Military aircraft Battle joined
WITHIN the next few months, the biggest defence contract for what will probably be many years to come will be awarded by the US Air Force, to build a new long-range strike bomber. The B-3, as it is likely to be named, will be a nuclear-capable aircraft designed to penetrate the most sophisticated air defences. The contract itself will be worth $50 billion-plus in revenues to the successful bidder, and there will be many billions of dollars more for work on design, support and upgrades. The plan is to build at least 80-100 of the planes at a cost of more than $550m each.
The stakes could not be higher for at least two of the three industrial heavyweights that are slugging it out. On one side is a team of Boeing and Lockheed Martin; on the other, Northrop Grumman. The result could lead to a shake-out in the defence industry, with one of the competitors having to give up making combat aircraft for good.
After the B-3 contract is awarded, the next big deal for combat planes—for a sixth-generation “air-dominance fighter” to replace the F-22 and F-18 Super Hornet—will be more than a decade away. So Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group, an aviation-consulting firm, believes it will be hard for the loser to stay in the combat-aircraft business. If Northrop were to miss out, its investors may press for it to be broken up. If Boeing were to lose, Mr Aboulafia thinks it may seek to buy Northrop’s aircraft-building business, to ensure it gets the job after all. The production line in St Louis that makes Boeing’s F-18 (the US Navy’s mainstay fighter until it starts to get the carrier version of the new F-35 in numbers) is due to close in 2017. If Northrop were to depart the field, that could leave Lockheed Martin as the only American company with the ability to design combat planes, and thus the biggest winner of the three.
Usually in a contest of this kind, particularly this close to its end, a clear favourite emerges. Industry-watchers rate this one as still too close to call. That is partly because the degree of secrecy surrounding what is still classified as a “black programme” has remained high. Only the rough outlines of the aircraft’s specification have been revealed. It will be stealthy, subsonic, have a range of around 6,000 miles (9,650km) and be able to carry a big enough payload to destroy many targets during a single sortie. The best clues to what it will look like are from earlier “flying wing” design concepts the aircraft-makers have displayed, and from the shrouded “mystery plane” that Northrop showed in a recent television commercial (pictured). But most of all, picking a winner is hard because both competitors are highly credible—and each has different strengths.
Workers can be seen on the moving line and forward fuselage assembly areas for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter at Lockheed Martin Corp’s factory located in Fort Worth, Texas in this October 13, 2011 handout photo provided by Lockheed Martin. REUTERS/Lockheed Martin/Randy A. Crites/Handout
Boeing and Lockheed first joined forces in 2007 to build what was then known as the Next-Generation Bomber—a project cancelled two years later because its excessive technological ambition was causing costs to soar. They decided to team up again in 2013 to prepare for a new request for proposals that the air force quietly released last summer. Boeing is the team leader and will build the aircraft if their bid is successful; Lockheed will take the main responsibility for its design.
That should be a winning combination. Boeing is as good as it gets when it comes to the efficient construction of large aircraft, and has painfully and expensively acquired expertise in carbon-fibre composites as it developed its 787 Dreamliner, a civil airliner. Lockheed can draw on its “skunk works”, an autonomous design team that works on radical new aircraft technologies; and on its experience developing radar-beating stealth technologies for the F-22 and F-35 fighter planes.
Northrop, on the other hand, built the revolutionary B-2 stealth bomber that entered service in the early 1990s. It was conceived as a deep-penetration nuclear bomber at the height of the cold war. But when the Soviet Union dissolved, the need for America to have 132 of the planes went with it. Only 21 were eventually built, leading the programme into a “death spiral” in which declining orders pushed up the unit price of an aircraft to absurd levels. Once its development, engineering and testing costs were added, each B-2 ended up costing more than $2 billion. But it was hardly Northrop’s fault that the cold war ended sooner than expected. The plane it built has since proved its capabilities in numerous conflicts, from Kosovo to Libya.
Updated versions of the once-radical technologies that made the B-2 so expensive (both to buy and to operate) will find their way into the new bomber. Another possible advantage for the air force in choosing Northrop is that it might be better able to focus on the programme. Boeing is not only grappling with its hugely demanding, and rapidly expanding, civil-aviation business; it is also struggling to deliver the K-46 tanker plane by the target date of 2017. (It snatched that big order from a consortium of Northrop and Airbus, after protesting at the air force’s initial decision to award it to its rivals.) Lockheed, for its part, also has its hands full ramping up production of the late and over-budget F-35.
