I first met Tarek Shahin through his compelling cartoon blog cairofreeze.com. The creative mind behind Daily News Egypt’s first daily cartoon strip Al Khan, Shahin was one of the subjects I interviewed for my MA online project at Westminster University, which focused on Egypt’s nascent, and increasingly active political blogosphere.
Shahin’s cartoons were a delicate mix of biting social and political commentary. My interest in his work was accentuated by the fact that he was also the first, and back in 2005, he was the only Egyptian cartoon blogger.
With incisive wit and a power of observation complemented by his talented brush, it didn’t take much for Shahin to convince me of his idea for a daily cartoon strip. His pitch was exciting: Set at a magazine, the cartoon would tackle social and political issues confronting Egyptians on a daily basis, weaving together several story lines including the democratization of Egypt, gender and sectarian issues as well as Western perceptions of Arabs and Muslims.
Kicking off in May 2008, Al Khan became immediately popular with young and older readers alike, who felt personally attached to journalist Nada, the no-frills, socialist-leaning warrior of the people, whose relentless quest for justice often puts her at odds with her boss, Omar, the quintessential capitalist whose elastic moral code often triggers controversy.
For two years we lived with Al Khan’s amazingly well-rounded characters: the wise begger Big Falafel, who turns out to be Nada’s father, the bigoted Anwar Abu Taleb, who takes a second wife – an Orientalist sociologist who uses him to write a book – but ends up begging his first wife for forgiveness; the Christian photographer, Yunan who takes over the magazine and starts his new life as the editor-in-chief by firing Nada and Omar.
Yesterday Shahin published the last of Al-Khan. It is with much regret that Shahin has decided to terminate our first cartoon strip, but do not despair, he will hopefully be back with a new concept, new characters and another original story line.
Here is a sample of some of the farewell words of his fans online:
Sorry to see you go
Pity you did not get Nada and Omar to marry… I have been reading this strip for two years, even got the first book… Good luck for your next project
Excellent Finale through each and every post over the last month! Will miss you so much.
I enjoyed every single post. It’s sad to say good bye to your excellent work. I loved the final post.
What a great lasting image. I too am sad to see you end the finale, but hope many great things for your future. I will look for your continuing creative outlets, in whatever form.
I’m gonna miss Al Khan 🙁
Sad to see Al Khan finished! Like everyone else I really enjoyed it, so thanks! Good luck with your next project, I’m sure it’s gonna be amazing!
Are you ending the strip? Why?
Al Khan will be sorely missed. You have carved for yourself a small place in Egyptian history, and have contributed to the wave that is moving public discourse forward. Best wishes from Toronto, from two former Zamalek-ites.
Gonna miss Al Khan for sure, I checked it everyday. This came as a bit of a shock, really! Maybe someday, we’ll see Omar, Nada, Anwar, Yunan, and of course, Big Falafel once again…
Off to join the march?
I’ll really miss Al Khan, but I hope this means you have joined your characters. Good luck, either way.
Where are you going?
Hey Tarek, I hope you are not leaving forever. We will miss your comics 🙂
Highlight of my day
Your cartoon strip was the highlight of my day. Where can I see it online now? After a hard day teaching secondary school children in England it brought sanity back to me.