Friday 28th of January 2011 (Day 3) From my apartment window that over looks one of the main roads of Cairo; it looks like a typical Friday morning. It’s quiet and there are fewer cars on the road than usual, there are hardly any pedestrians. The scene is reminiscent of when the American President, Barak Obama, came to Cairo in his first term to give his famous speech at El Azhar, but the difference is there is tension in the air. If this had been a typical Friday, people would be cooking up a storm, expecting family for lunch after Friday prayers. Today my building is silent and the smell of garlic being cooked is absent, even the elevator is still. My sister, who had arrived the night before from London, wasn’t as aware of the situation as everyone else. My father who usually prefers to be in denial sensed the urgency to get to Alexandria before Friday prayer. By 8:30 am they had left my house and were making their way back to Alexandria.
Today will be a day that will be forever known as ‘Friday Rage’. Hundreds if not thousands of members of the population across the nation had the intention of preparing to go out in to the streets in peaceful protest to have their voices heard that they want serious and drastic changes made in the country and an end to Mubarak’s 30 year reign. Others like myself are being more cautious and are battening down the hatches and making sure they have enough water, and food to last a couple of days incase things should turn ugly. The government has been keeping a close watch people’s post on twitter, facebook and blogs.
Today they have blocked or for a better word, shut down Internet connection, text messages, and instant chat services on mobile phones (Blackberry Messengers and Whatapp), rumor of land lines, cell phone coverage, water and electricity being cut were circulating across the net before it was shut down at around one am. I have had an un-easy feeling about today, since Wednesday, I have instructed a friend of mine who is Canadian and here alone to come and stay with me for the coming few days. I think it would be better for her to be with someone who speaks the language and knows her way around the city and can tell her exactly what is going on and help her if she needs it.
At 9am I lost mobile connection with my family in Alexandria, so for the time being can only communicate by land line. I found out this had happened from my Mom, she called me on my land line to tell me that she couldn’t get through to me. I still had connection, so I called a few friends and got their land lines, so that I could keep in touch with them during the communication black out.
As I sit here writing this by hand as the call for Friday prayer is being echoed across the loud speakers, my heart is racing and the butterflies in my stomach are flying around like angry wasps. I can’t imagine how those going to Tahrir Square feel.
12:55 I’m in my apartment trying to distract myself. My friend and I are trying to watch a movie but I can’t concentrate or follow it. I’m getting very anxious as the silence of the street grows more deafening and with every minute that ticks by I grow more nervous. Being in the midst of communication black out and not knowing what is happening is driving me nuts. 1:00pm God hear my prayer! Please let the people’s voices be heard without any violence targeted at the people marching. May God watch over and protect the Egyptian people, friends and family. From my apartment window, I see out of uniform officers on the street and two large trucks filled with riot police. The street is eerily quiet with only a couple of people driving away from the down town area.
1:35 My only access to the news is what is happening in BBC. From what we have been told Suez have started the protest and so have Alexandrian, but the Alexandrian protesters have been hit with rubber bullets and tear gas.
1:45 I finally fin Al Jazeera on my T.V. and find live coverage of down town Cairo near the museum Cairo Museum where you can clearly see out of uniform police officers with sticks chasing people trying to beat them, smoke from tear gas that had been fired to disperse the crowds. I continue Al Jazeera English to find out Mohamed El Baradei has been detained/arrested. We hear on the news that protesters have reached the presidential palace; I don’t know how true that is because there was no footage to prove it and they couldn’t have gotten too close because the area is heavily guarded. My street is getting restless, riot police are now out of the trucks and lined across the street completely blocking off traffic. Not long after writing this a convoy of green trucks full of riot police were heading in the direction of the presidential palace.
My sister just called on the land line to say that protestors were on their street, (Fouad Street), in Alexandria and the riot police were firing tear gas and rubber bullets which successfully dispersed the crowd….for now.