The target for the plane to come into operation is the mid-2020s—if possible, even earlier. In part this is because of fast-emerging new threats and in part because the average age of America’s current bomber fleet, consisting of 76 geriatric B-52s, 63 B-1s and 20 B-2s, is 38 years. Keeping such ancient aircraft flying in the face of metal fatigue and corrosion is a constant struggle: just 120 are deemed mission-ready. None of these, except the B-2s, can penetrate first-rate air defences without carrying cruise missiles—and the missiles are of little use against mobile targets.
In the kind of one-sided wars that America and its allies fought in the years after the September 11th 2001 attacks, such deficiencies were not a problem. But during that period China, in particular, has invested heavily in “anti-access/area-denial” (A2/AD) capabilities. These include thousands of precision-guided missiles of increasing range that could threaten America’s bases in the Western Pacific, and any carriers sailing close enough to shore to launch their short-range tactical aircraft. Critics of the huge F-35 programme (the Pentagon is planning to buy 2,457 aircraft at a cost of around $100m each) argue that its limited range was a growing problem even before it entered service. A new long-range bomber that can penetrate the most advanced air defences is thus seen as vital in preserving America’s unique ability to project power anywhere in the world.
If getting the new bomber into service fast is a priority, so too is keeping the price low enough to be able to build it in sensible numbers, and thus keep it safe from political ambush. Budget caps imposed by Congress in 2013 have ushered in a decade of defence-spending austerity, and the B-3 will be the first major weapons system to be designed and produced in this new era.
To stay on budget and avoid the risk of having its orders cut, the programme will have to rely on technologies adapted from earlier projects; and any temptation to “gold-plate” its specification with showy but not strictly necessary features will have to be resisted. The B-3 will be a bit smaller than the B-2, and be able to use the same engines as the F-35. The option of being able to fly the bomber pilotlessly, by remote control, seems to have been dropped, as have some highly sophisticated surveillance sensors that were proposed earlier.
The risk of this cautious approach is that the new bomber might quickly lose its technical edge if faced with new threats or relentlessly improving air-defence systems (thanks to ever faster processors and sensors). But this danger is being seen off in two ways. The first is by designing the planes with what the Pentagon’s acquisitions chief, Frank Kendall, describes as an “open architecture and modular approach”, in which companies will compete to provide future upgrades that can be easily plugged in as and when needed. The other is that, despite its stealthiness, the B-3 will be fully connected to a range of “off-board capabilities”, such as electronic countermeasures and the collection of targeting data, provided by other aircraft and orbital reconnaissance satellites, instead of having to carry everything on board.
In keeping with the secrecy surrounding the plane, neither of the two competing teams is prepared to discuss their bids or why they should prevail in any detail. Such reticence may not survive the awarding of the contract. Although the air force is striving to make its decision as protest-proof as possible, neither Boeing nor Northrop is likely to take defeat quietly. Northrop is still smarting from Boeing’s lobbying triumph over the K-46 tanker programme, in which a plane that many military analysts considered superior ended up losing.
The Pentagon likes to share work around so as to ensure there is continued competition for contracts to provide military gear, especially complex ones such as this. In the case of the B-3 it has explicitly ruled out taking such concerns into account when choosing between the two contenders. That may be because it realises that whichever it selects, it will deal a devastating blow to the other. The days when America had a choice of combat-plane suppliers are coming to an end.
Boeing concept image of the New Generation Bomber
Happier times: Following their split, the couple said their nine-year marriage had ‘broken down irretrievably’ following the win. They had celebrated the jackpot by going on holiday in their caravan
By STEPH COCKROFT
A lottery winner who split from his wife after they scooped a £148 million jackpot has splashed out £2 milllion on horses and stables for his 28-year-old fiancée, it has been claimed.
Adrian Bayford, 44, who became the second biggest lottery winner in British history in 2012, has reportedly bought Samantha Burbidge, a former stables groom, at least ten horses.
The former postman is also said to have purchased a lavish £1.5m arena on a 35-acre site in Norfolk, as well as a fleet of horseboxes for his showjumping partner.
Adrian Bayford spent £2million on horses and lavish stables for his 28-year-old fiancée Samantha Burbidge
Friends have said the sudden interest in horses and the money ploughed into the Forest Edge Arena near Swaffham is all for his fiancée and that he had no interest in horses before they met.
Adrian and Gillian Bayford bought this £6 million Georgian mansion shortly after their big lottery win. However, they both moved out of it a few months later after announcing their decision to split
One friend was quoted as telling The Sun: ‘I heard from people at the pub that Adrian had bought as many as 20 horses for her.
‘I know he’s bought a massive horsebox for something like £100,000. It has everything except a mobile disco.’
