10 Jun 2011

Hello Egypt !

This is the first glimpse I got of Cairo, the very first glimpse, ever. It looked so vibrant from my airplane window.

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


Anonymous said...

Such a beautiful post :) Makes me miss Masr so much! I was there during the revolution but have yet to see the new Egypt

Anonymous said...

أولا نورت مصر يا ديمه أنا شايف زرت التحرير وحضرت أمسية الشيخ أمام أنا عارف انك كنت بتبصي بعين الأمل للمستقبل وأنا حاسس ان اللي جاي هيكون أفضل كان نفسي أشوفك وارحب بيك وأنت نورت مصر

Anonymous said...

welcome to egypt , the country that we all wish to turn into a heaven , even if we had to irrigate it with our blood

Mohammed said...

AHlan Biki...:)

twitter@ahmed_e_arafa said...

Ahlan Biki
it is not your 2nd home,it is your own home,all of egypt is your home & egyptians are your familly

Egypt Holidays said...

I liked your post and your description about your first visit to Egypt. I am so eager to know how the rest of trip will go, waiting for your other posts.

Enjoy your stay

Unknown said...

What a beautiful post. Welcome to Egypt Dima, hope you enjoy your stay here.

I like how the revolution (and it being shown on TV), made you know Cairo by heart even without the need for a map. How awesome!

Unknown said...

Welcome home dima this is a great article reveals your true love for Egypt I hope that you will enjoy and have good times here

Anonymous said...

Welcome to Egypt Dima,I know I am a bit late but I am happy you are here.I wish you a nice stay and a full enjoyment of our revolutionary days.Thank you for your beautiful article.We wish that you settle in Egypt-your country- someday.