif and Alex Atack, and edited by Dana Ballout. Fact checking was by Deena Sabry and sound design, music and mixing by Monzer El Hachem. Voice over by Eihab Seoudi, and translation help from Maha El Kady. Cover art by Ahmad Salhab. The songs you heard on this episode were composed and performed by Sheikh Imam and written by Ahmed Fouad Negm and Zein Alabidin Fouad. Lyric translations were by Ahmed Hassan and Elliott Colla. Fill out our listener survey here (it’ll only take 5 minutes!) Support this podcast on patreon.com/kerningcultures for as little as $2 a month. You can find a transcript for this episode at our website, kerningcultures.com/kerningcultures.
The Intifada Tapes

The Intifada Tapes

2022-05-1323:58

Stuck in his Palestinian hometown of Jenin during lockdown, Mo’min Swaitat walked into an old music shop where thousands of dusty cassettes lined the walls. They contained decades of Palestinian music and field recordings once confiscated by the Israeli army, long since forgotten, and never meant to make it out of Palestine. This is the story of what was on those cassettes, and Mo’min’s mission to give them a second life. This episode was produced by Nadeen Shaker and edited by Dana Ballout. Fact checking by Deena Sabry, sound design and mixing by Nadeen Shaker, Alex Atack and Monzer El Hachem. Our team also includes Zeina Dowidar. You can listen to the Intifada album on Bandcamp. Support this podcast on patreon.com/kerningcultures for as little as $2 a month.
Azzam Alwash remembers the marshlands of southern Iraq as a magical place, where he would spend long days gliding through the thick reeds by boat with his father. But for decades now, the area has been under threat, so Azzam has become part of the effort to save the natural wonder before it's too late. This episode was produced by Dana Ballout, Alex Atack and Tamara Juburi with fact checking by Deena Sabry. Sound design and mixing by Alex Atack and Mohamad Khreizat. A special thanks to Azzam Alwash for speaking to us. Support this podcast on patreon.com/kerningcultures for as little as $2 a month. Find a transcript for this episode at our website, kerningcultures.com/kerningcultures.
The Sleeping Children

The Sleeping Children

2022-04-0850:001

In 2012, a Yazidi family fled to Sweden in the hope of a better life, far from persecution. After nearly six troubled years struggling to seek asylum without proper paperwork, their traumatised daughter “fell asleep” - and didn’t wake up again for another five years.  For half a decade she has been in a coma-like state, a condition called resignation syndrome that afflicts thousands of other asylum-seeking children in Sweden. Producers Zeina Dowidar and Andrei Popoviciu travel to Sweden and meet the families, doctors and social workers who are trying to figure out what this mysterious illness is, and how to treat it. This episode was produced by Zeina Dowidar and Andrei Popoviciu. It was edited by Dana Ballout with support from Alex Atack and Nadeen Shaker. Fact checking on this episode was by Deena Sabry, audio editing by Youssef Douazou, and sound design and mixing by Mohamed Khreizat. Translation by Amina Khalil. A special thanks to all of the families we spoke to, as well as Dr. Elisabeth Hultcrantz, Dr. Karl Salinn and Dr. Debra Stein for speaking with us for the episode. Support this podcast on patreon.com/kerningcultures for as little as $2 a month. Find a transcript for this episode at our website.
A warning: This episode contains descriptions of sexual violence and assault. As Egyptian women celebrated the arrest of serial predator and rapist Ahmed Bassam Zaki in the summer of 2020, another case came to light: An alleged gang rape in the upscale Fairmont Hotel. If the men involved were convicted, this case would be another big success for the #MeToo movement in Egypt. But instead, it took nasty turns; evidence would be buried, case witnesses would be arrested and campaigners for the victim would face threats and intimidation. Many began to ask: was this the end of the #MeToo movement in Egypt? This week, the second in a two-part series: the rise and fall of #MeToo in Egypt. This episode was written and produced by Nadeen Shaker and Zeina Dowidar, with editing by Dana Ballout and Alex Atack. Fact checking by Deena Sabry and sound design and mixing by Mohamad Khreizat and Paul Alouf.  Special thanks to everyone who made this story happen: Sabah Khodir, Noor Gohary, Nadine AbdelHamid, Farah Desouky, Zeina Amr, and Nadine Enan. Support this podcast on patreon.com/kerningcultures for as little as $1 a month. Find a transcript for this episode at our website, kerningcultures.com/kerningcultures. Editor's note: An earlier version of this story inaccurately stated that Sabah Khodir had seen the Fairmont video. In fact, she had only seen screenshots of it. The audio has been updated to reflect this correction.
A warning: This episode contains descriptions of sexual violence and assault. In the summer of 2020, a 22-year-old Egyptian woman made the difficult decision to publicly call out her harasser on social media. In a moment of rage, she picked up her phone and typed out a post that would end up travelling much further than she expected - far beyond her social circle. Over the next few weeks, in a whirlwind of Tweets, Facebook posts and Instagram stories, it became clear that she wasn’t the only person this man had assaulted: over 50 other women stepped forward with a laundry list of accusations against him. It was the first step towards a major reckoning for Egypt; one that inspired big changes in how the country - and the law - deals with sexual assault cases. But for the activists driving that change, it would turn out to be exhausting, and even dangerous. This week, the first in a two-part series: the rise and fall of Egypt’s #MeToo movement. This episode was written and produced by Nadeen Shaker and Zeina Dowidar, with editing by Dana Ballout and Alex Atack. Fact checking by Deena Sabry and sound design and mixing by Paul Alouf. Special thanks to everyone who made this story happen: Sabah Khodir, Noor Gohary, Nadine AbdelHamid, Farah Desouky, Zeina Amr, and Nadine Enan. Support this podcast on patreon.com/kerningcultures for as little as $2 a month. Find a transcript for this episode at our website, kerningcultures.com/kerningcultures.
The Burning Library