Another friend said: ‘He has to invest his money in something so why not put it into something that Sam is interested in?’
Sun-drenched: The former postman has also bought a lavish £1.5m arena as well as a fleet of horseboxes for his showjumping partner . The pair met in January last year
Mr Bayford is now said to be living in this £500,000 house in Suffolk with his new bride-to-be Samantha Burbidge
Mr Bayford’s Suffolk house comes complete with an indoor swimming pool, pictured, jacuzzi and gym and is situated near to where he grew up
Mr Bayford met Miss Burbidge, who is 16 years his junior, in a pub in January last year. Just three weeks later, she left her job as head groom of a stables in Thurlow, Suffolk, close to Mr Bayford’s home in Haverhill.
The lottery winner then proposed to Miss Burbidge while on a romantic trip to Maldives, before moving her into his £6million Grade II-listed country mansion which had been bought with some of the proceeds of the win.
The father-of-two split from his wife Gillian, 41, in November 2013, 15 months after the Euromillions windfall.
The pair had initially marked their win with holiday in a caravan park and Mr Bayford had pledged to continue running his record shop, which he’d painstakingly built up from a market stall.
The father-of-two split from his wife Gillian, 41 in November 2013, 15 months after scooping Britain’s second biggest lottery prize ever
But he was reportedly tested to the limit by a stream of people turning up and begging for handouts.
Mr Bayford then became involved with Turnmill United FC, becoming a director of the football club, which plays in the East Herts Corinthian Sunday League. He is said to have pumped in funds and thrown himself wholeheartedly into signing players.
Working relationship: Adrian Bayford at Stansted Airport with Marta Jarosz. He denied they were an item and said she was his ‘bodyguard and driver’
Following their split, the couple said their nine-year marriage had ‘broken down irretrievably’ due to the stresses of winning the huge prize.
When you win the lottery it’s so stressful. Things happen. Sometimes in life you have to move on. We’re all happy now and life goes on
Mr Bayford – who actually bought the winning EuroMillions ticket – told the Mail at the time of the split from his wife: ‘Gillian and I have split. When you win the lottery it’s so stressful. Things happen. Sometimes in life you have to move on. We’re all happy now and life goes on.’
They strenuously denied that anyone else was involved.
Just three months later, Mr Bayford had proposed to Miss Burbidge during a candlelit dinner on the beach during a holiday at a plush £500-a-night resort in the Maldives.
‘I didn’t get down on one knee, but I proposed on the beach during a meal. It was beautiful. I’m over the moon she said yes,’ he said at the time.
Since the pair became an item, Miss Burbidge has posted several pictures on Facebook, showing off her luxurious lifestyle.
On the website for the arena, which boasts of indoor and outdoor facilities, it reads: ‘Samantha and the team are pleased to welcome you to Forest Edge Arena.
‘It provides both indoor and outdoor arenas for the serious rider as well as facilities for those just wishing to watch events and enjoy a cup of tea and a hobnob in front of the fire.’
The website for the Forest Edge Arena near Swaffham, Norfolk, describes the set-up as ‘professionally run competition centre’ for ‘riders of all levels and disciplines’
One picture shows her standing on a sun-drenched beach, while another recent photo shows her stretched out on a luxurious yacht in the sunshine.
There are also several photos of her showjumping, which tell how she has been competing abroad.
It was previously reported that the pair would tie the knot in a bizarre James Bond-themed wedding, in which they will walk down the aisle to the 007 music.
Mr Bayford will reportedly wear a white suit in the style of Bond villain Scaramanga from The Man With The Golden Gun.
The car used by the two gunmen was searched for explosives after they were shot dead
The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility on Tuesday for an attack on a Texas exhibit of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad in which the two gunmen were killed.
It said that “two soldiers of the caliphate” carried out the attack at a conference centre near Dallas.
IS’s al-Bayan Radio news bulletin said the exhibition “was portraying negative pictures of the Prophet Muhammad”.
Both suspects were shot dead after opening fire at the contest on Sunday.
Correspondents say that it is believed to be the first time that IS has claimed to have carried out an attack in the US.
The Syria- and Iraq-based Islamic State claimed responsibility on its official online radio station, saying “two soldiers of the caliphate” carried out the attack on Sunday in Garland, Texas. Experts warn that militant groups have been known to claim credit for attacks in which they were not involved.
U.S. government sources close to the case have said investigators were scouring electronic communications sent and received by the dead gunmen, roommates Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, of Phoenix, for evidence of contacts between them and militant groups overseas, most notably Islamic State.
