I have been to the pyramids in Mexico. I have been to all 5 continents, have lived in 4 of them. I have gone to places as remote as the Falklands/Malvinas in the South Atlantic. I have spent time inside the Amazon jungle. I have been to countries whose names many people might not even know.
But I had never been to Egypt, the Mother of the World (Um el Dunia) !
My heart was pounding. My hands were sweating. My feet were cold. I was so excited. I was about to meet Egypt. I was about to meet the Revolution.
I always thought Tunisia was going to be the first revolution I'd meet. It is my first love, after all. But my passionate love for Egypt hijacked me away. It is destiny fooling around with love !
As a Palestinian, I am used to humiliation in airports everywhere I go, but particularly in Arab airports. I am immune to the nasty looks and the endless unnecessary questions about why I am visiting, how long I am staying, whom I am meeting, etc etc
I handed my passport to the immigration officer. He hardly looked at me, stamped my passport, gave it back to me and said: Welcome (Ahlan biki!)
Ahlan? That's it? No questions? No delays? Just a smile?
I cannot recall any time I ever entered an Arab country with just a "welcome" and a smile.
I like revolutionary Egypt.. So far !
It was past 9pm. There was hardly any traffic on Salah Salem Street which took us from Cairo International Airport into downtown Cairo.
"This is 6 October Bridge".. I said it when I realised we were already on the famous bridge. I discovered it is more like an elevated highway than an actual bridge. But it is really long (20km). We went past Ramses Train Station then we got to the spot where protesters prayed on the bridge despite the water cannons fired at them by the police, and then pushed back the police water cannon cars. It was a video I shall never forget.
I asked the driver to take me to Tahrir Square. My nervousness is gone. Now I am full of energy in spite of the almost 24-hour trip from Caracas.
I guessed we must be on Abdul Mounim Riyad. I have never seen a map of Cairo but I recognised the places from the revolution days. It felt like I had been here before.
And.. there I was in Tahrir Square ...
I could not have missed the famous "Kentucky" on the square. The protesters were accused of being agents with "foreign agendas", getting free food from the "revolution's sponsor": KFC !! Just for the record, I did not eat there! :)
And even at 10pm there were people gathered to talk about something related to the revolution..
I tried to imagine how it must have been to spend days and nights camped there.. I tried to picture the protesters and their tents.. I tried to hear their voices.. I tried to imagine the thugs coming..
Unforgettable 19 days and nights I spent living fully through the Egyptian revolution from my home in Caracas, sharing its details with Twitter users around the world. It felt like I had ceased to exist as a person, although I was thousands of miles away. Now that I am here on the square, it did not feel the same.
Quickly after the square visit, I was already shopping for a local mobile phone and other things, chatting with people.. discovering, as I reached my hotel, how cordial Egyptians are.
I could not sleep. I was too excited. It is not every day that one ends up suddenly in Egypt ! It is not every night that one sleeps in the arms of sleepless Cairo ! It is not every lifetime that one gets to breathe the air of a revolution ! The 9th of June 2011 was not a date like any other.
Read my previous post about Egypt, from the plane ---> موعد مع ثورة