Prime Minister Hazem Al-Beblawi issued a decision to take all Fridays off the Calendar until further notice, following a cabinet meeting on Friday, possibly the last Friday Egypt will see in a long time.
In a press conference conducted following the cabinet meeting, Al-Beblawi said the decision was taken to alleviate the peoples’ suffering due to the long curfew enforced on Fridays. Friday’s curfew extends from 7 pm until 5 am Saturday, making any nighttime plans practically impossible. As for the mornings, they are mired with protests by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and its ousted President Mohamed Morsi.
“We have long waited on the Brotherhood to come to their senses and stick to their homes so that Friday returns to its normal, festive self,” Al-Beblawi said in the press conference. “We have arrested all their leaders, hoping that would make them stay put, yet they insist on ruining our Fridays. Thus, we have decided to cancel this controversial day altogether.”
Al-Beblawi said the cabinet was first faced with a predicament; whether to make the week six days or to put another day twice on the calendar instead. While the first choice seemed less of a hassle, the ministers were worried following a six-day-per-week calendar would internationally isolate Egypt and make it impossible to set appointments with any national who doesn’t follow the Egyptian calendar.
“We thought about conducting elections on the day that should replace Friday, but then decided against it as it was too democratic amid the exceptional phase we are currently going through,” said foreign minister Nabil Fahmy, who spoke right after Al-Beblawi in the press conference. “Then we asked Mr. Al-Beblawi for his opinion; he said his grandchildren’s favourite day is Thursday since it’s the beginning of the weekend. We thus decided to put back-to-back Thursdays on the new calendar, instead of Friday.”
The second Thursday will go down in the calendar as: Thursday II. The new calendar will be in effect starting 1 October. Al-Beblawi said it is too late and too costly to print new 2013 calendars when only the last three months would be used, yet promised all 2014 calendars will not include any Fridays.
“This is a temporary decision, though!” Al-Beblawi insisted. “We’re just not in possession of a time frame for when we can afford to dispose of it.”
The new calendar arrangement would also cancel the Friday prayer, thus giving Muslim Brotherhood supporters no excuse to conduct group prayers followed by marches. Egypt’s grand mufti Shawky Allam issued a fatwa saying it’s OK to cancel Friday prayers, one of the most sacred rituals of the Islamic religion, as long as it’s “temporary and preserves the state’s national security”.
Al-Beblawi revealed that more cancellations are expected soon. “We are considering a ban on all hand-waves and especially the use of fingers in the process,” Al-Beblawi said. Muslim Brotherhood supporters have adopted the hand gesture of waving four fingers in reference to the now-dispersed Rabaa Al-Adaweya pro-Morsi sit-in. Rabaa is Arabic for the number four. The four-fingered hand is printed on a yellow background, acting as a pro-Brotherhood slogan.
“A ban of the colour yellow was also considered,” Al-Beblawi said. “Then we remembered the traffic lights and thus decided against it; moving from red to green right away would be too abrupt for Egypt’s traffic.”
Meanwhile in the streets, minimal discontent with the Friday-ban decision was spotted. Ahmed Desouky, a small kiosk owner, said he is relieved to hear that this “dreadful” day was banned.
“Egypt has seen no good ever since those damn revolutionaries started protesting on Fridays since January 2011,” Desouky said. “Let them cancel the day, let us take a break.”
Friday is the Sabbath of Mulims; it’s taken off in all Arab countries. Before the latest unrest in Egypt, the day was preserved to group outings and family gatherings.