burnt army bus in tahrir

The first thing many Egyptians ask me when we meet is, where are you from – which is almost always met with a warm, sincere gaze followed by a sweet line saying that “Egyptians behiboo (love) Fulusteen”, and/or “Fulusteenis ehsan nas”, Palestinians are the best people (often followed by a funny look, due to my Arabic accent, to which I reply I was born in America;). An Egyptian friend, who was concerned about me being here on my own told me: “When you meet Egyptians, tell them that you’re Fulusteeni and they will protect you and take care of you…even better than if you told them that you are Egyptian! The people of Egypt feel responsible for what happened to Palestine in 1967” (due to losing the war with Israel). These words were running through my head and uttered just a few short moments before I witnessed the news about the Palestinian flag being raised in place of the the Israeli flag at the Israeli Embassy, in Cairo. In fact ironically, 41 years ago on the same exact day (April 9th), Israel dropped five bombs and two missiles on Egyptian school children in a small village near the Suez Canal. That tragic encounter of the Egyptian people with their recently arrived ‘neighbors’, sent yet another of many unmistakable messages, of its indiscriminate brutality and aggression that targets innocent children and unarmed civilians–and is still deeply ingrained in the people’s memory.

Though the act of removing the Israeli flag from the Embassy, may serve as little more than a symbolic gesture for some, it also signifies something far more profound. It speaks directly to so many Palestinians, who for so long have felt ignored and isolated from their Arab brothers and sisters, and that they have not been forgotten in all the excitement generated in this wave of revolts sweeping the Arab world. In addition the show by the people, it may be the first step in articulating the demands that protesters marched from Tahrir, to the Israeli Embassy with:

“some of the protesters expressed their anger at the recent unjust Israeli attacks on Gaza and they made it clear they expected nothing less than the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador out of Egypt and taking the Israeli flag off the embassy building. Some of the protesters went far as to demand the immediate end to the siege imposed on Gaza from the Egyptian side and a freeze of the Egyptian supply of natural gas to Israel. But the most daring request came by many protesters who called for a public referendum to allow the Egyptian people to have their say about the peace treaty president Sadat had signed 30 years ago” (http://sabbah.biz/mt/archives/2011/04/09/breaking-news-israeli-embassy-in-cairo-under-siege) sending a clear statement to Egyptian officials and whoever will make up their new government.

I believe that following the protesters strong show of support for the Palestinian people, it is no coincidence that the same night the army brutally attacked the peaceful protesters in the square, killing two people and injuring dozens! This was the first true demonstration by the army, showing where their true loyalties lie; and it is not with the people. Since that night, everything has changed and now the Egyptian people who were giving the benefit of doubt to the army, have no further illusion to the loyalties of the reminiscent regime. On April 9th, the people realized, perhaps for the first time that they truly are on their own. If any meaningful gains will be made in the future of the country, it will be up to them to keep up the pressure, their demands in the forefront – and most importantly the realization of Nasser’s dream: the unity of the Arab people.

To Tahrir!

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link to video of USA made bullets, fired at protesters April 9th:  http://www.facebook.com/?ref=logo#!/video/video.php?v=203332463022720&notif_t=video_tag</a&gt;

link to burnt out army buses:) http://www.facebook.com/?ref=logo#!/video/video.php?v=203321373023829&notif_t=video_tag</a&gt;

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Arrived safely – the adventure begins. . .

I promised I’d get back to many of you, so I thought I’d do so at the same time…as my access to internet is limited until I find a place and an adapter for my computer plug that actually works.

I felt like a walking zombie when I got there, due to about 4 hours of sleep total for the last two days. It was still so nice to catch up (for all eight hours) in Dubai with my dear friend Safa, who I hadn’t seen in 4 years and hear about her life in the Emirates, which seemed so surreal to me, from the distance of the Bay.

I arrived in Cairo around noon and got a ride from this really nice Egyptian guy I met on the plane who moved to Dubai to work for a credit card company (since there are almost no jobs for college grads here) and is visiting his family in Cairo for the first time in a year. It was interesting to hear him say that the situation was unstable and society is in disorder due to the revolution (an Egyptian friend of his friend living in Dubai was recently killed by someone who stole his car, which clearly fed into this theory). His brother who picked us up, is an unemployed lawyer (due to the revolution, according to him) living in Aswan (way south of Cairo) found the whole idea of the revolution rather uphauling as well. Soo, needless to say I was a bit trepidous about venturing out after that, and, was planning to stay away from the big protest they had planned at Tahrir, with all the warnings I’d been hearing about the army crackdowns etc. But, then I heard reports from people who were actually there, about how safe it was.

I got there late, when the rally was supposedly ending, but there were 10’s of thousands of people still gathered. The sight was just as incredible as what we witnessed and stood captivated by for hours on end, watching on AlJazeera. I captured some nice footage of protesters and the most amazing 11 year old boy who came to the square on his own and drew this awesome diagram he was displaying to protesters (all by himself!), of helicopters bombing kids in Gaza and Libya and Mubarak oppressing Egyptians. He took the bus there alone, and I asked him if he was afraid, he looked at me completely perplexed, and asked of what! I had no answer for him, in fact that is the sentiment I have come away with initially. Of course as in any major, massive city, especially one ridden with so much poverty, one must be extremely smart and cautious. What I believe is more likely the case, is that the situation is extremely uncertain, which perhaps creates a sense of fear of the unknown and what is to come. However, for me that is what enticed me to come in the first place. The unknown means an unwritten future, a history and destiny IN the making. I am so excited to witness history as it’s being written, and can only hope to play some small part in it.

In fact, ALL the people I have met (EVEN the notorious young men who cat call women for a living–who I’ve have honestly had to stop myself from cracking up at, bc they’re soo funny, harmless and YOUNG!) have been sooo gracious, helpful, respectful and kind.

Let’s just say the hostel I’m staying at has really motivated me to find a place quickly! So I hit the pavement hard and I did so today, without luck. But I do have a housing prospect that looks promising (in what I just found by doing a quick search http://wikitravel.org/en/Cairo/Downtown historic building), which I will go check it out tomorrow. While at the cafe where I was deep into my housing search, I overheard these 3 really strong young women/students from Cairo Uni, talking politics and about recent events and got a chance to do my first interviews. More on that soon..

Now I’m chillin at this cafe watching some futbol, and having some dinner. There are soo many things I’d rather be doing, so I really hope this housing thing works out tomorrow so that I can get on with them.

Onwards to bed, and all ready for my third day 😀

Peace, love and tahrir,