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I have lived in the Middle East (Saudia Arabia and Egypt) for 30 years now. In both countries I have witnessed and been a victim of sexual harassment. One of my earliest memories is of, going to the Mall in Saudi Arabia with my family for an outing and I would be holding either my mother or my father’s hand and Saudi men would try to pinch my behind or try and pinch me in other inappropriate places. At the time I didn’t understand why they would want to do that, I still don’t know what it is about  10 year old girls that would turn on a man. I begged my father to buy me an Abbaya (long black cloak that women wear in KSA to cover themselves up). He fought me tooth and nail and opposed the thought of his daughters having to cover up at such a young age, but when the situation was explained to him, he gave in and willingly bought it. It’s odd how a black cover would act as a protective shield against unwarranted and wanted attention.

When my family and I moved to Egypt in the early 90s, shortly after the first Gulf War, I experienced different kinds of harassment and on different levels. I remember going for walks with my younger sister and mother (who is blond and blue eyed), and constantly being harassed. The men would walk up to her confidently and ask her “how much?” or offer her “1 pound” for her services. The fact that she was married with children didn’t faze them in the least bit! (What high morals they have and great examples of  ‘Good Muslim Men’-NOT). If that wasn’t enough, some men would be a bit sneakier in their approach and try to follow us home to find out where we lived. Luckily we were very observant and would notice their predator tracking behavior and go in to a shop, where we would know the shop keeper and tell him that someone was following us. He, his sons and employees would come to our aid and go out and ‘greet’ the prowler with heavy slaps on the back and rough him up a bit. Other men in the neighborhood would then join in and descend upon the poor guy like a pack of wolves encircling their prey.

As I grew older and matured, the same would happen to me. I would be very conscience of what I would go out wearing in public. I would check and double check that I was conservatively dressed and wouldn’t attract unwanted attention, (Shoulders covered, check! Cleavage covered, Check! Shirt or t-shirt  is below  waist length, Check!) I became paranoid! (I still am to some extent)

The funny thing about that is, it wouldn’t matter how much clothing I wore I would still get harassed by men in the street. I have had cat calls some very flattering but mostly very degrading! I have been groped, grabbed, pinched, rubbed against, followed on foot, followed in cars by men of all ages (including those who are meant to serve and protect us), pushed up against a wall where a guy tried to smother me with his lips and have had someone jump in to my car window and try and put his hands all over me. I have also ( I think everyone has had) the crank callers, the heavy breathers and the ones who are gutsy enough to describe their dirties fantasies on the phone too.  I have so many stories and instances that the list just goes on and  to this day, it still continues to grow…

The instances mentioned above are mine, but I know of many other situations that have happened to people I know. Can you imagine coming out of a building and having a guy push you back in against the iron gates of the elevator and ejaculating on you?! Now tell me that she asked for that, when all she wanted to do was get to her car and go back to the safety of her home.

After an attack like that, you feel dirty and violated. You just want to cry a river and cleanse yourself, but not matter how much soap you use or scrubbing, you can’t get rid of that feeling. It takes a lot of talking, time and support from people who care to get over something like that.

I am tired of having to torture myself by replaying the events back in my mind, action for action wondering and question if I wore something that provoked the attack or if it was my body language, did I look the person in the eye and did they take that as an invitation?  I constantly wonder if I did something to provoke them. Every time, the answer is the same, ‘NO’. If you are going to debate the matter with me and tell me it’s because I’m not veiled then, please stop reading and continue your web browsing elsewhere. Don’t you dare insult my intelligence and say that the reason it happens is because my hair isn’t covered! Don’t! The truth is even women who are veiled are subjected to the same kind of harassment, if not worse!

When are people going to stop being in denial and face the facts?!

We don’t enjoy it and we certainly don’t provoke it! So, if it isn’t us, then hmmm…. I wonder who might be the problem. Whose brain might need to be rewired?

