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After a fun afternoon at a friend’s daughter’s birthday party, I agreed to join a couple of other friends to a late viewing of the recently released movie Argo, staring Ben Affleck, John Goodman and many other famous Hollywood names. The film is about the revolution in Iran and the American Embassy hostages that were held captive for over 400 days! The film mainly focuses on the 6 American Embassy employees who were able to escape the building by the skin of their teeth and sought refuge at the Canadian Ambassador’s residence until help came.

The opening scene with the protestors outside the American Embassy in Tehran not only sent chills down my spine but it shared an eerie resemblance to what is taking place presently in Egypt. The chanting of the angry mob and their determination reminded me of how easily influenced people can be and how quickly things can escalate and get out of control as it has done here in Egypt a few times over the past two years.

The movie struck a deep nerve with me. Egypt is literally teetering on the edge of heading in that direction. We are in a very tough and extremely delicate situation. Believe it or not, I saw it coming a mile away and when I spoke of it years ago. People laughed at me and said; ‘Egypt will never end up like Iran, because Mubarak will always be in power and won’t allow the Muslim Brotherhood to take over, he has them suppressed, so, don’t worry about it.” I was just a young teenager back then, studying business, what did I know of politics and the world?

Famous last words? Mubarak is gone and the Muslim Brotherhood IS in power. After seeing the movie it helped me understand an incident that happened to a friend of mine before the presidential elections took place. He was abroad and he met an Iranian, when the man found out that he was Egyptian, he dropped to his knees and begged him to tell his Egyptian country men and women not to make the same mistake Iran made, because once the extremists get into office they are very hard to get out.

Here we are, in that very position…

We are up against a strong, well-organized group of people, who have been planning for this very moment for decades. To have them step down or remove them from their positions is going to take a very well planned and thought out strategy, because they will not go without a fight. They had been suppressed and oppressed for so long that they will do everything in their power to not be put back into their box.

So my question is….. Do we have a plan?

Let us not repeat our own history! We forced Mubarak to step down but we didn’t have a plan to put in place once he did and because we weren’t ready and the MB knew it, they snuck in very easily and hijacked the movement and got into office. The vicious cycle will keep repeating itself unless there is a P.L.A.N of action!

I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want to end up like Iran or Afghanistan …

So let’s get it right this time.

 

On A side note, I highly recommend that you go and watch the movie, especially if you are Egyptian living in Egypt. On a second note, I really hope Argo wins the Oscar this year.

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Sit or stand and rise to the occasion

Sit or stand and rise to the occasion

We are all faced with situations at some time or other. There are times when we choose not to rise to the occasion and to let things slide or sort themselves out. I believe in my heart of hearts that 2011 has been a wake-up call to many of us. Especially those who have always chosen to be bystanders. This year I believe many of us have not only risen and stood up for our beliefs and rights as a nation but we have done so on an individual level too.

We have had to deal with situations and circumstances that we never thought or dreamed of occurring. The bombing of the Church in Alexandria on New Year’s Eve, was a trigger of a series of events. The explosion blew off the blinds that had been pulled over eyes to the growing conflict of Muslims and Christians in the country. Many people prior to the explosion lived in the past, where at one time religion was regarded as a private and personal topic that should not be discussed or questioned. As a woman who has parents of two different faiths, I still believe that a person’s faith is their business and no-one else’s, but as the ‘Wahhabi’ traditions continue to migrate westward to northern Africa, particularly Egypt, our culture is evolving before our very eyes and is continuing to influence people’s ideas, thoughts and practices. Which I believe is infecting the minds of many especially those who are not as well-educated or are below poverty level.

A couple of weeks after the Egyptian people erupted like a volcano that had lain dormant for decades. After the uprising in Tunisia, they smelt the winds of change and decided that they too should be shed of the shackles that had held them down and the muzzles that had been keeping them silent. The 18 days that followed were very scary and dark days, but the people stood up and showed that even in the face of danger they could rise to the occasion and face what was to come and what was meant to be. The world watched and held its breath as the reign of one of the longest-serving presidents in the region came to an end and then there was Libya, Bahrain, Yemen…and now America

I think the countries that stood out the most in my mind were Japan after the Tsunami and Earthquake hit the country in early March of this year. After a devastating force ripped through the nation and left devastated nation behind, I do not know if I could have found the will to pick myself up and try to rebuild the country after witnessing something of that magnitude. They are to be commended and held in the highest regard. I have never been a fan of ‘Libya’ and I think that my lack of interest in the country and its people was caused by its former leader, but hearing and following the harrowing accounts that came from the people on twitter and their determination to break free from the iron fisted tyrant who ruled its people through fear was not only brave but inspiring.

