At 6.22 PM on Friday, January 28th, The Guardian reported that army tanks were rolling into the center of Cairo.
Cairo was my baptism.
It is where I first worked with the UN. On Friday, prior to the interruption of coverage, I watched the NDP headquarters adjacent to my first UN office be licked by flames.
It is where I smoked sheesha and watched the fog crawl in over the Nile.
It was in a felucca on the Nile — the quintessentially tourist/expat experience, colored by techno music and neon lights — that I met the love of my life, my companion, my best friend.
It is where I got groped by a policeman, where I fell asleep too late as the call to prayer bellowed across the street at 4 AM, where I had to exercise tolerance along judgment. I lived in contradictions and paradoxes. I had my faith in humanity crushed and reinforced on the same day.
I am heartened by Egyptians’ ardent desire to claim the rights they have not enjoyed in years. At the same time, I worry about the day after in Egypt, whenever that day comes. I hope for a fair and strong democratic process; I further hope that the government this process yields is more protective and respectful of civil rights and, particularly, of the rights of women.
Until then, I will remain glued to my screen, observing, living vicariously.
Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian-born commentator I respect tremendously, writes in a fantastic article in the Guardian: “To understand the importance of what’s going in Egypt, take the barricades of 1968 (for a good youthful zing), throw them into a mixer with 1989 and blend to produce the potent brew that the popular uprising in Egypt is preparing to offer the entire region. It’s the most exciting time of my life.” Read on for insights on the implications of the protests for youth, as well as the Arab-Israeli conflict. She addressed similar topics in this conversation with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now.
Scott Nelson, NYT photographer, expresses feelings that closely mirror my own: “Covering this conflict is humbling — to be able to witness such a historic event on a scale that is nearly inconceivable; exhilarating — to see the enormous hope and optimism the Egyptian people have experienced in the last few days; and also very worrying — as I wonder what comes next in this turbulent process, which is moving quickly towards a chance at real democracy.” Ed Ou, a photojournalist closer to my age, walks the alleys of Cairo that I have come to love and tells their stories here.
Global Voices Online sheds light on the role of Egyptian women in the protest movement. Egypt was the first country in which I delved into gender-related development work and the fire in the hearts of Egyptian women travels with me today.
And this AP photo, reposted on the Atlantic Tumblr. An Egyptian woman protester kisses a riot police officer. Coexistence, the breaking of boundaries, and the blurring of lines in one shot.