The Burning Library

2022-03-1025:562

In 1962 the library at the University of Algiers was burned to the ground, turning hundreds of thousands of books to dust. But it was overshadowed by Algeria’s independence from the French, and was largely forgotten. So one man has made it his mission to answer a simple question: are these books really gone? Or were they smuggled out by the extremists who set the library on fire in the first place? Thank you to Samir Hachani and Bruno Boulanger for speaking to us for this episode. Thank you also to Dr. Andrew Bellisari, and Rayane from @ze.art.nerd.  This episode was produced by Zeina Dowidar and edited by Dana Ballout. Additional support from Alex Atack and Nadeen Shaker, fact checking by Deena Sabry, with sound design and mixing by Paul Alouf. Additional production support from Abdelraouf Meraga. Support this podcast on patreon.com/kerningcultures for as little as $2 a month. Find a transcript for this episode here.
Hi Jolly

Hi Jolly

2022-02-2437:25

This week, we’re following the trail of an elusive camel herder called Hadj Ali (or, as the Americans called him; Hi Jolly). He was one of the first people from the Middle East to move to the USA, and although he died penniless, alone and almost entirely forgotten, he played a big role in America’s westward expansion... all on camelback. It's a wild ride, so saddle up. This episode was produced by Laith Majali, Dana Ballout and Alex Atack, and edited by Dana Ballout. Fact checking by Deena Sabry and additional support by Nadeen Shaker and Zeina Dowidar. Sound design and mixing by Mohamad Khreizat and Alex Atack. A special thanks to Doug Baum, Marshall Trimble, Heba Afify and all of the cameleers who spoke to us for this story. Support this podcast on patreon.com/kerningcultures for as little as $2 a month. Find a transcript for this episode here.
The Freemason

The Freemason

2022-02-1038:16

A family secret, hidden for decades by a grandfather in Iraq, gets uncovered by his grandson - who chooses to revive a potentially dangerous legacy. This episode was produced by Alex Atack and Tamara Juburi, and edited by Dana Ballout with additional support from Nadeen Shaker and Zeina Dowidar. Fact checking by Tamara Juburi and sound design by Mohamad Khreizat. Support this podcast on patreon.com/kerningcultures for as little as $2 a month. Find a transcript for this episode here.
During the Syrian war, a group of archeologists risk their lives to record the damage being done to their country’s cultural heritage, just as it was being taken away from them. This episode was written and produced by Zeina Dowidar and Alex Atack, and edited by Dana Ballout with additional support from Nadeen Shaker. Fact checking by Tamara Juburi and sound design by Sara Kaddouri. Thank you to Alice Fordham and Salman Ahad Khan for their help recording interviews for this story, and to Abdullah Al Assil, who performed the voice of Adnan. Support this podcast on patreon.com/kerningcultures for as little as $2 a month. Find a transcript for this episode here.
Operation Boulder

