The Arab Spring, where citizens all over the whole Middle East caused powerful governments to listen and even topple, didn’t ignite at Tahrir Square here in Cairo, but it’s certainly where the revolution blazed hottest.
Last evening on the communal balcony of my hotel (where the WiFi is strongest) about 50 yards from the square, I posted the first few photos of my trip from the airport. The pictures show the frustration evident by the people here and as I did that a conflict broke out in the square.
It turns out the “square” isn’t actually much of a square so much as a patch of dirt, bordered by an 18-inch concrete curb, surrounded by a traffic circle (pictured right). Strings of large spiked barbed wire had been strung across street entrances, yesterday afternoon after police removed the barricades square dwellers had put up.
The drivers trying to get through expressed varying degrees of anger and frustration. I’m not sure that’s what started the conflict seen in the pictures below, but it’s possible. What my contact here assures me, is that whatever happened it wasn’t revolutionary related, and things like this are not uncommon.
So while the photos were uploading, and I sat on the balcony, shouting erupted from the square. There were a few loud, soft bangs, which I assumed at the time to be backfiring vehicles or a very old firearm. Sitting here today, I’ve not heard any cars backfire so it may be less common than I thought.
After the bangs people ran down the street below the balcony, and at the end of the running group, a small band of men carried another man, who dangled from their arms bleeding.
A series of phone calls was made, a red pick-up truck came screeching through downtown traffic and the group of men piled in the back. The wounded man’s arm dangled from the bed as they drove away.
While they were loading him in the bed of the truck, the street was filled with the sounds of a wailing woman, walking from the square, her screams bouncing off the old stone buildings around us.
Likely a family member, she flung herself against a parked car, as the truck took off and a small boy chased it down.
My contact lived in a tent in the square for four months with a group of other very smart, and driven men I met last night. He said he had no idea what could have happened here, but again it likely had nothing to do with his friend’s goal of ridding the country of its latest president.
He just wants the violence to stop so the tourists will come back. Then, maybe, he thinks he can marry his girlfriend, have a family and start the life he always expected.
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