Monday, January 31, 2011

What to do in Cairo when the city is not even a shadow of itself

Before anything else, but I really got upset after I heard that some lunatics had wrecked havoc in the National Museum in Cairo. I don't want to be judgmental or anything. But anybody that destroys ancient artifacts of literally thousands of years old, of another era, is not to be considered to have a working brain.


I'm still in Holland, (un)fortunately. Well actually I am quite happy considering what is going on in Cairo, but knowing that my friends and colleagues are still in Cairo where the whole situation has gotten worse ever since I left. An trust me, there's nothing in me that actually thinks that me not being there has got anything to do with the worsening of the situation over there.

As I explained in my previous post on the topic (What to do in Cairo when the city is in lock-down) last week it wasn't that bad. Of course when you would go to the squares where the protests were going on, you could be or would be in a lot of trouble. To say the least, but in the rest of the city things were actually very quiet. Life went on as usual and people were talking about the protests and the various footbal (soccer) matches.
I flew back to Holland last Friday as I do every other weekend and things were fairly stable at the time. Planes were on time and the roads to the airport were as always, truck infested. All driving way too fast, for way too long. There're actually two things in Cairo I fear; Trucks and Micro buses.
Actually I was planing on flying back yesterday, Sunday, night and my worry was actually how to contact my driver to pick me up and how that would work with the curfew and all (nobody was allowed to be outside after 4 PM (16:00) until 8 AM (08:00). Which is a challenge when your flight arrives at 2:30 AM (02:30). I was really thinking about flying back and get back into the office, as usual, on Monday. A voicemail from KLM solved this problem, due to the curfew all flights were rescheduled to arrive during the day.
Saturday I got a call from a friend of mine in Cairo. He's also Dutch. Both he and my boss had been trying to catch me all day to tell me that I should stay in Holland for the time being. The office would be closed for the next few days and our senior management was going to decide whether it would be better to evacuate the expats or if things would calm down and we would start moving again.

Meanwhile the images on TV turned out to be more and more troublesome. The violence increased and with that the amounts of blood on the square floors. Good for me, and all of those that read my previous post, I knew better. Ironically, the army had taken over from the police to much relief of the protesters, if you could trust the reporters on their words. The pictures on TV show friendly soldiers sharing their cup-a-soup (Egypt style) with the rest of the people and all seems honky-dory and a-okay. 'Seems' being the key here, but more on that in a next post.

I called my buddy in Cairo to find out when he was planning on coming back (coming Wednesday as it turned out) and how things were progressing or digressing, depending on your vantage point. He told me that the situation had turned rather grim. Gunshots had replaced the typical Cairo'nian car-horns, although in the distance, and looters were all over the place. Security guards from all the apartment buildings had united and formed small private armies to keep the looters away.
Things turned out to be not so 'localized to some odd 5 squares' anymore. The effect of the protests and marches had found Maadi, the area I live in, and had turned the area into a desolate ghost town... at least by night.
So I guess I'm rather happy to be back in Holland and told to stay here for now. Meanwhile, my thoughts are with the friends and colleagues I have in Cairo, Luxor, Alexandria. Those that are not yet evacuated or those that are in their motherland. The internet is still shutdown and mobile communications are still a pain. It's improving, but without internet, there's a lot of silence in the world.


Friday, January 28, 2011

What to do in Cairo when the city is in lock down...

All, just wanted to let you know that Cairo is at least for me still relatively safe. I actually literally need to watch TV in order to know that it's a mess in some locations.Cairo is a rather big city and the uproar is pretty much concentrated at locations that I hardly ever visit and now actually won't go.

Please know that on TV they only show the bad stuff, the molestations and all, it's not really fun to watch on TV that roads are wide open and finally I can go from my home to the office in under 30 minutes. That the beggars are not in the streets because the cars can now drive by with speed so nobody will open the window and give some money.

Please understand that I'm not trying to say that nothing is happening, but it's very much concentrated at certain locations. Meanwhile communications in Cairo suck. Twitter, Facebook, SMS and mobile calls are pretty much blocked all together.

Btw, at the moment I'm in the Netherlands and consider it a challenge to get back to Cairo and go to work on Monday. If nothing else, I want to experience going to the office in under 30 minutes again.

I'll post more on the topic later, I understand the title of the post requires this.