2011 seems to have been a year of not only a rude awakening but a year of reckoning for some.  In addition to that, I also believe it has been the year where voices have been granted to those who felt they had no voice and a restoration to those who had been muffled or silenced for their ideas and opinions.

In the post Mubarak era a new chapter in Egypt’s long history is beginning. This past November a parliamentary election was held and many of those who ran had probably never thought of a life in politics before. I was not only a witness to the event but a participant too. For the first time in the 20 years I lived here, I stood among my country men and women and cast my vote and voiced my opinion as to whom I would like to represent me. I was amazed at the people’s resilience to stand for hours in the rain awaiting their turn. Old men and women who could barely stand or walk, would be helped in to the poll stations on the arms of strangers or carried in on chairs, just so that they could have a say. It was beyond moving!

Now we are faced with another challenge, which direction will the country go in? Will the adrenaline that the nation was injected with almost a year ago ware off and allow the nation to be run by conservative and closed-minded thinkers? Or will the liberals take a leap of faith and venture beyond the borders of their comfort zone and tear a page out of the Muslim Brotherhoods book, become more organized, proactive and get their hands dirty by going in to the more rural neighborhoods and making themselves known to try to counter act the decades of seeds that were planted years ago in the people’s minds? Will the liberals rise?

I hope they will…

On a personal level, I never thought that I could be pushed or be challenged the way I have been this year. I had the choice to go back to Alexandria and be with my family just hours before the chaos of January 28th began, but I chose to stay in Cairo for a couple of reasons. One was, I had a very close and dear friend of mine who would have been in Heliopolis on her own and I didn’t want to leave her during such a dangerous and unpredictable time in a country that was not hers and where she didn’t speak the language. A small part of me also wanted to believe that things wouldn’t escalate. Thirdly, if I am going to be honest, I subconsciously wanted to know how much I could endure before I would seek the shelter and comfort of my parents’ home, while, a BIG part of me longed to be with them, in their warm embrace where I felt safe. I simply needed to know and discover what I was made of. My father whom I love dearly, has cast a very thick protective cloak over my sister and I and I needed to know my true inner strength.

I rose to the occasion and I did face danger head on but it did take a toll on my mind and my physical wellbeing. I lost days’ worth of rest and sleep worrying, thinking, and recording the events. My main concern was getting my friend home to her family safely and then home to mine. During the days of duress, I learned a great deal about myself and what I am capable of. I am a lot tougher than I look and by God could I stand my ground if I needed to.

Once the uprising had passed and the President stepped down, I had to find a way to push the memories and events behind me to complete my Masters. The mind is an incredible thing; it is our best shield and weapon I believe. It can tune out and tune in on command. I was able to tune out long enough to finish my Masters and graduate.

After graduation, the events of the past few months and my true state of being came over me like a tidal wave… I had a lot of baggage that needed to be sorted through and a lot of releasing and making peace to do to. I am in a much better place than I was in May, but I still have a lot of ‘cleaning house’ to do.

I took a leap of faith and decided to accept a more challenging job in the field of education as well as in a more international environment. I had my doubts about my capabilities and how I would fit in, there are times when I still have my doubts and question whether the move was a worthwhile one or not, but I believe that I have risen to the challenge. It hasn’t been easy sailing, it has taken a great deal of adjusting, patience and learning and there has been a great deal of struggling. A month after starting my new job, my mother had hip replacement surgery and my poor father was left to care for her himself, I couldn’t leave my father to deal with it on his own, so I would travel back and forth every weekend so that he could get 2 nights of uninterrupted sleep, while I took over for the time I was there. It was very draining and tiring but I would not and could not, not be there for my family. In the beginning  I felt as though I was drowning and doubted that I would make it through the three-month probation period for new hires, it’s now December and I am still there and still standing. I think that I have proven to myself once more that I am capable of much more than I like to give myself credit for.

After four years of being a wall flower and maintaining my ‘single status’, I got back in to the dating game. I felt like a fish out of water, but the person whom I was seeing put me at ease and made it seem very natural. Unfortunately the relationship was not destined to last long; it ended before it had really begun. Breakups of any kind are never easy and it can sting especially when the person you were with moves on and has found happiness with someone else and you are left waiting for your turn to come again. Usually I would crawl back in to my hollow and hibernate for months on end until I am numb and can no longer feel the painful disappointment, but I have decided to be more outgoing and social. Why should I choose to mope and wallow in misery and self-pity when I could be out living, being proactive and being positive ?!

