Thoughts from The Square: June 30, 2013

June the 30th: Day one of the Protests

Nefertiti with a gas mask to symbolize female involvement in protests
Nefertiti with a gas mask to symbolize female involvement in protests

The Egyptian people who I have come to know and love are taking to the streets while the interns are told to stay inside. We have two Egyptian friends here with us now and the apartment feels secure. The streets are empty except for the occasional person walking around waiving the nation’s flag.

Our apartment is far from protests and promises security because it is next to the main military base. No one wants to bother Sheraton, if worse come to worse each of our international consulates will evacuate us no questions asked, this was the case in 2011 when AIESEC interns were in Egypt during the revolution. The protests are dangerous but not our apartment and not our neighborhood, what is most important is to stay clear of Tahrir and the presidential palace. There have been a few incidences with students and interns who have foolishly gone to protest to take pictures. These interns have suffered the wrath of suspicious Egyptians…

The AIESEC team has made it very clear that we should not go and that we should especially not take any pictures of any demonstrations. This is not our fight, it is the fight of the people that lost friends and family. This is the fight of people and citizens that sacrificed too much to see their country taken by the Muslim Brotherhood’s puppet. Some people have already been killed and assaulted in both Cairo and Alexandria, and while the protests have only just begun, I know that I will be safe no matter what as long as I do what the AIESEC team tells me. I will stay inside and rely on the news coming out of local and nation wide channels. Each one of the girls in my apartment are well-informed about the political situation in the country and they are happy to stay inside and to help keep each other sane for at least the next 48 hours. While it is still day time, the true violence of the protests haven’t begun. The real test of the situation and the hint to where the demonstrations may lead will lay within the demonstrations tonight. In the dark, people sneak into violence and assault. My friends in AIESEC will be either at the protests fighting for their liberty or they will be at home protecting their family, some will even be with the interns nervous to be alone.

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Cairo was covered with this poster. It is the grassroots campaign that started the overthrow of Morsy- Tamarod
As for the American student that was stabbed in Alexandria, for someone who was so involved and aware of the countries situation he really shouldn’t have been in any proximity of the demonstrations and especially taking photo documentation. There are numerous threats in taking picture both to the photographer and to the people being documented. This is not our fight and we have no means to justify any participation especially when involvement is discouraged by the people. My parents are literally worried sick, so please leave them alone. Be supportive and do not scare them more than necessary. I am fully aware of the situation and I am going to be fine as long as I stay away from demonstrations. If internet cuts out it will only be for a few days and the fact that it is working now is a good indication for stability. I am hoping that the world is watching and taking in the dimensions of the situation. Reflect on your own country and your fortunes, examine the corruption in all government and the bravery (or cowardice) of your own people. Egyptians have fire in their hearts, the citizens both young and old, male and female, no matter if they are Muslim or Christian; they are fighting for each other. I am so happy to be here, I am watching history be made.

On Thursday some of us traveled to Luxor for the weekend. It was amazing to see the ancient temples and to spend the weekend with the AIESECers. Despite some worries and the cautious warning to not travel within Egypt, I had an amazing time.

luxor 2

The place was a ghost town. It was unnerving, the walls of the governors building were covered with the remnants of demonstrations that took place only a week before. President Morsi appointed a man as governor of Luxor that is associated with an extremist terrorist group who was responsible for the deaths of over 50 tourists in the 1990‘s. Tourism is crucial for the income of the city; local people have no income when tourists are too afraid to travel there. We stayed in a hotel with a pool and took tours through Carnac, Valley of the Kings and the Luxor temple as well as the Queen Hatshepsut temple. On Friday we took a felucca to banana island where I say my first Nile crocodile (in captivity sadly). There were banana trees everywhere on the island and they were so delicious! We also enjoyed some apple Shesha and jumped into the river.

luxor 3

I was nervous about the ride back into Cairo but once again I am in very good hands and the team organized the safest way back into Sheraton and there were no problems. Tonight we even went to a cafe and then watched Brazil beat Spain in soccer. The media in the US makes Egypt seem like it is burning but the protests are actually very peaceful in Cairo. While Alexandria may be a different story I assure you that the events covered in the news are very concentrated, and very powerful. Be inspired not afraid.

I have encountered several protestors taking breaks from the crowds. They are wearing Guy Faux masks or face paint . Emotions are running high and people are prepared for the worst-case scenario (at least the people who can afford to). The desert city is feeling hotter by the day.
I have encountered several protestors taking breaks from the crowds. They are wearing Guy Faux masks or face paint . Emotions are running high and people are prepared for the worst-case scenario (at least the people who can afford to). The desert city is feeling hotter by the day.

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