Friday, August 30, 2013

Letters from Egypt: Burn Egypt Day

This picture was from the presidential elections when the MB claimed that they would set fire to Egypt if Morsi wasn't declared winner; some things never change

Confession: You can call it temporary evacuation, but either way I’m enjoying things outside of Egypt at the moment. And in saying that, I wanted to give a brief update on things still happening.

Today has been dubbed “Burn Egypt Day”. I’m so tired of every Friday having a name. Hey Egypt, can we shake things up a little and go for a Tuesday or something? I probably shouldn’t say that because this will just give them a reason to miss yet another day of work. What I will say, and I could be completely wrong, is that if the past is any indicator – the most destructive days in Egypt were not those that were named beforehand.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Letters from Egypt: Crying for Egypt

An Ikhwan defacing Saint Fatima Church Source: Animal New York

Friday prayer has ended and the anticipation continues to mount with everyone wondering what’s going to be on fire next.

Prior to the prayer, I got out and about to get some last minute supplies. I went to Rd 9 (the expat shopping haven in Maadi) to get some coffee. Next thing I know, everyone starts abruptly leaving as shop and café owners remove patrons from the outside seating. I asked my regular coffee shop what was going on and they said that people were expected to march down Rd 9 from the mosque at the El Maadi metro station (which has always been known to be a staunch Muslim Brotherhood-aligned place). Shop owners all gathered in front of their buildings after securing their property, ready for action as everyone dispersed to return home or somewhere less-likely to have an uproar.

For certain, stay clear of Road 9 and the Al Arab area (about a five minute walk from the Maadi Grand Mall; a medan where most microbus exchanges happen). Other places that have been rumored to have protests (note the keyword: rumored) are Road 77 near Medan Swaris, Riyan mosque and one other mosque that I can't recall at this time all alleged to converge on Medan Horreya.

I want to take a moment to share this article that someone sent me yesterday, “This is what it looks like just before the Muslim Brotherhood jumps you”. The Ikhwan only want international attention on how they have been wronged and serve to plant photos and images to prove just that. They want everyone to think that they are the victims. I want everyone to remember that there was a reason that they were forced underground for so long. I want everyone to know that even Gulf countries (sans Qatar) are not in support of a MB-led regime. That’s right, the Muslim Brotherhood is banned in the UAE and even home of Mecca itself, Saudi Arabia.  

Aymann Ismail detailed his experience in Animal New York, and it is one of the most accurate accounts of what is really happening throughout Egypt. I have to say that I was even a little on edge reading his article wondering if he and I were in the same place on Saturday, August 10. I’m certain had that been me, my outcome would have been far worse than Ismail’s horrific account.

This article discusses how he was first welcomed to take photos, everyone rejoicing that he was snapping them doing something peaceful. However, when he came across something that was not so peaceful, how quickly the crowd turned. As he details getting his camera taken and the amazing feat that he was even remotely able to get it back with photos still intact (thanks Aymann for sharing all of these pictures), it begs to question just how many other people were doing the same, but caught a glimpse of something not-so-pleasing to the MB smoke and mirror campaign and had their cameras stolen and/or all data erased.

Instead the news is being bombarded with the MB spokeswoman that continues to evade questions while repeating the same lines. Did you ever think that the reason there is a woman representing the MB for international media interviews is because they are trying to pretend that they are an equal-opportunity organization instead of the Islamist political dictatorship that refuses to recognize other groups? The Anti-Coup Movement, also affiliated with the MB, carries the same: a female spokesperson.

