“Excuse me Miss,” I turned to the reception desk, “how come the flight to Cairo hasn’t been announced for boarding yet? Aren’t we due?” Checking on her computer screen the receptionist replied ”We don’t know whether the plane will go there today.” Somewhat startled I dumbly asked “What do you mean ‘We don’t know whether the plane goes to Cairo’”? – “There are some disturbances. Just go back inside the lounge. We’ll inform you as soon as we have more information.”
I was slightly irritated and went back. Suddenly my attention was drawn to the huge plasma-screen and I needed a few seconds to realize that the pictures about a burning place with fire, armed soldiers shooting and people running around I was looking at had been our Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo. – Oh no. Please, dear Lord, let that not be true! ..
On my way to London on January 24th I had been sitting next to a business man from Mohandeseen with an engineering consultancy office. We came to talk about this and that, and as well we pondered about the possibility what ‘the demonstration’, which had been in the air for a few weeks now, will bring about. From him I learned that emails had been send to raise awareness and ensure participation!
That was new to me. I learned about it through my microcosmic office, all the young people were fantasying about a ‘revolution’ and were very enthusiastic about 25th January, when a big demonstration should take place. The specific date had been chosen as it was a day to celebrate the police, officially ‘National Police Day’.
Would make sense, is what I thought. But of course: I didn’t believe it would ever come to that.
So when my seat-neighbor told me about the bulk of emails he had all received I thought ‘So even the establishment?’ since he obviously belonged to the upper class; he had the means to pay for business-class, wore stylish and expensive shoes, his whole out-fit and appearance left no doubt about his privileged, social status.
So I got the idea, that I certainly should try my best to get a glance at the news the next day. –
Thinking about that a real demonstration could take place in Cairo, a mass-demonstration, the kind I was used to back then in Berlin, where ten to twenty thousand people took to the streets in the 80-ies, was an outlandish idea. But..
The youth is always rebellious and overambitious. I myself know that oh so well. I had been so young myself. I even, at a certain point of political activism in Germany, … I was willing to die for a course!! Well..
As for the Egyptian youth who brought the mass-demonstration idea to my screen in August and with increasing fervor in late September 2010 I thought of it as ‘something, one might should have to go through’ – but left the matter otherwise aside. After all: nothing really was hinting at the possibility of the demonstration becoming ‘talk-of-the-town’, all I personally expected was disruption and people staying at home since they would be scared. The daily life went on taking all the energy to get things going, people went places, got married, went to parties and worried about to upgrade from i-phone 4 to i-phone 4S. Besides, the ‘girls’ (in their 20ies) never really spoke about what they would demonstrate against. A few weak remarks here and there.
I was thinking what could possibly be behind?
Still the Gamal Mubarak succession question seemed to absorb some; I thought the question was already settled since it vanished from small-talk. Remind you: Mubarak, in dire need to present a successor since his poor state of health started to trigger speculations about ‘Who would do the job if the old man dies?’. Yet it seemed to me that Mubarak realized that literally nobody in Egypt would support his son. Numerous discussions and debates had been held about the matter secretly and openly. Someone said about freedom of speech in Egypt in the late 2000’s ‘You can talk about anything, but we don’t have freedom of speech.’
He had a point. Some journalists got arrested ‘for spreading false rumors’ about Hosni Mubarak’s state of health.
So yes. The expectation from the side of the Egyptian people to be presented with a successor was all so comprehensible. After all, Mubarak did not have a vice president and facts about his cancer leaked and started to worry the political decision-makers and the business community.
As well: as of 2005 a growing public discontent with the reign of the Mubarak government spread through the country. Hardly anybody with intellectual standing, who was involved and exposed to the community of normal citizens, withhold at times and according to their temper rather angry insults and accusations against president Hosni Mubarak.
All I could think then was: why are you so fiercely opposing a government that brings increasing prosperity to a vast majority, as I saw it, to the country? New jobs, great salaries, admirable projects like ‘Smart Village’ mushroomed within a comparatively short time. As of the early 2000’s the streets of Cairo had more and more posh shops opening, elegant offices, a lot of new buildings, household good could be purchased with installments so people had air-conditions, new cars and every new season a new mobile. There were times, when my staff had better mobiles than I myself! Travelling abroad seemed to have become a casual summer pass-time. So in my logic I thought: the better things become the more aggressive people get, since they discover that what they already have isn’t enough..
Yet: there was more to it.