Filmed in front of the immense concrete block wall that was erected in December during the violence in the area of the Ministry of the Interior. Separating Mohamed Mahmoud street from Tahrir Square the wall was placed as a barrier between protesters accepted territory of the square, acquired after enduring many attacks on them in the space of Tahrir during the spring and summer of 2011. Now relegated by the military authorities (SCAF) and media to be the only legitimate place for demonstration, it no longer has power as a tool for pressuring those in control. This wall sought to create a red line over which Egyptians could not cross, protecting and exempting the Ministry of Interior (as currently they are with the Ministry of Defense in Abbasiya) from attempts by the public to push for credibility, transparency, and reform, demands that have always been core to the revolution from before it even hit the streets. The wall was appropriated by Egyptians, first through graffiti, mural, now thoroughly added to the cultural landscape of the revolution and the ephemeral downtown Cairo.
Another day expressing the beauty of humanity in the center of Cairo, the center of Egypt, the center of the world. I was in Tahrir square for only a moment today, between meetings with colleagues to organize moving forward with our work with refugees, but it was enough to repair the doubts I never had about the soundness and sincerity of this revolution. Walking to the office this morning, the peace, joy and pride was thick in the air and spread across the faces of the people in the street. There was a line to enter Tahrir square in the early afternoon, Egyptians were queuing patiently on the sidewalk for over a block… Egyptians don’t wait in line.
… it was enough to repair the doubts I never had about the soundness and sincerity of this revolution.
While entrepreneurial youth have set up shop inside the mini-city that Tahrir has become, there is still the generous spirit present that have pervaded these demonstrations from the beginning. There is no struggle for resources here. I am struck again with how lucky I am. To have ever come to Egypt in the first place, purely by chance, to have fallen in love with the country and its people, to have kept my relationship with Egypt alive and to have decided only three months ago to come here, now. There is an Egyptian proverb that claims once a person has drunk the water of the Nile, that mother of all rivers, that person will always return again. I am so thankful I drank the water those years ago when I first set foot in this ancient land.
I would not want to be anywhere else on our planet during these times. Long live Egypt!
Today I am confronted by a new Egypt. Perched in my sweet new little room over Bab el Louq market in downtown Cairo, I can hear this new Egypt flowing across the night air in through the two big French doors that open onto my balcony. If I open my shutters and stand there, six stories up in the Cairo sky, I imagine I can almost see the people gathered in Tahrir square.
When my flatmate woke me this morning he told me about the scores of police blocking off our road, in our building, questioning. But it came as no surprise, everyone has been talking about it for days but all say that it won’t amount to much, even still the government will pour the troops out onto the streets just in case, to show their presence and maintain docility.
The first indicator that today was different was when the neighbor, the mother of my flatmate’s childhood best friend, came rushing to tell us to close our windows so the tear gas wouldn’t get in. We were having a day of Spring cleaning in the apartment and all the windows were wide open, very uncharacteristic for a Cairo home. Soon we heard that Tahrir was full of demonstrators and when we climbed out onto the balcony we could hear their chants like a low roar.
My inner rebel was roused, dressing and brushing the dust out of my hair I set out to investigate the scene, camera, passport, and cellphone in hand. I immediately met two of my colleagues and their company emboldened me. After standing in the middle of a major street leading to the square, a street where one normally must calculate crossing traffic like a video game, and examining the approach, we decided to get closer and then entered the protest.
The police in their riot gear had the street blocked off with traffic barriers but were allowing people to pass through with no problems. Inside the atmosphere felt something like a Sunday picnic with political overtones. People not actively demonstrating were sitting in the middle of the main roads to rest and everyone had their cell phones out to reach friends and document the event, seemingly as high a priority as being there in the first place, which is reasonable since in these days a revolution gains ground more in the virtual world than in the real.
There were various groups chanting different slogans and challenges to the president. Over time they seemed to be coming slowly more cohesive and powerful as a result. The crowds surged forward and were driven back, confronting police barricades and storming towards the Parliament building. After the sunset call to prayer rang out across the square there was a lull in the shouts and jeers as hundreds of men and women lined up to pray in the street, bowing their heads to the pavement that meets not reverent human beings but a million car tires on a normal day.
As the city grew dark and the people grew weary the action took on a more determined and serious tone, they were starting to realize that something, yes something was really happening. Stars were emerging, in the heavens and on the ground. There were the young men who climbed the lamp posts to drape Egyptians flags and hold banners high and those who exhibit prowess at leading the cheers, hoisted on the shoulders of their countrymen, spinning ever cleverer slogans against the regime and corruption.
They are still there, the hope growing and filling their hearts and mine as the time passes and commitment to affecting change is born in this populace. I made my way home, having to explain myself at the entrance to my street and beg leave to enter from the head of the policemen. I have now washed the dust and dirt of Tahrir off of me, but I cannot rid myself of this hope, a spark ignited by this day, this new Egypt, these Egyptians who have found something new in themselves. I am so proud today of them, of this country, and I will fall asleep with the same thought as tens of millions of Egyptians tonight… Inshallah.