We have risen; I have risen, have you? Will you?

Former President Hosni Mubarek in the cage

History was made today in Egypt, when Mubarak, the former Egyptian president actually appeared in court in a white jump suite lying down on a hospital bed with an I.V. in his arm, (contents of IV are unknown). He appeared in court along with his two son and other accused. One of whom was the former minister of Interior and security Habeeb El Adly (who is already serving 12 years sentence for corruption and could be facing the death penalty if found guilty of having a hand in the murder of the victims of the uprising for allowing the security forces to use weapons and live ammunition).
Lawyers from both sides took turns speaking in to their microphone, declaring whom they represent and what requests they would like the judge to consider during the trial. For the prosecution there were over 130 lawyers, many of whom were not permitted to enter the courtroom. Most of who represent the people and the families of the martyrs from many different governates in Egypt.
The lawyers when speaking were reciting verses of the Holy Quraan and would harp on and use fancy words and phrases, which the judge didn’t care for and insisted that the lawyers got straight to the point. At times the circus of lawyers fighting for the right and time to speak in to the microphone looked like a classroom scene where eager students were trying to answer questions to impress their teacher. At one point in time the judge insisted all the lawyers be seated and come up to the microphone one at a time in an orderly fashion. There were a few lawyers who stood out, some demanded that Gen. Tantawi be brought testify as well as Anan former Vice President Omar Soleiman. Another brought charges against the phone networks Mobinil, Vodafone and Etisalat for cutting phone lines, one lawyer pulled out and ink pad and demanded the finger prints of the former president and his sons to open a criminal file against them. The lawyer that stood out the most was the one who wanted a DNA test because he believed that the man in the cage wasn’t Hosni Mubarak but an imposter who has been posing as him since 2004, because he believes the real Hosni Mubarak is dead.
The momentous moment for me was hearing the Prosecutor read the charges against the defendants gave me chills. To see the country’s former giants in a cage in a courtroom in jump suits hearing the charges brought against them was surreal. Never did anyone in this nation think they would see the day when a former leader and his crony’s being brought to justice. Mubarak’s sons who remained standing beside their father’s bed blocking the cameras from getting a clear shot of their father were chocked up and emotional when they heard the charges against them being read.
When the judge (Rifaat) asked for the defendants to show themselves and prove that they are present and asked them how they plea to the charges that were read and brought against them and hearing their answers of ‘not guilty’ to me was a moment to remember. I didn’t think that I would ever live to see a trial of this magnitude or significance take place in Egypt.

I am glad that the Judge has split the cases, Mubarak and sons will be tried separately from Adly and his aids. Adly and aid’s case will resume tomorrow, August 4th and the Mubarak’s case will be brought back on August 15th.
Mubarak has been ordered to be held at a hospital on the outskirts of Cairo, on the Cairo Ismalia road. I know that many people felt sorry for Mubarak and believed him to be seriously ill. I am skeptical and think it’s part of an act. I do however admire his sons standing by his side and trying to block camera’s view and showed unity, (that doesnt change what I think of them though).
We have to wait and see what will happen until then…. Never the less it’s all history in the making and possibly a significant step towards true democracy.

Monday 6th of February 2011

I am so excited! I am finally going to see my family. I have been thinking of every possible way to get to them ever since my friend was evacuated. The railway lines have stopped working and the roads out of Cairo had been closed too. The airport is over crowded with people trying to leave the country and there’s a strong possibility that their aren’t any flights.

I had done most of my packing last night but there are still a few items that I need to put in the put in the bag, but I have to wait for Meeza to wake up.

I am feeling very torn. I have formed a close bond with my host, (No….that’s not right), my surrogate family and I don’t want to leave them. I have enjoyed my time here with them, gotten to know them more and feel like I’m apart of the family. I dread to think what state I would be in, if I hadn’t come to stay with them and decided to tough it out on my own. Without their company, I’m sure I would have reached some level of insanity. Becs family will always have a special place in my heart for opening their home to me.

Bec’s Mum insists that I share breakfast with her. I’m not really hungry and I have been working exceptionally hard at reaching a target weight for my sister’s wedding in April, (Operation Megan Fox). I know it’s a silly thing to be worrying about in times like these, but God willing if all goes well, her wedding will proceed as scheduled and I won’t hate myself for not looking my best and being fit for the special occasion. So, I am adamant that I am going to remain focused on eating lots of fruits and vegetables, grilled meats and drink an excessive amount of water, Revolution or not! (would this make me stubborn or very determined?)

