Friday, 1 October 2021

Be afraid, be very afraid

The Beginning

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Be afraid, be very afraid: It’s October! And with the coming of the fall and the (proverbial in Egypt) changing of the leaves, we’re looking forward to one of our best-loved imported holidays, Halloween. To commemorate the coming of this creepy crawly festival, we’ve put together an issue full of all things horror. From a rundown of films that will chill you to the bone, to examining our very instinct of fear, welcome to the Halloween issue of Your Wealth.


Though Halloween is not everyone’s cup of tea, and horror films can send some people running out the room, a fair number of us (seemingly sadistically?) enjoy a good scare. Though fear is an intense emotion that is closely associated with anxiety, stress, and a general sense of unwellness, when deployed for short periods under unthreatening circumstances, it can be fun. But why do we get scared? And why do the weirdos among us enjoy it so much?

What is the purpose of fear? Fear is a fundamental, deeply wired reaction, which has evolved over time to protect species against perceived threats to their integrity and existence. The part of your brain that regulates feelings of fear is called the amygdala. Meaning ‘almond’ in latin (because guess what it looks like), the amygdala is responsible for producing a fear response and spurring the body into “fight or flight” mode. The brain becomes more alert, blood flow and heart rate increase, and breathing quickens.

Some fears are super common: There are some people who experience an irrational fear of certain situations and objects — commonly known as ‘phobias’, which tend to cause distress and interfere with one’s daily life. The most common phobias are fear of spiders (arachnophobia), fear of tight spaces (claustrophobia) and a fear of blood and needles (Trypanophobia).

And others not so much: How many of you have felt the intense dread that surfaces when you get peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth? There’s a word for that: Arachibutyrophobia. Meanwhile, anyone with arithmophobia planning a career as a trader, accountant or financial advisor probably needs to rethink their life goals. Luckily for the sponsors of this newsletter, we’re assuming not many of you have a fear of money, otherwise known as plutophobia.

Are all fears the same? The fear we experience when you enter a haunted house and a ghoul jumps out at you is less serious than if we’re walking in a dark alley at night and a stranger begins chasing us. The difference occurs based on whether our brain thinks that the situation is dangerous or not. Once we know that something isn’t a threat, we’re quick to relabel the experience and feel less afraid.

How does that work? Back to the brain: When we get scared through a threat stimulus (a predator, for example), a fear response is triggered in the amygdala, which activates and notifies areas involved in preparations of ‘motor functions’ involved in the fight or flight responses, as well as the release for stress hormones. A part of our brain called the hippocampus as well as the frontal cortex helps us interpret perceived threats. So when the amygdala is freaking out and sending your body signals to GTF OUT OF HERE if you’re watching a horror film, your hippocampus is telling you to chill, it’s just a movie.

All of that sounds awful and stressful. So why do we sometimes enjoy it? Not only is fear seen as a distraction, since it keeps your mind occupied with something other than daily tasks, but it also gives us a great sense of satisfaction when we can prove to ourselves that we can actually handle more anxiety than we ever imagined we could. And when we’re able to recognise the difference between a real threat and a threatless situation, we tend to feel more in control. Even after overcoming the famed ‘flight or flight’ response, we’re often left feeling satisfied and reassured, and more confident in our ability to confront situations we initially saw as threatening.

Though seemingly a bad thing, fear has become a widespread marketing tool: There are a range of activities that capitalize on our desire to momentarily terrorize ourselves. From rollercoasters to haunted houses, and the entirety of the horror movie industry, which has managed to capitalise off of our desire to feel afraid (in a safe environment). Even Halloween itself — which started off as an annual Celtic festival held to ward off ghosts — is basically now just an excuse to sell some horror-themed merchandise and watch another zombie film.


You’re in dark forests, grouped around a campfire, with a flashlight pointed on your face, what’s missing? You guessed it, a horror story. A good tale of monsters never fails to spook the young and old alike. We take a deep dive into the origins of five of the most famed horror stories, legends and myths of all time from Egypt and around the world.

A couple of classics-

Frankenstein: The man-made monster comes from the wonderful imagination of famed English writer Mary Shelley. In 1816 — aka the year without summer — her boyfriend challenged her to write a horror story. She did, and the rest is history. But did you know that Frankenstein has roots in science? The idea of resurrection through the use of electricity — called galvanism — had gained popularity in the early XIXth century after Luigi Galvani, an Italian scientist, got a dead frog’s legs to twitch by using electricity. Shelley used the same concept to give us Frankenstein, writing to a friend: “Perhaps a corpse would be re-animated; galvanism had given token of such things: perhaps the component parts of a creature might be manufactured, brought together, and endued with vital warmth."