3:00pm Al Jazeera (English) correspondent, Ayman Mohy El Din was relaying eye witness accounts that he had seen after he and a few of his colleagues had escaped from the mosque where Dr. M El Baradei had gone for Friday prayer. He said after prayers were over and was attempting to leave the mosque; the riot police used tear gas to prevent the worshipers from taking to the street to take part in the protest. To avoid the sting of the tear gas they had to seek refuge in the mosque. Opposition Figure, Ayman Nour had also gone to prayer at the Fatha Mosque and has been hit with a rock to the back of the head and his son and long with a few others had to get him in to a taxi and admit him in to a hospital and is in intensive care.
3:40 My sister calls on the land line and in the background I can hear guns being fired. Protestors have made it past the barricades and riot police are firing tear gas. It’s coming in to the house and stinging their eyes, nostrils and throats. The wind is working against the police and keeps blowing back on them causing them to feel the affects of the tear gas because they aren’t wearing their masks. The police are pucking their guts up on the side of the road.
4:00 (approx) A group of protesters out smart the riot police by coming behind their barricade and out on to the street of Khalifa El Maamoun opposite the National Guard (Haras El Gumhouri). The protesters were chanting and passed by peacefully, police followed them but further down the road we could hear shots of some kind. We hear on the news that the army has no been dispatched and a curfew of 6pm had been put in place
5:40 I spoke to my sister again and she said that the Muhfza (Governers Office Building) has been set a blaze and that the protesters along with the police, (who have joined the protesters) took out the furniture inside the building and have set fire to it. A bus that belonged to the Suez canal was also torched. She said there’s no sign of a fire truck and rumor has it that the fire station is on fire too. In a matter of hours my family have been affected by tear gas, smoke from a burning building and had to stand by helplessly and watch a building that they have seen every day for 20 years go up in flames.
6pm Tanks are in Cairo. Armed forces dispatched to enforce curfew. Hosni Mubarek is expected to address the nation (it’s about bloody time! He should have done that on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning in my opinion) My parent’s building has lost power; it could be due to the fire.
7pm So much for curfew, people are driving around like its a normal Friday night. So, much for implementing a curfew. An hour since the announcement that the President was going to address the nation and there is still no sign of him. Fifteen minutes later, H.Clinton addresses the press and asks that the security forces practice restraint and stop violence. Same goes for protesters and encourages the government to reform. The U.S also asks the government to life the communication ban.
– My sixth sense is working over time and I’m getting a really bad feeling in my gut. I call my parents and tell them to get important documents and valuables together in case they need to flee. I also fear that there are people who will seize the opportunity to loot, break in to shops and houses. I ask them to barricade the door and for Dad to get his shot guns out and load them for protection. (My warning went through one ear and out the other)
8pm Still no word from the president. There are tanks outside my parent’s home. No new footage or live feed since Clinton spoke. I’m starting to worry. In times like these, now news isn’t a good sign. Sounds of ambulances passing and occasional loud booming sounds, but done know where they are coming from or what it is.
9pm 3 hours since we heard Mubarak was going to address the nation and there is still no sighting. He seems to have disappeared along with cell phone coverage and the internet. Now new live feed either.
10pm Still no live feed and no sign of Egypt’s president.
11 pm Finally! Live footage. Oh! Crap, the police have with drawn. I have no idea what is going to happen now, but I don’t think it’s going to be good. I decided to barricade my front door My friend has gone to bed I’m staying up by the phone in case her family calls and I’m keeping the TV on. There is still no sign of the president. With every minute and hour that passes I’m sure he is making everyone really angry. News reports that many influential businessmen have fled the country on a private jet…that doesn’t surprise; I’m surprised they waited till today. I expected them to leave yesterday before the shit hit the fan.
3 am OH CRAP!! I fell asleep and missed the speech. Who address the nation at 12:30am??? Mubarak is refusing to step down; he says change should come from dialogue. So, how do people do that if you shut down communication and imprison people for speaking their mind and against you? We still have no cell phone coverage or net. I smell a rat! The 3 police vans that had bee on my street are no longer there. My street no longer has protection that I can see. That National Guard (military) in front of my house looks abandoned. There are no guards, guarding the entrance. The wind has picked up and is howling in disbelief at Mubarak’s speech. I think Saturday is going to be a very tough and stressful day for many. .