Egypt: Exploring Twitter’s Potential on the Ground

This post is part of our special coverage Egypt Revolution 2011.

If there is one area in which the Egyptian Revolution was an “eye-opener” in terms of social media, it would be how it introduced thousands of Egyptians to the popular micro-blogging website Twitter.

In little over three months, the Egyptian Twittersphere grew, not only in volume, but also in content and versatility; what started out as a modest, laid-back community quickly developed into a vibrant socio-political arena, where everything is open for discussion and there are virtually no taboos or red lines.

The spirit of these discussions inspired one of Egypt’s active bloggers and tweeps Alaa Abd El Fattah (@alaa) to bring the best of two worlds – Twitter and Tahrir Square – under one umbrella.

The result was Tweet Nadwa, a seminar-like gathering in which Abd El Fattah outlined the purpose from in a blog post entitled “Birds of a Feather, Meet Together”.

The gathering took place in the Center of Development Support in Cairo’s upper-class district of Dokki on June 12, 2011. The topic for this round: The Islamists.

Already generating a lot of buzz on Twitter, discussing Islamists ranges from how they are perceived in the Egyptian society to how they envision a civilian and democratic, post-revolution Egypt. It was only natural that Abd El Fattah decided to invite some of Twitter’s most prominent Islamists to clear the mist surrounding these topics up.

Speakers included Ibrahim Houdaiby, freelance columnist for the Guardian and the great grandson of Hassan Houdaiby, the second General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), as well as journalists Abdel Moneim Mahmoud and Ahmed Samir, the former being an ex-MB while the latter remains – to this date – a member of the group.

Over three hours, these speakers discussed their relations to the Muslim Brotherhood, their economic vision of Egypt from an Islamic perspective in addition to tackling the tricky question of civil liberties in an MB-ruled Egypt.

In Twitter fashion, the speakers as well as the participants were only allowed a 140 -second response to each question (recalling the 140 character Twitter update limit per tweet) and instead of clapping for speakers, participants waved their hands to simulate the act of retweeting. In addition, the over-crowded room was supplied with a large screen displaying the Twitter page created for the ‘Tweet Nadwa,’ updated with impressions, photos and videos of the meeting.

Participants largely commended the meeting with users such Hussein Adel Fahmy stating that:

#tweetnadwa is innovative and great initiative. My opinion is Egypt islamic background shouldnt contradict with the concept of civil state.

Alaa Abd El Fattah at the Tweet Nadwa. Picture by Dr Mostafa Hussein.

Alaa Abd El Fattah at the Tweet Nadwa. Picture by Dr Mostafa Hussein.

Dr Moustafa Hussein praises the performance of Abdel Fattah as the meeting’s moderator while providing photos of the Nadwa.

Huge participation in #tweetnadwa @alaais a good group therapist.

And users like Mai Zeiny conclude that:

#tweetnadwa was a great success, the spirit of tahrir is back. diversity in attendees and great dialogue! Thank you @alaa @manal & every1

Abdel Fattah confirms that there will be another round of twitter-like discussions:

Was a great #tweetnadwa thanks for all the team, am internetless but we discuss next one soon

As he then goes back to the realm of the virtual world.

This post is part of our special coverage Egypt Revolution 2011.


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