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Egypt is in the Arab region

Egypt is in the Arab region

1 November 2020

Where is Egypt?

Institutions working in the field of arts and culture often use geography as a criteria for artists. In what regions do these institutions locate Egypt? What communities are imagined for us as a consequence? I'm interested in thinking about the impact of tying artists to territory—and of tying territories to each other.

Read the introduction to this series.

Egypt is in the Arab region

Alternatively referred to as the Arab world, Arab homeland, العالم العربي or الوطن العربي , the countries included in this official, political region are the 22 members of the Arab League. The region spans around 13 million square kilometers, and over 360 million people live here.

The Arab League was initially formed in Cairo in 1945. Its purpose is to encourage cooperation between the “independent Arab States” that are members. However, it does not lay out specific criteria for what defines an Arab state.

The states which are members of the Arab League today are: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, State of Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

The popular criteria that is imagined to bind these states together is the use of Arabic as a common language. But not all people living in these places speak Arabic. And, not all countries where Arabic is spoken are included in the region, such as Chad, Eritrea, or Malta (whose national language largely derives from Arabic).

There is also a shared ethnic or cultural identity imagined by some people who identify as Arab; who is excluded by or included in the definition varies widely.

Some open calls use the term “Arab” without specifying any geographical criteria. The most prominent institution doing this is the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture. For most of its open calls, it uses this language to define the eligibility of applicants: “all Arab individuals working in arts and culture...irrespective of age, years of experience, country of residence, ethnicity, gender or religion.” No further definition of “Arab” is given.

Other institutions use the region's geography to define who is eligible. For instance, the grantmaking organization Mophradat has a mandate to “to gather and make resources available for artists from the Arab world.” Its general eligibility criteria specify that applications are accepted for projects “by artists or other arts practitioners from or living in the Arab world.” It does not specifically define the Arab world's territory.

Image: The flag of the Arab League.