Cairo: the escape route from civil war
Yesterday morning the son knew things were changing in Cairo. I see the point of OurSally's comment on the last post. But it does seem that up till then the Egyptian revolution (like many revolutions, I imagine) had its domestic, even home-spun side. OK -- deadly and scary, messianic and liberating, but simultaneously human and even occasionally comic.
The son couldn't help laughing when the woman from the flat downstairs came up to complain about him and his flatmates making a noise moving the furniture around, when only half an hour earlier they had all been deafened by the "buzzing" of the Egyptian army jets. And his description of the well-meaning (and so far as I can tell honourable) group of locals who manned the security on his street has a slightly Homeguard tinge to it. They made a great show of checking people's ID, but he never saw them turn anyone away.
So far so good. But we realised that it was changing on Wednesday morning. He said that he had heard rumours that 'something' was going to happen -- and he was going to stay in.
Later that day he and his flatmates knew they must leave.
As it happens, in case you think that I was taking too much of a laid-back attitude to all this, I had already got him a flexible ticket out and was able to book him a seat on the British Airways flight Thursday morning (as I write this I still dont know if he is actually ON this flight, so fingers crossed).
But the problem was, how to get to the airport? The Foreign Office advice was to proceed to the airport under your own steam . . . ie they weren't laying anything on to help. But what is "under your own steam" in the middle of a city effectively at civil war, with dwindling petrol supplies. It's not like you can just hail a cab.
He had found it hard to get through to the Cairo helpline, so I rang the British "emergency number".
Now I am not keen on knocking the help given by our men and women in the embassies (the daughter, for example, has in the past been the beneficiary of really outstanding help from them . . .and I feel that I owe the FCO a thing or two). And actually the people I spoke to on the phone yesterday were extraordinarily nice (I was particularly taken with the young man who had read one of my books!) But they didn't actually have much of a grip, or know much about Cairo in general, let alone in the middle of a revolution.
They sweetly repeated the advice about getting to the airport independently and insisted that the embassy was not providing any form of transport from downtown. When I asked what advice they had for making that journey ... like HOW did they think that you actually got to the airport . . . they didnt have much of an answer. Does he know anyone with a car? asked one. So, maybe he will just have to stay put until things calm down, suggested the other.
We had several bright ideas. Should he go round and check into some big hotel? And then they would get him transport. Or should I at least ring up the hotel where we had stayed and find out what their idea on getting the airport was (the hotel would have more local knowledge than the embassy). But before we put any of this into practice, he and his mates had fixed up for their university to provide a car, which did actually work
As I finish, he is sitting in the airport bar having a beer, boarding pass in hand. BUT he has left all his stuff apart from his laptop in his flat. There's a story here, he tells me . . . and I will tell you in due course.