The hours from Thursday morning to Friday lunchtime were among the most exciting and nerve-wracking of my life.
Since the unrest in Egypt began, our family has not had a moment’s tranquillity. Even without cable TV (a deliberate choice on our part) we have been following broadcasts and blogs online and trying to stay in touch with Egyptians we know around the world, including the relatives in Egypt who were completely cut off for several days as the regime tried to put a lid on the popular uprising.
On midday Thursday (Pacific time) Mubarak was supposed to give a speech. It was 40 minutes late, meaning that our prayer time came and went before he even started (although we prayed right after so it still counts). This is 10 p.m. Cairo time, so it was after 10:30 when he finally spoke.
The speech began with patronizing platitudes about “I am speaking to you as a father to his children.” Then, “the blood of the young people killed and injured in the unfortunate events will not be wasted because I have ordered a complete investigation and I will hold the guilty ones accountable.” (I’m paraphrasing here and based on what the interpreter said since my Arabic is less than basic.) At this point I’m thinking, no, wait, this is not good, this is going the wrong way. After a couple more minutes the crowds in Tahrir Square started growling and waving their shoes, which by now everyone knows is like giving the finger only worse.
At one point the interpreter started one sentence over three times. I thought it was the interpreter stumbling, but it may have been Mubarak because one commentator said he seemed to be disoriented.
Important to note that in Egypt, State television showed the speech and not the reactions in the square. And we had to phone our relatives in Alexandria to tell them to watch, because they didn’t know the speech was scheduled.
We were left absolutely fearful that he had outdone Machiavelli, that everything would end in a bloodbath with hundreds killed as they marched on presidential palaces (there are many to choose from), Army bases, and the television building, and that the regime would spin this as foreign agitators and inflamed students. On the other hand if the people just packed up and went home (as if!) the regime would say that there were no problems.
I left a window to a breaking news blog open and kept refreshing it to watch developments. Although we’ve probably had a lot more sleep than friends with cable, who have been getting by on two or three hours, I actually stayed up most of the night as I had to work. Frequent breaks to check on what was happening, e.g. “The Pyramids are open. But there are no tourists.”
Finally on Friday morning Pacific Time a relative called to say Mubarak had stepped down. After jumping up and down and shouting and crying we headed out for candies. No one had dared to hope for any kind of celebration, especially after the disappointment the day before, and of course red, black, and white don’t match the colours of any North American celebration, so we had to improvise. The white candies had to be hand picked out of the Valentine’s mix (Wearing a plastic bag as a makeshift glove). It’s installation art because they were loose in the dish, meaning it couldn’t be carried anywhere, except very carefully around the apartment. It’s currently disassembled but sorted by colour. I’m hoping for a party or get together of some kind that I can either reassemble it there or perhaps make sheet cakes and stick the beans on with butter frosting. We’ll see.
Umm Sprout improvised a bag for the candies we took to prayers, using a Body Shop bag which originally said “thank you Canada.” This is more exciting than a planned celebration where you have time to either buy or make decorations and favours, and it’s unrepeatable. Everyone is so euphoric, and yet calmer at the same time. I really see and hear a change in the people I know. Abu Sprout sweetly said that he felt sorry that I’m not Egyptian, but right now I almost feel Egyptian!