It has only been up and running for three weeks but a new website called Yala7wy has already sparked controversy and elicited much laughter for users and site visitors.
The website is modeled on an American website named Textsfromlastnight.com whereby people send to or post on the website phone text messages they have previously received or sent. The short messages concisely narrate anecdotes or humorous thoughts; more often than not detailing somewhat debaucherous events and behavior. Visitors can comment on each individual post or else click on whether they approve and think it was a “Good night” or “Bad night.” Same goes for Yala7wy (http://www.cairozoom.com/Yala7wy/Default.aspx).
In the case of Yala7wy though one can either approve by clicking on “ishta” a term used to mean cool, or “fa kes” meaning boring or banal. Users can send in their submissions to the site’s hotline number 9210 or submit it online.
Yala7wy — which should read yalahwy — is a colloquial Egyptian term to state disapproving surprise. It is spelt with a numerical “7” character — which is informally used to denote a unique Arabic sound that isn’t part of this particular word — to emphasize the Egyptian flavor and add a humorous dimension to the website.
One can imagine several cries of ‘yala7wy’ to ring out based on some of the disapproving rebuttals people have texted to the website.
“It feels like Egyptian society is so high school,” writes one submitter, receiving 21 approvals by users. “No she looks completely different without heels and make up. God bless Ramadan for showing us what girls truly look like. I will not be hitting that,” says another.
A current popular one states: “My baowab [doorman] just added me on Facebook, what if he bokes me?” eliciting 26 “ishta” thumbs of approval by the site’s visitors. Another humorous one states: “Stop giving married women your card and saying ‘Just in case.’”
Although the biggest controversy amongst users is the degree to which the texts can get risqué and touch upon taboo subjects including sex, drugs and alcohol, the content reflects people’s relaxed attitude towards subjects revealing realities of behavior and thought in Egyptian society.
“The best thing I learned at AUC was how to sell drugs,” writes one user,” and “30 days of no sex, if there was an emoticon for a sad penis, I would send it to you,” writes one on the occasion of Ramadan.
Yala7wy was founded by three partners, brothers Adam and Waleed Mowafi and Shereen Kilany as an addition to their online event photography site Cairozoom.com, which posts albums of Egypt’s parties and assorted social dos. Cairozoom attracts 300,000 hits a day, and has had 130,000 unique visitors since launching the site five months ago, according to its founders.
“We started Yala7wy because we saw a gap in the market when it came to bringing the online world and the telecommunication world together,” explains Kilany. “Adam was a big fan of the US version of the site and wanted to implement something in Egypt that’s similar but with our own country’s sense of humor and jokes. It’s just another way to make the site more interactive and entertaining to browse through.”
But as Adam explains, there’s also an element of free expression by having such an outlet. “It’s really the first site where people can vent and provide social commentary on their lives and experience in Egypt without the fear of being edited or berated. The fact that we focus on the humorous side of things means although you may be shocked at some of the content you can’t help but laugh.”
When questioned as to whether the founders expected harsh criticism or a strong reaction to the website, Adam answered, “To be honest we didn’t expect people to be so open at first but it only took a few days for people to start spilling about crazy situations with sex, drugs and parties.
“No, I wasn’t worried about how people would perceive things because it’s the people who create the content and if you’re the type of person who wants to shut your eyes at what goes on and prevent people having an open outlet you really should not be looking at the site. Of course for Ramadan the tone of the messages [has] changed but [it still] remains hilarious. I suspect that come Eid the tone will change once again.”
The rebuttals to the texts are either in the form of disapproval “fa kes” clicks on the post, or texts sent in. One of the most recent read, “What’s up with Egyptians obsessing about sex, drugs, alcohol and partying, return back to your roots.” Others have stated angrily, “Live the lives of your families,” a literal transliteration of an Arabic expression to explain how one adheres to tradition and social customs by living as their parents have done.
But as Kilany explains, the website was intended to elicit bemused surprise and perhaps a good laugh.
“We wanted to shock people; that was our whole intention. People love controversy and the taboo, so why not feed into that! We know you can’t please everyone though. It may be a little racy at times, but ultimately it’s just for laughs.”
There is a screening process though, explains Adam to ensure that the messages are submitted anonymously, contain humorous content, and do not attack a specific person or entity.
“My brother and I actually would like to post the most extreme of stuff but Shereen has convinced us that Egypt is still not England. We are biding our time,” says Adam mischievously.
Yala7wy is now optimized for mobile phones: www.cairozoom.com/yala7wy