Friday, April 08, 2005

We Didn't Need This...No One Does

ABC News: Egypt Blast at Bazaar Kills 2, Injures 19

I'd been spending a non-riding day yesterday, as I did the day before, having come off of one of my geldings while riding on Tuesday afternoon. He stopped and spooked at something, I rolled over his shoulder and landed with an audible thunk on the hard-packed clay of the trail, and I managed to pull a couple of muscles in my back. They are getting better, but the hour and a half that I had to spend in the saddle (on another horse) right afterwards were no picnic. That's the price of running your own business when you are the main asset. Note to self: get another asset.

Anyway, not being able to ride despite the absolutely beautiful weather was annoying so I decided to chase down some rabies vaccines for my dogs and horses. Merri and I dove into the misery that is Pyramids Street to make our way through the buses, crowds and pollution that is Giza to the Pfizer store where I bought 50 doses of 3 year rabies vaccines for my horses and dogs and the dogs and horses of a couple of neighbours. On our way back I stopped at a pharmacy to buy one hundred 3 ml syringes (the pharmacist did ask what I needed so many for) to make sure that I had plenty for administration. Once back at the house, all the house dogs and the cat got shot, and then we all headed over for the paddocks to do the horses, dogs and donkeys. Gameela the Gamoosa was exempt. Rabies is a real problem in the countryside, and about 4 months ago we had something like 10 dogs die from it among the farm dogs, who are never vaccinated for anything. For this reason, I vaccinated my horses and donkeys, since they are out and about in an area where they could possibly be exposed.

All the animals shot, we headed back to the house to prepare some Chinese food for a potluck neighbourhood dinner with my Norwegian friend Pal, but the preparations were interrupted by another neighbour whose husband had just called to say that he'd heard there'd been a bombing in the Muski area of Cairo. We turned on BBC World, the main television news source in this household, to hear nothing. Big sigh of relief, maybe it was just one of those stupid rumours. But then I checked Google News online, which has to be one of the best sources of news on any subject anywhere in the world, and found to my sorrow that there had been a bombing. Damn.

This morning, the Google sources say that two people were killed and about 20 injured from a blast from a small bomb filled with nails. The area where the blast went off is a street that extends towards the Nile and downtown from the Mosque of Hussein in the area of the main bazaar. While Khan el Khalili is a tourism area, it is far more one of the main shopping areas of Cairo, a sprawling site that contains smaller sections for gold, brasswork, herbalists, clothing stores, fabrics, tools....whatever you might be hunting for in Cairo, you will find it in this part of town, and at a cheaper price than other places, so it is filled, packed, inundated with lower middle class and lower class Egyptians all the time. Tourists like to come because it is an extremely interesting place, and the bargains are real, but the main clientele is local. At least half of the people injured were Egyptians, and there are conflicting stories about the killed. One news story says that the daughter of an Egyptian shopkeeper was among the casualties, while other foreign reporters are only talking about a foreign man and woman. Friday is usually a very busy day in the Muski area, but I'm betting that the shopkeepers are not doing much today.

Naturally, most of the conjecture is around the topic of who would have done such a thing. Some people say that they saw a man on a motorcycle throw the bomb into a knot of people including tourists, while others say someone placed it on a motorcycle. An unidentified woman who was seriously mangled (and killed) in the bombing may have been a suicide bomber according to others. It's going to be a while before we have any idea. Does this herald a period of attacks against foreigners? I doubt it. Most of the problems that Egypt had in the past were part of a struggle between people who were in opposition to the government, specifically the security forces, and the police. Ironically, the government's response in the 90's was to insist on police escorts for tourists, which simply made the tourists targets even more than before. I just hope that we don't see an exodus of tourists from Egypt, as the hotels and resorts are currently packed with visitors. In the meantime, my two American visitors are feeling very safe here in the countryside, and I feel no danger to myself at all.

Now we will all wait to see how the foreign press covers the event, how the government investigates, how the tourism industry reacts. As far as I can see, this was one of those tragic random events that could happen anywhere. Even the "safe" United States has had pipe bombing episodes in the past. No one made it out to be part of a sinister plot against Westerners or Easterners when it happened there. On the contrary, it was quite realistically described as a random act of violence by a deranged individual, just as most of them are. Suicide bombing is most surely an act of a deranged individual, one for whom despair is the overriding current in his/her life. Frankly, throwing a pipe bomb from a motorcycle does not seem to me to be the most balanced way of dealing with a problem either.

Egypt is utterly dependent on tourism. 99.9999% of Egyptians do not want to see anything happen to foreign tourists because a drop in tourism affects every sector of Egyptian life. The farmers get less for their crops if there is less demand. The manufacturing sector depends on purchases made by tourists or the demand of the hotel industry. The poor horse and camel men at the pyramids, as well as the souvenir sellers everywhere, are most directly hit. I would imagine that if the shopkeepers of Muski could get hold of who ever created that bomb, there would only be tiny shreds of whatever left in a matter of moments. No, we didn't need this at all.

1 comment:

Kristie said...

I went back to this date because I wanted to see what your thoughts were at this time. We too, were in Egypt on that day and myself and a friend had been to the bazaar the day before and had plans to return again. This was the first time that we made the long journey from Northern California to our holiday home in Maadi with our children (we have triplet 5 year old girls and a 4 year old son - you may imagine why we have been reluctant to take the long flight). I, too, felt this was a random act of violence and that indeed turned out to be exactly what it was.

With that said, it most definitely caused a moments hesitation about our future plans for the remainder of our trip. We had already seen the major tourist places and decided to avoid Sharm since it can be a target because of it's proximity to other places. So we spent the rest of our time in Maadi taking walks and enjoying the people. It was the most time we had spent near Cairo in one "sitting", if you will, as we usually enjoy driving to Hurghada and Casseyre (I know I'm misspelling that, sorry) but taking on more of a local identity was so enjoyable. Our apartment is directly across from a school and since I have four children, each day I would choose one of them to go on a walk for some special time with Mommy. For some reason, my son was last, but it was an amazing sight to see how he was well taken by the school children - especially the boys. I don't think he's been kissed so much in one day - ever! To this day, Gabriel, my son, thinks that he is some Egyptian celebrity. Our daughter Yasmine, more shy, but more noted because of her Egyptian name and Gabriel are working on perfecting their "parade wave" as it may be called in the states. All of our kids think Egypt is the greatest place on earth because of the generous attention they recieve while there.