Simpson and Soofi were killed by police when they opened fire with assault rifles at the cartoon exhibit and contest. An unarmed security guard was wounded.
Elton Simpson had talked about going to Somalia to fight with militant Islamists
FBI watching one Texas gunman for years
Court documents showed Simpson had been under federal surveillance since 2006 and was convicted in 2011 of lying to FBI agents about his desire to join violent jihad in Somalia.
“I believe that perhaps he might have just snapped when he heard about the cartoon contest,” Kristina Sitton, a Phoenix attorney who defended him in the case, told CNN.
“It certainly was a … completely provocative event and I would see many people who were devout about their religion being upset.”
Garland Mayor Douglas Athas said he did not make the decision to hold the exhibit in town, since the local school district owned the building where it was held.
The shooting in Garland, a Dallas suburb, was an echo of attacks or threats in other Western countries against images depicting the Prophet Mohammad.
In January, gunmen killed 12 people in the Paris office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in what was said to be revenge for its cartoons. Such portrayals are considered offensive by Muslims.
Police and federal agents had planned security for months ahead of the event, organized by American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), a free-speech organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center has described as a hate group.
IS has made no secret of its ambition to spread its tentacles outside Syria and Iraq
Sitton said Simpson had never shown any desire to join violent jihad.
“It just sounded like a lot of talk especially compared with his demeanor when I was speaking with him and when I met with him,” she said.
Women with a condition called uterus didelphys, which caused them to be born with two vagina’s, as well as two uterus’s and two cervix’s. She first discovered her abnormality when her boyfriend noticed something different and advised her to seek professional medical opinion.
On the light-hearted side Jones stated that although she would never contemplate starring in a pornographic film but she will gladly show off her condition to curious people.
She said it means she has lost her virginity TWICE.
But she added she was so at ease with her body that she goes to sex clubs with her husband.
She also said that one of her vaginas is a lot smaller and tighter than the other.
Bugatti 18/3 Chiron
The Bugatti 18/3 Chiron was a 1999 concept sports car designed by Fabrizio Giugiaro of ItalDesign. It is a mid-engine design with the same W18 engine found in the EB 118 and EB 218 concept cars. Bugatti named the Chiron in honor of Bugatti racing driver Louis Chiron.
The Bugatti Chiron would later become a production car in 2016. It would replace the aging Bugatti Veyron. Name origin
The Chiron is named after Bugatti race driver Louis Chiron. The “18/3” represents the engine’s 18 cylinders distributed into three banks of six cylinders each.
Concept Car- 1999
Fabrizio Giugiaro of ItalDesign was responsible for the design with input from Hartmut Warkuss from the VW design center in Wolfsburg. In creating a logical successor to the EB110, they had the unique opportunity to style Bugatti’s flagship model. Important design elements include the return of the classic horse shoe grille, inset front lights, converging front hood and an exposed intake plenum. All of these elements would eventually be integrated into the final production model.
Subtle details of the Chiron included eight spoke wheels wrapped in 20 inch tires that were similar to the cast aluminium wheels first found on Louis Chiron’s Type 35B. Lighting on both ends of the car was cutting edge, with triple Xenon headlights and stretched turn signals.
Airflow management was a large consideration in the concept design. The small shoehorn radiator couldn’t provide enough air for the massive 6-liter engine so a large aperture was needed below it. Much of this air was extracted though vents located forward of the front wheels.
A smaller system was used on the side of the car for the rear brakes. Eventually it was these cooling systems that delayed production of the final version.
Aerodynamics were another key consideration in the design. Like the Diablo, the Chiron had a rear bumper with integrated diffuser. At high speeds a retractable rear wing was deployed much like the EB110 supercar.
Inside the car was stripped out, but covered in Blu Pacifico and Sabbia leather. Aluminium accents were used as well as a removable watch on the passenger side.
Since all Italdesign cars were built as fully working models, it should be no surprise that they utilized Lamborghini running gear. Specifically they sourced the viscous traction 4WD chassis from the Diablo VT. In 2000 VW completely revamped the body and chassis of the car with the Bugatti 18/4 Veyron prototype.
The 18/3 Chiron uses the same W18 engine, permanent four wheel drive powertrain that first appeared in the 1998 EB118 and the 1999 EB218 concept cars.
Power comes from a Volkswagen-designed, 555 hp (408 kW) and 479 lb·ft (650 Nm), W18 engine. The 18/3 Chiron’s W18 engine is composed of three banks of six cylinders with a sixty degree offset between each cylinder bank. In contrast, the W16 engine in Bugatti’s first production car, the 2005 Veyron EB 16.4 features two banks of eight cylinders in VR configuration.