Why is it that (those kind of) men think it’s o.k. to treat women with such disrespect? We aren’t sexual objects or rubbing posts. That isn’t why we were put on the planet. I know that Islam is all about treating women with dignity and respect. So,  can someone please tell me where are they learning this form of behavior? Why have the women been quiet about this for so long?

Last year Community Times dedicated a page every month to sexual harassment and I was one of the contributors. I took the step to come forward because I wanted other women to have courage to speak up and know that they are not alone!

Before the revolution an Egyptian an Arabic movie 678 came out and hit the cinemas across the country. It’s whole purpose was to shed light on sexual harassment in Egypt and how even when you tried to report the incident at a police station women were be belittled or made to feel that they were the reason behind the act. In my opinion it was a powerful movie with a strong message. I hope women here and in the region will answer to the call and stand up for their human rights and take a stand against sexual harassment and bring an end to the tolerance and the acts.

I still think twice about what I’m wearing before walking out the door to go somewhere, but when I am out. I will not allow anyone to touch my body. It is my temple and I will defend it. I will not allow them to turn me in to a defeated or whimpering victim.

I am against sexual harassment and you should be too!

I am beginning to feel that perhaps the guy who had broken my heart four years ago was right. That perhaps I am not worthy of being anyone’s girlfriend, that I am not attractive and that no guy would want to go out with me.

You’re probably wondering what triggered this train of thought…. Well, what else would send me in to a spiral storm of total loss of self-confidence? … A man of course!

I just wish men would come forward and say exactly what it is that they are thinking, rather than make me write a mental list of all the possible things I might have said or did that may have pushed them away. As well as open up my closet of endless flaws  and go through each and every point that could have contributed towards the rejection.

Just when I was taking steps towards getting back in to the dating game and taking the risk of opening up, I have been knocked back in to my shell and buried back under a rock, while trying to be brave by holding back the hurt and holding back the burning tears.

Is any of this really worth it? I’m tired of feeling undesirable… Perhaps it’s best to stay in my shell, keeping my head down and continuing to be a work-a-holic. At least I know I’m good at that and won’t get rejected.

I have heard time and time again how are people to know what you want if you don’t speak up and ask for it. I have to be totally honest, I can’t argue with that. As much as I would like people to be able to read my thoughts as well as understand the workings of my very odd and somewhat complicated mind, they can’t, so, I have no choice but to speak up and ask for what I want. In Paulo Coelho’s book ‘The Alchemist’ and Rhonda Byrne’s, best-selling book that tells of “The Secret’ they say that ‘The Universe Is Conspiring To Work In Your Favor’ you just need to ask for what you want in a positive way and the universe will work its magic and in time, it will have it sent to you when every thing is aligned and it’s meant to be yours. ( I even have a few vison/dream boards to help me visualise what I want)

I have to admit that it has worked in my favor many times from the smallest thing like a parking spot to the job I have been dreaming of! Each time I receive what ever it is I have asked for, I make sure that I express my sincere gratitude for receiving what has been granted. Having said that there are 2 things I am still waiting on… 1) my books to be published  and 2)  to meet or be introduced to my life partner. In the past I have had the worst luck when it comes to romance! I’ve seen and experienced so much I would have the right to swear off men completely but I still have hope and a little faith left that I will get it right the next time. Although the experiences I have gone through have been enough to turn ones blood cold and cause great heartache, I have learned a valuable lesson from each and every one of them. I have learned to recognize those who are genuine in their affections and those who are only around for a bit of fun and to pass the time until another damsel catches their eye. The genuine ones are becoming fewer these days and are rare to find.

So, if all I have to do is ask, then so be it; I have a lot to gain and nothing to lose by simply asking politely

Dear Universe grant me the following if you please;

I would be eternally gratefully if you could orchestrate for an honest, reputable and professional illustrator and publishing house to show interest in my children’s books and offer me a book deal. I would like to be able to share the Egyptian culture that is part of my heritage with the rest of the world and show it through the eyes and lives of the characters in my books. With that a small handsome fortune that will assist me in taking care and looking after my parents.

