Monday, February 07, 2011

Egypt Protests, Part 2: Community Building

While the world was busy watching the events going on in downtown Cairo, the truth is that most of us here were just sitting at home waiting. 

We were more worried about the basics. Did we have enough food? Were we safe? Were our families safe? Were our neighborhoods safe?

Because after the Egyptian police were pulled off the streets last Friday, homes and businesses were put in danger. Poor people from across Cairo as well as criminals taking advantage of the situation ransacked malls and businesses, carrying off anything and everything that wasn't nailed to the floor.

It's a pretty scary situation sitting at home knowing that you are helpless to control the situation.

I have never been scared in Egypt before. Never felt nervous about being in the streets. Never thought anything would or could happen to us or our home here.

Not that we were ever in any real danger. The part of Cairo where we live isn't exactly in the thick of things downtown. But the unknown can still be a scary thing.

Nobody knew what could happen. Nobody knew how much could happen. And nobody knew when it would end.

But when news hit our neighborhood of looters at the edge of our part of town and my husband went down with all the other men of the building to stand guard in the street with a shovel in his hand, I must say I was worried.

Just a little bit.

It was interesting to see how something like this could bring together a community. We've lived in our building for five years now and although we know our neighbors, this was the first time we'd really interacted with them.

And it wasn't just the people in our building.

It was the first time I'd spoken to our neighbors on their balcony in the building beside us. I'd seen them out on their balcony numerous times and was shy to speak to them. I respected their space, and they respected ours.

But this gave us something to talk about. Because who else were you going to talk to?

At this point even our mobile phones were still off. The only way we were getting our news was through the international news we were getting via satellite... and the rumors that drifted through the streets from building to building.

I think we'll see in weeks, months, and even years to come how these days of coming together to defend our streets and homes will create a long-lasting bond in our neighborhood. I'm sure this will be true across Cairo and perhaps across the country of Egypt.

Because just like in any other country around the world, when ordinary people step up to do their duty to protect their homes and families, you see a strength of character and spirit of camaraderie unlike any other.

It made me feel safer knowing that the men who lived in our neighborhood were stepping up to keep it safe. We came home from the airport only to get stopped by 10 separate neighborhood checkpoints.

It didn't matter if you were rich or poor, Christian or Muslim.

This was about something bigger. These are our homes. These are our families.

If the government chose to turn a blind eye to the damage and destruction being caused by looters across the city, the men in our communities were stepping up to to fill the void.

I have never been prouder of my adopted country.


  1. That's great, it is lovely to see people taking care of each other. I don't think I would see the same scenes in the UK.

  2. Lets hope this transition perioed works out for the whole of Egypt. Have put a link to your blog under my geo-location blog. Good luck for the year ahead. Robert


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