Last night, the scene in front of Rabaa Al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo's Nasr City felt like an enormous Islamist block party. A six-lane boulevard had been shut down and was crammed with thousands of bodies supporting President Mohammed Morsi. They waved Egyptian flags with religious slogans like “There is no God but God and Mohammed is his messenger,” while eating popcorn and drinking tea. The pro-government protesters had erected a stage, and when I got there as the sun set, the loudspeakers were blaring.
Cairo, Egypt—Early Thursday evening, Tahrir Square was full of optimism. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was going to address the nation, and everyone was debating what he was going to say. People had heard he was going to resign; they thought the movement that has swept Egypt for the last 17 days, shutting down the country, might finally have succeeded. There was a carnival-like atmosphere: People hugged, wrung each other’s hands, bought popcorn and tea from vendors, chanted, and sang songs. It was a high point for the protest community that has taken root in the heart of Cairo.
The Muslim Brotherhood set up its own cordon in Tahrir Square today. Under the giant makeshift TV screen that broadcast President Hosni Mubarak’s address to the nation a few days ago (a series of white sheets, stitched together and suspended off a building), men linked arms and checked IDs, allowing only journalists into the crammed area. Mohammed El Beltagy, a former member of parliament, had come to speak to the media about the Brotherhood’s position on the continued demonstrations here.
Cairo, Egypt—It is getting harder and harder to report from Egypt. I’ve lived here for more than two years, and although Egypt has a reputation for oppressing the country’s domestic media, it doesn’t usually crack down on foreigners. Now, that has changed.
Cairo, Egypt—Egypt’s economy has by all accounts ground to a halt as a result of curfews, travel restrictions, and communications blackouts. Here in Cairo, the effects are readily apparent: Reduced delivery of goods and a shortage of wheat have shuttered subsidized bread-distribution points, reducing the quantity of bread available and generating long, angry breadlines snaking down the city’s alleyways. “I’ve been waiting here for two hours,” one man in a military-run breadline told me.
As an American in Egypt, I’ve always been asked about my government’s support for President Mubarak. My usual response is to say, “We don’t control everything our government does, just like in Egypt. I am here to write about your country so people in my country and in my government can read it.” Prior to this week, most people thanked me and the buck stopped there. But as this country’s social order upends itself, I’ve noticed a marked shift in the way people here react to authority.
Cairo, Egypt—For years, analysts and journalists have described the Egyptian masses as apathetic and embattled. But, after the last five days, it’s impossible to say this anymore. Since January 25, protesters have taken to the streets in Egypt’s major cities, demanding an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s almost 30-year reign. Here is an explainer of the main actors in Egypt today and what they may be thinking. The protesters. Egyptian men and women of all ages and social classes are amassed in central squares in major cities, including Cairo, Alexandria, Mansoura, Suez, and Aswan.
As the protests in Cairo stretched through the weekend, much of the international news coverage has focused on looting and violence. Newspapers have been describing a state of near-anarchy, and cable TV has been streaming reports about violence throughout the country, and gangs of thugs terrorizing Cairo’s neighborhoods. Last night, gunshots were ringing into the early hours of the morning. There is certainly violence occurring in Egypt, but after returning from Pakistan a day ago to cover the upheaval, I was actually struck by how peaceful the protest is at Cairo’s main gathering spot.
Outside a ballot counting office in Shubra el-Kheima, an impoverished neighborhood on the outskirts of Cairo, throngs of men chant in unison to a cackling loudspeaker: "There is no god but Allah! No to vote rigging!" It’s 10 p.m.