Ahmed Mekky speaks on a social and religious taboo in Egypt in his song “Atr El Hayah.” This song discusses the topic of drug addiction and those vulnerable to it. The music video closely follows the story that the lyrics tell. This song uses a story to deliver its message. Mekky released this track in 2012, and it remains one of his top 5 streamed songs displaying the reach it has had.
The music video for this song stars Mekky as the protagonist of the story. It starts artfully with crashing waves, and Mekky standing alone at the water with a flash to a scene of breaking glass and a little girl screaming. Later in the video we will learn that this is the breaking point in the story. Both the lyrics and the video start the story with background on the protagonist. He is a young man living with his parents with no job. He is shamed by his family and is told he is useless. I will note here that part of the issue at hand is a toxic masculinity that does not uniquely exist in Egypt with the added emphasis on pride that exists in Arab culture. The fact that he is now a man and has not become a provider for his family is an important point Mekky brings up when he says “I looked into the mirror and I saw a few grey hairs and my dad still provides for the house.” He describes the feeling of wanting to escape this life and the dark place he is in. In this moment where he is most vulnerable, his friend offers him a “solution.”
Mekky is lured by the prospects of escaping his problems like he so desperately wants. His friend offers him hard drugs, and he first declines out of fear that he will get addicted, but his friend tells him you won’t get addicted if it’s your first time. He gives in and Mekky describes looking forward to the next night to get to feel the same high. This is an educational moment in which Mekky addresses misinformation that exists in society. Through his story he addresses an ideology that some people may have, which may make others also more likely to take that first step to becoming addicted. The people he thought were his only friends, those who would “help” him by giving him the drugs started asking him for money. This is another moment where Mekky addresses a huge problem across the world. Drug dealers will sometimes offer people dangerously addictive drugs for free until they are addicted to it. At that point they have created for themselves a guaranteed customer. Our protagonist, jobless with no savings, now addicted to drugs he can’t afford, starts stealing money from his family members. When he is caught he gets into a physical altercation with his father, and pushes him into a glass mirror that breaks. This is one scenes that was flashed in the first few seconds of the music video. Mekky then threatens to commit a crime if they don’t give him money. They don’t believe them, so he starts to kidnap his niece. This scene is the other part that was flashed at the beginning of the video. After his mother throws money at him, she kicks him out yelling to him that he no longer has a mother.
Mekky has now lost his family, but being so addicted to drugs of course continues to look for means of getting high. He finds a friend who he gets high with. His mother is seen regretting her decision as she tries to call him, and him being very high does not reply. This shows that no matter what, family truly does care about you. Part of what made Mekky’s character so vulnerable was that he felt like he was a burden who wasn’t loved. This shows other people that might have felt a similar way that their family does care about them regardless of the circumstance. At the height of his low, Mekky overdoses and ends up dying. The end of the video shows his family grieving over his death. His lyrics at the end express regret for not having taken advantage of the life he had. He prays for a second chance, but it is too late.
Mekky addresses an important topic that due to cultural stigma and taboos is one that often goes unaddressed in Egypt. Mekky uses his platform to create a warning about the danger of drugs. Rather than coming off as telling other people what to do, he takes the indirect approach of telling a story. Mekky is focused on the importance of this issue, and does not worry about pushing the envelope. This is his longest song with a runtime of 6 minutes and 20 seconds with the music video being over 8 minutes long. This length of the song allows him to tell the story in the way he wants rather than cutting it short. Mekky achieves his goal of using his music to educate Egyptian youth about the dangers of drug use.