Here’s a link to Part 2 in case you missed it.
So, no cell phones and no Internet. Only landlines and TV. Government controlled channels continue to say that the protesters are merely a few thousand while other channels say they are in the 100s of thousands. Violence is rising from the police forces through the use of teargas, high-pressure water and rubber bullets. Victims fall down but the protesters are not backing down. There are no reporters on the ground so we mainly get high-level video transmissions from near by hotels. The tension is rising and everyone feels it even far from the square. In my parents neighborhood we hear some noise outside we run to the balcony to see some people scurrying around after a few kids made some screaming noises and everyone is out in their balconies freaking out. Things calm down but the tension rises.
Now the government starts to realize they can’t stop the movement. They don’t have the manpower needed as the numbers of protesters increase. So, on to the next diabolical plan. Tyrants always rule by the use of fear so it only made sense for them to use it at this critical time. The police disappears all of the sudden. Next thing you know, government TV is warning from the prison breaks and the thugs that are roaming the neighborhoods vandalizing, terrorizing and stealing anything they can.
Mubarak still thinking he can manipulate the situation instates the Army. Panicked callers calling government TV to send army troupes to their area as the “thugs” are wreaking havoc. People sitting at their homes in a state of utter fear. Young men take to the streets with sticks, knives and any household item that can be used as weapon to defend their areas. They build blockades at entrances and check points to make sure no “thugs” go in. I believe the whole idea was to scare the protesters enough to leave the square and go home to defend their families. Aside from the methodical TV panicky calls the government ensured that people hear automatic weapons sounds at early hours of the morning to instill the horror and fear of chaos.
Of course now hindsight is 20/20 but at the time these things were happening you couldn’t help but believe there were thugs with machines guns roaming Cairo in the absence of Police. I couldn’t sleep and was mainly glued to the TV as much as possible, which really didn’t help. The government did their utmost to eliminate all other channels but their own so they can feed you what they wanted. From attacking press folks to confiscating cameras and office equipment of Aljazeerah to completely killing their satellite transmissions.
Ironically every attempt from the government back fired ten folds and caused more people to participate in the protests. On Saturday I started thinking it maybe a good idea to try and change our airline tickets and leave a week earlier. You can’t get a hold of the airline because their office is in the square and there’s no Internet so they can’t do much for you anyway. The only option is to head to the airport and try to change the tickets there. My brother and my brother in law take my wife and I in a cab. First time out of the house after getting back from Alexandria. We saw locals guarding the checkpoints holding sticks and machetes. Around the corner from my parent’s building there’s military tank! A freaking military tank in our neighborhood! Mind you I served in the military and seen tanks but never thought I’d see one around the corner from parent’s house, parked right in front of the little coffee shop. Not too far from it a burnt police truck. The whole journey to the airport was surreal with tanks, military police and local checkpoints.
We get to the airport and it was quite the sight. Hundreds of people from different nationalities with massive amounts of luggage some with reservations and most without. All attempting to get on a plane like we are. Flights are restricted to fly only during non curfew hours which is from 7 AM to 3 PM. We managed to make our way to KLM counter thinking we could upgrade or pay a little extra to get on the plane but after seeing the long lines of people that already had reservations that idea began to fade. The airline rep takes our passports and puts us on “stand by” which the more time past the more I realized that was just meaningless. In a couple of hours it will be curfew and luckily my brother and my brother in law decided to wait to make sure we got on a plane. So we decide this was a bad idea and attempted to make our way out.
There were people standing on conveyer belts, on top of counters. Metal detectors almost toppled by the masses. It was like swimming up the stream trying to make our way away from the counter while everyone else wants to get to it. For 15 minutes we were standing still attempting to move without being dragged down or having luggage fall on us. It was very scary! My brother was calling me and I couldn’t reach to my pocket to answer the phone. We finally make it to the doors but there’s no exit door. Only entry doors with metal detectors. I talk to an officer who sends me to another and they finally allow us to get out.
We take a cab back home with a sigh of relief that we got out alive without being trampled. It was great to see my parents again specially after the quick early morning goodbye. If anything I am grateful to have been there with them during that time to get a real picture of what they were experiencing rather than hearing about it from the news while I’m the US. More in the final part 4.