Sarah A. Topol

Scenes From Egypt's Vicious Media Crackdown
November 26, 2010

The room in the Journalist Union in the heart of downtown Cairo smells of old cigarette smoke. Soda bottles and plastic cups litter the floor. Men cluster in a circle of pleather loveseats; some tap laptop keyboards, others read. It is Day 20 of the independent Al Dustour newspaper staff’s sit-in and everyone in the room looks worn out. Mohammad Abu Al Dahb, a 26-year-old correspondent, hasn’t slept at home since the staff began protesting the sacking of their dissident editor-in-chief. “It’s physically exhausting, of course, but psychologically, every day we feel better about it.

Pyramid Schemes
May 30, 2010

On the surface, it seems as if tomorrow's Egyptian elections will be a dreary formality. Although the official campaigning period for the Shura Council, Egypt’s upper house of parliament, has been going for two weeks, the streets of Cairo are noticeably silent. The only overt evidence of political gamesmanship is the paraphernalia of the ruling party’s candidates plastered in the city’s central squares. Campaigns here tend to be lackluster because they don't usually matter.

Buying Time
November 05, 2009

Yitzchak Newman is in the market for his first house. For now, the young IT project manager lives with his wife and toddler in a rented basement apartment. Space is limited and the family yearns to attain the middle class ideal of owning their own home. But unlike most aspiring home-owners, the Newmans are determined to enter the real estate market in what may be the world’s most politically sensitive strip of land.

King for a Day
August 05, 2009

Quiet sobs echo through the atrium of the Al-Rifai Mosque in Cairo, where rows of seated mourners are surrounded by wreathes of white flowers. Women dab their heavily made-up eyes, while men stare solemnly ahead. As the streets of Tehran demand freedom, a different group of Iranians gathered in Cairo last week to commemorate the 29th anniversary of the death of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Iranian monarch deposed by the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Tunnel Vision
February 02, 2009

"No," Mahmoud says as he gets back into the car, slamming the door. "They don't want. They are afraid." I had come to Gaza’s border with Egypt to see for myself the infamous underground smuggling tunnels. Active since the 1980s, the number of tunnels has skyrocketed since the Israeli blockade of Gaza in 2007. Israel claims the tunnels are used to smuggle arms; their destruction provided much of the rationale for its recent 22-day offensive. Finding the tunnels proved much easier than I had expected.