Many state and independent papers on Monday lead their front pages with a slightly jarring thematic contrast: Egyptian national unity on display, right next to pictures from the latest string of deadly bombings in Baghdad.
The national unity packages were naturally themed around the back-to-back holidays of Easter on Sunday and today’s Sham El Nessim–an ancient Pharaonic rite of spring that loosely translates to “sniff the breeze day.”
Several papers run photos showing Pope Shenouda III presiding over Easter celebrations or meeting with newly appointed Sheikh Al Azhar Ahmed el-Tayeb. The first line of the story in Al-Ahram, the main state-owned daily, neatly sums up the theme of the day: “An atmosphere of love and forgiveness and sympathy and solidarity spread throughout all quarters of Egypt as Egyptians–Muslims and Christians–celebrated Easter yesterday.”
Fellow state-daily Al-Akhbar can’t resist injecting a little politics into the occasion with the following sub-headline: “Pope Shenouda: Egypt benefits from goodness and peace under President Mubarak.”
Comically, Al-Ahram chose to run a front-page picture of Mohamed ElBaradei sitting next to US Ambassador to Egypt Margaret Scobey during Easter ceremonies at the main Cathedral in Abbasiya. It may be the first time ElBaradei has appeared on Al-Ahram’s front page since he stepped down from the International Atomic Energy Agency last year and launched his campaign for sweeping political reform. But the caption under the picture completely ignores him and only identifies Scobey.
The latest wave of Baghdad bombings gets front-page coverage by almost all the dailies because the Egyptian consulate was one of those targeted, along with the consulates of Iran, Syria and Germany. Most papers report the same basic details: four Egyptian citizens wounded according to the foreign ministry, and six Iraqi security guards killed in the blast.
In other news, state daily Al-Akhbar reports on a “new crisis” for Muslims traveling to Saudi Arabia to perform the Umra pilgrimage. Apparently a last-minute decision by Egypt Air to cancel a scheduled charter to Medina has left hundreds of prospective pilgrims stranded.
Al-Ahram: Daily, state-run, largest distribution in Egypt
Al-Akhbar: Daily, state-run, second to Al-Ahram in institutional size
Al-Gomhorriya: Daily, state-run
Rose el-Youssef: Daily, state-run, close to the National Democratic Party’s Policies Secretariat
Al-Dostour: Daily, privately owned
Al-Shorouq:Daily, privately owned
Al-Wafd: Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party
Al-Arabi: Weekly, published by the Arab Nasserist party
Youm7: Weekly, privately owned
Sawt el-Umma: Weekly, privately owned