Tuesday, November 27, 2012

It's not fair! NOV27. Cairo

I am staying home today.... but so many Egyptians are not.
The crowds in tahrir square just now are in their thousands with many of the marches coming from different areas of the city not due to arrive for another hour or two at least.
The people are so angry about Morsi's power grab and they want to make sure he and the rest of the world knows it.
I have been watching it live on http://reuters.livestation.com/demo and the chants get into the heart of you. http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/59231.aspx explains what is going on.
Just now, Fatehy Gareeb, a young man in his twenties died suffocating from tear gas. I hope to God he is the last death today but I fear that it may not be. Not while the police are still fighting with protesters. The police have guns and tear gas, the protesters have rocks. I feel sick.

I know I said in yesterday's blog entry that today would be about dance... but how can I dance with all this going on in the country? I have to switch off Twitter and Facebook and Reuters and try and pack my suitcase with costumes for tonight's performance on the Nile Pharoah boat. Somehow I will put a smile on my face and entertain people, mainly tourists I am guessing tonight. I can't imagine many Egyptians leaving their homes tonight to go out for a meal. Most will stay home, or head to Tahrir I guess. . People at home are worried about my safety? I am sitting home, and then I am going to dance for lots of people who are coming out for a meal and to see a bellydance show... while 2miles up the Nile people are dying from tear gas. Warped? totally.

I hope that this time the people of Egypt will see that united they are powerful , but when they fight amongst themselves they lose that strength. Its a shame, in my biased opinion, that the Muslim Brotherhood have managed to brainwash so many people into believing that it is ok for their leader to put himself above all else, to make laws giving himself the power to arrest anyone he chooses on him own whims. I can't begin to imagine what is going on in these people's head- if anything.

My closest friends have said that one of the things which comes over strongly about me is I like things to be fair. What is happening now is NOT fair... young people should not be dying because they want the right to speak their mind and have the same justice applied to all. They die because they want to freedom to live their lives the way they choose, not by how it is dictated to them? It's not fair. They shouldn't have been pushed to this point.

I hope Morsi goes. I hope the secular/liberal leaders can stick together to fight this. I hope Egypt regains some level of 'fair' today. I hope there will be no more deaths.

Rabina Yostor (God be with us)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Climbing that mountain

(a largly political entry- with dance reference at the end, bear with me...!)

Ups and downs and ups and downs... Cairo life is a complete rollercoaster, creating emotions which can leave you suicidal one second and euphoric the next.

I haven’t written in my blog for nearly two months! Those of you who follow me on facebook or twitter know I am still alive and well... but I figured I should maybe write to the rest of you to know what’s going on... especially since Egypt has hit international news yet again.
Let’s start with that then...

So, for those who haven’t been following it? Last week was a year since the fights in one of the side street off Tahrir which resulted in many deaths and injuries. People went to protest and remember those who suffered. It turned into a battle... which is still waging today...

The whole thing was enflamed by president Morsi’ s declaration which included many controversial elements, the most jaw dropping of them was that none of his decrees since June, and in future,  can be refuted by anyone, even my courts of law. I.e. he is putting himself above the law.

 I was stunned reading it... that he could put it there so blatantly. The ousted Mubarak didn’t even state his total control to his people in such a forthright way. In fact, that may well be exactly why Morsi is doing this now- so he doesn’t end up being taken to court the way Mubarak and his family are now!

That was on Thursday... perfect timing to ensure a full house in Tahrir, the traditional protest ground in Cairo the following day. But the protests were all over Egypt, and not just in Cairo. Fighting broke out and many have died and been injured since then. Morsi’s speech on the Friday evening only fanned the flames too. He pretty much said that he wanted a clear and clean opposition, but those who do so in a non clean way were thugs and vandals and would be punished the way they should be.... Most people have taken this to be a direct threat to those protesting in Tahrir. The good thing about all of this is that it might well be the catalyst needed to untie the liberals so that they do have a real chance of gaining the popularity of the people.
Today fighting has spread away from the square itself, towards the US embassy (which is next door to the UK embassy) since the army built a wall preventing them going another way... The fighting is not aimed at the embassies.

Why? To show Morsi that not all the people want Egypt to turn into an Islamic country, nor do they want a pharaoh when they thought they were voting for a president. In his speech he said he was part of the revolution... the activists disagree. They do not want a country led by the Muslim brotherhood. In fact, a few of the brotherhood members have come out against Morsi’s grab of complete immunity from the law too. He has rubbed quite a lot of people up the wrong way!

What is next? I honestly don’t know. No one does. Or if they do they are not sharing the game plan.
How do I feel?