In addition, when media outlets report the sit-in at Rabaa el Adwaya mosque, it makes it sound like these people are sitting inside praying. Again, read my blog from my Saturday experience, “Don’t Leave Home”. Exercising your right to hold a peaceful demonstration is one thing. The protests have been ongoing for six weeks. When is it legally right in the eyes of the US and others that seem to think they know what’s best for a country to say, “Alright kids, let’s pack it up and move it. You’ve obstructed traffic enough. We heard you, but we’re not going to change it. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”

And yet all the while governments continue condemning Egypt’s interim government and military for taking action against the protestors, including the world’s most defunct organization, the UN. For the Americans, I can come up with a simple analogy. I-10 near a large city like Los Angeles or *insert major roadway here* has been blocked by protestors which includes a carnival set up in the middle of the street resulting in complete blockage. The police enter the scene to disperse the crowd because it is an obstruction which could cause security issues as drivers began to show agitation at the hassle and fights ensue. All of the sudden, a protestor opens fire (and I’m even being kind by making that singular as we all know that it was more than one Ikhwan that opened fire on security forces). In the US, the police have the right to return fire.

So tell me again why Egypt is being condemned for their actions when the interim government has made several attempts to hold peace talks with the MB?

In any case, this is not the Egypt that I want represented to my friends and family. I can’t stress enough how not every Muslim is a supporter of the Ikhwan. I can’t stress enough that in the article from Aymann Ismail, should you choose to click it, he highlights another Muslim walking up to the vandal saying that it wasn’t right to defame a church, “That’s against Islam.” Egypt is different in the sense that it is secular. There are always signs of the crescent moon representing Islam cradling a cross. Don’t be fooled by the media reports that the MB have taken such care to get out to everyone, but also know that not everyone Muslim is bad. That includes even some MB supporters, like my dentist and the man trying to stop the church vandal.

For those of you that live here, have lived here or even those that have been able to visit pre-revolution: if your heart isn’t crying for Egypt right now, it should be.

Source: FB صورة رسمتها احدى البنات فى الصعيد

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Letters from Egypt: State of Emergency Announced

The presidential office has announced a state of emergency starting at 4 pm today and lasting for one month. This will entitle the military to use whatever force necessary to enforce security.

All other reports on the death toll and updates are conflicting. Friends in Heliopolis tell me that everything is pretty quiet (obviously not around Rabaa El Adwaya) with most people indoors. The same is true for Maadi.

There are also reports that a Metro line station in Helwan was hijacked by Morsi-supporters - this is a prime example of someone sending out information before confirming. Therefore, unless you can send pictures or saw it yourself - STOP SPREADING RUMORS. And just to be clear, that report has NOT been confirmed. But I'll let you know if it is.

Letters from Egypt: Déjà Vu

I will update as often as I see necessary with factual accounts. Please do not just take someone’s gossip as fact as it serves to spread unwarranted fear. I will write about things that I see myself or can confirm without a doubt. Also be wary of particular off-beat news sources, so-called message boards and obviously social media. Unless you see it with your own eyes, don’t say it.

I can confirm that in Maadi, there are protests and tire fires in Al Arab (around 11 a.m). All major roads are blocked at the moment - even the driver I set up can't get back to Maadi. This includes the autostrad, corniche, ring road (diety) and in Heliopolis, Merghany St is closed. It isn't just in the direction of downtown or Nasr City - even the corniche is blocked heading toward Helwan. Train lines have been shut down. Businesses are also closed, although I hear cafes are still operating. Your local kiosks should still be running and stock up on any necessities before night just in case.

Al Jazeera has had the same headline when referring to anything Egypt: “Egypt in Turmoil”. It just cycles over and over…and over and over…and over and over again.

With the army currently dispersing Muslim Brotherhood (MB or Ikhwan – do I really need to keep writing this or haven’t you gotten it by now), Morsi supporters are in uproar. You are undoubtedly going to see some gruesome images. And some of you will immediately jump to the conclusion that it is being handled in such a savage way. However, could you imagine a protest in the US blocking off I-10? How about if you had a protest in NYC blocking the FDR or Van Wyck? That’s exactly what the MB has been doing for SIX WEEKS.