On May 2 2015 a Cairo legend has died Owner of Cafe Riche
ON JANUARY 25th 2011, a day that would enter Egypt’s very long annals, the streets of downtown Cairo were filled with ragged groups of protesters hiding from swirls of tear gas. Truncheons bounced off limbs and bullets zipped into puddles like lumps of sugar into coffee cups. This was the start of the 18-day protest that felled Hosni Mubarak, the country’s strongman.
Closed for yearly renovations
Watching from the sidelines were guests at Café Riche. Waiters in blue robes with gold trim delivered steaming pots of Turkish coffee and plates of grilled aubergine to wide-eyed smokers staring out of a window neatly inscribed, “Founded 1908”. For more than a century Café Riche has been a sanctuary for observers of Egyptian public life. Two blocks from Tahrir Square, the ground zero of the revolution, it sits among stately buildings from Cairo’s belle époque, conceived by European architects as a “Paris on the Nile”.
Magdy Abdel Malak at the door of Cafe Riche
Towering columns and idle balconies fill the district around Talaat Harb Street, as do newspaper offices, publishing firms and law chambers, all full of thirsty talkers. The café’s interior by contrast is intimate. In a city made of stone, from pyramids to flyovers, it prefers wood for its panelling and partitions, a darkly stained bar, a scratched trolley, a desk piled high with books.
Black-and-white pictures in wooden frames commemorate a past that has often revolved around the café’s guests. On December 15th 1919 a medical student, Iryan Yusuf Iryan, seated himself near the door and awaited the prime minister, a regular. When he arrived, so Iryan recalled later, “I exited the café and threw the first bomb at the car.”
The prime minister survived, yet Egypt slid into a nationalist revolt against de facto British rule. Battles raged outside the café’s doors and revolutionaries sought refuge among coffee-quaffing bohemians. The Riche’s basement became their lair. It had several little-known exits that connected to tunnels, built a century earlier when the surrounding land housed a palace, some said to lead all the way to Tahrir Square.
Today one can still descend to the vaulted cellar and inspect two wooden panels—one holding glasses behind a well-stocked bar—that may be unlocked with a small key and pivoted from floor to ceiling to permit a discreet exit. Police raids on the Riche have always been remarkably unsuccessful, though frequent in the 1920s. The revolutionaries operated a printing press on the premises, spewing out pamphlets that excoriated British occupiers and their puppets. The press is still there.
In 1922, after nationalist protests paralysed the country, Egypt was granted independence. King Farouk lead the country during the second world war, though Brits still lurked in the background. Many Egyptians regarded the king as corrupt and ineffectual. They derided his ample girth and well-known collection of pornography. He yearned for popular approval, even announcing that he met his second wife, a commoner, at Café Riche.
The hapless king might also have met the man there who would eventually depose him. Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser plotted his coup over cardamom-scented coffee at the Riche. He struck in 1952, proclaiming national liberation and severing the strings of Western puppet-masters. He was assisted by a group called the “Free Officers” who for a while were helped by the CIA, which had first supported but then soured on the king, codenaming the plot to ditch him “Project FF [Fat Fucker]”.
Intellectuals, spies and politicians mingled at the Riche. Plans were hatched, alliances forged, screeds written. “We continued to discuss in the café what we started in the newspapers,” says Kamel Zuheiry, a columnist and 1960s regular. The one constant during decades of caffeinated talk was the question of how far Egypt would embrace Western norms. The regulars divided into turban-wearers (traditionalists) and fez-wearers (modernisers), even if few of them actually wore headgear.
The Riche attracted mostly the latter. Yet it was only one of several cafés in downtown Cairo, all bubbling with political fervour. Each was at times its own pseudo-political party (official ones were outlawed from 1953-76). Views on politics and the law were frequently ascertained with reference to where one took the black brew. The Riche was home to moderate leftists, just shy of Marxism and militancy. Revolution was never far away. One contemporary, Ibrahim Aslan, recalled tiresome pamphleteering. “Each person took a sheet of paper and folded it over a piece of carbon paper and copied out the written statement and made two copies and then tore the sheets in half and put them on the stack on the table. Others…in the back of the café were forced to sit cross-legged and copy things using their knees as tables.” (Thank goodness for laser printers and Twitter, as one observer said this year.)
