Jan 27th 2013
THIS IS NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
Writing today the 27th January falls on one of the most depressive and dark violent spells in the last 2 years of the Egyptian political uprising. As I sit in my Cairo home the city is full of sporadic protests, bridges blocked off and street fighting around Tahrir Square in particular with the sounds of sirens and shooting filling the night air. In Port Said over 37 people have been killed in the streets, mostly protesters angry at the court ruling on Saturday to execute 21 of the 70 charged with the 2012 football stadium massacre of Al Ahly fans.
And last night we watched from our balconies as police attacked protesters trying to march to the Shura , the 2nd Parliament building. The police smashed paving stones and threw them at the protesters, followed by rounds of tear gas and violent beatings of protesters unluckly enough to be caught. We also observed the police break into an apartment block across from us and read in the paper that a woman was arrested for filming them. Later turned out she is a filmmaker and activist. This morning we discovered the police had smashed our front door windows ( I will send the bill to Morsi) and rumors circulate of raids in our area and warnings from the locals. Certainly there is an unusual level of tension in the air and today’s shopping on the market seemed pretty normal until a small boy gave me the finger, rather than the usual friendly refrains.
These days of trouble are in contrast to last year’s anniversary that I remember as well humored and pretty jovial, although some terrible incidents were reported afterwards. This year’s ‘celebration’ has an ugly the mood to it and the nation is divided or polarized into a myriad of political camps and ideologies. But tonight I watched a TV report from a riot scene on the October the 6th Bridge (one of the main traffic highways) talk to a stream of angry people about why they were there. My Arabic is still awful, I have to admit, but the same words were repeated ‘work, jobs, money, president, we’. The economic hardship is what drives the ordinary people out to say it’s not good enough. To me this appears to be the backbone of the unrest, a deep-rooted dissatisfaction with the failure of the state and the behavior of the security forces. It is worth noting very few police or army have been charged despite the huge number of Egyptians murdered in street protests since Murbarak’s resignation.
The Port Said court verdict is historic as it holds people accountable for their actions and with police officers a=part of the 70 charged more relevations could follow. Of course there is more to the football massacre than will be known and those who gave the orders will probably escape conviction. The court ruling may seem harsh but few executions are carried out in Egypt despite to use of this extreme measure.
Perhaps because of this dark periods, that everyone saw coming as the Port Said trial could not have been better timed in conjuction with the 25th January anniversary, Yvonne Buchheim, the wife, and I are going to share our efforts in a new blog. We are planning to offer a skewed, re-rooted and individual perspective on life here with regular image, text and links to expand and explore the experience of this wonderful city.
With that in mind this will be my last blog. I started it 55 weeks ago and it has been a wild journey of impressions that have struck me on a very personal level. There is a vibrancy and intensity to life that tends to distort or even ridicule time. For instance it is hard to imagine that a month ago we were in southern Egypt, on the border of Sudan on Lake Nasser.
So this is part of what living here has opened me up to, that is a sense of constant change or surprise, a sort of hectic stasis as nothing really progresses linearly and time and objectives are stretched outwards. This may sound difficult as having a sense of a narrative and meaning to ones life is valued and a core foundation of contentment. However the year here has been characterized for me as one of stops and starts, of sideways movements, wayward tracks, spastic turns. Many of the people I have met here seem to share this peculiar ilk and Cairo is a city that saps superficial enthusiasm soberly in favor of under the radar entropy. Trying to uphold an organized and progressive structure to your life is probably leads to catatonic seizures, hyperventilation and early death.
So on that cheery note I will bid farewell to those of you kind enough to read the blog, wherever you are. It has been a new venture for me to have the discipline to express and catalogue the last year of 2012 in 18,000 words and 159 images in Cairo but now it is time to draw the curtains. I guess I’m falling further into the Cairo quagmire, the endless blackhole of ambition with, tonight at least, the sounds of running street battles replacing the normal traffic hum of the city.
Cairo really ain’t no city for old men.
As Yeats said:
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.
ONE YEAR IN CAIRO Read the rest of this entry »