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Friday, February 1, 2013

How's the Security and Politics in Cairo?

Well, that's an interesting question.

There is certainly enough demonstrating, rock-throwing and tear-gassing going on to capture the attention of the international media.  And the storming of the Intercontinental Semiramis  Hotel the other night certainly isn't going to help the tourist trade.  Here are a couple of sentences from a summary of news reports found here.
The inside of the hotel reception was left gutted, broken glass and rocks were strewn across the floor and outside the main gates, said a report in Al Ahram.

An executive at the hotel was quoted as telling reporters that more than 45 clients insisted on leaving despite the hotel's offer to relocate them to higher floors. He said guests at other neighboring hotels also followed suit.
Well, yes, I suppose moving to a higher floor might not be all I'd want at that point.

But, I talked to someone who spent all day downtown yesterday and he described the demonstrations as limited to a small area on one side of Tahrir Square with nothing going on over on the other side.  That included no tourists and no business, of course.

And, last night on TV, we watched a split screen of demonstrators in one area of the square and a wedding party taking place in another area.  So things are not as wild as you might be led to believe.

We were out in the pyramids area last night around 10 p.m. and life was very normal except that the traffic on Pyramids Road was half or less of what we would have expected in past years.  It was still pretty crowded, though.  There were a couple of wedding celebrations going on as Thursday evening is a popular time for those.

People are becoming frustrated that the present Egyptian government is "not governing."  I've heard a lot of criticism that President Morsi was in Germany yesterday asking the country to send more tourists while tourists were leaving the Intercontinental in droves.  A reasonable point.  The country has gone through five Interior Ministers in the past two years without producing much interior calm.

Since we were out late last night, I didn't have a chance to watch my favorite television news program.  It's called The Daily Debate and is in English on the state-run Nile TV International channel.  (Look up "The Daily Debate on Nile TV" directly on Youtube or just Google it for some samples.)

Two nights ago it featured this cast of characters:

That's a professor on the left, a retired major general in the center, a co-founder of the opposition Al-Dostour party on the right and the program host on the far right.
EgyptTV-2 EgyptTV-4

The host doesn't tolerate much in the way of vague claims.  When the general said there were 27 injured demonstration victims being held in isolation without medical treatment, she wanted to know how he knew they weren't receiving medical treatment if they were in isolation.  She then dialed up a member of the ruling coalition to respond.

Of course, he "knew nothing" about it, but the general had "case numbers" and we heard "promises" to find out details.  Unfortunately, I don't know more about this particular situation.  But this program seems to be the best local news available in English.  And, combining captions and Google, I'm starting to learn a bit about the local players.

The Al Dostour party representative says the government is trying to solve political problems with police and military solutions.

Meanwhile, there are still tourists showing up.  A few nights ago, I saw this lineup of buses down the street from us in front of a tourist bazaar.

Japanese and eastern-European tourists seem to make up the majority of the ones who are still coming. No one guesses that we are American.  "Guten Morgan," is frequently their first guess when addressing us.

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