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Unlike many of its competitors the Riche served alcohol, and still does today. It was, after all, founded by a German (or possibly Austrian), who sold it to a Frenchman, who was later succeeded by a string of Greeks, including the one-time cook at the British consulate. For many years he battled local police chiefs over permits to stage open-air concerts on adjacent land. The chiefs feared that lavish shows might compromise the security (or perhaps morality) of junior officers at nearby quarters. But the permission was won, and the café attracted a glittering array of musicians over the years. Umm Kalthoum, the grand diva of Egypt, gave one of her first performances in Cairo in 1923 on a foot-high stage at the Riche.
After Nasser took over, the café became the favourite haunt of artists and writers. The mood was creative. Waiters assumed the names of ancient poets. “It made us feel we were moving in a cultural milieu,” said Ahmed Abdul, a novelist. Taha Hussein, the “dean of Arabic literature”, started the journal Al-Katib Al-Misri from the café. Abla al-Roweny, a literary editor, became one of the earliest female regulars. To her the café was “one of the nicest places for lovers’ encounters”, although “unrelenting stares” made it a difficult place to walk into.
Though initially hailed as a popular revolt, the Nasserite coup turned out to be little more than a military power grab. Popular opinion counted for little. Behind the rhetoric of national liberation lurked an increasingly nasty police state. The military hunted its enemies where it could find them. Youssef Abu Rayya, a regular at the Riche, captured the feel of the era in a book entitled “The Coffeehouse Closes Its Doors”. It describes a police state that controls the streets yet fails to penetrate places like the Riche, “where one finds redemption, ideas, human comfort, intellectual succour, awareness”.
Others felt even the Riche was no longer safe. Ahmed Shawki, a journalist and long-time patron of the café, described a rising chill in the 1960s. “We were whispering,” he said. “Political issues were not welcome. Some of the journalists were reported to the police and removed.”
Yet the Riche was still a fount of inspiration. Scribblers like Shawki came to meet older, established writers. “We used to see these people there and we were with them—these big shots. We just listened to them.” One of them was Naguib Mahfouz, a Nobel laureate and the grand old man of Egyptian letters. He would turn up every day at 6pm and order two cups of Turkish coffee and drink half of each; nobody could fathom why. On Fridays he held a literary salon. “The Riche became our weekly gathering place for several years—discussions, conversations, whatnot,” he said.
In protest against the regime—its corruption and “two-facedness”—Mahfouz refused to publish his books in Egypt. But he did not stop writing. He based an entire novel, “Karnak Café”, on the Riche and its guests and the stories they told him. (For a while thereafter the café carried a sign saying “Karnak” above its door.) The book describes student activists who are arrested by security men, raped and tortured in prison and then forced to become informers—manipulated, violated and robbed of their dreams. “During my evenings at Riche coffeehouse,” said Mahfouz, who died in 2006, “I used to listen to many things which people repressed. Had I not written them, they would have been lost. So I wrote.”
Shut out of the public arena, some of the regulars ended up writing exclusively about each other. “The whole world is Café Riche,” announced Naguib Surur, a poet, in 1977, “where everyone drowns their shame in the voids of their glass tumblers.” He drafted what he called the “Protocols of the Wise Men of Riche”, a poem satirising his companions.
• We said it all—in vino veritas
• But people
• Had other concerns:
• Their daily bread
• A kilo of meat.
The tone at the Riche changed during the 1970s. After Anwar Sadat, another military man, took over from Nasser, artists and intellectuals felt more isolated than ever. Ahmad Fouad Negm, a well-known poet and lyricist, derided the regulars as “preening and pompous, glib and loquacious, never going to demos and never mixing with crowds”.
• Long live the intellectual at the Riche Café
• Hurray hurray hurray
• Stuck up and sleazy
• A bag full of words
• With a few empty ones and a few terms
• He fabricates quick solutions to distant problems.
Under Nasser and Sadat, intellectual life at the Riche withered. Under Mr Mubarak, who took over after Sadat’s assassination by Islamic extremists in 1981, it died. Yasser Arafat still dropped in when he visited a Palestinian radio station next door. The walls were decorated with oblique cartoons showing the political elite wincing, blushing, sneering, seething. But regulars no longer charted the course of history or forged a national identity between puffs on imported cigarettes. Tables had had ears for too long, with loudmouths locked up under emergency laws.
The Riche also faced dastardly new competitors, from sports bars and foreign chains to low-rent hookah joints and latterly the internet. An earthquake in 1992 led to its closure for several years, prolonged by a dispute with officials who tried to evict the café on behalf of crony developers. The city all around the Riche was changing from belle époque to brutalist. Cement was poured for new malls and mosques. Neon lights and neo-pharaonic ironwork festooned the cityscape. Talaat Harb Street became crowded with vendors and parked cars.