My parent’s are comforted with the fact that their youngest daughter has found the man she wishes to spend the rest of her life with. They would also like to see me settled too while they are still able to dance to a beat. The man I am looking for first and foremost must be single and eligible! He has to be one of good family values, he needs to have sterling manners socially and at the table, he needs to be a man of intellect, one who is comfortable in his own skin and whom can speak and read Arabic and English very well (if he can speak more than 2 languages that is a plus). He must possess a sense of humour and finds enjoyment in music, movies and dancing. He needs to be responsible, respectable and successful at his job. He needs to be a man who is honest, genuine, kind, faithful, understanding, flexible and generous emotionally as well as financially.A man who is willing to help out around the house and have a hand in raising our children. I need a man who can appreciate me for who I am and who can understand my multicultural background as well as my liberal way of thinking and living. A man who is ready to settle down and have a family and to be a partner in the marriage as well as a good father.  If this man could be of mixed ethnicity, tall, with broad shoulders, fit physic, good-looking, have nice teeth, nice hands, nails and feet, with warm smiling eyes and good health, I would be very thankful.

Please grant my sister and her husband a healthy, happy and prosperous life together. May they always be blessed.

Please grant my parents health, laughter, joy, love and sound minds in the years that are to come.

Please help the people of Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and Syria find the strength to regain control of their country and take back their identities. Guide them to a brighter, happier, prouder and prosperous future.

As you know universe, I love food! The tantalizing flavours and their many combinations are delicious. I have been successful these past few months in controlling myself and I am very proud and pleased with my accomplishments thus far, but if you could continue to help fuel my will power to reach my target weight and the image that I am aiming to achieve that would be grand!

Please continue to guide me a long life’s path and shine your light down on it to help me see the way, continue to show me the signs that I need to take note of so that I may continue on the course that I’m meant to take.

Universe, I would like to thank you for the small and big opportunities that you have brought my way. My life and career has been blossoming and moving in the direction that I had and continue to visualise for myself. I have been able to pay for my teaching certificate and masters without any financial aid or assistance. I have earned a reputation as an active, caring, creative and animated teacher. You have brought people of great value and friendship in to my life and have blessed me with a loving and caring family. I have grown to be a strong opinionated independent woman. You have opened the door for me in the field of writing and I have had many articles published in magazines. The list is endless and I am humbled by your generosity, thank you.

N.B The Image for my blog post was found at; http://www.photography-match.com/wallpapers/6862_digital_universe_189/

Since the strike of midnight to end 2010 and ring in 2011 we have heard nothing but depressing and horrific news. Floods, Earthquakes, Landslides, Storms and now Tsunamis. It’s almost as though Mother Earth herself has had enough. She’s feels under appreciated, is being used for personal gain, under appreciated and is tired of watching those that inhabit her surface causing physical harm to others and mistreating the natural resources that she has provided free of charge. I think it’s safe to say that she is REALLY pissed off!
My heart goes out to the people in Japan and those who are holding their breath in anticipation of the possibility of being effect by the after shocks.

Dear God, I pray that you will show mercy and will extend your gracious hand to those in need and will spare lives and end unnecessary suffering. I also pray that your children will wake up and come to realize that they are their our own worst enemy and that the barriers that we create are what separate us. You created us all the same way, I hope that they will soon come to realize it and will improve their ways.

God Bless and Protect Us All.

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

Saturday 5th of February 2011

 

As soon as my eyelids open flicker open, my second reflex is to grab my phone.

 

Did everything remain peaceful while I slept? Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease let things have remained peaceful, please, please, pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Did the thugs attempt and succeed in ruining the peaceful ambiance?

 

I click on my twitter application on my phone and scroll down through the posts. All seems to well. Thugs had attempted to cause havoc but were dispersed, due to warning shots fired by the army. (YES! PHEW! Could this mean that things will start returning to normal?)

