This one should be quite long, as I have not written for a while and a lot has happened since my last post, as you may have heard on the news – unless you were hibernating or you are just plain sh*t.
Everything started on Tuesday 25 January. While the first protests were occurring in the streets of Cairo, my flatmate (Isabelle)’s family turned up, as they were meant to come and visit for a couple of weeks. You’re probably thinking “what a crap time for a holiday in Egypt” but they had planned it back in September and little did they know this would happen. Just to let you know, when I say “Isabelle’s family”, I should actually say “Isabelle’s tribe”, as five of them turned up: her mother (Clémence) and father (Luc), her aunt (Denise) and uncle (Jocelyn), and her best friend (Nancy). Yes, we were the seven of us staying in a two bedroom flat! That is Isabelle, Nancy, Denise and Jocelyn sleeping in Isabelle’s room, Clémence and Luc sleeping in my room, and me sleeping on the sofa... I know, I’m super altruistic, right? Well, it’s more the fact that I wanted to be able to watch TV at night without waking people up. I know, I’m sad. Anyway, they were all very happy to be here and ready for two weeks of exciting holidays... Oh dear...
On Wednesday 26 January, protests were going on in the city centre but no one was really worried and Isabelle’s family went to visit the Pyramids for the day without any trouble.
On Thursday 27 January, tensions started to be felt among Egyptian people, the news were constantly hammering pictures and comments about what was happening, and everyone started to feel a bit worried. Isabelle’s family visited the old part of the city, once again without any trouble.
On Friday 28 January, I woke up and tried to use the Internet... in vain. We first thought our connection was being shit. We called Mario, who had the same issue, and while speaking to him on the phone, our conversation was cut short... WTF?! Now we really started to freak out! No Internet, no phone, and the news were not good. Isabelle’s family had left an hour before to go and visit Cairo Museum... and they came back thirty minutes later, as the roads were blocked and authorities were preventing people from entering the city centre. Should we panic? We eventually opted for a relaxing day at home but our minds were not really at rest. I must admit I really freaked out that day, as we heard gunshots for the first time and the news were talking about looters and criminals being at large in the city. We found out that many Egyptians were turning into vigilantes in order to protect their neighbourhoods.
On Saturday 29 January, phone connections were back and I managed to call my mother to reassure her... Well actually, I needed to be reassured, and my voice was certainly trembling on the phone as I was telling her that everything was fine and she did not need to worry... (“HELP!” I was shouting inside...) The day was really long and boring, the curfew was set from 3pm to 9am, so we went out at 11am to do some vital food shopping. Vigilantes were everywhere, carrying improvised weapons made out of kitchenware, what a strange sight. We had to queue for ages for some basic items such as bread and sugar, people were really worried but there was nothing to do but wait, and the flat started to feel really small... How long before the first family fight?
On Sunday 30 January, we (French expats) were to attend a meeting with the ambassador in order to get news and instructions about what to do. I jumped in a taxi with Marie and Marie-Christine, and on our way, we saw a horrible scene of street justice: some vigilantes had bound and gagged three people (probably some looters) and were beating them up. Not for the faint-hearted. I had to do some more shopping, as I had six people starving at home, and queued for ages in a supermarket, looking at my watch every other minute as the curfew was to start at 1pm. Yes, this was earlier and earlier every day, and it didn’t help feeling optimistic! Once home, I found Clémence and Denise smoking on the balcony, Luc snoring on the sofa, Jocelyn and Nancy reading on the dining table and Isabelle getting busy in the kitchen... What the f*** am I doing in here with this people?! As lovely as they were, I felt like I was experiencing the Blitz, when families had to shelter in cellars and live there for days... except that none of them were family and it just felt really awkward. Well, at least we had some bonding sessions playing cards and watching TV together... Try to fit seven people on a sofa, and then you really get to know them intimately!
On Monday 31 January, Isabelle and her tribe were contacted by the Canadian embassy which was starting to evacuate its expats. They agreed to be evacuated on Wednesday 2 February, and I started to freak out because I couldn’t bear the thought of staying on my own, with the shouting and gunshots going on outside at night... When it’s happening and you have people around, it’s scary, but when you’re on your own, you’re just sh*tting yourself! Well, I would anyway... So I decided to get in touch with Marie and Marie-Christine (who share a three bedroom flat) and ask them for a crash pad waiting for the whole thing to finish.
On Tuesday 1 February, I said goodbye to my short-lived experience with my new family/friends, and moved into a massive three bedroom flat with only two flatmates to share the sofa with, it felt liberating! Well, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t actually sad to leave my Canadian flatmates... We did bond, and I was worried about Isabelle, as I didn’t know when she’d be back and how this whole thing would end up. I could be evacuated myself later on for all I knew... Anyway, I was now feeling like a hobo, but tried to enjoy my new flat share.
On Wednesday 2 February, Isabelle and her tribe went to the airport for their evacuation: it was apparently overcrowded and stressful, they ended up stranded there and only left two days later. But that’s a story only Isabelle can tell. As for the Maries and me, we had fun and got fatter and fatter: we spent our days cooking and eating, as the curfew hours were getting longer and longer – from 1pm to 9am on the worst days of the crisis! We started to be a bit scared when the news mentioned foreigners being targeted by pro-Mubarak protesters as being the evil guys behind the whole crisis! Yeah right, we’re staying in and stuffing our faces every day, do we really look like evil plotters?!
On Sunday 6 February, some of you might have seen me on the French news, as I was attending another French expats meeting. So exciting! Yeah I know, it’s actually sad, but you have to remember that I was barely having a life on those days, and everything revolved around my meals... You can’t imagine how many times the Maries and I watched the video online!
On Monday 7 February, we could no longer stand the boredom and decided to book a holiday somewhere in Egypt for the rest of the week... the cheapest deal we could find was a holiday in Dahab, a small resort on the Red Sea, not far from Sharm El Sheik. So we packed our suitcases and looked forward to our well deserved peace under the sun... F*** the Revolution!