We head to Shubra with street magic ace Junior as he paints smiles and surprised looks on the faces of his local neighbourhood.
A 19-year old that uses his entourage of kings and queens to spread joy to Shubra residents, this trickster is the a local celebrity. Dubbed Junior El Saher, he conducts his card tricks on the busy streets of Shubra; “The way I see it, I sell happiness for free, expecting nothing in return,” he tells us whilst shuffling his cards. A group of school girls giggle and wave at him squealing, “that’s the card guy!”
Shooed by some but welcomed by the majority, the famous Egyptian sense of humour rings true as shop owners, school kids, kiosk sellers and passersby stop to play, curiously asking him how he conducts his magic. His simple yet surprising interactions with the residents of his neighbourhood are truly refershing, showing a less angry side to Egypt's streets today, as Junior proves how easy it was for everyone to break into smiles and participate. “I do this because people are going through so much and need something to make them happy, I like to make people happy,” he continues.
So how did this venture start? For this teenager to hit the streets with a deck of card and bring wonder and amazement with a simple slight of hand? “I've been following all these international magicians for years. I must have watched their videos over a hundred times daily, people told me it would be hard which made me more persistent...Now I know over 40 tricks and am starting to experiment beyond cards.”
Young and cheerful, he stresses that the only profit he wants to make is one that doesn’t involve money but spreading some happiness. “The whole area knows him and encourages him!” a friend chimes in. Working in a pharmacy by day, he has dedicated his afternoons to being a street performer. Probably without knowing it, he entrenched a sense of community as family and friends encouraged him by participating in his tricks.
One can say that street art and performances are nonexistent in Egypt, therefore it hasn’t been the easiest thing for Junior to attempt to pioneer the movement from Shubra. At one point he was stopped by police as they assumed he was using his cards to gamble on the streets. He was taken in, searched, questioned and kept hours before finally being released when they didn't find anything illegal on him. Did that deter him? Cause him to rant against the injustice? Nope, he took his cards and went back to the station. “I decided to go back on my own terms and explain to them what I was doing. I put myself in their shoes; they panicked because they didn't understand, so I explained.” Junior went back and played his tricks in the station resulting in a friendship, as he ended up exchanging numbers with the police officers, “they told me I was talented and encouraged me to continue saying that if ever someone stopped me I could call them.”
The deck of cards seem to be an extension of his limbs as he continued to discuss the various social problems that cause people to be so angry and weary of magic. Therefore, for him, it is a civic duty to spread moments of happiness spread out in the midst of daily hardships; “Egypt does have talent. I want to get famous because I genuinely want to make people happy and if I have the ability to make people happy for free, I will. Everything comes with a price these days, even happiness."