Dracula: Everyone’s favourite vampire is not as old as his monster counterpart, Frankenstein. Dracula was published more than half a century later in 1897 by Irish author Bram Stoker, but that didn’t stop the novel from becoming a world renowned classic. Stoker reportedly used Vlad Dracula, a bloodthirsty medieval king who ruled the region that is now Romania, as the basis for the character of Dracula. Vlad Dracula was famed for his cruelty, reportedly roasting children and feeding them to their mother, nailing turbans to the head of Ottomans, and washing his hands in the blood of his victims. He also really enjoyed impaling people. He liked it so much in fact, that he is no more famously known as Vlad the Impaler.

The Loch Ness monster: Nessie — which, might we add, is a terrible name for a monster — supposedly haunts the Loch Ness waters in Scotland. The story is old, very old; with reports of sightings dating as far back as the sixth century AD. However, it wasn’t until the twentieth century that Nessie became universally well-known. It all started when a couple supposedly saw the monster cross their car’s path. The story sparked international media attention and the Daily Mail even commissioned a hunter to find Nessie. But efforts to find the monster have not been fruitful, and the monster is, at least for now, fictional.

And some local flavor-

El Nadaha: The feared she-creature that lures men to a watery death with her charming voice has unclear origins. The legend has been part of Egyptian folklore for centuries now, but its exact roots are untraceable. El Nadaha finds her parallel in the sirens of ancient Greek mythology; creatures that were half bird and half woman who sang sailors into the sea. In Homer's the Odyssey, Odysseus had this crew’s ears filled with wax so they would not be tempted by the siren’s song as they crossed the sea. Recent Netflix Egyptian production Paranormal — while missing the mark on many things — has an interesting episode dedicated to El Nadaha, if you’re interested in a visual take.

Abou regl masloukha: The creature of our childhood nightmares, used by parents to get their children to behave. It is said that he had lost his leg and would take yours to replace it. We can’t mention Abou regl masloukha without mentioning El Sel3awa, the ravenous dog-wolf-fox hybrid that has been reported to have magical powers ranging from invisibility to the ability to speak with a human voice (depending on who is telling the story).

Baron empain: The indian-style mansion towering over Heliopolis has been a source of mystery and superstition since its construction over a century ago. It’s rumoured that the Baron’s daughter’s ghost haunts the mansion. The myth surfaced when she was found dead in the building; reportedly having killed herself after an unrequited love affair. But that’s not the only myth surrounding the baron’s estate: there were also rumours claiming it was built on a rotating base so that the baron could see the whole city without getting up. Furthermore, the existence of a supposed secret passageway, yet to be found, that leads to the nearby basilica has also contributed to the mysterious and spooky allure. The site also supposedly served in the 1990s as a setting for a number of illicit “satanic rituals” (read: parties) the Egyptian press reported at the time, adding to the building’s creepy backstory.


Halloween isn’t all about the scares. For some of us, it’s about the costumes. From characters in cartoons, horror movies, action thrillers, or classic black and white films to animals and food items, the options for a good game of dress-up really are endless. Even if you think the practice is childish and unnecessary, it’s a great way to enjoy yourself and adopt a new personality for a day. If you’re up for the idea, but don’t have any ideas for what to dress as, here are a ton of halloween costumes to make your day this year.

Costumes from this year’s movie and TV releases: Cruella de Vil was a master of turning heads in the Disney movie Cruella that was released earlier in 2021. Don a black and white wig, some black makeup, and an epic outfit and call it a day. A similarly cool and achievable outfit could be Beth Harmon from Queen's Gambit whose red hair and formal dresses are recognizable anywhere. For the guys, a red jumpsuit and a signature Dalí mask is all you need to dress up as everyone’s favorite antiheroes in honor of the final season of Money Heist dropping.

Costumes inspired by the times: The scariest of all costumes is possibly the Zoom disaster getup which includes pajama pants, a dress shirt, unmatched socks, and a laptop that never shuts up. You could also be the political satirist of the party and dress up like Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk — keeping in mind that discussions on wealth inequality are sure to ensue. Braver and more beneficial than any Marvel or DC superhero is Dr. Anthony Fauci. White hair, a sharp suit, and a face mask of course, and you’re good to go.

Throwback costumes that never get old: Marilyn Monroe is a must at any halloween party, with a flowy white dress, red lips, and windswept hair. The characters of Pulp Fiction are also a recurring costume year after year, from Vincent Vega to Jules Winnfield.

