CAIRO (AP) — Bright colors, strange clothes and a striking white mask steal the attention of everyday people going about their business in downtown Cairo. This is the stage for Mohammed Saeed (aka Sheetos) who is waging a lonely campaign to introduce the art of mime to modern Egypt.
"I know I look like the strangest thing in their eyes. But I do this to publicize this art. I believe in this art," said Saeed, 21. "I try to help people smile during their difficult lives. My wish is to draw smiles on faces."
Although mime is not well known in Egypt, Saeed is dedicated to spreading the word through his own public performances on downtown streets and even on the Cairo subway. He is already used to the occasional negative or hostile reaction.
"Some people love this and smile, some hate it and spit at me. And some don't care," he said. "But all of them look at me with surprise! Here in Egypt you just don't usually see a mime in the streets."
A third-year philosophy student at Helwan University, outside of Cairo, Saeed trained in the art of mime after the 2011 revolution — learning from a local mime legend named Oscar of the Oscarisma theater troupe. Now he performs as part of Ruba Bikya, a street-performance collective that takes its name from the iconic junk-dealers of Cairo.
Saeed's commitment to his craft was on clear display during a recent afternoon of performing near downtown's Talaat Harb square. Two police officers were drawn by his antics and stopped him.
"Why are you painted up like that," the officer asked. But Saeed merely gestured and made faces. "Why won't you answer me? Are you mute?"
The scene ended with Saeed being hauled before a senior police officer, who let him go after a 45-minute "interrogation" — during which he never spoke.
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