Operation Boulder

2022-01-2738:38

Since 9/11, US governmental agencies have poured millions of dollars into spying on Arabs, Muslims and Arab Americans. Their surveillance has changed countless lives as ordinary citizens all over the country were interrogated, arrested or had their homes raided. But this didn’t start in 2001. Invasive - and even illegal - surveillance programmes against Arabs and Arab Americans have a long history in the US, going all the way back to the 1970s, with a program code-named Operation Boulder. But it wasn't until a lawyer named Abdeen Jabara took his own government to court that the true size and scale of the programme was revealed. This episode was produced by Suzanne Gaber and Will Thomson, and edited by Dana Ballout and Alex Atack. Fact checking by Deena Sabry. Additional support from Nadeen Shaker and Zeina Dowidar. Sound design and mixing by Paul Alouf. Thank you to Afnan, Amaney Jamal, Abdeen Jabara, Anan Ameri, John Shattuck, and Nicole Nguyen for speaking with us for this episode, and to the Bentley Historical Library for the use of their archives. Support this podcast on patreon.com/kerningcultures for as little as $2 a month. Read this episode’s transcript here.
Escape to Cairo

Escape to Cairo

2021-05-2733:101

In October 1960, the walls were closing in for Patrice Lumumba. Months earlier, he had been celebrated as the Congo’s first democratically elected prime minister after decades of brutal colonial rule. But now, he had been overthrown in a coup and was being kept under house arrest by his political opponent. With Lumumba's life at risk, the Egyptian government under Gamal Abdel Nasser proposed a dangerous and unusual plan to have three of Lumumba's young children smuggled out of the country and away to the safety of Cairo. This week on Kerning Cultures; Patrice Lumumba's children, and their escape to Cairo. This episode was produced by Nadeen Shaker and edited by Dana Ballout and Alex Atack, with additional support from Zeina Dowidar, Shraddha Joshi and Percia Verlin. Fact checking by Tamara Juburi, and sound design and mixing by Alex Atack and Mohamad Khreizat. Bella Ibrahim is our marketing manager. Support this podcast on patreon.com/kerningcultures for as little as $1 a month.
After their employer abandoned the vessel they was working on, Vikash Mishra and his crew spent nearly three years stuck on a slowly sinking ship off the coast of the UAE. This week on Kerning Cultures: Vikash’s ordeal, and how he eventually made it back home to his family in India. This is the second of two episodes about ship abandonment in the Middle East. Listen to part one here. This episode was produced by Alex Atack and edited by Dana Ballout, with additional support from Zeina Dowidar and Nadeen Shaker. Fact checking by Tamara Juburi, and sound design and mixing by Alex Atack and Mohamad Khreizat. Ayushi Shah provided additional production support in Mumbai. Special thanks to Martha Schlee. Support this podcast on patreon.com/kerningcultures for as little as $1 a month.
When seafarer Mehmet Gulsen stepped on board the Kenan Mete, he thought he was signing up to a pretty standard 7 month contract, and then he’d be home in Ukraine with his young daughter and his dog. But a few months in, things started going wrong, and he ended up abandoned with his crew at a port in the Suez Canal, with no idea when they’d be able to go home. This week on Kerning Cultures, the strange legal limbo that allows seafarers to wind up abandoned and unable to leave their ships... sometimes for years at a time. This episode was made in collaboration with 99% Invisible. Check them out wherever you get your podcasts. It was produced by Alex Atack and edited by Katie Mingle, with additional support from Dana Ballout, Zeina Dowidar, Nadeen Shaker and the whole 99% Invisible team. Dilara Çelik provided translation support and Onur Akmehmet was the voice of Mehmet. You can find a transcript of this episode at our website. Support this podcast on patreon.com/kerningcultures for as little as $1 a month.
Exodus

Exodus

2021-04-2940:581

Loving Lebanon is one thing; living there is another. Generation after generation, surviving in the homeland sometimes costs too much. This essay was written and read by Zahra Hankir, and it was originally published in Guernica. The episode was produced by Alex Atack with support from Dana Ballout. Sound design and mixing was by Paul Alouf and Alex Atack. Bella Ibrahim is our marketing manager. Support this podcast on patreon.com/kerningcultures for as little as $1 a month.
Found Sound

Found Sound

2021-04-2348:31

Two stories of music getting lost… and then found again. A record producer unearths a Moroccan masterpiece in the back of a dusty electronics shop in Casablanca, sending him on a long and complicated mission to find out what happened to the artist. And, a song that was never meant to be heard outside a small group of friends becomes an internet sensation. This episode was written and produced by Alex Atack and Dana Ballout, with editing support from Zeina Dowidar and Nadeen Shaker. Fact checking by Tamara Juburi. Sound design by Alex Atack and Mohamad Khreizat. Bella Ibrahim is our marketing manager. Special thanks to Nahida Tarbaou, who helped us record one of the interviews for this episode, and to Roger Bendaly, Jannis Stürtz, Nordine Aboura and Joey Hamoui for speaking to us for these stories. Support this podcast on patreon.com/kerningcultures for as little as $1 a month.
Viva Brother Nagi

