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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sunday Night

The official curfew began at 4:00 p.m. again this afternoon. It was announced over Tahrir Square with the presence of two F-16 aircraft (made in the U.S.A., Al-Jazeera reminds us) but that seems to have had no effect on the crowd gathered there. Several friends have called to tell us that the U.S. embassy has announced that Americans who can, should leave the country. If we go, we will head to the airport early in the day before the crowds get up and get going.

By 4:30, our local youths had reconstructed the small neighborhood barricade outside our building and were armed with a combination of sticks, metal re-bar and a meat cleaver. My neighbor is scheduled to go downstairs for a watch later tonight. Good idea. Some adult supervision is wise. The bawaabs (see this site for an explanation of the term if it is unfamiliar) from nearby buildings are also supervising.

Since Egypt runs on rumor, the reports of prison breaks and the like are fueling a good deal of fear among the middle class.

We appear to be in the midst of a long standoff.

On Friday evening, with the police under attack, they were withdrawn. This was the beginning or serious trouble. Television showed the fires burning at the Ministry of the Interior. Al Jazeera presented this almost as a "victory for the people" and seemed to be indirectly encouraging more.

But lots wasn't shown on TV. CNN was fairly quiet on Saturday - Ben Wedeman was home trying to insure security for his family. He notes:
In my neighborhood, my wife passed out baseball bats, kitchen knives and clubs to people in the neighborhood… to make sure that the area is protected: Because this is the worry: that the criminal element that didn’t have weapons now have automatic weapons and are roaming the streets of Cairo.
In our neighborhood, the young guys went into the scrap area of a construction project behind our apartment. They pulled out 2x4s and steel re-bar to use as weapons. At least a couple of rifles appeared.

One friend (a very reliable source) reported that his brother had to kill two looters in their neighborhood.

From this AFP report, I learned that the rumors about our favorite grocery and general merchandise store were true:
A supermarket owned by the French retail giant Carrefour was ransacked on Saturday in Maadi, a small oasis district on the outskirts of Cairo largely populated by wealthy expatriates.
We actually went to bed Sunday night thinking things might improve. Since we don't have any Internet access, we didn't know for sure about much of the looting.

About 1:00 a.m., I heard a burst of gunfire behind the building. Probably about six rounds on full automatic. That woke me up. I decided it was time to leave. A couple of hours later I heard a significant firefight about a quarter mile away. This one sounded like a .44 magnum pistol firing about 8 rounds with interspersed with rifle fire. Now keep in mind my only experience with a .44 magnum was the time a shop owner in St. Paul was firing down Dale Street in the early afternoon after being robbed. I just happened to be driving by at the time. But some things do stick in your memory!

Well, it's not the gunfire that's the problem. It's the volume of it. And it's not getting any better. So it is time to go. When Linda woke up Monday morning I announced that we were leaving. We began a quick pack up and closing.

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