Egypt's rarely observed curfew lifted

Mohamed El Hebeishy, Thursday 16 Jun 2011

Ahram Online hits the streets checking what Cairo residents have to say about their first curfew-free night in almost four months

Tahrir sit-in
What curfew? Protesters distributing lentil soup in Tahrir square during the 18-day sit-in, in total disregard of the curfew (Photo: Hala Nammar)

It was exactly 138 days during which Egyptians’ nighttime movement was hampered courtesy of the curfew. Imposed from 6pm local time (16:00 GMT) on January 28th, Egypt’s revolution momentous Day of Rage, the curfew hours were extended and shortened more than once until it was finally lifted on June 15th.

On the same night, Egypt and most of the Middle East, witnessed a total eclipse of the moon; most probably a coincidence.

When the decision was announced earlier on June 6th, one military official commented that lifting the curfew comes as a step forward to ‘encourage a return of normality’.

The lift comes as the summer tourism season approaches and after the Minister of Tourism, Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour publicly called on several occasion for lifting the curfew due to its negative impact on tourism.

"Well, this might be another asset in attracting tourists by saying that everything is coming back to normal," says Fatmat Nagi, a manager in one of Egypt's five stars hotels. "But actually security has to be restored so that people, both Egyptians an non-Egyptians, can feel safe".

Nagi says that, in any case, tourism had started to pick up again during the last couple of weeks, and she expects more tourists to come in the summer season.

Lifting a curfew that actually did not mean much to many Egyptians, who did not abide to it anyways, has stirred little excitement, however. Rather, the results of a poll commissioned by the ruling Military Council and published on its facebook page, in which more than 50,000 allegedly participated, showed that 80% of the people interviewed actually asked that the curfew be extended until the unstable security situation was dealt with.   

Do Cairenes share the same views?

"I go to my job in the morning, and watch TV with my wife in the evening. The curfew was never a problem for me; I don’t stay out late anyway” stated accountant Adel Fouad.

Certainly not all of us have a 9 to 5 type of jobs; some work late at night. Hamada, who serves tea on Moneib Bridge, had a different perspective. “As you can see, my clients are people who come to have a cup of tea and relax while enjoying the Nile scenery. They mostly come at night, not during daytime”.

Whether office hours end at 5pm or 5am, the curfew could certainly restrict one’s business; especially when it comes to trips.

"Due to the nature of my job, I extensively travel [outside Egypt]. More than once, I had to think twice before booking my ticket, should the flight touches down during curfew hours,” commented regional sales manager Ahmed Omran.  

In a metropolis that never sleeps, moving around Cairo, even well through the night, is certainly not all about work. 

“Unless it was an after-hours house party, we had to call it off a night as early as 1am; that was quite depressive” commented hardcore partygoer Paki.

Work or leisure, it is not all about mobility.

“Frankly speaking, the curfew didn’t mean much to me; it never stopped me from going around. In my opinion, it is more of a right rather than a practicality issue. Having the option [to go out whenever one pleases] but not exercising it is one thing, and to be deprived of it is another,” commented Ahmed Mounir.

The first such restriction on Cairo since 1986, the curfew was met with little respect. Ahmed, 43, has a dry-clean shop in a crowded area in Maadi. He finishes his work by midnight to join his friends in a near by coffee shop that opens all night. "In the beginning we used to abide to the curfew" he says "but as time passed we started to spend more time on the street, as much we often did before the revolution." He adds that, in fact, as he returned home past curfew hours, “I would find super markets opening their doors and taxi drivers roaming in the streets". But this, according to Ahmed, was the case mostly on side streets, or in areas were people already knew each other.

Whether it means more teacups served, worry-free business trips, or just longer party hours; the decision of lifting the curfew was welcomed by many, even if it came on a moonless night without much of jubilation.


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