Day 34: Back to CairoApril 8, 2011 in Egypt ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C
Another long day of travelling today. We packed up our 4WDs and set off from the deserts north-east towards Cairo. Finally arrived mid-afternoon to find that downtown around Tahrir Square was jam-packed with an enormous protest. We had been travelling around not long after the first phase of the revolution had ended (President Mubarak had stepped down and fled the country, but the political turmoil and rise of extremists like the Muslim Brotherhood was yet to come).
Since it was a Friday and regular Friday prayers had finished for the day, the people flooded onto the streets to air their grievances and utilise their new freedom of speech. We drove nearby and had a look, but decided not to join in! I contended myself with flying an Egyptian flag out of the window as we drove towards the hotel, which Mohamed assured me would be completely fine.
As an aside, everywhere we went in Egypt was generally free of tourists. Due to the revolution most people had cancelled their tours, and this trip was actually the first one Intrepid had run since it had kicked off in January. But we never once felt threatened or unsafe - people's grievances were with the government, not with foreigners, and we were generally left alone. Though I remember one conversation with a tearful lady who showed me photos of her sons who had both been killed by government forces in the uprising. She pleaded with me to go home and tell my friends and family that Egypt was a safe place, and that everyone was welcome. Tourism is the majority of the Egyptian economy, and without the tourist dollar a lot of people go hungry.
We didn't venture out far in the evening, only having dinner at a nearby felafel roll place, given that the protests and demonstrations in the Square were only 700-800 metres away (in the map above, follow Ramses Street southwest to the Museum and that's where the square is; the X marks our hotel). As it was our last night together, we all went to a nearby tea & shisha place where we drank tea, smoked shisha and played backgammon for a while. The group was pretty great and had no real conflicts thankfully!
A bit of noise around midnight and the riot police moved in and dispersed the crowd with tear gas and rubber bullets. Also saw a pair of Apache attack helicopters buzzing around, noses pointed low and ready to go which was a bit of a thrill!Read more