 

I get up have breakfast and glue myself to lap top and continue typing …

 

Bec’s heads to Tahrir while Meeza and I go to Makani again, this time with her friends. I take my diary with me to write key notes for the days I haven’t filled in.

 

One of Mezza’s friends that has joined us is quite an interesting young man, with great intellect and a wicked sense of humor. He and Meeza have me in stitches. It feels good to laugh. I haven’t laughed like this in what seems a long time.

We talk about random things, but as always the conversation returns to the crisis at hand…

 

As much as I admire the people in Tahrir for their determination and bravery for standing up and defying the police, the crack down and curfew that has been put in place, and as much as I want to be apart of the movement, I can see how all those people being there are slowly bringing the country to a halt.

The situation is turning in to a double edge sword, if they leave they lose their ground and risk being persecuted and have everything go back to the way it was and all of this will be swept under the rug and make all of this disappear.

If, they don’t leave, then the people who run factories, business, the majority of the people in Egypt earns less than 2$ a day. The majority earn their money on a day-to-day basis by selling fruit and vegetables off of donkey carts, cigarettes from kiosks, news paper stands, taxi fares …etc. If these people don’t earn money and they along with their families starve, this revolution might take a 180 degree turn.

As you can see, there is a big dilemma. Do the protesters stay or do they go? It’s a tough call, a very tough call.

 

I look up and find that the café is looking more and more like a familiar scene of the past. It is full to busting. It has reached its full capacity but the people still keep on coming. The staff is finding it hard to keep up with the orders, there are only 2 waiters in the whole place and the staff is being over worked. The Sushi rolls are loose and not looking as put together as they should.

For a brief moment you forget about the crisis that is going on just kilometers away, the buzz of conversation and clinking of cutlery is entrancing and it makes it very easy for you to forget. A glimpse at the TV screen serves as a constant reminder and brings you back from the brief moment of déjà vu of times past.

 

More of Meeza’s friends join us and my friend Heba does too. Heba and I seem to be growing closer and bonding more these past couple of days than we have in the past couple of years. I enjoy her company, insight and the fact that we can agree to disagree.

I hope this friendship doesn’t die out any time soon.

 

I get two international calls. One from Ang calling to check up on me from Canada and asking what the situation is like here. I fill her in on all the details that I know and I give her my insight on the situation and re-assure her that I am fine. I miss her…

The Second call is from Nal in D.C, from the tone of her voice I can tell that she is not in the best of moods and that something is bothering her. She eventually tells me and I find out that she just received news that another friend of hers died this week during the protests due to injuries. I talk to her to try to change mood a little bit by making her laugh and smile. It works her voice is a little more chipper. Before we hang up she makes me promise to stay out of harms way. She has lost two friends already and doesn’t want to lose another. She says she will come and kill me herself if I go to Tahrir.

I give her my word…

 

It is so humbling to know that there are people who genuinely care for you and worry about your well-being. When friends from abroad take the time to call and check up on you almost daily, you can’t help but feel blessed.

 

The weather has turned, black clouds are now over Cairo. It begins to drizzle the bite of the window is harp and cold.

 

 

Is this a sign of what is to come?

 

 

 

 

Diary Entry 9

Friday, 4th February 2011

 

‘Departure Friday’

 

 

I wake up with my nerves on edge. I am completely and utterly nervous. So nervous that I am nauseous filled with fear and dread. If the past two days have been bloody then God only knows what lies in store for the brave protesters today.

 

Today we anticipate more protesters to take to the streets and head towards Tahrir, but after seeing the event unfold on TV the past two days I am fearful for the lives of those who want to go, Becs and a few friends of ours too.

 

‘Please God, If you can hear me, let there be no blood shed today. Blow away those who want to inflict harm, violence and chaos.’

 

Every time I look at the clock or my watch the hands don’t appear to have moved. I feel as though everything is going in slow motion.

I sit and continue to type my diary entries out on to my lap top. As I peck away at my keyboard, I feel as though my intuition is picking up on the anxiety of everyone around me. My heart is racing, breathing heavily and a tightness forms in my chest. I try and over come the strange sensation, by taking deep breaths and exhaling slowly. Bec now is looking at me with concern and ask if I’m alright and if he can get me anything.

