Saturday, January 25, 2014

Another Year Another Anniversary

 It's 6 am and I find myself awake on this Jan 25 without any apparent reason. The older I get, the more anniversaries of different events I have crowding my life. I remember well the Police Day three years ago. I had one of my daughter's friends staying with me at the farm and neither of us had any real intimation that the day was going to be so momentous. We'd heard rumours of marches and such being planned but no one really had any idea what would be started that day and we still don't know how it will end. Today I will be staying out here in the countryside with my animals and staff. It looks like a lovely winter day in Egypt, but I'm hoping that I won't be following timelines of pain and damage online as I check Twitter and Facebook feeds. The one thing that changed for me forever that January 25 three years ago was my connection to current events through social media. It was the only way to keep track of what was going on here during those 18 days, and I developed an addiction to knowing what was happening in Egypt without having to wait for events to pass through the innumerable filters that are the ordinary media in the world.

Yesterday I, like everyone else in Egypt and probably in the world, was shocked by the news of the explosion in front of the Islamic Museum early in the morning. A friend who had been planning to bring her daughter out to the farm texted me at about 8 am saying that they'd felt/heard the explosion all the way out in New Cairo. The shockwaves must not have traveled so well through the Nile, because I had to admit that I'd slept well and soundly without disturbance.  The bomb that went off in a car parked in front of the police headquarters in downtown Cairo was aimed at the police, not the newly renovated Islamic Museum...the museum was simply collateral damage, but that is the problem with car bombs. They really don't aim well. The fact that it went off at 6:30 am on a Friday morning was a real blessing, since no self-respecting Egyptian would be out and about at that hour on a Friday (This is the only day off for many, so a lie in is essential!) and the street by the police building was essentially empty. I wonder why this is a detail that most news reports fail to mention. Had it gone off even three or four hours later, the death toll would have been much, much greater.

Following Twitter, the subsequent bomb at a Metro station (again near a police station) in Dokki, an apparently ineffective bomb at the police station across from the Mena House at Giza (somehow that seems fitting since my experience with that particular place of social "justice" has shown it to be dubious at best) and then another bomb attack on a police official in Giza filled the day with ever increasing amounts of concern. Maybe I've lived too long in the Middle East, or maybe I've just lived too long period, but from my angle we were blessed with either some incredibly inept bombers yesterday or they were people who really didn't want to hurt that many people. Who, at this point in time, is to say what the truth of the situation is.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, I had some women come out for a ride in the countryside, I did my grocery shopping in the village of Abu Sir, and I spent some time in the afternoon with some very lovely Italian Egyptologists who had been visiting the pyramids of Abu Sir and the Sun Temple just across the road from us. Overall, the contrast between my Twitter feed that was full of anger, fear and lots of finger-pointing and the relatively idyllic afternoon in the garden couldn't have been more stark. The government press has done a brilliant job of cranking up anti-Muslim Brotherhood anger since the end of June, a job that honestly didn't need much amplification since by the end of June most people in Egypt were well and truly fed up with them, their incompetence, their unwillingness to negotiate anything or to cooperate with anyone and the general sense of depression at the thought of having to spend more precious time in this particular funk. We have had enough free-floating anxiety, fear, and worry, thank you.

Reports of groups chanting against the MB floated across the news feeds along with some reports of clashes where anti-MB types were actually prevented by police from taking out their anger on some hapless bearded person. This was not the sort of scenes that I like hearing about. A mob is dangerous, no matter what it's orientation. By evening, I'd had it with what was being called reality beyond my bubble and I turned off my computer to watch a Coen Brothers film, but not before I got a concerned message from my son in New York.  He was only seeing the filtered, amplified "Cairo Is Burning" news reports on the mainsteam media, so of course he wanted to know how I was.  I reassured him that nothing at all was blowing up out among the water buffalo, that all the targets for the bombs seemed to be the security/police forces, and that he had to remember I've been through all that before here in the 90's when the world was screaming about terrorists in Egypt, while what was actually happening was that there was a pretty focused battle going on between various groups and, again, the police/security forces. Back then, we kept an eye out on where the security/police people were and simply made sure that we were somewhere else. While life in Egypt is not all that it could be, it was certainly also not at all what it was being portrayed as being.  And at the end of the day, the security people could certainly be trusted to follow through on these bombs....after all the prosecutor general was investigating Pepsi ads that were supposed to be inciting demonstrations. Some things in Egypt don't change.

copyright 2014 Maryanne Stroud Gabbani