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What do we need to know about the MENA region today?

Tony Chakar
1 June 2011

Come Out and Play

The question 'What do we need to know about the MENA region today?' triggered a series of questions from my part. My contribution will be these questions; the aim is to start a game of Q&Q (instead of a Q&A) with no rules and no time limits.

Who is this 'we' mentioned in the question? Why does this 'we' feel compelled to know anything? And what kind of knowledge does it feel compelled to accumulate? What is the MENA region? When did this acronym come about? Why the Middle East and North Africa? How come they are singled out and brought together? How much do the countries of this region have in common? Would it be more interesting to ask about their differences?

As for the Middle East – the middle of what East? The East of what? The East of the West? The East of Europe? The Europe of the 'Western democratic values'? The same Europe who was worried about the influx of 'illegal immigrants' while in Egypt the protesters were re-using slogans from the French Revolution? What happened to that Europe and when will this Europe get over itself?

Finally, why this sense of false urgency? Why 'today'? What about yesterday or tomorrow? Not good enough? Does this 'we' feel the urge to know more because of what's happening in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria? Is that it? So – NOW we're interesting?

Tony Chakar

is an architect and writer based in Beirut. He teaches at the Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts (ALBA) and at the University of Balamand.

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Unique to Ibraaz is a 'platform', a question put to writers, thinkers and artists about an issue relevant to the MENA region. This platform is sent to respondents both within and beyond the MENA region and contributions will be archived every 12 months.