 

“God, I just want this day to pass”

 

Becs’s sister asks me if I want to accompany her at Makani, a café very close to the house. I think getting out of the house might be a good idea.

 

My Blackberry these days seems to be an extension of my hand. I check twitter every few minutes for up dates from trusted sources in Tahrir and in other areas of the country.

 

Friday prayer has commenced and the TV is showing rows upon rows of people worshiping, bowing and praying together shoulder by shoulder and in unison,

while others form a human chain around the people praying to protect them. The sight of the live footage on TV is empowering and moving. I am moved so much that a lump forms in my throat and my eyes begin to burn from holding back the tears.

 

This is a scene I have longed to see, where hang ups and walls between Muslims and Christians do not exist. They stand together as people, as Egyptians. I can not help but feel proud. How I want to be there and stand among them and witness the barriers between religion, classes and people come crashing down along with a regime that built it. I am thinking of ways of escaping the safety of Heliopolis to go there. A phone call from my mother quickly ends that. She calls to make sure that I am safe and nowhere near Tahrir! Grrrrrrrr

‘Are these the same people who had been fighting in self-defense the past two days?’

 

The world as I have been told by many have been glued to their TV sets for hours every day and today they will be as shocked as I am to see a different scene, a scene of unity and solidarity. Muslims and Christians standing together, what a vision, what a sight and what an example they are being to the world.

 

For the pas few years I have been teach in a school where my students have tried tirelessly to find out what faith I belong to. I never tell them because it shouldn’t matter what religion I practice. What should mater is what kind of person I am. We shouldn’t teach children to identify others by their practices. It’s wrong and that is what causes BIG problems and a huge rift in our country and society. I hope my students and the administration are watching this and will be inspired and learn from it.

 

Heba comes and joins us at Makani. I introduce her to Meeza we talk about how things are going right now in Tahrir. Heba shares my desire for wanting to go to Tahrir. She too has given her word to her parents that she won’t go. Her father calls her every day, early in the morning to make her promise that she will not go. He doesn’t want to have to worry about her, while he is out of the country. She alone understands and shares my frustration.

 

The café is filling up with more customers; the limited menu doesn’t turn them away. The change of scenery and being out of the house seems to be a common change that everyone is in need of. Being here sitting in a café makes me feel guilty. I feel as though I am not contributing or supporting. I am a firm believer in the freedom of speech, liberty and justice and for years I have been trying to break free from the chains that the country and society have tried to shackle me with and here I am sitting at a café!!!! What a hypocrite! ARGH!!!

 

I take my phone and check the tweets!

Reporters are having a tough time down on the ground. Military officials are confiscating cameras and detaining them. The safest place for them ironically is in Tahrir, where the protesters grant them refuge.

The square is turning in to a huge big out-door concert or festival with live music and dancing!

 

I should be there!

 

 

 

 

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’

Wednesday, 2nd of February 2011

In the early hours of this morning Mubarak addressed the nation and said that he would not run for president in September and will change the government.
The speech sounded reasonable, but something told me that things weren’t going to go down well with the protesters or the public.

Later that morning Becs and I decided to walk from his house near the Baron Palace to Korba to buy a few things and stretch our legs. I don’t know how inmates or animals in the zoo adapt or cope to being kept indoors for hours on end! I just can’t stand being in doors for 17 hours a day! It’s enough to drive you loopy!! All of this because of the curfew hours that have been set. It’s enough to cause cabin fever or claustrophobia!
I needed to be out doors, smell the cleanish air, walk around, do something different.
The feeling of being cooped up brought back memories of when my family and I took the last ferry-boat leaving Jeddah to Suez after the invasion of Kuwait in the 90s. Three days locked in the First Class floor because passengers who couldn’t get cabins were sleeping on the deck and the crew didn’t want them coming in doors. I don’t think I’ve ever been so bored in my life!

