Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Letters from Egypt: Gas Update, Pushing Up Protests

For anyone that missed last night’s blog, please make sure to read it in response to the gas shortage in Cairo. And no, a miracle did not happen.

I took this picture this morning on my way into the office. If you notice, the Shell gas station is past the set of buildings in the top left corner of the photo. My taxi will likely finish his gas today. He woke up this morning at 2 am, but was still unable to get gas. At 7:30 am, he still had half a tank and even I am only using him when it is absolutely necessary with plans to just walk to my office tomorrow. Luckily for me, my office is not too far from home – it’s just the heavy bags and uphill journey coupled with the heat but it could be worse.

The country’s Minister of Petroleum said that Egypt did not have a fuel shortage claiming that the long queues outside stations were a result of rumors forcing individuals to “hoard petrol products.” There is some truth to that, if I’m speaking honestly. My driver told me how he received a phone call from a well-connected Egyptian yesterday who asked if he needed gas. When Ramy told him yes, the man instructed him to head to Gezirah Street in Maadi. Ramy said it took about 15 minutes for him to fuel up and everything was done under the table.

While people fear the worst and some of the problems can be attributed to hoarding, it isn’t the entire truth as the country has faced fuel shortages for over a year now. Turkish news agency Anadolu quoted the ministry as saying that Egypt’s strategic reserves of three vital fuel products would run out by the end of June (although I have yet to understand why an Egyptian newspaper, Al Ahram, would quote a Turkish news source on an Egyptian matter in “Egypt Officials Attribute Fuel Shortage to Hoarding, Smuggling”).

I traveled to Hurghada, a Red Sea resort town about 4.5 hours outside of Cairo, a couple of weeks ago for a long weekend. We left the resort at 7 am on Sunday, June 16 to pass three gas stations in the area that didn’t have fuel. We ended up just driving to El Gouna (40 minutes outside of Hurghada on the way back to Cairo) to refuel. Had we not gotten gas there, we would have been stuck waiting for the shipment to arrive.

Obviously you can imagine how protests scheduled for the weekend might be pushed up a day or two in advance. Facebook chatter had one Egyptian female saying, “Everybody is going tomorrow [Thursday, June 26] to Tahrir, is there any news about changing the plan? 30 June will be too late I think!!” Someone responded that it was true, marches would take place to Tahrir although that seems like it will only counter the more organized plans of June 30.

FYI for those in Maadi, June 30 Plans:
People will begin to gather in Medan Victoria (at Ace Club and Kimo Market) at 5 pm with marching through Maadi set to begin at 6 pm not to exceed 3 km. By 8 pm, regroup at Medan Victoria and individuals will decide if they will stay in the Medan, home or Tahrir/Etihadeya. Source: June 30 in Maadi


  1. We are having the same problems in Sharm as well. I queue up early in the morning also waiting for Petrol. I only drive to places out of necessity these days. I shop at the more expensive places that are closer to home just so I don't have to use so much petrol. I just hope that whatever is going to happen, happens soon and finishes soon as this is past ridiculous.

    1. Hey hey - good to hear from you. Keep me updated and you stay safe this weekend.