Yesterday we went to celebrate Eid al Shukr (Thanksgiving) with a group of American students who study at our university. It was great getting a little taste of home in the middle of this crazy week. 7 floors up in the Ibrahimiya neighborhood we munched on a potluck hodgepodge of Turkey Day Americana: stuffing, turkey, and apple pie, now and then heading out to the balcony to watch protesters walk by below. I chatted with students and their Egyptian friends, feeling very much at ease. The only moment when the current political turmoil really snapped back into focus was when one of the American students panicked over partygoers taking pictures of the protesters. He told us later that one of his friends had been arrested (and released) for taking pictures of the Egyptian Interior Ministry building. Despite this minor freak-out, the event was a lot of fun.
The second million-man march took place in Tahrir yesterday (CNN). The military appointed a Mubarak-era prime minister, Kamal el-Ganzouri, to lead the new government (Al Ahram). The police have offered weak apologies for the deaths of 40-plus protesters since last week. Frightening images abound, from the assault of a female protester yesterday (please ignore the stupid music) in the Smouha neighborhood of Alexandria to a small anti-Israel rally in which protesters chanted “one day we shall kill all the Jews.”
Even with everything that is going on, our daily routines are not all that different. We are still expected to go to class, which means writing essays and doing homework as usual. Our guide urged us not to leave the apartment unless absolutely necessary and even that is not all that different because instead of staying home and doing work like any regular Saturday afternoon, we’re just doing that with the added benefit of staying out of harm’s way.
The main difference is that now I reflexively turn on the news or check The New York Times, Al Masry Al Youm, and Drudge Report for coverage of the protests (instead of reflexively checking them anyway). This year more than previous years, I am nauseated when I see the idiocy that surrounds Black Friday in the US–SERIOUSLY, PEOPLE?! even if you really really want an x-box, pepper spray is a little much –receiving more media attention than all of what is going on here. Usually I’d scoff and shake my head, but this year I feel I have a stake in getting airtime and headlines for ACTUAL NEWS *hrm* major and momentous world events and thus this year it’s more to the order of upchucking rather than simple cantankerousness.
However, a disclaimer: things are not as frenzied everywhere as the media might suggest. Protests are widespread but in Alexandria for example they center around only a few places in the city and between certain times at that. For some Egyptians, too, things are calm and life goes on.