It's hard to know where to start with this post. My experience in the last few days has been incredible. As an earlier post indicates I found myself questioning my role in what is an intimate moment for Egypt. After getting over the initial blush however, I have immersed myself in this historic movement (still as a spectator) and shared in the experience with the Egyptian people. Here I will offer you snapshots of the past few days.
Friday, January 28: What I noticed first was the sunlight. The streets were eerily quiet as rows of riot police cordoned them off. We walked down the naked streets, usually clothed with throngs of people, into rays of sunlight. Somehow, in all my daydreams of revolutions, I never pictured it to be sunny. These romantic ponderings however were decisively interrupted when after turning the corner down a back street we were hit with an invisible wall of tear gas. This was my first encounter with the misty weapon, but it would not, as the day promised, be my last. We paused and watched as protesters halted their cries in order to observe the afternoon prayer. We took advantage of this moment of calm to cross underneath the 6th October Bridge in downtown Cairo. This required that we snake our way through burning tires and burning police cars. While not unfamiliar to pollution, this smoke burned the sky with fumes of self-determination and necessary change.
We then met a crowd of protesters. Some paused and asked us what we thought of the movement. They smiled that endearing Egyptian smile when we told them that what we were witnessing was nothing short of beautiful. Smiles faded however when my friends and I and the Egyptian protesters found ourselves trapped in front of the Ramses Hilton hemmed in by the police's weapon of cowardice and fear. What protruded from that dark backdrop of danger and violence however, was the shining star of Egyptian community. I cannot count the number of Egyptians who approached me offering me water, onions, vinegar, or even a kind word. I witnessed one man lighting a police post on fire. His fellow protesters however stopped him immediately and made him put out the fire. When the hotel fired a rubber bullet in to the crowd out of desperation the crowd chanted, "peacefully, peacefully." As night began to fall we drove home in a taxi. As Cairo burned behind me, I couldn't help but feel the warmth of the Egyptian people. Despite all the ugly chaos spurred by the police and their commander, what ideals were manifested by Egyptians that day were only the most beautiful.