The countdown continues. We have less than an hour left before the ultimatum that the Egyptian army gave President Morsi is up, and then….what? A “soft” coup? No one is sure what’s going to happen, but it is becoming clearer and clearer that if Morsi doesn’t resign and capitulate to the people’s demands, there will be serious consequences. All sides – the protesters and the army and the Brotherhood – have declared that they aren’t backing down. Last night 16 people were killed in clashes near Cairo University. Today, everything has been peaceful as the deadline approaches. When you’re essentially under house arrest on strict order of your fellowship program and the US Embassy, time moves very slow. The minutes become tangible, heavy things. This Morsi Countdown website has proven to be useful.
On the sleepy streets of Doqqi, a facade of normality still lingers. Earlier today, I went out with some fellow Casawiyys to the Soliman Gohar Souq a few blocks from our house and stocked up on some bread, two different kinds of Fateer and a few different papers. There was a normal number of people out on the streets buying watermelon, peaches, and vegetables of all kinds.
We also made a brief stop at our local Maqha (coffee shop) where we’ve made friends with one of the waiters, Mustapha. In between coffee and shisha, he brought us a fake Arabic test on a piece of cardboard, as a joke; we’re always asking him questions about our Aamiya (Egyptian Arabic) homework.
The man across from us was trying to fix his laptop and the other patrons were checking their cellphones for updates in between puffs of smoke.
The front page of Al Masry Al Youm (which our newspaper man has assured me is the best paper in Egypt) reads: “Egypt will be returned (to the people) within hours.” I asked some of the patrons what they thought was going to happen. “After four o clock, we’ll find out,” one man said. “Morsi has to go. He’s got to. The Brotherhood is no good.”
Is it going to be a coup, we asked. “No, no, it’s not a coup. It’s not the army who wants this. It’s the people,” one of the other guys interjected. They were all planning to go down to the protests after four, inshaallah. Our waiter was less enthusiastic. “God willing, all will be well,” he said when I inquired about what was going to happen. I asked if he had attended the protests and he shook his head. “I’ve got three daughters, and they’re all engaged,” he said, and showed me pictures on his phone. I got the feeling that he might have been an Ikhwan (Brotherhood) supporter but didn’t want to say it, because the general mood seems to be strongly anti-Ikwhan, at least in our neighborhood.
When the four men we had been chatting with stood up to leave so that they could be home for the announcement at 4, we took this as our cue to go as well. Now I’m holed up in my apartment with plenty of coffee, waiting for some sort of official announcement. My feeling is that the army is going to take over the government and that Morsi will be forced out. The people want this (two million protesters and almost everyone I’ve spoken to wants this, at least) and if this leads to a more inclusive government with wider protections for minorities and women, than I’m all for the coming of the second revolution. The issue is that we can’t predict what’s going to happen once the army takes power, and also, wresting power from a sitting president doesn’t set a great precedent for the democratic process in Egypt. However, Morsi has broken almost every one of his promises to the electorate. I tend to want to put my faith in people like Mohammed ElBaradei and the novelist Alaa El Aswany, both of whom want Morsi to go. El Aswany was recently quoted in the New York Times as saying “Enough is enough. It has been decided for Mr. Morsi. Now, we are waiting for him to understand.”