At around 11am my father arrives, I am so glad to see him. I waste no time in embracing him at the door and kissing his cheeks. I notice that he looks tired but a wave of relief washes over his face when he sees me. My father and I don’t see eye to ey very often and with us being stubborn and control freaks, we often but heads and clash, but with that put a side, he is my Dad, I love him to pieces and I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see him.

My Dad comes in to the house for no longer than twenty minutes. We can’t delay our departure due to heavy traffic caused by blocked off roads and protests. We also have to be back in Alexandria before curfew time. My Dad thanks Bec’s parents and as a small gesture of my families appreciation and gratitude for all they have done for me he gives them a bottle of Whiskey and a big box of sweet dates. I in turn hug both Bec’s parents and thank them and promise to come and see them as soon as I am back and settled again.

As soon as we are in the car we have to make a stop at my house to pay the landlord the rent and so that I can drop some unwanted items and collect more clothes (who knows how long the current situation is going to last).

As we approach my street, which is a big military area, I notice a crowd of twenty or more people near the Military Hotel, Triumph. I wonder what they are all doing sitting around staring at the Military compound’s huge metal gates. My father must have caught my gaze or read my mind and informs me that the people are waiting to see their loved ones that had been recaptured by neighborhood watch and military me as they were trying to loot the nearby areas. Upon hearing this slightly disturbing piece of information, I couldn’t help but feel relieved that I had followed my instincts and made the decision to go and stay with Bec’s and his family. The thought of having the escapees that have been causing fear and havoc in the city held across the street from my building, was not in the least bit comforting.

As soon as the car came to a halt, I waste no time in going in to my building and up to my apartment to leave an un-needed bag and gather some other belongings. I am whirling around the place like the Tazmanian Devil from the famous Warner Brother’s Cartoons. I am trying to be as quick as possible so that the echos of the last night spent in the apartment don’t come back to me. The feeling of being in my flat is an odd one. It is familiar and yet alien at the same time. ‘I hope to see you again soon’ I say to it before I close the door and lock it before taking the elevator back down to rejoin my father and the hired driver to head back to Alexandria.

During the drive out of the city my father ask me questions about the safety situation in Heliopolis, the sight of the barbed wires across the street and the tanks pointing outwards to wards the road. He tells me of events and situations that have taken place in Alexandria. That with in the first two days after the prisoners escaped from prison, the people guarding our street caught fourteen ‘baltageya’ (thugs/looters). He told me that other areas of Alexandria are experiencing much worse and that I know for a fact. My friend Shamel has been calling me daily telling me about his nightly watch and the amount of firing and killing that had been going on. Although I am living it, hearing it and experiencing it, my mind still has a difficult time accepting and believing that this is happening to us here in Egypt. It just boggles my mind! How did things spiral out of control so quickly? What lies ahead for all of us? Is it going to get worse? Will things ever get better? It is hard to tell…

At the Cairo toll gate leading to the desert road armored vehicles stand guard with their guns pointed at the center of the road. By the wayside, stolen, crashed and torched cars had been confiscated ownerless as you pass by the toll gate. For the past week we have been hearing horror stories of people’s cars being run off the road, cars being hijacked, robberies, rapes and killings along the desert road. On all the occasions I have driven back and forth on this road, I have never been so alert and watchful of every movement, car and person.

To stop at a rest house to use the toilet, gas up or buy something to eat is too risky and dangerous. Some of the escaped convicts are still on the loose and nobody wants to take any chances. The busy rest stops are empty, which is a strange sight because they are usually bursting at the seams with business, but now only the gas stations have clients. My father told me that he had stopped at one of the gas stations on the way and when he entered to building the owner was sat with a machine gun and bullets across his chest, the smell of freshly baked fiteer was absent in the air and the bustling of the waiters bringing the customers no longer existed.

We finally reach Alexandria after a two and a half hour drive, the security at the toll gate is more intense that the Cairo toll gate. There are more cars and the traffic is worse. Getting to the city is difficult, there is a hold up of some kind. We find out that the congestion is caused by a bus accident and large puddles of water.

As we pass by Carrefour City Center (a big shopping complex) there dozens of confiscated stolen cars parked on the side as you pass the shopping area. There are huge tanks and armoured vehicles positioned there too.

