January 29th, 2011
Already last night, when we filled in papers to check into the hotel, the passengers from Cairo confirmed that Egypt had an internet-cut off and mobile services wouldn’t work.. so getting practicalities sorted out first: Land-lines were the only communication left I learned, grateful about this important piece of information. How to get home, which was about 50 km away from the airport? Certainly the airport-limousines wouldn’t be available, would taxis? How lucky I felt, when I found my land-line number saved on my cell-phone and the ring went through..
To my surprise the airport had been a bulwark of tranquility and normalcy, except for the fact that there were hardly any travelers. You couldn’t tell from the airport personnel that the country was in turmoil! There wasn’t any single one of the emplyees behind the bank-counters or from the airport-security, who radiated even worry; impossible to guess that what took over the streets and squares of Egypt would lead to a change that would trigger a geo-political process, reconsidering and questioning traditional alliances.
On my way home, I had been picked up from the airport from a fellow-countryman whose bravery stops at nothing if he sees someone who needs his help. On our way we received some calls, warning us to stay in Heliopolis, the district where the airport is located, since ‘thugs were on the highway high jacking people, stealing cars and at least stopping cars and violently try to get hold of the car-owners belongings’ .. the words of caution sure were meant well, but: where to go? Turning around now could be even more dangerous since it lead back to where the alleged thefts and attacks seemed in full swing. Going home seemed the better option. After a short distance we were already on one of the not so famous bypass, where hardly any cars drove. Praise to male orientation skills!
When my savior drove to my rescue, on his way to the airport he took hitchhikers, something he had been strongly warned against, especially when they appeared to be ‘policemen’ – uniforms had allegedly been stolen and thieves, posing as policemen would abuse the trust, people had, in what they knew as protectors of their safety.- The hitchhikers were friendly young men who were happy to have found a lift eventually and gave precious advise about bypassing highways.
We had arrived safely. In retrospect I felt a bit silly about, upon hearing the warnings, to have taken all my rings and bracelets off and hided them in my handbag.. After all: the sun still shone over Egypt as usual, the house looked like a couple of days ago and until now all I knew about the demonstrations which seemed to have developed into a turmoil, was still so fragmented that I was keen to get the whole picture.
Naturally I ended up switching between CNN, BBC and Al-Jezeera English. You could read it everywhere “Egypt in Turmoil”.
But the tone has shaped. “Down with Mubarak” .. –
In the meantime the army had positioned tanks at strategic points. This looked like the government was still hoping to gain control of the wildfire like clashes and crowds, arson and looting.
Rubber bullets, water cannons and tear-gas and beatings had been brought in as means from police and central security forces to bring the people back to ‘reason’ and disperse the protests. People got killed. That in addition fueled the anger of the families of the ‘martyrs’ and raised the outrage of the protesters to an extent that as surreal as the whole catastrophe looked, as unlikely it seemed to end anytime soon. However: for how long could this go on?
Today was Saturday. ‘Certainly the whole week one would not be able to go to work’ I thought. How could I have been so ignorant when I saw the first pictures back then, yesterday seemed like light years away, when I had considered the possibility that ‘things’ would calm down rather soon..
Already a curfew had been imposed, from 6 pm to 7 am, yet nobody cared. People went to Tahrir in huge numbers, tens of thousands, unimpressed. In province cities thousands of angry protesters joined the movement and took to the streets. In Port Said the municipal building had been set ablaze, police stations were stormed, detained protesters freed and the stations burned down.
The day before the headquarter of the National Democratic Party had been set on fire which rejoiced the hearts of the protesters and set the stage for much more to come.-
As the actions of the protesters became more and more decisive, the slogans adjusted. ‘Down with Mubarak’, ‘Go away Mubarak’, ‘Mubarak the dictator has fallen’, ‘Mubarak is a tyrant’ ‘Leave, leave, leave’..
Mubarak a tyrant? A dictator?? Mohamed Hosni Mubarak, the president of the Arab Republic of Egypt, suddenly a man, overrun with, how else could one see it, the hate of a whole nation???