Live from Cairo
Well almost live from Cairo. This is the son's account of last Friday, which has just reached me -- plus pictures by his friend Dylan Sodaro.Things have moved on since than, but this gives aflavour of what has been happening:
"Hearty breakfast at Qazaz. All forms of communication are down.
We listened to the Friday sermon on our balcony. The atmosphere is very eerie. Within about ten minutes of the end of Friday prayers the worshippers of a local mosque come marching towards Tahrir square. However, their destination is completely blocked by police in riot gear. It is this time that we decided to dip our toes in the waters of protest. We walk towards Talaat Harb street but there is not much action going on. At one point it looks like something very nasty is going to happen. A group of about 15 men with motorcycle helmets and sticks advance on the police. In my naïveté I thought that they would attack the police (they had no signs of being police men) but when they reach the lines of riot police they are welcomed into the fold. These men were the infamous plain clothes police thugs who were apparently targeting journalists later on in the day.
Then as we walk up towards Talaat Harb square we reach the heart of our local protest (though there are apparently other ones all over town). The people had taked over Talaat Harb square, one of the major hubs of downtown traffic. We decide to get a juice before the shop closes for business, which it does as we are finishing our glasses. The people walk around the square for a while, then head up north, as we join in the ranks. So far the spirits are high and the atmosphere is ecstatic. The demographic is mixed: a young boy holds and Egyptian flag from his mother’s shoulders, old men, young men, rich, poor, the rest. After we get an ice cream the police begin to retaliate. It starts off in the normal fashion. A few tear gas canisters are fired and people retreat. Then they return to the police lines. I cannot see the front of the crowds so it hard to know if the protests are violent up there. The to-ing and fro-ing goes on for a while until the police decide that they want people out and launch a lot of tear gas. Me and Matt Scarvie duck down a side street and make our way through the Borsa etc. Run into an Egyptian who gives us table-cloth masks to help against the tear gas. We make a video of us chanting revolutionary slogans with our new friend. Turn up to Midan Falaki and there is quite a crowd of people but not much police. Stay there for a while and find Julia by herself taking pictures. She joins the group. We take a few pictures and wait around for a while. The crowds grow enormous and the police come up Bustan Street (the street my apartment is on) and engage the people. We duck down side alley but get hit quite heavily with gas. The table-cloth comes in useful but there is a wide variety of homemade Egyptian methods including vinegar, onions, pepsi and there is a debate on whether water helps or hinders. We try to duck back to Talaat Harb Square but that has been occupied by protestors and there are fights there too. We are sandwiched in between two areas of fighting and there is tear gas everywhere. We duck into Abou Shanab (father of the moustache) Egyptian souvenirs shop.
Take shelter there for about 10 minutes. Try to see if it’s possible to go back home but the clashes are centred directly outside our apartment block so we duck back for a while. At some point an injured man is brought in by a group of friends. His ankle is bleeding and probably broken. They hear there is a doctor in a nearby restaurant (where we had breakfast in fact) but they are not let in so contiunue into the haze.
After 10 minutes the fighting moves back, so we run into our apartment at about 3. We lay low for a while, sending out a party for shwarma and foul. There a sporadic clashes between protestors and police outside our apartment. We see the police thugs throwing rocks at people. When the sun goes down Cairo starts to burn. We can see te national party HQ burning from our building. The army moves into downtown and the police are said to leave. We can still see a few roving gangs of security forces firing rubber bullets at people who are throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at them.
Mubarak has been promising to give a speech “soon” for about 4 hours. Then some spokesman says he has an important announcement and Hosni Mubarak gives a terrible speech, which helps no-one. He promises to sack his entire cabinet but he will stay in power. Since everyone has been calling almost solely for him to stand down this does not make them happy. There is an enormous sound from Tahrir and we decide to go out.
The tanks cover Tahrir Square and people are all over them. There are burned out cars and it’s a party atmosphere, though there is a feeling that things could get out of hand. Luckily they never do but we are surrounded by burning buildings and burned out car, there are men with souvenirs from the riot police and one man with a machete. We climb on the tanks, take a few photos and then go back.
Pick up 8 egg sandwiches from a sandwich cart which is for some reason in the area and go back home to bed, minus one sandwich for the bawab. Just before we get into our apartment it begins to rain and there is a moment of common euphoria in the street. We shake hands and exchange pleasantries with some Egyptians in the streets. A good omen Insha’allah."
If anyone want to use these pictures commercially, get in touch with me .. and I will put you intouch with Dylan.