Thought Archive

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Our Escape from Egypt

ell - what to say... first of all i am probably lucky that escaped one day before - or rather just at - the uprising began. As a family i think we did pretty well, and avoided the horror of leaving next few days as BP expat families, whom I hope to see tomorrow can attest.

First of all - i would like to break that news to you in circumstances - my wife is expecting. So our life in few monthis just prior to this revolved around this simple but unavoidable, and pleasing fact.

The week started slowly with a news of a demonstrations increasing in both power and number, whilst we were holed in the office for a week long oerformance review, for which i prepared and worked hard on. All my thoughts were on the deliver, - others dismissed the events as an insignificant challenge to Mubarak's rule. We have been there before they said, in 2005 the most recent. Arabs do not deserve the representative government, they should be governed. We agreed - perhaps there are excpetional countries - but on average a Muslim is a docile creature, whose only instinct is to earn enough for a loaf of bread and vegetables for a large family. He will agree to a tyrannical rule which guarantees that.

I have planned a visit to London some days before. - this was to be a short medical check up trip for us as well as opportunity to unwind before another heavy week of work. Our mothers were planning to visit on February 5th. Both sets of tickets already purchased. On Wednesday we had a visitor - an Azeri boy who brought us some home cooking from our mothers. He wavs staying in a hotel in downtown - more precisely Sheraton Cairo on the Corniche. I have also decided to change the date of the departure from January 29th to January 28th for no apparent reason beyond a desire to increase our stay in London. So much for an absence of an intuitive nature in men. Or maybe a have certain prophetical qualities i do not know about.

Thursday was a last day of our review, all were perhaps relaxed and inattentive to events outside, although i have sensed a certain unease in Egyptians from the office. We were watching events on our computers when there was some free time: my Arabic is rudimentary so i have missed a majority of what people discussed in the office. Thursday i went home safe and sound at 6 or 7 pm.

Thursday night mobile phones went sporadic, a frantic cry from my wife informed me about Facebook shut down - we are a heavy users. Few hours into the night the whole internet was shut down. This has made her nervous and I then have tried to calm her down as much as could in a assuredness that we will be leaving next day. BP advised us not to leave our homes.

Meanwhile the heaviest demonstration was expected the next day, just as we were escaping to the airport. My driver agreed to come over at about 1pm, and my last call to him went at about 11am, just before the shut down of mobile network. I went to the office to check emails, which still worked there, and found out that BP advised us to stay put. Our driver arrived at 1.30 pm and we set off from our flat at about 14:40, with full expectations that we will be coming back, however as we watched news, our expectations diminished by the minutes. The demonstrators were battling the police in earnests, deaths were declared. The city was becoming a warzone.

On the way, we encountered 3 check points on the main road to the airport - some streets were cordoned off in view of approaching demonstrators. Our heroic driver found a back route and we were in the airport in no time. There was no chaos and everything was orderly, in fact it felt we were a planet away from all of the disturbance, which we could observed from TV screen in the airport. We managed to book 2 separate seats on a full flight of mostly relaxed people. All went without excess and our landing in London was nothing but a normal experience. Back in London I realized - while glued to the TV screen in the hotel room - what we have just escaped. 40,000 people stranded in the airport and BP evacuation of worried families. We avoided the worst.

The demonstrations continued growing from strength to strength and now Tahrir Square is full of thousands of people demanding Mubarak to go. There is Million Man March going on - a people power, benevolent, inclusive and hopeful. Women medics saving and treating wounded in makeshift hospital in mosques, young men forming chain to protect the Cairo museum from looters, vigilantes protecting their neighborhoods and businesses, locals and patients beating back looters back from the cancer hospital - this heroic scenes were abound in this often berated city. Arabs were taking back their dignity.

The actions of police and police-ordered criminals did not stop Egyptian people from defending their dignity and their rights. The Arabs, Muslims and the World as a whole is indebted to them. I know it will be difficult, and sometimes may descend into chaos, but the Egyptians need to persevere. Genie of freedom is out of the bottle, it can not go back in without a meaningful political reform.

Now we are holed up in the hotel waiting anxiously for news from BP on what to do next in our refugee like situation.

I know one thing - it will take sometime. I know something else - I am missing a pivotal moment in the history of the long suppressed Muslim World for this I am a bit sorry. Which way things go we do not know. In geology past is a key to the present. History is more complicated - we can be pessimists but we can also have hopes that things will improve.

Egypt, 2011. Is it Iran in 1979, Russia 1in 917 or is it Eastern Europe of 1989. I don't know, but I suspect it will be something in the middle (just to avoid the issue). Sometimes cynical sceptics have to be superseded by dreamers, for without dreamers no revolutions are made, when revolutions are cried for. Without realists, none of the fruits of revolutions survive for long.

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