It’s windy today, for once. The breeze keeps slapping my balcony door back and forth on its hinges, and across the street, on the rooftop of a nearby villa, I can see another door opening and shutting with the wind.
We have just finished week three of our classes, and Thursday was capped by a security briefing in Arabic, delivered by our program director who looked like she badly needed sleep. In anticipation of massive protests this weekend, and possible ensuing chaos, the addresses of all 29 of us have been painstakingly mapped out on sheets of paper. Our mobile numbers and landlines have been collected and our parents have been alerted via email that everyone is under surveillance and all is under control.
Yet for all of these security precautions, the city is strangely quiet. My roommate and I have spent the last two days shopping and cooking, collecting myriad bottles of water, beer, matches, food from three different markets, and a flashlight. We’re cooking Syrian food tonight and having a few friends over. Al Jazeera plays on in the background. It’s a wall of mostly impermeable sound if I don’t pay attention. A few words stand out here and there. Hakooma, Tamarrod.
Sunday is the one-year anniversary of President Morsi’s inauguration. The Tamarrod (Rebel) campaign has been calling for massive protests against the Ikhwan’s government for weeks now, and the Ikhwan supporters have said they will be protesting as well. The fear is that both giant groups of protesters will meet somewhere and violence will follow. The army has proclaimed its unwillingness to get involved.
Other problems have been stacking up, adding to the grievances of Cairo’s already-aggrieved citizens. A sweeping gas shortage has left people angry and short of temper. Some days it is impossible to catch a taxi from our middle-class neighborhood in Doqqi to Zamalek (or back) because of the lines outside of the petrol station near our flat bring traffic to a stand still. Other days there’s no petrol, so therefore, no traffic, at least according to one our taxi drivers. There’s no reason to wait in long lines outside petrol stations if there’s no gas to be had, or so the logic goes. Is this true? Who knows? Does it matter?
What does matter is that it seems like people are running out of patience; with the gas crisis, with the Ikwhan, with each other. On Wednesday, I narrowly avoided a fist fight between a couple of young Egyptian hipsters in tight jeans, a crazed, drunken man, and a herd of goats/their owners. My roommate saw three fist fights on her way home from school a few days ago as well. There’s a rumor that the Ikhwan have been holding back petrol to prevent more people from coming into the city to join the protests, which has just enraged people more.
The Anti-Morsi sentiment is strong here in general. Last week, a local paper published a picture of Morsi’s face and the headline: “The Devil’s Last Dance.” An old teacher of mine from Alexandria posted a strikingly operatic video from the Tamarrod campaign, urging people to come out (Inzil!) and march in the streets. The Tamarrod campaign says they have gathered 15 million signatures asking Morsi to step aside.
What I continue to find most interesting about the state of a city preparing for a possible siege on normality is that normal life continues. We went to the butcher’s shop today and even though the media was proclaiming the advent of a new civil war in Egypt, people were still kind, and taught us words for things we didn’t know. During the revolution, Egyptians formed citizen brigades to protect their neighborhoods. Inshaallah, tomorrow, all will be Kheir.