Do you just want to pick up a costume set and call it a day? Here are a few local shops selling halloween costumes:

  • Bal Masqué has a ton of costumes and accessories to make sure that you are all set for halloween. Dinosaur costume anyone?
  • Neverland Costume is filled to the brim with costumes for kids and adults.
  • Amazon has a collection of outfits you can put on, but we’re not always confident about the quality.
  • You should definitely check out online store Lil and Kim. We love their Darth Vader costume.
  • The Party Station has great outfits for all ages. You can usually find the store at gas stations if you need to pick up a last minute outfit on the go.


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Your top 5 pieces of business and economic news in September:

  • MNT-Halan closed what we believe is the largest fintech round ever to take place in MENA, raising c. USD 120 mn from a group of investors that includes financial services-focused PE house Apis, the UK’s Development Partners International (DPI) and Lorax Capital Partner.
  • The UAE’s Aldar Properties and sovereign wealth fund ADQ launched a bid for SODIC, submitting a mandatory tender offer for up to 90% of upmarket real estate developer SODIC.
  • Healthcare provider Alameda plans to invest EGP 5 bn over the coming 3-5 years to expand its services in Egypt.
  • Africa-focused, Paris-headquartered private equity outfit Amethis could invest more than EUR 30 mn in Egyptian SMEs after it hit a first close of its second MENA fund.
  • We smashed growth expectations in 4Q2020-2021: Egypt’s economy grew at a 7.7% clip in 4Q2020-2021, accelerating from a contraction of 1.7% during the final quarter of the previous fiscal year.


Grotesque costumes, crescendoing scores and dim lighting: The decades have been brimming with gory creations by masterful directors that have incited our worst nightmares. So what makes a movie horror? The moods they elicit, whether it’s a sustained sense of stomach-churning, suspensefulness or uneasiness; everyone has something that keeps them on the edge of their seats.

The genre, the subgenre, and the sub-subgenre: Long gone are the days when movies were just scary; the horror genre has now branched out into endless other categories. And what better way to fuel a whole new wave of horror genres than a pandemic, a lockdown, a few wars, and some freaky maniacs running the world. The result is a blend of genres that make up the 20th and 21st century horror films. In this list, we tried to assemble our own subgenres that round up the best horror movies for your next Halloween movie marathon.

#1 The unsettling: There aren’t any ghosts here; no serial killers, nor spooky monsters. As a matter of fact, there isn’t anything explicitly scary. Yet, something seems off. These psychological horrors mess with your head the whole duration of a movie. The 1950s movie Diabolique pioneered this genre, where two women murder a man but then “lose” the body. During the entire movie, no one knows where the body really went and if this is even a ghost story or not. The subgenre is home to many other movies, from Charlie Kauffmen’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things, and the only psychological thriller to ever get Best Motion Picture, The Silence of the Lambs. Most of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies would fall under this category as well, from his renowned Psycho to Rear Window and Vertigo.

#2 The horror of war: Wars are horrific enough; add some psychological terror and daunting distress, and you’ll get the uncanny cinematic experience of the battlefield. When characters go to war, they are deeply altered in ways that cannot be reversed, and their development throughout is what is most horrific. Jacob’s Ladder, for instance, offers a nightmarish look into the life of a Vietnam War veteran that is haunted by hallucinations of his traumatic experience. Last year’s 1917, which is largely about the fear of death, could actually be a horror movie in disguise with a score that will haunt you. Other movies portraying the horrors of war are: Come and See, Deer Hunter, and Under the Shadow.

#3 The claustrophobic: John Carpenter’s The Thing was largely the first to capitalize on one common human fear: claustrophobia. If you are claustrophobic, just reading about these movies might be an uncomfortable experience. And if you’re not even annoyed by closed spaces, well, you just might be up for watching these. Roman Polanski’s Apartment Trilogy is one of the first and most famous takes on this subgenre. Although unofficially connected, Rosemary’s Baby, Repulsion and The Tenant all follow Kafkaesque characters that are stuck in an apartment, as we watch them descend into madness and paranoia. Devil is also a claustrophobic thriller that is shot in an elevator and centers on the tension rising between those who are stuck inside. Other claustrophobic thrillers include: The Descent, REC and Panic Room.

#4 The cult: From voodoo dolls, talismans, and unwavering worshipers, the worst part of all the weird things taking place in cult films is that they are intentionally brought on by humans. Writer and director Ari Astry masterfully teeters between the inheritance of trauma and the inheritance of satanism in his debut movie Hereditary. He later delves into the depiction of a pagan cult in Midsommar, which is in a way reminiscent of the classic cult movie The Wicker Man, which merits a mention here. Turkish horror movie series Siccin also gets a thumbs up from us, for its portrayal of the bizarreness of black magic. Other cult movies: The Witch, Suspiria and Blair Witch Project.