A front-row seat on the making of history
When the Riche reopened, it morphed from a handmaiden of modernity into a refuge from it. The old clientele had died or gone abroad. Tourists in search of an older, more picturesque Cairo filled the tables. A growing number of black-and-white mementos on the walls drew them in.
The owners struggled with what they regarded as their mission handed down by history—to protect the haunt of Mahfouz and the other greats. They were Egyptians. The last foreign owners had sold out in 1962, a decade after Nasser’s nationalisation drive that made Europeans feel increasingly unwelcome. With the Suez Canal returned to Egyptian hands, so did Café Riche. Abdel Malak, a frequent customer, bought the lease. His sons Magdi and Michel own it today.
To raise the tone of the place, or the revenues, depending on whom you ask, they introduced a new menu. Next to coffees and spirits it now featured entrecôte and cannelloni (for fez-wearers) and kebab and stuffed vine leaves (for turban-wearers). The owners were keen to keep out the riffraff. Magdi, as the white-haired patrician owner is universally known, started sitting by the front door to vet who comes in.
“It would not be right to give a table to just anyone who wants to have a cup of coffee,” says Filfil, the longest-serving waiter. A dark-skinned Nubian, born in a village in Upper Egypt, he came to Cairo during the second world war and has worked at the café since 1943. “Magdi has a philosophy,” he says. “When a man enters with a woman to drink coffee, he evaluates them. He says I don’t want money, I want good people. I can’t have people come here who do improper things like hold each other.”
Many of the younger guests chafed at the stuffiness of the place. They found the elders small-minded and conservative, keen on gossip rather than reform. The café was failing its revolutionary past, they felt. It had become elitist and irrelevant. Hoda Baraka, a 28-year-old environmental activist, says, “The first time I went to the Riche as a student it felt like a museum. The owners were trying to show off with all the pictures of famous people. They were living in a bubble, in the past.”
Still, younger Egyptians continued to come, especially students from the nearby American University, some of whom ended up writing a book about the café that is soon to be published by the university press. The sale of alcohol attracted them, as did the café’s illustrious history. And they appreciated Magdi’s ability to shoo away secret policemen. Discussing politics was still easier here than elsewhere. Mohamed Menza, a 32-year-old political organiser, says, “I started going to the Riche as a student in 1998. There were glimpses of a revolutionary past that gave us hope that things could change one day. We looked at the pictures on the walls and thought: why not today?”
When spring came
On January 25th, the first day of the protests, Mr Menza arrived in the square expecting to see 200 people and instead found more than 20,000. He went back daily. “We talked openly with strangers in the square, organising ourselves. That was the beauty of it. There was little plan or leadership.” He helped to bring medical supplies and rescued people caught between the lines, regardless of the risks. “Attacks from security thugs were severe,” he says. “I saw someone with a rifle shooting directly at protesters.” In the middle of all this Mr Menza was reminded of his conversations with Magdi. “He often talked about the revolutions of the past and the café’s role in them. In Tahrir Square we felt a resonance with 1919 and 1952.” After the revolution Mr Menza co-founded a national political party.
Mrs Baraka also ended up in the square and back at the Riche. “The café once again became an extension of politics during the revolution,” she says. “It felt like a replica of Tahrir Square. You saw the people from the square at the table next to you a few hours later. They had a meal and continued their discussions. There were gunshots all around us and a lot of people were killed. We were very lucky.”
Filfil, who has worked in the café since 1943
Three bullet holes stare back from the café’s shutters. On one of the most violent days, February 2nd, security goons and protesters clashed right outside the Riche, knives littering the street. The injured were bandaged at the café and then transferred to an impromptu clinic nearby.
The police erected road blocks at both ends of Talaat Harb Street. At times they fired when they saw guests coming out of the café. They even tried to break in, unsuccessfully. The door was locked. “Inside we were first terrified, then jubilant,” says Hassan Ibrahim, a 51-year-old film-maker who first came to the café when he was three, started and ended his first love affair there and still comes every day that he is in Cairo. In 1977 he was arrested during food riots right outside the café and incarcerated for five days. “They beat us and hosed us down. This was in January and a bit nippy. Little has changed in the intervening 34 years, except this time we won.”
Some older guests at the café joined the youths in the square. After his regular coffee, Ashraf Bayoumi, a political writer, declared, “I am heading towards Tahrir Square now because the revolution is not finished yet.” Magdi’s 17-year-old nephew Andrew, the likely next owner of the café, also joined in. “I went outside with a camera to document what was happening and the police started chasing me.”