In my last blog, I wrote about my own hellacious journey from City Stars in Nasr City to Maadi. Any other major city would have immediately disbanded such obstructions, yet the MB continue to say they are being treated unfairly (with numerous Amnesty International press releases circulating touting the same – makes me question the validity of the organization). If you ask me, they’ve had plenty of time to stage a protest, but people need to get back to work. You want to continue to hang out at the mosque (Rabaa el Adwaya), then by all means, do so. However, don’t block a major intersection/roadway. It’s simple.

So when the army gave them instructions to clear out, they decided to ignore the orders. Thus, military began at 6 am to help them along the way. What did they do? While they were told to clear out the women and children, they kept them in the line of fire trying to get international sympathy. I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t tug on my heart strings. You were warned, you failed to adhere and now you must suffer the consequences. If they really cared for these women and children like they are hoping the international community does, they would have told them to return home.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Letters from Egypt: Don’t Leave Home

A special thanks to the Muslim Brotherhood for blocking one of Cairo's busiest roads
Forget all about Heliopolis. Oh, that’s cute – you really like to shop at City Stars? Yeah, well you can go ahead and chalk those days up to long gone.

What a disaster! So much of a complete catastrophe that I’m even rethinking friendships from anyone that lives in the area. Yes, for all of you (A.M. and D.I. especially) I just want to let you know that it’s been a good run, but unfortunately, our time has come to an end. That is unless you want to visit Maadi. Otherwise, it’s over.

I went to the Intercontinental City Stars to the pool this past Saturday. I negotiated LE 30 for an old model black and white (and in my defense, I didn’t have change) promising that there was no traffic this holiday weekend. There wasn’t. Until after the Arab Contractors building and then – wait for it…wait for it…

The Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood or MB) had carnival-type venders surrounding an inflatable kid bounce house set up IN THE MIDDLE OF THE AUTOSTRAD. How is this remotely allowed? More importantly, why is Amnesty International sending out numerous press releases daily discussing the abuse of the MB members when clearly they are still allowed to conduct such ludicrous protests, aka a state fair or oversize playground, blocking a major roadway?

For those of you that don’t live here, imagine the autostrad as being a major highway or even an interstate. A study released in 2009 (Capacity Analysis of Roads Network at Sheraton Area, Cairo, Egypt) detailed on average that the peak hour volume on the Autostrad in the exact area where the Ikhwan has set up shop to have 2,993 vehicles per hour. That was in 2009, so you can imagine over the past four years that figure has substantially increased.

For those of you that do live here or have in the past, I know you’re thinking: “No problem, just cut over to Salah Salem.” Wrong. Then you will face what I did: the army blockade (Salah Salem is the location of the presidential palace). So unless your driver is from that particular area, chances are he isn’t going to know where to go to get around these obstructions. I got lucky and saw Johnny Carino’s and just asked to be let out with my friend picking me up from there. I paid the taxi LE 38 after I scraped the bottom of my change purse and then it was smooth sailing – or so I thought.

Leaving City Stars, I thought I would get a taxi that would know about the blockades and be able to get around them. Once back on the autostrad, I can direct anyone to my neighborhood. Yeah. Wrong yet again. We drove around trying to get out of Heliopolis for 20+ minutes, then we are headed toward downtown, then somehow end up in Giza, Mohandaseen and back to Giza. The second time around in Giza, I was able to get a glimpse of the other MB protest outside of Cairo University. Funny how these supporters are adversely against eating pork, yet they have no problem living like pigs as the trash was even more overwhelming than the normal filth present throughout this city. Oh, I forgot to mention that the workers from Spinney’s was also outside City Stars protesting God only knows what with a full drum line (unlike the Ikhwan demonstrations, at least thru-traffic was still able to move).

So after an hour and a half, one major car accident, adding another neighborhood of El Menial to my Tour d’Cairo, three different protests and LE 65 later – I finally made it back home.

Many friends, family and blog readers ask me how things are going here. I always say fine because in Maadi, it is. You would have no idea what is going on other than reading my FB friends asking for directions on how to get to their homes in Heliopolis.

I’m forgetting that Heliopolis (and Nasr City/Giza) even exists until this mess is cleaned up. I suggest you do the same.