As I write, scattered gunfire intermittently breaks the silence. It’s 8 pm, and we’ve been uneasily listening to the sharp, ricocheting sounds of live ammunition for the past several hours, as security forces and protesters clash around the city. Today is Armed Forces Day, a national holiday that has assumed a new, more insidious meaning this year in the wake of the army-backed government’s slow consolidation of power. Today represented a swift resurgence of the slow-motion train wreck of the summer – protesters clashing with security forces, army opening fire on protesters, foreign media targeted and attacked, civil rights rescinded.
We don’t know much at this point, but we do know that at least 34 people died, and hundreds were injured. A journalist friend was beaten up and arrested while covering a protest, but was thankfully released earlier this evening. What is clear is that the Muslim Brotherhood has not disappeared and there’s enough popular anger simmering to keep the military and the government on their toes.
In between the helicopters and alarming sounds of live ammunition, we were drawn to our balcony in time to see protesters and bystanders fleeing down my street to escape whatever was happening on Sharea Tahrir or in Maydan al Galaa, a square next to the Nile and near a bridge that leads to downtown. In between the alarmed older men and odd masked protester run-walking down our street, I spotted a few remarkably nonplussed women talking on their cellphones, carrying shopping bags full of mundane essentials like toilet paper. In the midst of the chaos I felt a strange sense of camaraderie with my neighbors, who were all at their balconies as well, talking to spouses or silently watching the scattered parade of people below us pass by.
My flatmate is stuck in Heliopolis and in an attempt to distract ourselves, my husband and I have opened the Omar Khayyam wine (just barely drinkable when cold) and the last of our friend’s beers that he stored in the fridge. Things finally seem to be calming down, somewhat. I have no intelligent thoughts to add about the horrendous loss of life today, only that it’s been a dark, dismal day for Egypt and I’m glad to see it come to an end.