Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Egyptians Send Shockwaves, Including to My Heart

Taken at the onset of clashes on Friday's Day of Rage
I must admit, I’m so incredibly proud of you Egypt. I never thought I’d remotely see what I saw today, and perhaps my view is different from some of you, but it is after all mine.

I thought the protests were empty, although I could understand. I know there isn’t a backup, but I get it. And yet today (January 28), Egyptians came out in record numbers to call for the end of the Mubarak regime.

Tuesday was a joke compared to today. Our internet was cut at approximately 10:30 pm local time Thursday night and our mobile phones have been restricted since 10:30 am this morning. And once again I set out, but this time the journey on foot was much farther. My cab driver, Nabil, would only drive me to the Maadi corniche where I walked and walked, and continued to walk for about two hours in order to make it to downtown Cairo – the scheduled meeting place for more protests.

Nabil apologized that he couldn’t take me any further, but did say that anything was better than Mubarak. On my journey, I met Azra (although I’m not exactly sure if that’s her correct name). As we were going to the same place, I asked if she minded that we walk together. Nearing downtown we immediately encounter remnants of teargas. It would appear that police began placing teargas to restrict access to Tahrir Square. While Azra and I split up, we were shortly reunited amid a mad dash to get away from more teargas.

I walked past police and ended up near Ramses Square, walking onto the bridge that leads into Zamalak (an island in the middle of Cairo). Then as Friday prayer ended, the atmosphere changed from relative calmness to quick escalation.  I saw clouds of smoke coming from another bridge leading to Zamalak, and then as I looked below, I began seeing clashes between protesters and police. Then I saw clouds of smoke and things being lit on fire. I went down to take photos, but the teargas engulfed everything and I surged along with many others back to the comfort of the bridge.

It was push and go for awhile: Egyptians testing the police, the police pushing the crowds back and the crowds resurfacing to challenge once more. Then police cars began to arrive on the bridge with a black covered figure popping out of the top pointing a gun and firing it into the crowds. Teargas continued to flow at a steady pace, but this time Egyptians were prepared with soda, vinegar, lemon juice, etc. with tissues circulating and no sign of stopping the Egyptian will.

I can confidently say that I slightly peed on myself three times and no, that isn’t a joke. And for the record, I have revised my original statement proclaiming only two reasons to run: away from a serial killer or to a McDonald’s. You can go ahead and add the following to the list:
  • ·         Seeing a police vehicle coming your way with a black figure rising from the roof pointing a gun and just firing into the crowds (also results in inability to control bowel movements)
  • ·         Seeing a teargas canister shot into the air – once again in your direction – and knowing that you can’t take it anymore, but getting caught in the middle of it nonetheless (the compulsive coughing will also result in the inability to control bowel movements)
  • ·         Seeing a horde of people running your way because you know there’s a reason they’re running.

While I’m writing this hoping that internet and outside communication will be restored, I wanted to tell you all that today showed me a different side of Egypt and Egyptians that I had never seen before and it’s one that makes all my previous statements null. I am so happy to be here to witness Egyptians rising up and finding their voice, even if I’m concerned with the change that it may bring.

*I wrote this after returning from the protests on Friday (January 28), but as Mubarak couldn't figure out a way to use the internet to his advantage, our outside communication was halted for nearly a week*

Notice the police standing near the massive group praying  
In order to stop the police from shooting at people close range, motorbikes came to the rescue

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