Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Temporarily evacuated

About a week and a half ago I left Cairo. I did not want to go; I was devastated. Upon takeoff I started sobbing uncontrollably. When I left I didn't bring anything, didn't even tell my friends I was leaving. As I was boarding I let myself think for the first time I may not be coming back.

I have a high tolerance for putting up with crap and difficult situations, but it got to the point where I could not get around the city. Everything closed early. The gym was blocked off by clashes--unfortunate when I have incredible anxiety and no way of alleviating it. My roommate and I would just eat and watch tv and check twitter and do it all again.

Everyone--EVERYONE--hates Americans. I know people will tell you they know the difference between the government and the people, but it just takes one crazy--like the dude who stabbed the American student in Alexandria, or the dude who stabbed the American in front of the Embassy. Seeing as I was one of the only Americans left in Cairo after the evacuation not in the journalism field meant that I may have stood out a bit before, but damn, did I stand out now. I had people randomly walk up to me in the street asking me if I was American. In that environment, such behavior is wicked threatening.

Both sides were feeding into this anti-Americanism, comparing our president to a terrorist, blah blah blah. The people complain that we interfere too much and not enough in the same breath. Even people you would assume would be supportive of the US-Egyptian relationship. It makes me want to bang my head against a wall.

The only thing all Egyptians can agree on is that everything is our fault.

When I was in Cairo, all of the sudden everyone started saying the exact same things. All Egyptians I spoke to were spouting the same talking points--it was terrifying. Where did all of this shit come from? How could an entire nation have the exact same opinion using the exact same words?

It has also gotten to the point where some of those who are supportive of the transition of power/episode of extreme democracy/coup will broker no dissent. If you don't agree with them 110 percent, they will tear you a new one. There is no room for discussion, no room for shades of grey, no room for other opinions. You fall in line behind the military, behind the popular narrative, or else. Who needs a government to censor you when friends on Facebook do it themselves?

Clashes had also spread out of the normal "localized" areas. Yeah, I could stay safe by staying home. But I did that for a week and was going crazy.

I left Cairo the morning at over 50 people were killed at a pro-Morsi rally near the headquarters of the Republican Guard. A friend was driving me to the airport and I knew we would have to leave early, as the main road to the airport, Saleh Salem, had been blocked for days by protesters. We left at 7am for a noon flight, thinking I would get there plenty early. When I awoke at 6am, I looked at my phone and had gotten a text from the office saying those living in the vicinity of Saleh Salem should not go to work that day. Not a good sign, I thought, so I checked Twitter. Details of the clash between the military and pro-Morsi supporters began trickling out at that point. I felt sick. Sad for Egypt.

We left my flat in Zamalek around 7am. Because of the events of that morning, many of the bridges to the downtown side--the side with the airport--were closed. I panicked a little--my mom had expressed worry that I would chose to leave Cairo only when it was impossible to do so. Luckily, one of the bridges was open, which we found out after trying all the others. We had to take the ring road, which was also blocked. To make a long story short, it took us nearly three hours to reach the airport--and my poor friend had to go to straight to work on the other side of Cairo.

Was the situation bad enough to warrant me leaving? For the first time ever, I believed so. Mobility around the city was constrained. Everything was closed. People hated Americans, and lucky me, I was one of the only ones left.

The situation has somewhat stabilized. Ramadan has set in. Two days ago there were clashes and only seven were killed. So tomorrow I fly back to Cairo. Most of me is happy to go back, but part of me is sad for what's happening in a way that I can't describe.


3 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, Miki! I hope to see you next time I'm here:) xoxo

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  2. Thanks as always for posting. Take care of yourself.

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