In Egypt: Voice Actor Mahmoud Taji
Dismantles Studio, Prepares Family To Leave
August 27, 2013
Note: In early 2011, VoiceOverXtra asked the author to tell us how Egypt's turmoil was affecting him, and in The Toppling of A Pharaoh he wrote about carrying a steel rod as a weapon in patrols to protect his neighborhood. Recently he has blogged about the nation's new upheaval, and we asked Mahmoud to again share the toll of this on him, his family and voice over career ...
By Mahmoud Taji
Today I started dismantling my studio. Iíve kept this task for last just in case I get a quick voice over job before my family and I leave.
For those of my voice over brethren who donít know who I am, my name is Mahmoud Taji and I live and work out of Cairo, Egypt.
That basically means that just about 50 days ago my life and the lives of the majority of 90 million Egyptians got turned upside down. Iím not Egyptian, but Iíve lived here on and off for 18 years. At 38, thatís nearly half my life Iíve spent here.
Iíve lived in other places - Kuwait, Singapore, Canada - but Iíve lived here the longest by far.
NO LONGER SAFE
About 50 days ago Egypt went through a military coup. Thatís when the army decides to overthrow the government. This most recent of governments was a bit special, though. It was the first democratically elected government in Egypt in the last ... well, ever.
Iíve written a more detailed account of the politics of what has happened in Egypt on my blog (link is below), so if you are interested in world events you can get a glimpse of what weíve gone through.
The gist of it is simply that I can no longer live in this country; I donít feel that my family or I are safe.
The stock market is on the verge of collapsing. Cost of living has gone up exponentially. There are sporadic fuel shortages, and the army has already committed somewhere in the vicinity of 10 massacres that have cost Egypt 5,000 to 6,000 souls, about 15,000 injured, and around 18,000 detained.
As a practicing Muslim I fear that I might get arrested just for the fact that I have the Islamic long beard.
If I get arrested that would pretty much mean that you will never hear from me again. My body might show up burnt and tortured on the news, but you wonít recognize me.
BUSINESS AT STANDSTILL
Business has all but stopped.
I used to get jobs on a regular basis, which was one of the reasons I left my full time job in March of this year. I figured that I would finally get out on my own and make voice overs my full time thing. Itís been five weeks with nothing.
Some of my biggest clients are based in Egypt. Some people go to work, but the countryís streets are in a virtual standstill.
MARTIAL LAW AND CURFEWS
There are checkpoints everywhere. If you have a beard and the officer who stops you doesnít like the way you look, they can arrest you, and thatís the end of that.
Martial law has been reinstated, which to us means that we have a curfew. Itís an enforced curfew as well, if you are out after 7 p.m. youíll get stopped, or shot.
Recently they relaxed that law because businesses were losing money, even ones that supported the coup Ö so now youíll get shot if you are out after 9 p.m.
DECIDE TO LEAVE
Leaving Egypt was one of our long term plans. My wife and I had discussed where we might go and I had tried to apply to some positions abroad. Nothing came of that, so the idea was shelved, but now we donít have a choice.
Things are going from bad to worse, 19 television channels have been shut, journalists are being imprisoned. Opposition party leaders are almost all in jail along with the legitimately elected president.
Itís odd seeing the bustling awake-all-night city of Cairo at home tucked in bed by 9 p.m.
SELLING OUR BELONGINGS
Once my wife and I had made the decision to leave we started the process of liquidating our assets.
There is nothing quite like someone coming to scrutinize your belongings.
You canít get emotional. But youíre human so you have to nod and smile. Donít be rude because they might buy the sofa, which means you are one step closer to leaving. You are that much closer to buying your tickets and leaving your home of 18 years behind.
The Egyptians that come to our home keep saying the same thing. Why are you leaving?
They know why. Maybe they are looking for answers to that question so that they, too, can rationalize leaving this madness behind. Maybe they lie to themselves and convince themselves that the arrests arenít happening or the injured arenít maimed for life, or the blood of the innocent hasnít washed the streets they drive to work on.
SHARED BURDEN ONLINE
I was sick to my stomach the first few days of the coup - the only solace came when I shared this burden online with my Linkedin voice over group, Tajiís Voiceover Casting.
At one stage I had to expunge this weight on my chest. So I posted about my planned exodus and the response was overwhelming. The comments and private messages lifted me from the rut I had gotten myself into, at least far enough to man up and start helping my wife with this liquidation.
My wifeís been the rock for us this time. Itís odd this reversal of roles, but ultimately makes me appreciate her more, sheís got my back.
KIDS SAY GOODBYE
My kids are, of course, oblivious to whatís going on. They know some bad stuff has happened in Egypt. They know we have to leave. I donít think it really hit my eldest until the day I withdrew her from her school.
I wish my wife had not sent her with me. It broke my heart seeing her realize that this was goodbye to a place she had friends, teachers, memories.
Weíre waiting on the car to be sold and then weíll buy our tickets, thatís our plan. We had a few offers; a few people came and saw it. But they are all trying to buy it at under market value.
'WE CANNOT STAY'
So we wait. Yesterday I lost it with one of the people who came to buy something, they really pissed me off. The whole country is on edge, but I should have been cool. I wasnít.
I donít know what the future will bring. I donít know how our lives will change in this new country we will move to. I donít know if I can give my family the same quality of life I gave them here in Egypt.
But ultimately I do know that we cannot stay.
As a voice actor, Mahmoud Taji specializes in Classical Arabic, New Standard Arabic, many forms of Colloquial Arabic (Egyptian, Shami and a little Khaleeji), bilingual Arabic / English text, and translation services. His voice is heard worldwide, from web promos to eLearning modules about Islamic banking and finance, travel documentaries for cities in Italy, promo videos for Brazilian oil conglomerates, and more. He has a degree in journalism and mass communication, was creative director at a Cairo advertising agency, and is known for the lively and informative blog, Tajiís Voice Emporium, which includes a VO Directory, Scam Alert, VOpedia, and the Voiceover Pavilion, a "Directory For Everything Voiceover."
Taji's Voice Emporium: www.voiceemporium.com
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