It is a beautiful Friday morning in Cairo. The absence of heavy car
traffic over the past ten days has given this city the cleanest air I
ever remember breathing. Outside my window it’s crisp with bright
blue skies and a smattering of little clouds in wondrous shapes
previously concealed by the infamous Cairo morning smog.
In my post-Mubarak time zone it’s Departure-Friday, and it’s been
called that for at least three days now. We don’t greet each other
with the usual bland good mornings we are used to. No. It’s on a
cheerful note of “departure morning!” that we begin conversation and
end. Other people inhabiting other time zones – family, colleagues,
friends, and the odd man on the street – many of those have
increasingly come to view us as an enemy at the gate, our morning
greeting an irresponsible act of drunkness, and some us secretly
wonder if it’s true.
We were called “traitors” yesterday by random strangers as friends and
I crossed Kasr El Nil Bridge to Tahrir Square, carrying food and
medical supplies to those who survived into the morning after
Wednesday night’s violence. People we don’t know yelled at us:
“You’re not Egyptian! You know nothing about this country!” Later on
we were told other pro-democracy folks had their supplies seized by
pro-Mubarak men on the bridge, who then proceeded to chug said
supplies into the Nile. At a pharmacy earlier, a friend was asked by
the salesman if the supplies were for Tahrir, and when she said yes,
he proceeded to explain why she’s personally responsible for Egypt's
imminent spiral into a tunnel of horrors, a massive conspiracy by
inside and outside forces that seek to bring Egypt down.
Depending on who you talk to, Egypt now stands against the biggest and
oddest axis of evil ever known to humanity, something far surpassing
the wildest neocon fantasies: Against Egypt’s domestic tranquility
stands Israel-allied-with-Iran-allied-with Saudi
Baradei-allied with Mubarak!
I mean, seriously?!
Yes. In other time zones they blame any odd number of the above
galactic evil axis as responsible for what’s going on now. Like
Mubarak aptly put it to Amanpour on TV yesterday, it is not in
Egyptian “culture” to revolt. It is not in us to take ourselves
seriously and stand up to a corrupt ruler and his elite. So it must
be the Muslim Brotherhood fomenting the protests, or at least waiting
to hijack their result and ride into power. Or it’s Iran meddling
again. Or it’s obstinate youth who won’t listen to reason and now
jeapradize our system falling into the military’s lap. Or it’s
America allied with Baradei protecting Israel’s security and
engineering Mubarak’s succession by Suleiman, the trustworthy head of
Egyptian intelligence. Or it’s Israel instinctively seeking to
destabilize Egypt, risking the peace treaty in the process.
Or. Or. Or… Whatever it is, what’s happening on the ground cannot
be a real revolution, because Egyptians don’t revolt in that other
time zone. The passive fellahin on the Nile are an eternal symbol not
meddle with, please.
What these different theories ultimately do is increase the level of
fear among the people on what’s to happen next, bring many to support
Mubarak and not just hooligans paid by the ruling party to beat up
demonstrators, nor capitalist and police elites who stand to suffer
from his downfall. No, it’s my cousin and my best friend and my work
colleague, many of them in that Mubarak twilight zone want him to stay
after the promises he made two days ago, they want him to stay just
for a while, just for six months, just to oversee the transition, just
so that the country doesn’t plunge into violence and chaos. Again,
like Mubarak told Amanpour last night, he would love to leave office
immediately, were it not for Egypt’s security that he so zealously
In the post-Mubarak time zone, this is all malicious hogwash intended
to split the people, and splitting us it is. This facebook revolution
as some have come to call it, is now witnessing facebook lynchings.
Friends are removing others from their “friend” list over pro and ani
Mubarak positions that seem to change by the day. I’ve stopped
talking to my cousin and almost fell out with a good friend. And when
I do my best to listen carefully to their reasoning, why Mubarak
should be given a safe and dignified exit from Egypt, I understand
where they’re coming from, and must admit sometimes feel that their
time zone reasoning prevails, that the country is indeed in danger,
that enough is enough and that Tahrir, Liberation Square, must be
liberated from its demonstrators for Egypt’s sake.
These are the fears of last night, a dark night of the soul, when I
wondered with neighbors patrolling our police free streets if the
spirit in Tahrir where just came from is real and true? We weigh one
logical analysis of the situation against another, we argue and argue
back, we joke and laugh and do our best to hide the fact that we’re
all really scared. Above all, we hide from the fact that the
reasoning and policy discussions are inconclusive in their results,
that as we go back home to sleep in the early morning, our minds are
still not made up if we’ll join demonstrators in Tahrir on Friday
At these times only faith can save us, faith either in the ability of
the people to know right from wrong, to know freedom from oppression,
to recognize the difference by intuition and act on it by intuition as
A good departure morning to whomever is reading this!
Amr A. Shalakany is Associate Professor of Law at the American University in Cairo. The above article was written also for the New York Times.