31 January 2011
Today our daughter and I moved location. We had felt somewhat exposed in our flat as there were only two or three other families in the building and only one was Egyptian. This means that except for the Egyptians no one has a wide network of friends and compatriots to lend support. We paid our bowab (doorman and super) for January and gave him about $100 extra to keep an eye on our place. The banks are closed; ATMs aren’t working. He and his wife were was very appreciative. I hope I don’t need any dosh.
We have packed up clothes, important papers, silver and jewelry and the technology – chargers, adapters, phones and computers. We don’t know when we’ll be back.
We have had no TV since Friday morning and no Internet except on my UK phone. Texting doesn’t work on Egyptian lines at present. Antony is in London monitoring accounts and communicating on our behalf.
Things seemed calm overnight, and we thought we would come to our friends for awhile. The drive was shocking. Tanks with friendly troops, some special forces dressed for all the world like ninja turtles, a few signs of destruction and rioting. No traffic at all. No pollution either. Barricades had been set up along the way; one impediment was a large sewer pipe three meters in diameter plonked in the middle of the road. One of our concerns was that we were very near a jail from which prisoners had killed the officer in charge and escaped.
It is a welcome relief being with friends in their beautiful garden. We passed a pleasant afternoon in the shade of a lemon tree, then ate lunch al fresco. The announcement of the new parliament disappoints. Same old, same old. There is widespread disbelief that Mubarak is persisting. These will be ministers for a week or two. A number of talented former ministers have turned down appointments.
There is an expectation that Obama will be needed to send a direct message that Mubarak needs to go. That this is not happening is explained by Israel’s desire to live with the devil they know. Unless the US speaks clearly and soon, they will miss this opportunity to redeem themselves.
There is widespread concern about the economic consequences of a protracted disturbance. “How will we make payroll?” “This has set us back 10 years.” Two of our friends returned after visiting Tahrir square. They were very moved. Rich and poor. Religious and not. All were there to express their dissatisfaction with the government and the conditions.
We are on both the UK and US government lists, should we decide to leave. The prospect of spending days at the airport, cut off from information again, and taking us away from our friends and this country we love — at this historic moment — is incentive enough to stay a bit longer. If things get significantly worse, we will leave, of course. But for now we are happy to be with friends and watching an important period in Egypt’s history.
It us evening now. Gunshots from homeowners stake their territory and discourage the chancer. Men and youth take turns standing guard. A campfire with marshmallows will provide cheer and warmth during the cold night.