My Egyptian-Canadian friend, Maged, lives in Cairo, Egypt. With the internet back on, I finally received an email from him assuring me that he is safe. Thank God.
With his permission, I am posting his email so that you can read it and have a feel for what it’s like for some of those on the ground. He is not near Tahrir. He is living in one of many neighbourhoods in Cairo. He is protecting his family, friends, and neighbours the best way he knows how in a city of chaos.
The words below have been minimally edited to reflect one person’s opinion. Please do not take it as anything else.
We’re all living under marshal law with a curfew at 3pm and zero police presence - we just have each other to depend on for security.
We block off our streets and don’t let anyone in after 3pm, and everyone in the neighborhood comes downstairs and patrols the streets looking for outsiders, I’ve been freezing my ass off every night staying up all night guarding my home and my family’s home with makeshift road blocks, handguns and shotguns….we also pray every night that this nightmare ends.
There’s no petrol in the gas stations but the food and water supply seem to be holding up pretty well. I’ve gotten to know everyone in my building and on my street from this vigilante type of self protection that we’ve set up - our situation is not unique. Apparently every single street in Cairo is like this.
Whenever we catch anyone trying to infiltrate our neighbourhood we whistle to each other and fire warning shots in the air. Usually they get scared off.
We wear armbands to tell friends from foes and so far we haven’t had any problems.
We all watch TV or listen to the radio on the street and hope that this shit ends as soon as possible so we can go back to our normal lives. There are tanks and APC’s (armoured personnel carrier) in Korba and Salah Salem, it’s a strange and bewildering sight. There’s still zero police presence on the streets and whenever we see a police car we make the occupants get out of the car and search them. A lot of police cars have been stolen and used by criminals released from prison or those just trying to steal anything they can get their hands on.
We pass the time telling jokes and talk politics. Everyone has an opinion, everyone is divided on who and what should happen, but we all agree that we want this to end.
It’s been days of this chaos with no end in sight, and yet when I walk around my neighborhood seeing the streets filled with people with sticks, knives, and guns protecting their homes, I can’t help but look on in absolute disbelief that this is happening in Cairo, one of the safest cities in the world that changed overnight. I still think its very safe though because everyone is on the streets protecting their homes, but vigilante justice is no way to live.
Anyways, I can’t wait to be back in Toronto and not have to deal with gunshots every night.