Cairo: My City, Our Revolution by Ahdaf SoueifThis was an enlightening and uplifting read. To learn more of what happened in Cairo, in and around Tahrir during the days of revolution in late January, early February 2011 is quite an experience. Here we are not filtered by the Western press or government spokesmen. We hear from an Egyptian writer who was there along with her friends and family.
A major fact I learned was the variety of peoples in the square, people from all corners of Egyptian life, all religious sectors, economic and educational levels. All want an end to a government which had despoiled their land in its own interest while also killing and imprisoning its own citizens.
You could say that this is normal, healthy: people are
working out what they believe in and stand for -- and theyre
not used to working together politically because anyone who
tried to work together politically over the last sixty years
was destroyed. So the revolutionary forces are really doing
what theyre meant to do and our society is engaged in a
process that will take time. (p86)
In a section labeled Interruption, Soueif acknowledges, some month after the initial revolt, that future readers may see results she at the time of writing has not anticipated. She tries to explain the background for the revolution and the difficulties for the future.
Now eight months later, our landscape is more ambiguous,
more confused. I try to describe it and big, dramatic cliches
crowd into my head: the Forces of Darkness. the Battle
against Evil. but cliches can also be true descriptions.
Hosni Mubarak threatened that it was either him or chaos.
Not because that was the natural order of things, but because
if we chose no-him the forces that he represented would
work to create chaos. Mubarak and his family were the
packaging, the casing that held the Forces of Darkness
together, that utilised them, through his National Democratic
Party, his security apparatus, his corrupt government and
the corrupt elite inserted into almost every leadership
in the country. Now the casings been smashed and the
Darkness is out there, unchannelled, panicked, rampant,
twisting into every nook and cranny as it seeks to wrap
around us again. (p66)
Can there be any doubt why the time after the revolution has been so difficult.
One final image left me so hopeful for the people of Egypt. On Fridays and Sundays in Tahrir there were religious services. Fridays these were started with Muslim prayers and sermons and followed with a Christian Mass. On Sunday the order was reversed. People of both faiths attended both. Contrary to the negative publicity being put out by probable Egyptian government sources, there was mutual respect and brotherhood in the square. (The Islamic Brotherhood was not a participant though members did participate)
Highly recommended for an insiders view of The January Revolt in Egypt.
Zabbaleen: Trash Town. A whole community in Egypt that lives on rubbish
Cairo: My City, My Revolution
On January 25, , Egyptians rose up against President Hosni Mubarak's year-old corrupt and repressive government. Eighteen days later, on February 11, he was ousted and Cairo exploded in joyful celebration. They were 18 days of high political drama in which the true face of Mubarak's Western-backed dictatorship was exposed. As the regime fought for its life, the brutality of the police state spilled out of the torture chambers of the interior ministry onto the streets in full view of the world's media. First the security forces and then the regime's hired thugs battled with unarmed protesters for control of Tahrir Square - and lost. Ahdaf Soueif, author of two successful novels about her native country and much thoughtful journalism about the Arab world, has produced a chronicle - heartfelt, courageous, and hopeful - of the 18 days that launched Egypt's revolution and shook the world.
Share your thoughts and debate the big issues
Cairo cleans up after revolution
In January last year, when Tahrir Square erupted, a wild and foolish urge wanted me to race straight there, before sanity reminded me that "undesired Western influence" was written all over my pink khawaga face. So I followed it on the web, wondering, "Bliss was it, in that dawn to be alive? This is above all the story of the shabab - the youth, the growing ones Soueif gives a lovely gloss on the origins of the Arabic word - who brought about the "day orgasm", as an Egyptian friend calls it, which kick-started the Revolution. We all remember the images: the laughter, the wedding, Muslims and Christians praying together, everyone cleaning up, and then later the cinema and the endlessly inventive protective headgear. The title, My City, Our Revolution, reflects the book's dual personality.
Please note that this product is not available for purchase from Bloomsbury. Over the past few months I have delivered lectures, presentations and interviews on the Egyptian Revolution. I have had overflowing houses everywhere, been stopped by old ladies in the street and had my hand shaken by numerous taxi drivers and shopkeepers. And all because I'm Egyptian and the glitter of Tahrir is upon me. They wanted me to talk to them, to tell them stories about it, to tell them how, on the 28th of January when we took the Square and The People torched the headquarters of the hated ruling National Democratic Party, The same People formed a human chain to protect the Antiquities Museum and demanded an official handover to the military; to tell them how, on Wednesday, February 2nd, as The People defended themselves against the invading thug militias and fought pitched battles at the entrance to the Square in the shadow of the Antiquities Museum, The same People at the centre of the square debated political structures and laughed at stand-up comics and distributed sandwiches and water; to tell them of the chants and the poetry and the songs, of how we danced and waved at the F16s that our President flew over us. People everywhere want to make this Revolution their own, and we in Egypt want to share it.
She wore big round sunglasses that swallowed her face, and a dark scarf covered her head and fell over her shoulders. It would have been easy to dismiss her as just another spirited revolutionary, but a flock of fellow protesters grew around her, and followed her, and stuck. Please, bring a TV crew and film my home. I am willing to work, willing to earn an honest wage, willing to put in long hours. I approached her myself when I too, realised who she was; she spoke first of women and their extraordinary role in the revolt, and then looked me in the eye and said that she had dreamt of this. It happens in Tahrir — Liberation Square.