Cyclorama vs. Reality

09 Jan 2009 | 434 words | egypt israel propaganda war

During my recent trip to Cairo, in we visited [on suggestion of the my barbarian crew] the 6 october (a.k.a yom kippur) war memorial that is situated in Heliopolis just off the road to the international Airport.

The memorial consists of a large circular building housing a 360 degree rotating cyclorama surrounded an open-air display off tanks, fighter-jets, artillery pieces and anti-aircraft missiles [mainly those used by the Egyptian army during the war but also a few ones captured from the Israeli army].

Apparently the memorial has been designed by North Koreans after Kim Jong Il suggested to President Mubarak that he should build a memorial commemorating the 6 october/yom kippur war between Egypt and Israel. The memorial was completed in 1989 has been open to the public ever since. It seems that it is mostly visited by Egyptian university and high-school students on mandatory excursions but it is also open to ordinary tourists. A sign at the ticket office (£E20 per person) welcomes you with the following words:

Welcome to 1973 october war panorama, enjoy spending a good time by watching 1973 october war panorama accompanied by the sound effects and music program. special shows for tourist in different languages [see the sign on flickr]

We did not get a special show and the only language available (via IR headphones) was crappy English but the the 360 degree rotating cyclorama (a cylindrical panorama is rotated around cinema style seats that are installed in the middle of the the round room) is quite impressive indeed.

The cyclorama (and the accompanying narrative) narrate the first 48 (or so hours) of the 6 october war when the Egyptian army managed to cross the Suez canal, breach the Israeli sand fortification on the Sinai side of the canal (known as the bar-lev line) and established two small bridge-heads on the Sinai peninsula that had been occupied by Israel since the 6 day war in 1968. Both the visuals and the narrative give the impression that the Egyptian Army effortlessly overcame the Israeli defenses. By conveniently focussing on the initial 2 days of the war and ignoring the rest, the memorial gives the impression (much to the delight of the egyptian visitors) that Egypt had actually won the war and defeated Israel once and for all. Meanwhile, as we were leaving the cyclorama, the ‘defeated’ Israeli air force was busy bombing the shit out of the once Egyptian-controlled Gaza strip, while the ‘victorious’ Egyptian army was busy turning away [at gunpoint] wounded Palestinians from seeking treatment in Egypt.

Scene from the 6 october war cyclorama by Sara Kolster