Hussein Gohar, a café regular and well-to-do gynaecologist with a house on the Nile, treated protesters for nothing, shuttling back and forth to the square. He also gave health advice on Twitter, telling pregnant women that tear gas would not harm their babies and that they could still demonstrate. “Sometimes there were fights right outside the café and we would watch. The door would fly open and someone would come running in, either injured or fleeing the authorities. The Riche was a shelter. When it got especially hot, the shutters would come rattling down and we’d be locked in.”
The Riche is more vibrant than it has been at any time in the past three decades
During the worst days the café was officially closed but nonetheless full of people. Magdi often served coffee until two or three in the morning, cups piled on top of placards. Older intellectuals gave younger people advice on how to avoid violence. A judge sympathetic to the protesters kept a table. There were chattering groups of writers, diplomats and professors. Shortly before the regime was toppled, several leaders of the military police came to the Riche in civilian clothes to talk to protesters, to apologise for the use of excessive force, trying to negotiate. In vain. On February 11th Mr Mubarak fell. For once the café was quiet.
Everyone had stormed down to the square to celebrate.
Almost a year later the Riche is more vibrant than it has been at any time in the past three decades. The revolution brought in new blood. A parliamentary candidate from the Adl (Justice) Party held an election rally at the café in October. Young guests are coming in greater numbers. Ahmed al-Sukari, an engineer who handled logistics for the protesters in the square from the café, is now a regular.
Cairo’s ailing café culture is making a comeback. Secret policemen are gone and political debates once again catch fire from table to table. Forgotten tribes reassemble, claiming they never really went away. The city still has more cafés than mosques. Napoleon in his day counted 1,350 in what was known as the City of a Thousand Minarets. Now there are tens of thousands of cafés, keeping pace with the rising number of Cairenes.
Yet the Riche’s future is by no means assured. Since the revolution, developers have bought 40 buildings in the area, including the Riche’s. They say they have no plans to knock it down and replace it with a high-rise, but Magdi is worried. New rulers all too often crave new monuments.
The Riche is also facing new competitors. Many young revolutionaries prefer the carnival atmosphere of the Boursa Café, a nearby jumble of hundreds of plastic chairs that has sprung up in a maze of streets around the stock exchange. Waiters dart in and out of narrow doors, serving various proprietors. Graffiti says “People demand the removal of the regime”, next to pictures of young martyrs. Rap music wafts over the tables. Graphic novels are passed around. Barbs and laughs are exchanged by text message. A female activist is wearing an earring with the word “no” written in Kufic script that might not be welcome at the Riche.
A cultural revolution is accompanying the political one. Young Egyptians are trying to remake not only government but also literature, music, philosophy, even comedy. Some think of it as counter-jihad, a struggle to reclaim culture from holy warriors as well as from stuffy officials. And like the greats, Mahfouz et al, they need coffee to banish lethargy and incite rage. The choice of locales available to them is growing rapidly. New cafés pop up on street corners. With the government in disarray, planning permissions are easy to come by, or even more easily ignored.
Politics as well as commerce is causing worries at the Riche. The patrons at Magdi’s table—he holds court with a plastic fly-swatter for a sceptre—are concerned about the prospects for free speech. One regular, the television journalist Yosri Fouda, was bullied off the air for a while in October. Bloggers are still jailed. The main topic of conversation is the possibility of a counter-revolution. The revolutions of 1919 and 1952 both exchanged one despot for another. Will 2011 be the same?
It is far too early to tell, for the revolution of 2011 is still happening. Islamists, Copts and students of every political colour rally in Tahrir Square on many weekends. Policemen demonstrate in front of the interior ministry, demanding the removal of old regime figures. Lawyers from the Bar Association strike, demanding the purging of the judiciary. It has been like this all year. In April a military officer who had turned against the high command was killed just around the corner from the Riche. Large demonstrations thronged Talaat Harb Street in July and October. Just before the first tranche of protracted elections took place in November, the square was barricaded by tens of thousands of protesters and gun-toting police. After them, the Islamists’ success in the poll loomed large.
The revolutionary spirit is alive, says one regular staring at darkly stained newspapers. “But where will it lead?”
Umm Kalthoum watches over the patrons
“Rule by Islamists.”
“Bring back the generals.”
“Make them face elections.”
Almost everything has changed in the past year in Cairo, except that Magdi still convenes a large table of friends every Friday, lubricating conversation with Spanish omelettes, flatbread, falafel and his best roast-bean brew.
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Mcjacks Corvettes At The Garden Grove Car Show With 4 Door Corvette
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