Moldy tea bags offer the only evidence that any time has passed, when Drew Brammer walks into the apartment one week after its occupants, Hossam Meneai and Jeremy Hodge, were taken from it in the middle of the night. There are cups on the table full of half-drunk tea, standing where members of the national security service had left them. Meneai's and Hodge's third roommate, Nizar Manek, who has now left the country, had brought it to them at their request, seeking to be accommodating, as they questioned him and Hodge for more than two hours.
Latest in Laura Dean's Cairo Diary
On the anniversary of the January 25 uprisings, television screens across Egypt broadcast dance performances on the stage in Tahrir square, smiling children with Egyptian flags painted on their faces, and women wearing pictures of General Abdel Fattah el Sissi around their necks. Meanwhile clashes raged in the next street over, largely ignored by the local media though covered widely by the international press.
Tahrir Square, November 19, 2013.
As you enter Mohamed Mahmoud Street from Tahrir Square, a sign reads, “The borders of Egypt. Entry is prohibited for Muslim Brotherhood, Army and remnants of the Mubarak regime.”
Nada Ahmed, an independent activist, tells me, “Mohamed Mahmoud Street is especially our place.
It’s no accident that ousted President Mohamed Morsi’s trial happened in a place called the Fifth Settlement, which was, until ten years ago, in the middle of the desert. Parts of it fit that description still. The courthouse in New Cairo is far outside the teeming avenues and alleyways of the old city, far beyond most public transportation routes that would make it easy for protesters to reach. And in any case, the roads are blocked off for kilometers around all but one entrance to the police academy.
On Monday night in Cairo, masked men on a motorcycle gunned down a man, a woman and an eight-year-old child as they came out of a wedding. Tuesday morning a 12-year-old girl, who was also critically injured in the incident, succumbed to her injuries. Eighteen other people were wounded in the attack. A boat carrying about 160 refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria and rampant discrimination against them in Egypt, sank off the coast of Alexandria two weeks ago.
It is one of Cairo's rare windy fall days, and I am sitting with a group of friends, who are drinking juice and smoking shisha on multi-colored plastic chairs in an alley downtown. A poster of Nasser flutters above a neighboring cafe, and graffiti from all of the stages of Egypt's recent political past adorns the walls. When I get up to leave, a taxi almost careens straight into my friends and me, as we stand at the edge of the street. When we protest gently, the driver says, "No, no, there's shooting in Tahrir.
At a little before seven am yesterday morning, police and military stormed the two sit-ins where supporters of ousted Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi have been encamped for the last six weeks. Several times in the last few weeks the military-appointed government has announced its intention to break up the sit-ins, so what happened yesterday was not wholly unexpectedly.
I am back in Cairo after some time out of the country, and there is a lot going on. Here are some notes from the last fews weeks in reverse chronological order.
It is the Friday of, as they say in Arabic, "Zahf."
The word connotes a kind of military advance or march---in this case, of supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, pushing steadily from the governorates toward the capital. Literally, though, Zahf means a motion like what in English is called a "leopard crawl." The etymology makes that clear.
As I promised yesterday I would, I go back to the Egyptian Museum this morning.
In the old days---the days when Egypt was a repressive but stable police state---as many as 10,000 people would come through the museum doors on a good day in high season. Nowadays, things are a little different.
Today, I count 24 armed personnel carriers lining the street outside the museum, which is located right at the edge of Tahrir Square.