Sunday, January 29, 2012

Egypt's Day of Rage as I saw it - Video

Video compilation of clips from Friday, January 28, 2011 in Cairo's Abdel Moneim Reyad Square, just steps from the now-iconic Tahrir Square.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

#Jan25 - One year later

One year ago today, I stepped out of a taxi in Mohandiseen and stared in disbelief: hundreds of demonstrators were gathered across the street. In that instant, I knew the January 25 demonstration would be different. I knew it wasn't the usual - demonstrators outnumbered by police in some out of the way location. I knew something had started.

Today is the one-year anniversary of that first demonstration that set the pace for Egypt's 18-day uprising, which topped 30-year ruler Hosni Mubarak from power and, more importantly, renewed Egyptians' pride in their country and hope for a better future.

Today, Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square was packed hours before marches were set to converge on the square.

Men, women and children thronged around various stages set up in the square. They chanted for the freedom of Egypt and the fall of the military council, which has administered Egypt since Mubarak resigned on February 11, 2011. Vendors carried food, drinks, sweets, and memorabilia of all kinds.

By 10am, it was clear that January 25, 2012 was to be a giant celebration for Egyptians.

Foreigners who have made Cairo their home also gathered in the square. One British woman had brought her two young daughters. Their small faces painted with Egyptian flags, the girls stared around them wide-eyed as Egyptians asked their mother to take pictures with her children.

The younger one refused, instead opting to take pictures herself.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Jan 17, 2011 - Whispers of a demonstration

One year ago today, 49-year-old restaurateur Abdou Abdel Moneim Gaafa set himself ablaze outside the Egyptian parliament. A stark reminder of the young vegetable seller whose self-immolation weeks earlier catalyzed an uprising in Tunisia, the question inevitably arose: will this be Egypt’s Mohamed Bouazizi?

Egypt remained silent.

“Some… predict Tunisia is but the first of the tyrannical [Arab] regimes to fall,” I wrote at on January 17, 2011. “Others see little chance that Egyptians, typically apathetic when it comes to politics, will be stirred to action.”

There was talk. Analysis. Articles in newspapers – but no revolution. No uprising. Not even one single demonstration.

The next day I wrote, “Egyptians are still too afraid of their government and its security forces… to go to the streets in the numbers that a revolution requires.”

After a year of watching Egyptians’ apparent inability to act, I was already somewhat jaded. I suggested that Gaafa’s act would join Khaled Said on a long list of painful sores for the Egyptian people, but would not be enough to stir action.

Three nights earlier Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali had fled Tunisia. I was at an Open Mic in Cairo when the news broke. The crowd buzzed. In between performances there were whispers of, “Did you hear??” and “Is it true?!”

Some couldn’t peel their eyes from Twitter applications or frantically searched for news updates on their mobile phones. Others – including myself – relied on text message updates from friends following the news at home.

Young people in my circle of friends were frustrated, but many more remained apathetic even as they praised Tunisians’ courage.

“No one will move,” wrote one young Egyptian woman on Facebook. “We are not Tunis.”

It seemed she was right. Egyptians were angry – at their government, at their police, at growing inequality, at their own inaction – but it seemed they were not yet angry enough.

I remember so well the frustration, the yearning in the voices of my friends as they talked about Tunisia and how they wished Egypt would be next. Even the boldest and most optimistic hardly dared to dream that Egypt would rise up - but they did dream. They dreamt and they talked and they planned, and there were whispers of a demonstration on January 25.

And then, just one week later, Egypt rose in all her glory and fury.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

New series: Looking back at Egypt's revolution

One year ago today I wrote one of my favorite blog posts – Spiced tea, social norms, and me. One year ago today, no one was talking about politics. I, the young foreign journalist, was the one explaining to my Egyptian friends the requirements to run for president and what, exactly, the Emergency Law said.

One year ago, it would have been unthinkable to sit in a trendy Cairo café and find BBC Arabic on the television.

It’s amazing how much can change in a year.

Outwardly, it’s easy to overlook the changes. In many ways, things seem to be as they always were. The traffic is as bad as ever, young people still have to go to school and take exams, there’s still sexual harassment on the streets. The blog post I wrote last year about social norms I could write again today.

Yet many things have changed. There are Egyptian flags everywhere, every Egyptian knew when parliamentary elections were happening, and the cover of state-run Al-Ahram newspaper doesn’t boast a picture of three-decade ruler Hosni Mubarak on the front page every morning.

A year ago, the only people talking about a ‘revolution’ were those watching Tunisia and the handful of Egyptians who, some for months and others for decades, had been trying to bring political and social change to Egypt.

Among them were the April 6 Youth Movement, the Kefaya Movement, Sheyfenkom, and We Are All Khaled Said. There were individuals, as well – popular public figure Gameela Ismail, journalist Hossam al-Hamalawy, and young activists such as Asmaa Mahfouz, Israa Abdelfattah, and Ahmed Maher.

Now there are a thousand more names: Wael Ghonim, Ramy Essam, Alaa Abdel Fattah (a long-time activist, but only recently well-known), Amr Hamzawy.

On January 25, 2011 I stood in Tahrir Square with Hamalawy. He told me he always knew there would be a revolution.

Over the next few weeks, I intend to post a series looking back on the revolution, its aftermath, and its future. Whether you're looking for more insight into the events surrounding the revolution, a different perspective, or just want to revisit those earth-shaking 18 days, I will show you Egypt's revolution through my eyes.

I will share with you how I crossed paths with names both big and small – Ayman Nour, Mohamed el-Baradei, and many others. Look forward to text, pictures, video, and sound bites of Egypt's January 25 Revolution.