After two weeks of wanting to be with my family and a two and a half hour drive, I am finally home. I take my bags out of the car, get in to the elevator and press the button. The ride up seems to take longer than usual. “Hurry up!! I want to hug my Mum and sister!” As I finally reach my floor, I can see my mother’s silhouette through the glass with her arms spread wide ready to embrace me as I step out. I yank out the bags and drop them at her feet and just squeeze her tightly, while breathing in her motherly scent. There is nothing as warm or comforting as a mother’s embrace.

As I walk over the threshold of the apartment, my sister comes to greet me in the foyer of the apartment and we hug.  It is so good to be home and with family. They look well but tired from all the stress and constant worrying about their safety, the state of the country and me. At least now, they have one less thing to worry about. I am here, safe and sound with them.

We retire to the sitting room and talk for hours while pausing mid conversation every so often to hear the latest news up dates.

By 9pm I can no longer keep my yes open and got to bed.

I am home at last.

It has been almost a month since I last posted something on my blog. It isn’t due to lack of interest or something to say…it’s due to over saturation of events past and present that are preventing me from expressing myself clearly. I have tried to sit down many times to continue typing up and posting my Diary entries during the 18 days of the revolution, but reliving it whilst still going through the post revolution events was getting to be too much for my mind and my emotions to handle. To add to the turmoil neighboring countries to Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Bahrain …etc are going through similar if not worse circumstances and to relive the past with the present became too much for me to cope with.

Messages from Family members, friends and readers whom have been reading the entries and following me on twitter have encouraged me to keep writing and posting. They say that my entries paint a clear picture for them from a person who is actually living in the country. So, I will try to work through the daily distractions of current events here and in the neighboring countries to get my story written and posted.

God Bless

Diary Entry 7
Thursday 3rd of February 2011

I wake up early and stare up at the ceiling in bed for a while before I get up. I try to leave the room as quietly as I can so that I don’t wake Meeza. I grab my phone and my diary and sit in the sitting room crossed legged on the couch in my PJs writing in my diary as well as typing another entry to post up on my blog on my lap top, while I follow tweets on twitter on my phone. (Multi tasking at it’s best!)

Over the course of the past few days I feel as though the country and its people have awakened from a long sleep. The Spirit and the pride of our Great Ancestors that seemed to have died after the 6 day war has been reborn and re-ignited in not just Egyptians in Egypt, but around the world. It’s as though the shades of 30 years have been lifted and everyone is seeing how deprived they have been of their basic human rights and the possibilities and potential that could be theirs if they call out and march for it.

In such a short time, the seed of rift and segregation that had been growing over decades had been ripped out of the ground. Muslim’s and Christians, Rich, Educated and Poor have been standing shoulder to shoulder, side by side day in and day out as one force, united for the first time in a long time.
The Muslim vs Christian paranoia almost seems to have evaporated as they stand side by side protecting themselves and each other from the attacks and blows that the Mubarak supporter are landing on protesters.

Bec’s wakes up and find me sitting deeply engrossed in my typing. He invites me to move to his room to continue working. I pick up my belonging and move to his room, claiming a place on the floor near an electric outlet. I get comfortable and resume typing while Bec’s busies himself with editing his photos taken at Tahrir. (I will ask him if I may post the link to his photos)
Bec’s father bursts in to the room urging Bec’s not to go to Tahrir today, he’d just seen and heard on BBC Arabic that the area in Tahrir was now occupied by the Muslim Brotherhood and that the President of Iran spoke and supported Egypt’s revolution.
My heart sank in to the pit of my stomach. Is this how it ends? Will this country of passion, history and potential fall and follow in the foot steps of Iran?
I call my mother and my friend Heba and tell them what had been relayed to me.
My mother exhales deeply and says,’ If that is what is going to happen then we have no choice but to leave. We can’t stay if it turns in to a state like an Iran’ She closes with me and goes to watch the news.
I tell Heba the same info and her response is ‘Oh boy…”

I left my laptop to go and listen to the news myself with my phone in hand (it goes everywhere with me) and yes…that is what the media was saying. For the first time since all this has happened all I want is to stuff face with comfort food, the craving for chocolate is at an all time peak! I resist … for now.
My mother calls back and says she’s been flipping through the channels and none of the English news stations have been reporting that… could this be a propaganda move?, an attempt to cause chaos and panic perhaps? The only thing we can do is watch and wait.
After hours of watching the news, typing and editing we both need a break. We decided to take yet another walk in to Korba. The scene is a little different today, it’s business as usual (some what). The hairdressers is open and taking clients up-until 2pm, cafes are open but not working in full capacity, but that doesn’t matter people are still willing to stand in line to sit in a café for a few hours rather than in front of a T.V waiting for the inevitable.