Walking in Heliopolis you would find it hard to believe that there was anything going on in the country, it’s relatively peaceful and quite. The presence of the armed army vehicles that were stationed at several important government building made it real.
Walking was refreshing, I could feel the blood circulating through my body again but as we approached the center of Korba I grew sad. People walking out of stores with boxes and bags full of provisions incase there is a food or water shortage. The traffic in Korba made things feel less out of the ordinary but seeing the store windows blacked out or empty and fast food restaurants and café’s with barricaded doors just brings everything crashing down again. Is this really happening? How long will this last? How long can we as a nation endure this? Will the government be heartless and not give in to the people’s demands? Is their intention to make people starve?
The line for the ATM machine is just as long as the queue from the local ‘Forn’ (which means oven, but it’s where you can buy (I believe) the subsidized cheep bread from)

As we walk around trying to find bottle of water to drink, Becs notices that his phone was sending him facebook notifications. He thinks his eyes are deceiving him so he asks a man waiting his turn to go in to a café if the net is back. He says yes it, the signal is weak, but it’s getting stronger. YES! The government took heed and listened to foreign delegates requesting that communication be re-instated!! What a relief, we can now communicate freely with the world again. Well, almost freely, I’m sure that twitter and facebook are being very closely monitored by Egypt’s Secret Service. I guess, I have to choose my words wisely or I’ll end up on their most wanted list.
Nal, my friend in D.C will be thrilled she won’t have to call us daily to check up on us and can communicate through social media. I call my sister to tell her to see if the net is up and running in Alexandria.

I try sending people a text message, but mobile phone services haven’t fully been reinstated yet.
To keep ourselves entertained at home we buy a couple of packets of cake mix, eggs and chocolate to make icing from scratch. Marie Antoinette’s quote of ‘Let them eat cake’ was sounding in my head for some odd reason. Well, if I can’t go to the protests I may as well make cake.
Back at home, I waste no time in yanking out my laptop, setting it up, plugging it in and getting connected with the world-wide web. HOW I HAVE MISSED YOU! I busy myself reading e-mails and messages of support and concern from family and close friends. I answer every single one of them. My sister has tagged me in  the album of newly uploaded pictures and I am horrified. The scenes of last Friday in front of the building where my parents and sister live is harrowing. The clouds of tear gas, the bus and the Muhfza (governors building) a blaze. I can’t begin to relate to the horror or the fear that must have been pulsing through them at the time.Pictures of a looted and semi destroyed Carrefour in Alexandria is also very disturbing. You hear tales about places that have been looted but when you see the photos of familiar places, it really hits home.
In the midst of replying to messages, Bec’s family switch from a movie to the news and we are horrified at the images that are being brought to us from Tahrir Square. It looks like a re-enactment of one of the war scenes from the film, Braveheart. When the Scots are fighting the British to gain independence, but this wasn’t fake, it was very real. Men and women claiming to be ‘Pro-Mubarak’ supporters in Tahrir armed and attacking the protesters, but wait what’s that men on camel and horse back as well? What the hell is going on? How did this happen? Who could condone such savage and violent behavior? Protest and speak your mind, pro Mubarak or not, but attacking people and throwing cocktail bombs is just not on!
The Irish/Sa3eedi (Saeedi is what we call people from Upper Egypt, like the Newfie in Canada) blood in me was boiling; the urge to fight back was rising. I want to be there to defend, take a stand, fight and protect those that are there trying to reform a country for the well-being of the people. The majority have been peaceful, helpful and respectful and these hooligans are just being darn right barbaric!
This escalates the urgency ! Things are going from bad to worse! I HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!!! My host family will not let me leave and my family will crucify me if I go, so the only thing left to do is what I do well and that is, write!
Let me tell the world and anyone that is will to read or listen about what is going on in Egypt through my eyes.So, I begin to type until the late hours of the night.

I’ll be damned if i don’t do anything at all! If I can’t be on the ground, I will do my part some other way!