On Friday- after hearing what Morsi had declared and knowing my gut response I knew it was going to be a huge protest. If I feel that strongly and I am not even Egyptian, then I could only imagine that those who had fought and died in Jan/Feb. 2011 and since, to get rid of a dictator led regime would feel very strongly. I had a huge sense of impending doom. Déjàvu if you like. Here we go again; into chaos and fear.  I found it hard to lift my mood all day, sitting glued to the news, twitter and facebook probably didn’t help matters.
 I keep having flashbacks to the ‘revolution’ (which many say wasn’t a revolution really since all it succeeded in doing was change the country from being in a regime under one dictator to under another). The sound of helicopters overhead turned my stomach. The sounds of gunshot in the street, yes in Zamalek (only 2 single shots and may have been harmless ) in my mental state made my stomach flip and nearly stopped me going to a gig I had that night. (Nearly)

Today the whole of the judicial system has come out in strike against Morsi's higher than the law attitute and what it means for justice.

 I physically wasn’t in Tahrir at all through the revolution- so I cannot claim to have taken part in any of the events over the last 20 months- but emotionally involved in it, I most certainly have been. I follow the news living here in a way I never would have dreamed to in UK. Although to be fair- the results of protest in UK don’t usually have such profound effects on my own life directly as they do here in Cairo.
I can’t plan what I am going to be doing even a few days from now... Tuesday I am supposed to be performing at the boat- but of course, just realised that a huge protest has been called for that day... so it will be a horrific night. I cannot see that one going off without incident. The anti and pro Morsi protesters have all been called up. If they meet, there will be incident, for sure. This week there was a sign up in Tahrir saying the Muslim brotherhood were not welcome in the square...

So how does a protest affect me directly? In no particular order;

- I don’t live near Tahrir, although since I moved after Ramadan it is true I am only one bridge over the Nile to it, rather than two as I was before! I have had pretty bad sinuses though the last few days- so that may be due to a cold or the pollution or to the remnants of tear gas in the air floating over.... But my point is I am not there in it. I am not seeing with my own eyes any of the fighting going on.
- But traffic of course is disrupted whenever the square is blocked off to cars. Cairo traffic even worse than normal is hardly in itself news.
- Tourism takes a hit too, although saying that, I did dance for a boat full of Dutch tourists yesterday lunchtime who were all very lovely and enjoying Cairo. Of course they don’t get to go to the museum, since that is also in Tahrir- but otherwise they were not affected, the ones who come here. The ones who choose not to come however, that’s another story. They miss out, and so does Egypt. So does my work place, and therefore so do I.
- Fear for my job. On a daily basis- in case gigs are cancelled due to unrest but also on a longer term basis. If Egypt does become even more Islamic ruled, what are the chances for a bellydancer? There is already news that all the nightclubs in sharia Haram, an area popular for bellydance, are being closed by the end of the year. Whether it is because they are just not making enough to continue, or whether it’s through religious or political pressure I don’t know. The talk is that they are being bought out by salafist individuals/groups (the more fundamental of the Islamists). From a burocratic point of view- will they renew my contract at the end of the year? Renew my work visa? Will they want foreign women here dancing... or are our days numbered? I can’t help but be on the side of the anti Morsi protesters when my life is held in such a balance.
- Fear for those in Tahrir and elsewhere in Egypt. Doing the only thing they know how to demonstrate how much they are frightened for themselves and their country. So many killed and injured already... and talk of large groups of men going round raping/groping women too. It’s frightening. So many suffering. I get upset by it. I admire them their courage, and pity them a little because I see what they are up against. It’s David fighting Goliath. Kids with rocks and Molotov’s versus police and soldiers with tanks and guns.

This blog entry probably won’t help people back home relax and stop worrying about me will it? Sorry about that, and please try not to worry. I do everything I can (except leave Egypt to keep safe I promise) I am writing now in one of my more pessimistic moods and feeling a bit low. I have been told by so many that I always sound like I am having such a party life here in Cairo. And I do... but also there is the spin; you sit all day watching the news, stressing, worrying and then go out party and perform at a birthday party. You write about the party. That is what I usually do anyway.

Next blog will be about the party.... all the parties... because right now I know people who know me especially are asking why the hell I am still here?!


That’s why I am here.


For those moments on stage that I feel I am where I am supposed to be, doing what I am supposed to be doing, and doing it well and being respected, appreciated and admired for it.

Still don’t understand?

Imagine someone climbing to the summit of Mount Everest- What do they feel when they get there- can you imagine? The joy, pride and disbelief at their own massive achievement against all the odds when they touch the top?

I get that feeling almost every performance, at least once. Imagine that.

It’s a strong drug. I am an addict.

That is why I am still in Egypt.
So I am praying that Egypt gets through this next hurdle it is facing, and remains the country I love. A country of dance and passion, music and memories. A country of contrast and culture. 

Come on Egypt. You can do it.......