While we are there, Heba calls to say that she’s in the area. We meet up outside a very locked up Vodafone. Heba and I go in to Cilantro Cafe, while we wait for Becs to come back from the bicycle repair shop to exchange the tube we had bought yesterday for his busted tire. We sit and talk about how things are going politically and what direction we think it’s going in. Becs comes back and joins us and as do a few other friends of ours. We huddle around a small table as, Heba a relative of one of the leading oppositions leaders and a big supporters of his. She tells us about her experience on Friday when she accompanied her relative on the 28th for Friday prayer, he wasn’t allowed in to the Mosque and prayed outside in the street along with many others. Heba and her relative’s wife stand back and the riot police inch forward encircling them almost boxing them in. They push them down hard off of the pavement in the back. As soon as Friday prayer is over, tear gas is fired in to the crowd for them to disperse. Her relative is ambushed and they have no idea where he was or where he had been taken until much later. He had been held in the mosque along with the Middle East’s newest heart-throb, Al Jazeera’s news correspondent, Ayman Mohydin.
Reports of reporters being detained or arrested under the emergency law are flooding twitter along with many other protesters! OUTRAGE!!!

My friend in Alexandria calls me to ask how the night was in Cairo last night. I tell him that it was quiet. He informs me that his night was far from quiet. He had a full scale shoot out right outside his building from 3am to 7am. He sounded exhausted and his moral was low. He told me that thugs (looters or theives) were armed with machine guns. The neighborhood were no match for them but luckily the army took action and returned fire. 4 of the intruders were killed, a couple captured and the rest retreated.
A very tall, handsome and strapping UN judge came and joined us, he brought an interesting new insight on to what could happen if the President was to step down and leave the country. When he spoke he reminded me of a University professor commanding his student’s attention.
Closing time came too soon, we bid everyone farewell and stay safe before we went on our way. Before we continue on our way home, we stop and by two more boxes of cake mix. (I think I have turned Becs in to a Betty Crocker backing monster!)
He was so inspiring that when we got home Becs told his parent’s that he was going to go to Tahrir tomorrow and that was that! I really want to accompany him, but I know if I go and if the battles between the protesters and the pro Mubarak mob continue and something happens to me, I would never be able to forgive myself.

Tomorrow is another day, tomorrow is ‘Departure Friday’

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. .

As I mentioned in my previous post, there is too much going on for me to go in to great detail, so I am posting the e-mails that I am sending to family and friends abroad with the summary of what is going on.

If you want to follow-up to the minute updates, i suggest you get on to twitter or get an account. To follow the events of what is going on in Egypt, do a search for Jan25, it will give you all the latest updates of what is going on, on the ground, pictures, web sites to see videos. Please retweet information that is confirmed and reliable for people on the ground.

I have been following reporter ianinegypt and benwedemen from CNN on twitter, they are very reliable.

There is a very high possibility that lines of communication will be cut, facebook, twitter, Blackberry messenger, phone lines and internet maybe down. If you hear nothing from Egypt tomorrow, the action will speak for itself.

Last night was a long night in Cairo and Egypt.
Protests across the nation took place.
In Cairo there were several protests in different places.
In comparison to Tuesday, Wednesday was a louder cry and the police
were a lot tougher than they were before.
As one CNN reporter said, ‘NO RESTRAINT’ was being used.
100s of protesters were detained and some are still missing. 6 deaths in total.
The area that was the worst was Suez. It got out of control, police
station was burned as well as another government building.

Thursday (today) has been a quiet day, thus far.
People took the day to sleep, rest and stock up on supplies.

Others have purchased another mobile line, bought extra phone
batteries, gas masks and a few other necessities.
Instruction on putting a locator (GPS) on your phone, so that your
family and friends know where you are at all times have been
circulating in case of being arrested, so that people know where you are being held.
Other instructions are how to behave during the march.

A warning went out earlier this morning that Blackberry messenger
would be suspended, and this came true not too long ago.
Twitter is also down at the moment. Facebook is down.

*Blackberry Messenger and twitter are back up and running on Blackberrys. (for now)

Mohamed El Baradei is returning from Europe today, to join the
Egyptian people in the March scheduled after Friday Prayers tomorrow
at around 1pm Cairo local time.

Another strong rumour circulating is that shops have been instructed
to close tomorrow and mosques have been told/warned to suspend
Friday prayers. I have just come back from getting some extra
groceries, just in case the rumour is true. I will go out and get
batteries, candles, flash light and a box of water shortly.
(I could be over doing it, but I’d rather be prepared). All of this
brings back memories of drills in Saudi Arabia during the 1st Gulf
War.

