As most of you guys know, there’s a bit of a revolution that is happening in Egypt. Nothing too big, just the ouster of a corrupt president and sweeping change throughout the Middle East. The implications are huge. I couldn’t possibly tell you what Egyptians are feeling or what comes next. I was just a designer there, paid for work with little interest in the society before I got there. However, my lasting image is how brave and strong the people were. I had a direct view of the whole thing.
Inconveniently, or conveniently depending on your prospective, my apartment sat just two blocks away from Tahrir Square. My windows overlooked a small alleyway where protesters would stream in to run from the police. On the first night I missed most of the protests. I had to work and subsequent protests I’d come home late to avoid the chaos. The only hint of anything would be the smell of tear gas in the air and the hundreds of riot police carefully guarding my approach home.
It never really occurred to me that anything would really happen. Protests would start in the morning and end at night. Nothing that would distract me from my work. But then the announcement came that a much larger and fiercer demonstration would happen January 28th. A Friday. My day off. I’d be at home all day to witness it all.
I woke up early that morning knowing full well that I wouldn’t be able to leave the house after 2pm. I got some breakfast and walked around Tahrir. Nothing too out of the ordinary. People were taking a walk and taxis zoomed by. It felt like any other Friday.
By 2pm, the marches started and it was pleasant enough. I saw them peacefully walk by my window and I immediately started questioning whether I took everything too seriously. But then the tear gas started. At first it was every few hours I’d hear them and smell them. But as the day grew longer, the frequency increased. It was at this point I started packing. Rocks were being thrown at my window and I could see people getting angrier and angrier on the street. Outside my window I saw a man hit by tear gas canister, blood gushing out of his head. The viciousness and brutality of the police was shocking. It wasn’t safe for me anymore. I went to sleep that night to the sounds of tear gas and the knowledge that the police had completely left. Lawlessness on the streets.
When I woke up the next morning, I carried all my bags downstairs. I was greeted with a large army tank in front of my building. Windows cracked everywhere and garbage overrunning the streets. Cars were driving on the wrong side of the road and people just stood around, dazed about what had happened to their neighborhood.
I got a taxi to our office and requested I be sent to a hotel until things calmed down. They never really did calm down. My night at the hotel was spent watching buildings burn down. By the next day, my American friends and I decided to leave Cairo permanently. The lack of police and diminishing food and money options left us little choice.
I’ll have create another post about our actual experience leaving the city but I thought this was important to get off my chest. To be honest, it wasn’t all that horrific and I feel more for the Egyptians who now have to deal with the new future and hope everything turns out okay.