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Published: March 1st 2011
It took me a while to download those pictures. I'm in Congo (RDC) for another great week, but internet connections here are rather slow and patchy. I took first a night plane from Bangkok to Cairo and spent a full day around Cairo. After this, I had two more overnight flights from Cairo to Nairobi and Nairobi to Lubumbashi.
My flights had been booked and issued weeks ago, so I follow the Egyptian events even closer knowing that on this 22nd February I would spend my day in Cairo. This is not my first visit to Cairo, it's actually my 5th one. I've seen twice the National Museum, been to the Citadel, visited the Pyramids...so I had to do something new this time.
Well, the events of the current Egyptian Revolution have given me a new goal. First stop was to walk around Heliopolis. The area is full of Ministries as well as the Presidential Palace. This is clearly not the place to get my camera out. Not much really to photograph, but I can guarantee you, people where looking at me...what is this foreigner doing here?!?
Next stop, I hopped on a taxi to Tahrir Square and
the National Museum area. Bear in mind, 3 days ago 2 millions people were in the street here to celebrate a week since Mubarak went down.
I walked around, in the exact steps where we witnessed Andersen Cooper being beaten on CNN just two weeks ago. Traffic is back to usual here, the only difference with my last visit a year ago was the people selling Egyptian flags all around the place.
I started from behind the National Museum and went around to the entry of the Museum, just behind Tahrir Square. Here the tanks are still around, maybe ten of them. I had one of my passport with me, as the other one was left at immigration (as I was on transit). I was asked to show my passport before entering the street of the National Museum. Here tanks are all over, military are all over too, but smile and “welcome back” greetings are offered every two meters. No touts anymore, just smile...this was really nice!
I did not made my way inside the National Museum as I had been there twice already. But I spent a lot of time walking around the area, sometimes just stopping
to sit and enjoy the crowd around me. I went back to the banks of the Nile. I saw the burnt down buildings. Next door was the hold Hilton, where I used to stay, now being re-branded as a soon to open Ritz-Carlton...the hotel is right in the middle where everything happened.
There was still hundreds of people demonstrating. But here, no foreigners, no journalists...just a lot of Egyptians. I did feel safe...after all, children where standing on tanks while their parents where taking pictures. Was I safe? At least I felt safe.
Later on I made my way to the Islamic Cairo and the souks. Here no tourists either. I stopped for a mint tea at El Fishawy. This little cafe is worldwide well-known, and required serious wait just to get a table. Today the place was next to empty. I met few palestinians and locals, but no tourists here. I also stopped by few mosques as well as the Virgin Mary Church. It was soontime to make my way back to my hotel for a shower and my next flight.
But before heading to the hotel, I had to face the Cairo traffic jam first.
What a day! Back in 1997 I visited Phnom Penh and Angkor Wat 7 days after the military coup. We were the first tourists back in the country, and I saw Angkor Wat at 3pm without any other single tourist. That was a moment!
Today in Cairo, I was not alone, Egyptians were all over with their smiles...but I have the feeling I was not anymore a tourist, I was a witness. I'll be back next week to Cairo, spending most of my afternoon drinking mint tea and smoking a good cigar at El Fishawy.
Welcome back to Egypt...with a millions of smiles!
Update. It took me ages to download these pictures but it is finally done. RDC is crazy slow in term of internet connectivity. Had a great week here. Last Sunday spend our time playing "petanque" and a great BBQ...at the same time, in the capital Kinshasa, happened a failed military coup...interesting country. If you try to reach the 2 main cities of the country by land, it would take you over 3 weeks...no really worries...Zambia is a short 100km from here max!
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