Thursday, 3 February 2011
On Wednesday we watched with increasing unease the violence in Tahrir Square. How different from the euphoria of the previous day. We were anxious for our own situation. We received a phone call saying pro-government thugs were coming to attack El Baradei’s house, which is very close. After sunset, as we watched the pitched battles in and around Tahrir Square, there was quite a lot of shooting in the neighborhood. Cars were reparked to create barriers and we were all alert.
Eventually we went to bed, earlier than usual. I updated this blog so that I don’t have to manage email lists… which kept growing and which were difficult to update from my phone.
Antony has been very frustrated with me – come back to Cairo I text, should we leave? I email. I swing back and forth, influenced by the television, by concerns of others and by our daughter’s discomfort. Most of her friends have left and she is feeling somewhat left behind. An email hints that we will be back at work on Sunday. I wonder.
Everyone is anxious about Friday. Throughout this whole week, I have been aware that there may come a time when it is the right time to leave. Will I know when it is?
About half an hour after I turned out the lights, the thudding bang of a shotgun rang out. Once, again and again. A smaller gun responded. Then the phone rang upstairs in my friends’ bedroom. We all got up, some roused from sleep.
An intruder had scaled the wall, aided by two accomplices. He had taken a weapon and banged on the ground floor bedroom of Nonna and Nonna, breaking the shutter. They were shaking and somewhat disoriented. The men, armed with their sticks scoured the property. We turned on all the lights, neighbors came to help. The gardeners had encountered the looters on their rounds and scared them off with the shotgun. We let the dogs out of their pen; surely that would discourage a return visit.
Eventually we decided the thugs had left. We were all now wide-awake and sat with Nonna and Nonno watching TV. At about 3:30 am we returned to bed.
When I woke in the morning, I went online and purchased tickets to London. We will leave tomorrow. I guess the time has come.
An email announcing the open cash points prompted a journey to a shopping center. When a guard wouldn’t let the three of us, a man and two women to approach the ATM together, a shouting match erupted. The uniformed guard wanted to prevent the man from accompanying his wife and me across the parking lot to the machine – we were supposed to go at one at a time. Neither man would give way. Finally another man, dressed in a galabeya standing near interjected – You mean you don’t want your harem to walk alone? My friend seized the excuse. Yes he said. We all went to the machine, withdrew the limit LE 2,000 ($380). The men who had moments before shouted at each other shook hands and all was forgotten. Tempers are frayed.
The news of the vilification of journalists and of foreigners disturbs. At the same time, the government bemoans the loss of tourism income. The situation remains fluid, and we are packed and organized for our departure.
Postscript: Egyptians are well known for their affection for a conspiracy theory; an alternative explanation of the intruders’ disturbance was offered. A neighbor had hired a group of “security guards” to patrol his property; they are being paid a very high wage – LE 8,000 a month – for a year. The guards tried to drum up additional business but my friends demurred. Perhaps these guards, trying to cultivate fear and uncertainty, caused the disturbance. It’s a reasonable explanation.