You never know how much you miss something until it is gone – how I have missed the internet! At last up again after the Egyptian government blocked access for five days (they also closed down Al Jazeehra for some time here). It may be closed down again at any time, so please be aware of this if wondering about a lapse in my blog from now on. The population of Egypt is young and net savvy, and the government knows how powerful Facebook etc can be as a rallying tool among these people who want change and are so, so tired of the Mubarak regime, the corruption and the hardships it has caused the people.
I am very safe in Siwa, which is untouched by the troubles except that phone/internet recharge cost has risen 50%, and for a few days there were no buses in and out of here, but the minibuses are running again so many of those who work here but have family in other cities have been returning to their homes. At least food and other prices haven’t changed here, as they will have in the rest of Egypt.
While 2011 was expected to be a volatile year here, I never thought I would see the centre of Cairo like this, and this is the first time demonstrations have spread so widely across Egypt.
You will be seeing some bad images on the news there, especially in
Cairo with over a million people gathered in Midan Tahrir, the central square, and in other cities. There have been fires, destruction in the Museum, some clashes (stone throwing mostly) with the army which is trying to restrict movement and clashes with the minority who have come out in support of Mubarak, and looting.
Siwa has always been apart from the rest of Egypt, being so isolated across the Sahara until the 1980s, so there are no demonstrations here and only much discussion of events as we watch them unfold on TV and talk to friends who are in the cities.
While my heart is with the people in Cairo and Alexandria, and I would like to join them in protest, as a foreigner hopeful of getting residency here I cannot risk getting into any trouble, so I won’t be going out of Siwa. There is also no need for me to return to Australia, as I feel perfectly safe here.
I don’t have a TV but the men who work at Palm Trees Hotel let me join them in their TV room and keep me
supplied with endless glasses of Siwan tea while we watch events
together, and talk things over. As one young man said, it appears now that “Egypt is broken”.
T., who runs a cafe here and is my closest friend and “family” in Siwa, left two days ago for Alexandria. His parents are dead so he feels he must be with his siblings and take care of the parental home, and also show his support for change by being with his friends. He is 28 but said before he left about the need for change “I am an old man, but it is important for the children of my family”. I am worried about him and my other friends outside Siwa, but we can keep in touch by phone – how wonderful that we have mobiles, which are inexpensive and extensively used here where many people have no home phone.
Now that I can walk again, I am going out to the cafe each day to play with T’s dog, who is missing him and searches every car that passes for T. It gives me a break from the worry of watching the TV news and sitting by Cleopatra Spring I could be on another planet.
This was supposed to be a busy time in Siwa as the Egyptians had two weeks school break, but now there are no tourists due to the troubles. It is very quiet and I am greatful for at least the sound of the many
children playing in the street, as there is not much else happening. You really notice children here – in Australia most familes have less children and they are spread among many people who have none, and perhaps don’t play in the street as much as Australian children used to do. Here there are often four to six children, and they play in the streets and also take on adult responsibilities from a young age – I have seen a girl of not more than six driving a donkey cart, with her sisters in the cart, and a boy of only two helping to harness a donkey, and many others taking on very adult tasks, including older girls (10 or 12 years) minding the younger chidren as though they were their own. They greet me when I pass, and while I will never be able to remember the names of each one, as I am the lone Australian woman they all know my name, and I am followed by calls of “Suzan, hello Suzan, where you go?” constantly. They give me a lot of joy and I really hope that Egypt will be a better place for them in the near future.
I have met so many enthusiastic, well educated young men and women here, I want them to have the choices we have, to be able to travel freely (they cannot under the current government) as I have been blessed to do, and learn more about people and our world, which many of them crave just as I did before I first left Australia.
Will sign off now, but will get back to you all as internet allows.
Thanks for the emails of concern, I miss you all, and remain concerned for my friends in Cairo and Alexandria, but am otherwise in good spirits and hopeful for the change that has to come here, and I am proud of the Egyptians for pushing for this change. Let’s just hope the struggle will be over soon, and that the change will be for the better, not for worse. Egypt has been my “heart home” for 18 years now, and my real home for 10 weeks, and I want to see it get better for everyone, not just for the minority in power, as I believe the people here deserve.