Egyptian artist gives old Cairo a facelift with messages for Palestine

Maan Jalal

A graffito of a raised fist painted in the colours of the Palestinian flag adorns a wall in the 1,000-year-old neighbourhood of Al-Khalifa in Cairo.

The hand sits on a pool of water against a bold red background. The words “Gaza” and “Palestine” are painted across it in Arabic.

The work is one of four murals artist Mohamed Moataz has painted around Al-Khalifa neighbourhood to show solidarity with the Palestinian people amid the ongoing Israel-Gaza War. Al-Khalifa neighbourhood, known for its religious, historical and unique architecture, is located within the Historic Cairo area, which was included in the Unesco World Heritage List in 1979.

“I started drawing to express my feelings towards the Palestinians,” Moataz tells The National.

“The urge started when I watched videos of children in Gaza. I felt I should support them even if it’s only with my drawings.”

Moataz started creating graffiti art five years ago. His earlier works were mostly murals of Egyptian celebrities, such as football star Mohamed Salah and singer Umm Kulthum.

However, his subject matter changed when he started following the news of the victims of war in Gaza, particularly the devastation and hardships of children.

“These children have dreams and goals that they want to achieve and should have this right,” he says.

“I hope all the dreams of Gaza’s children come true, even the small ones.”

In another work, Moataz has drawn Al Aqsa Mosque, also known as the Dome of the Rock, the gold-domed Islamic shrine in Jerusalem. The Palestinian flag stands erect behind the mosque and the words “Save Gaza” and “Free Palestine” are written across the work.

On the side of another building, Moataz outlines the recognisable shape of Palestine on the map, against a red and lime green background. Inside its borders an eye stares out, framed by the patterns of the keffiyeh, another cultural identifier of Palestine.

Moataz’s fourth mural is simple, but bold. The Palestinian flag is painted on the outer corner of a building, more than two metres in height.

“When you finish a drawing, it is exactly the same as providing aid to them. Any support anyone can give is meaningful,” he says.

In a video Moataz posted to his social media, tourists and passersby are seen capturing his work on their phones.

“He’s decorating our neighbourhood, and it looks very nice,” says Hossam, a resident. “He’s drawing and representing what the Palestinians feel.”

And this support, Moataz says, encourages him to continue drawing and to spread his message for Palestine.

“Thank God, my drawings were wildly seen and that was the aim, I wanted to send a message to as many people as I could,” he says.

“I will continue drawing until Palestine is free. I will continue drawing the Palestinian flag all over the streets of Egypt.”

Courtesy: thenationalnews