I am expecting more actions will be taken to limit civilians
communication with one another.

Everyone is being encouraged to take part in the march. I would love
to join, but I know my parents would be worrying themselves in to an
early grave and it just isn’t worth it.
Secondly…with the way things are currently going in Suez, I suspect
things might turn ugly here. I’d rather be some where away from tear
gas, bullets and the risk of being beaten.
From here, I can communicate with people inside and outside of the country.

I will try to keep you all updated on my well-being 

Much love,

Reflecting on what has happened to EGC

The news of the historic school EGC being turned in to an ‘Experimental’ school came as a shock to not only the families, students and staff working at the school but to Alexandrians. No one is clear why the Minister of Education came to make such a rash decision as such. The rumor going around the city is that the accountant(s) and the board of governors have swindled the money from the amalgamated trust fund that had been set up for three English schools of Alexandria.  The English Girls School, (E.G.C, which Queen Sophia attended) and the British Boys School, (E.B.S) and the famous institution Victoria College (where King Hussein and Egyptian actor Omar Sherif attended)
Since my last post, I have heard through the grape-vine that all the teachers who previously had worked there have been dismissed, which is just wonderful because now the rate of unemployment is going to go up. The new administration locked out the students who had been attending the school, to teach them a lesson. The lesson that they are meant to learn from being locked out in the street is not to go against the Minister’s decision and protesting will not be tolerated.
So, now you have teachers out of work and hundreds of kids out of school! If these students are not permitted to re-enter the school, a bidding war may ensue. Schools unaffected by the decree will probably enroll the exiled students to the parents who are willing to pay the highest registration fees. The families of which these students come from are not from the rich class, they are from working class/middle class families that can not afford the International School fees.

The rumor circulating at the moment is that the newly in placed ‘Experimental’ schools are charging a tuition fee as low as 1000LE (which is approx 175$ or 112 Sterling Pounds) which means any Tom, Dick or Harry can put their child in that school. If that is the correct sum of which the schools is asking for, can someone explain how the maintenance of the structure will be kept, how much are they paying the cleaning staff, newly appointed teachers and administration? The historical building will be in ruins in less than 5 years time. Let me not even think of what the quality of education will be. It was bad before the decision was made, but I don’t think there will be any words to describe the quality that is to follow.

As an educator, I can’t even begin to fathom the trauma and stress the teachers and the students are going through and just a month or two before they are to sit their mid year exams? How could anyone of them even contemplate opening a book to study or revise the subjects, when their school as been snatched right from under their feet.
Could the ‘Minister of Education’ not have waited till the end of the academic year, so that the student’s academics wouldn’t have been disrupted and it would have also given the parents and the students the opportunity to look and enroll in other schools for the following year? That is if they would have been given fair warning.

No matter what angle you look at the situation, it could definitely have been handled with more decorum and sensitivity towards the teachers and the students.
I was browsing the net, trying to find updates on the situation and I came across a blog written by an Alexandrian and former student. In her blog she mentioned that the minister had accused the students of the schools to be from ‘riche well to do’ families. I don’t know who his sources are but the students who are attending the government controlled school are middle class citizens. If they were from the crème de la crème of Egyptian Society they would probably be in private or International Schools.

http://egyptianchronicles.blogspot.com/2010/12/can-egyptian-people-be-like-egc-girls.html

Which leads me to a hovering question, could this possibly be an act towards eradicating what is left of Alexandria’s Middle working class families?

If, I was a minister of education, MY sole concern would be the welfare of the students. I can’t help but think, what will become of the students who are due to sit Aadadeya, Sanaweya Aamah (Government Exams students sit in Grades 5, 11 and 12) and IGCSEs? Will they have to lose and entire year before they can sit the exams? If that is the way it is meant to be, then it is in my humble opinion, that the actions taken are education sacrilege and irresponsible, as well as an insult to the art and institution of what education stands for, (but that is just me).

What can be done to save the school? Would declare the building a National Land mark or heritage site work (or is that only taken seriously in the western world?) Would raising funds to buy the school back from the government be another option? Have International Media Coverage to add pressure to the Ministry? Can you repeal a minister’s decision? Will there be more schools to fall victim to the same fate?

