No one really knew what was going to happen. Were the military going to unleash a violent force crushing the revolutionists? or was it going to be a day of celebration? Were the Muslim Brotherhood and Liberals going to clash in the streets? or were they going to unite, forcing an end to emergency controls? As the people of Egypt prepared for another standoff with their military dictatorship, many feared for the worst as unprecedented numbers gathered in Tahrir Square, demonstrating, sending shock waves around the world.
"CAIRO - Tens of thousands of Egyptians rallied Wednesday to mark the first anniversary of the country's 2011 uprising, with liberals and Islamists gathering on different sides of Cairo's Tahrir Square in a reflection of the deep political divides that emerged in the year since the downfall of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak" (Maggie Michael, Huffington Post, Jan 25 2012)
Being in an unstable country under a political revolution is mind blowing. Listening to the fears and aspirations of millions facing an uncertain future is shocking. Watching in anticipation while friends take to the streets, chanting and demonstrating sends a shock wave to your core. As you hear the call for freedom echo
through the narrow streets of Down Town Cairo, your adventurous curiosity begins to take over. Under lock-down and against the British Foreign Office advice, you leave the safety of your hotel and nervously join the revolution.
Standing on the street corner hundreds of protestors pass by, chanting and carrying political slogans, heading towards Tahrir square. As more people join the revolution you follow with curiosity watching the crowds. Staying at a safe distance with camera concealed, you remain vigilant, discreetly checking your street map, always ready with an exit strategy.
Accustomed to seeing Police and Military on the streets, you are surprised to find they have retreated. With no military presence on the ground, you look up expecting to see snipers on the balcony. With only Journalists circling above, it quickly becomes clear a decision had been made to keep the military away. A smart move by the dictatorship, careful not to exasperate the situation and create another Syria under the watchful eye of world media.
Looking at the creative political costumes and graffiti, you cant help but notice the number of people wearing eye patches. Asking its significants, Abdul replies "The military shoot rubber bullets to
stop the revolution. They aim for your eyes. Many people have been blinded. If they shoot, in-sha'Allah, cover your face and run!".
As you follow the demonstrators towards Tahrir square, you are surprised to see so many women in the crowd. Repressed in Egyptian society they have been presented with a glimmer of hope. A chance to voice their opinion, a chance for equal rights. In a country where women are seen as second class citizens some were shouting in defiance, demonstrating, voicing their opinion, making demands for the very first time.
As you enter Tahrir square, the Muslim Brotherhood had unofficially assumed control. Checking your identification and asking why you are visiting, they question your political affiliation. Satisfied that you are showing an interest in their struggle against the military dictatorship, you are eventually waved through the makeshift checkpoint, permitted to enter Tahrir square.
Talking to the people on the ground, it quickly becomes apparent everyone has their own political agenda. While women want equal rights, Men want better pay and working conditions, others want pensions, education and the cost of living to reduce. Listening to these demands you cant help but feel these are typical
requests in a democratic country. A country controlled by its people.
As you talk to the demonstrators, everyone agrees the military dictatorship must end, but how? Activists hope to antagonise the military into action. "Without the military repeating political atrocities under the watchful eye of world media, nothing will change. The country will remain in turmoil under the stalemate we see today" said Mohammed, a local street vendor.
Yet most demonstrators want a peaceful solution. "Many of the people that have occupied the centre of Tahrir square over the last few weeks are criminals and anarchists. They want change, and will antagonise the military to get it. They do not understand that democracy takes time!" said Akil, a government official.
While a mannequin of Mubarak hung from a noose swaying over Tahrir square, entire buildings were covered with the Egyptian flag. Like a carnival, people painted their faces, carried the national flag and appeared in fancy dress. While a popcorn vendor made his fortunes, you could be forgiven for thinking this event was a celebration.
Yet, as the atmosphere built up, there was a clear divide between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Liberals. While separated on
opposing sides of the square, their chanting drowned one another out. There appeared to be only one political motive on which they agreed, and that was an end to military rule.
"We are not here to celebrate, we are here to demonstrate" (Akbar, Taxi Driver, 25th Jan, 2012).
January 25th - The Revolution Is It Safe To Visit Egypt?
It is still safe to visit Egypt during the revolution. Only Tahrir Square, a very small place in Downtown Cairo is the epicentre of political turmoil and unrest. A few streets back, life continues as normal. I have witnessed no poblems in areas such as Luxor, Aswan, Dahab and everywhere else on the tourist/backpacker route. Eveyone is friendly, including the police and soldiers. Please visit, many people depend on tourism and are suffering due to the negative media coverage. It really isnt that dangerous, come and see for yourself! Disclaimer
This is a travel blog following my journey through Africa. As always, I just write what I see, feel and hear. I have no political motive or bias and have tried hard to ensure this blog remains impartial. Photos
The photos were taken
on the days prior to and including January 25th 2012. Most photos were discretely taken on my point and shoot camera to reduce attention during a time of instability and political unrest.
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