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The Egyptian Shirt, The Arab Spring, and Slow Process in the Middle East
For almost all of modern history, Egypt was ruled by an authoritarian government that repressed the rights of free speech and assembly. Khaled al-Khamissi, author of the novel Taxi, compared the Mubarak government to a “scruffy old shirt that’s in an awful state and stinks” (al-Khamissi). The shirt’s ugliness is symbolized by the old blood that cannot be removed and its original owner. The Arab Spring is represented by the choices al-Khamissi gives the younger man. The taxi driver can either throw the shirt away and buy a new one, clean it and tailor it to fit properly, or wash the shirt to get rid of the blood stains and not tailor it at all, hoping that there is still a little utility left.
The taxi driver argues that he will need a completely new shirt, and compares it to Egypt’s need for a completely new government, fresh of totalitarian elements which held Egypt back for over a generation. Mubarak’s attempts at half-hearted reform are compared to cleaning and tailoring the ancient shirt. The taxi driver believes that “we should set fire to the whole of the old system” and asks his occupant about several different shirts that are available at a local bazaar....
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