 Brief history of E.G.C

http://baheyeldin.com/places/egypt/e-g-c/e-g-c-english-girls-college-or-el-nasr-chatby-college.html

1- EGC – Yehia GABR presents the EGC, Alexandria – the finest school in the world
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4x4v9XCi2w

2- video clips about the protests
http://www.masry-now.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1115%3A-qq-q-qq&catid=51&Itemid=162

3- ‘we are not experimental’ (E.B.S – E.G.C) facebook group
 
http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=lf#!/pages/ahna-msh-tjrybyh-EBS-EGC/171491752889818?v=wall

The eve of December 27th, my mother was aimlessly checking her facebook news feed when she noticed that many of the people on her list had statuses pertaining to the historical schools of Alexandria. She called me over to read what had been written and to our shock, the Egyptian Minister of Education had changed the schools in to ‘experimental’ schools and he had also changed both school names. Current and former students of the school were furious that such a decision had been made. To make matters even more distasteful, the governing staff of the school didn’t inform the parents ahead of time that such a change was being made. The student’s found out after they had saluted the Egyptian flag and in their morning lines were told that the school was now called ‘Madrasat El Mustakbal ElTagrubeya’, which roughly translates to ‘Future Experimental School’. To add to the students shock, they told them that they were no longer permitted to say ‘Good Morning’ in English but the equivalent greeting in Arabic.

For those of you who are not from Alexandria, you might not be able to comprehend the loss that these people are experiencing, so let me give you a little background on the schools. The English Girls College opened 76 years ago, in October 1935 by a man named Sir Henry Edward Barker. The 20 acres of land on which the school was built on was donated by the Alexandrian Governorate. The school was a girl’s school. Students from K.G to High School attended. The facilities of the school were un like any other in the region. The Headmistress had her own quarters, which was a villa attached to the school, the school also had a dorm are for borders. One of the most famous borders was the current ‘Queen Sophia of Spain.’ I have done a search on Google to find out more information about E.B.S but I wasn’t successful.

When the news of the fate of both schools spread through the city like a wild-fire, protests in front of the Alexandria Governors building and outside the school began. Students boycotted school and dressed in black refusing to go in. The Niece of Egypt’s former President, Gamal Abdel Nasser a former EGCian herself announced on her facebook status that she was going to appear on television to voice her opinion about the wrongful decision that was taken.

Others member of the alumni are trying to get in touch with former classmates and graduates to raise awareness and to raise funds, in the hopes of keeping the schools names to preserve the history and preserve what the institution stood for, as well as trying to rebuild it to the way it used to be. The question that is looming in many people’s minds at the moment is ‘WHY was such a rash decision made?” I do not know for certain, but the rumor at the moment is, is that the board of trustees or members of the board of governors we steeling funds from the school, which landed both the schools in severe debt.

“Various school Trusts were therefore set up as charities to use the income to promote and maintain the teaching of the English language and culture in the Middle East, especially in Alexandria. In 1972, the Victoria College and English Girls School Trusts amalgamated into the Alexandria Schools Trust, and were joined in 1980 by the British Boys School Trust.

http://baheyeldin.com/places/egypt/e-g-c/e-g-c-english-girls-college-or-el-nasr-chatby-college.html

As you can imagine  a combined trust fund must have held quite a substantial amount of money.

I suppose if the rumor is true, it would explain the drop in standard and maintenance of the structures, but I don’t think changing the school in to an experimental one and its name is a way to improve the situation. I would have thought changing the board of governors, getting better teachers and contacting the alumni to help raise funds would have been a more logical and acceptable solution, but that’s just my opinion.

I wasn’t an EGCian, but in the years that I have lived in Alexandria, I have met a great number of the schools former teachers and Alumni and when I hear them re tell stories of their teaching experience or youth as a student their and see what ‘ladies of society and intellect’ the school produced, as an Alexandrian I am saddened by the thought that a Minister of Education would so easily want to wash away an important piece of our cities heritage and a legacy that had been built to educate.

The final blow and update that I have read in one of the E.G.C facebook groups is that the teachers have now been replaced. The question weighing on every ones mind now is, which school will be next to receive the devastating news?

Will it be Victoria College (aka Victory College), where King Hussein of Jordan and Omar Sherif Attended or will in be St. Marc the renowned French boys school?

Links referring to EGC and the protests against the Ministers decision are below;

1- EGC – Yehia GABR presents the EGC, Alexandria – the finest school in the world

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4x4v9XCi2w

2- video clips about the protests

http://www.masry-now.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1115%3A-qq-q-qq&catid=51&Itemid=162 3- ‘we are not experimental’ (E.B.S – E.G.C) facebook group http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=lf#!/pages/ahna-msh-tjrybyh-EBS-EGC/171491752889818?v=wall