Viva Brother Nagi

2021-04-0233:581

Nagi Daifallah was a young farm worker from Yemen who moved to California in the early 1970s, when he was just 20 years old. He went on to become one of the organisers of the influential 1973 grape strike in California, led by Cesar Chavez. But one night, after a day of striking, he was beaten to death by a local county sheriff outside a restaurant in Lamont, California. Although the sheriff who killed him never faced justice, Nagi’s story - and the movement he helped organise - went on to make real change to farm workers’ rights in America, and continues to inspire Yemeni American activists today. This episode was produced by Suzanne Gaber and Will Thomson, and edited by Dana Ballout. Additional support on this episode from Alex Atack, Nadeen Shaker, Zeina Dowidar, Shraddha Joshi and Abde Amr. Sound design by Alex Atack and Mohamad Khreizat. Support this podcast on patreon.com/kerningcultures for as little as $1 a month.
Flagged and Stamped

Flagged and Stamped

2021-03-2540:331

Over the last half century, as many nations around our region have gained independence or been through regime change, they’ve have had to ask themselves big questions. Like, what makes our country, our country? What are the symbols that define us? And, who gets to decide the answer to those questions? In our episode today, two stories about the complicated paths two countries took to arrive at those decisions. This episode was produced by Alex Atack and Abde Amr, and edited by Dana Ballout with additional support from Zeina Dowidar and Nadeen Shaker. Fact checking by Percia Verlin, and sound design by Mohamad Khreizat and Alex Atack. Support this podcast on patreon.com/kerningcultures for as little as $1 a month.
No Victor But God

No Victor But God

2021-03-1828:411

The graceful courtyards of Mexico and Puerto Rico aren’t the first places you’d go looking for a secret Islamic history. But a closer look at the tiles and teacups reveals a bloody, beautiful and largely forgotten past. This episode was produced by Alice Fordham and edited by Dana Ballout, with additional support from Alex Atack. Fact checking by Percia Verlin, and sound design and mixing by Mohamad Khreizat. Support this podcast on patreon.com/kerningcultures for as little as $1 a month.
Whose Genizah?

Whose Genizah?

2021-03-0445:471

In 2015, our producer Nadeen Shaker visited the Cairo Genizah in one of Egypt’s oldest synagogues. It was the place where, thousands of years ago, the Jews of Egypt literally stored any papers with God’s name on them instead of throwing them away. After a prominent Egyptian Jew, Jack Mosseri, discovered the Genizah manuscripts almost a century ago, and his untimely death afterwards, the manuscripts disappeared from view for decades. When they were  finally rediscovered, the question of where the collection of manuscripts would eventually go – Egypt, Israel, or the UK – became a thorny and still unanswered debate. Today on Kerning Cultures, the story of the Genizah  manuscripts and the question of where Egyptian Jewish history should be kept. Support this podcast on patreon.com/kerningcultures for as little as $1 a month. This episode was produced by Nadeen Shaker and edited by Dana Ballout, with additional support from Alex Atack, Zeina Dowidar, Shraddha Joshi, and Abde Amr. Fact checking by Alex Atack and sound design and mixing by Mohamad Khreizat.
Comments (11)

Maria Ray

What a greatat episode!!! Hamed seems like a genuinely lovely person!!!

Sep 14th
Reply

Euphoria

WHAT IS THIS BEAUTYY

Jul 28th
Reply

ardalan hadjirahim

you guys have a great show. I think it's time you interview these guys again.

Jan 8th
Reply (1)

Mariam Ismail

I love the format you used, all the interviews were great, and you really were able to capture the essence of what's happening. Great job 👌👌

Nov 21st
Reply (1)

Nicola Hodges

one of my favourite podcasts! Thanks for creating great content!

Nov 17th
Reply

Thomas McCall

Excellent episode! Keep up the great work!

Nov 13th
Reply

Dave Lee

Wow. Incredible stories.

Nov 4th
Reply

Hebah Fisher

Thanks Abdelrahman!!

Sep 5th
Reply

Abdelrahman Magdy

great work, KC!

Sep 5th
Reply
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