#5 The spooky paranormal: Doors creaking, someone (or something) whispering, and glimpses of apparitions in the background; even if you’re a cynical naysayer, ghost stories will give you the spooks — especially if they’re based on a true story. Ghosts rarely ever come in peace, and with some Hollywood drama, these movies become the perfect combination of jump scares, unworldly creepiness, and psychological trickery. Recently, some movies have combined social issues with the supernatural, but our favorites are those true to their subgenre. The Exorcist was one of the earliest movies to show us demonic possession on screen. Poltergeist, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Conjuring, and Paranormal Activity then followed. We would also like to give a special mention to The Autopsy of Jane Doe.

#6 It’s a trap! These are the movies that start out great, with a picnic on a sunny day, a vacation to a lavish summer mansion, or the ultimate road trip with friends, but things quickly take an unexpected turn. About 15-20 minutes into the movie, we discover that this great adventure is a trap in disguise. This is the case in the 1964 movie Woman in the Dunes, where a man misses his ride back home and goes to stay at a beautiful but creepy local village. The Shining could also be a great example of a beautiful trip gone wrong. Other movies in the subgenre include: Funny Games, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Cabin in the Woods and of course, Get Out.

#7 Egyptian horror films: At first thought, Egyptian horror movies could be not so secretly learning towards comedy, with laser goats and chicken blood. But the industry still has some gems (even if they’re hilarious). Yusif Wahbi’s The Ambassador of Hell (Safeer Gohanam) which is based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust, has most of its dialogue rhyming, making it difficult for anyone to take seriously. Perhaps one of the more successful movies is Humans and Jinn (Al Ens Wa Al Jinn) played by Adel Imam and Youssra. But the one movie that has definitely shaped the Egyptian horror-comedy industry is vampire-musical-horror-comedy Fangs (Anyab), inspired by the Rocky Horror Picture Show. But the genre has recently picked up a little with The Blue Elephant 1 and 2 and its daunting take on our culture’s superstitions. Other honorable mentions: Paranormal, Camp and Bloodline.

#8 (Bonus) Scary movies for the kiddies: Well, since halloween is a family-oriented tradition, we’ve decided to leave you on a less scary note. Here are some of the movies that you can watch with your children: Cruella, The Addams Family, Goosebumps, Frankenweenie, Coraline, Monster House, and The Corpse Bride.


All of you horror-obsessed folks, thank us later: Heart racing, hands sweating, legs shaking and goosebumps everywhere. What a wonderful feeling, am I right? For the few who agree, you’re in for a treat; we’ve compiled a list of the best horror podcasts to listen to in your cozy bed on a gloomy autumn night, ranging from ghosts to zombies and everything in between.

Qash3arira: The podcast that’s set on giving you goosebumps takes a different approach to horror stories by exploring the origins of classic horror tropes. The podcast sometimes mixes in true stories to make sure you get chills down your spine. The bite-sized podcast episodes are only around 20 minutes long, perfect for keeping your adrenaline pumping while on the go. Listen to Ash3arira on Podu.

The Others: Delve into the unknown by just putting on your headphones. The story follows the anonymous main character tormented by the dead after the passing away of his mother. The episodes here are also very short, sometimes only 10 minutes long. Listen to The Others on Podu.

Ahmed Youness horror: With his channel clocking in at an impressive 1.04 mn subscribers, Ahmed Youness produces one of the most well-known horror podcasts in Egypt. He delves into a variety of stories often centered around jin and other creatures of the sort. Every story has a dedicated playlist that offers at least two hours of content, so you’ll be sure to find something you like. Check out his youtube channel here.

Disturbed: This horror podcast is entirely based on true stories of kidnappings, serial killers, maniacs and a whole lot of other fun stuff. You’ll discover that your nightmares can become reality and that horror scenes in movies aren’t entirely fictional. Let's just say they got the name right; you’ll walk away from this podcast feeling disturbed and maybe a tiny bit paranoid. Listen to Disturbed on Apple Podcasts.

Knifepoint: Our last podcast — coming to us from the great US of A — is one of exceptional quality which not only promises a load of jump-scares, but also takes a deep dive into the psychology of its characters. The podcast offers a truly immersive experience. Each and every one of its 62 episodes never fails to entertain listeners while educating them on various psychological conditions. Listen to knifepoint on Apple Podcasts.

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