Thursday, 10 February 2011

Letter from Cairo 10th February 2011

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Last night, I thought I was losing my momentum and was beginning to despair that there would ever be an outcome of the present uprising in Egypt.  Therefore, I decided today to join the protestors in Liberation Square for a second time.  It was such an amazing experience that I am not sure that I will be able to put it into words.  However, I am going to try.

It took a lot of nerve to find the courage to attend the demonstrations, especially taking into view the two days of terrible violence last week.  However, a couple of deep breaths and two shots of my good friend Johnnie Walker set me on my way.  Attending a demonstration of this kind is not for the faint hearted!

My husband and I decided to walk to the square via Kasr El Nil Bridge and as soon as we started walking on the bridge, following the crowd, there was a feeling of elation which was difficult to understand as we are still at a stalemate with the regime.  But, one thing is sure, there is still a lot of hope for democracy and freedom and these people are not going to give up until they achieve their aims.

We arrived at our particular entrance to the square and were greeted by a number of soldiers who directed the women to enter by the left route and the men by the right one.  I was a little worried that I might lose my husband in the melee but he was waiting for me on the other side.  I had to show my passport and thankfully I had my Egyptian one with me; my bag was searched and I was a little worried that they might confiscate my camera but they did not bat an eyelid. 

We entered the square and the first thing that I noticed was that the dynamics had totally changed since my last visit there.  I had the impression that there was an enormous party going on; there were different platforms with people either singing or leading a chant.  The most popular chant is “El Sha3b yurid escaat el nezam” which, roughly translated, means “The people want the fall of the regime”.  This is a chant that I have heard continually over the last 17 days and it has a distinctive rhythm which has taken me some time to be able to perfect, but today I was ready to join in, in full voice.  However, I must repeat, I was particularly nervous; I had a feeling that I was going to come across a feeling of xenophobia but, au contraire, I was greeted with smiles and was gathered into the bosom of the crowd as I waved my flag in support of the uprising. 

We had a purpose as we moved through the crowd and that was to reach a building in the square on the opposite side of our entrance which is owned by a friend of ours.  After walking very, very slowly, shoulder to shoulder with the thronging mass, we finally reached our destination and, after tight security, managed to enter into the building.  We took the lift to the ninth floor and entered the apartment.  However, before arriving there it began to rain; usually at the first sight of a spot of rain Egyptians run for their burrows but somehow they seemed to greet the rain as a sign of good luck and let out a loud cheer.

When we arrived at said apartment, we were greeted by our friend and a large gathering of journalists, actors, singers and other well-known faces, some of whom were already friends and others who have now become friends.  This apartment is being used as a centre for all sorts of outgoing and incoming information.  The atmosphere there was as electric as the atmosphere in The Square.  One of the journalists, who is a personal friend, yawned continually as she spoke to me and then apologised, saying that she had had very few hours of sleep over the past few days.  Others were sitting with their laptops in various corners of the apartment sending out their news for their various news programmes. 

One day I will give the names of these people and hail them for their heroism in the face of a regime which absolutely did and does not want foreign journalists to report the truth.  This was proved by the number of journalists and reporters who were detained during these 17 days – at least 30 of them.

As we all chatted together and tried to sort out our present world, there was an enormous bang, the windows and doors rattled and we all froze for about ten seconds.  This was it! The army had turned their guns and canons on us and this was the end!  Then we joined in communal laughter – it was an unexpectedly loud clap of thunder.  Just one very violent clap, which was not repeated!  And then, a rainbow appeared!  It was particularly eerie and the timing was perfect.  Again, all the protestors in the square cheered – another sign of good luck?  However, the very fact that we all panicked for a moment was symbolic of the fear in which we still live.

We returned to Zamalek, through the outskirts of  Liberation Square as by now it would have been too difficult to move back through the centre, but the mood was the same, the chants were the same and the euphoria was the same.  All this brought to mind the student protests in Paris in May 1968 when about 800,000 students, teachers and workers marched through the French capital demanding the fall of the government under Charles de Gaulle and protesting at police brutality that had taken place during the riots of the preceding few days.

As I write, I always have an ear tuned to Aljazeera International in the other room.  Suddenly a cheer has gone up from the massive crowd but no one seems to know why.  There has been an announcement that the military council met, in the absence of Mubarak, and it seems that some sort of a decision has been taken.  My guess is that the military have confirmed that they are with the people – which would make a military coup impossible. But a coup of some sort will have to take place. If you think about it, the members of the military will have mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles and possibly children taking part in these demonstrations and they will not want to participate in a decision to turn on them.

There is incredible energy and excitement going on in the square and still no one knows why.

Senior military officials are reported to have said that the demands of the protestors will be met.  The crowd is getting more and more excited and the momentum is incredible.  Breaking news – Hosni Mubarak will step down tonight.  Can this be true?  A moment of panic, though, who will take over?

It now looks like a coup d’├ętat!

Question:  Is the army stepping in to rule the country or to establish a peaceful transition?

This is getting silly!  Now the Prime Minister has said that Muburak is still in power and that no decision as been passed!!  Really I am writing absolutely during a moment in time.

The question is ‘Has people power had its way?’  My God, the situation is so tense and no on really knows what is going on.  I am beside myself!  Tomorrow was supposed to be THE big day but if final decisions are made tonight I will be extremely happy to have taken part in the last day of the revolution.

It is 10 p.m and by now huge floods of people have joined the protestors to wait for the long expected good news; there is an ever more festive atmosphere and an enormous feeling that tonight will be a night of victor.

Mubarak has spoken and the protestors have received the largest slap in the face so far.  Their rage and fury is almost tangible.


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