Thank You Yes

25 Jan

Today. Was. Crazy. Why? Oh, for many reasons.

OH MAN. I can’t post pictures because I just realized I left my cord for the computer for my camera at home in California! Poop.

This morning: 8am we have to be downstairs in our Zamalek dorms to catch the buses for our tour day in Old Cairo/Islamic Cairo. Fine, dandy.

Fun fact: Jan. 25 is Police National Day in Egypt, and by fun coincidence, a large number of anti-government protests were going to occur today. Originally it was thought that maybe a few hundred people would show. Well if you look at the news: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12272836 you’ll see it got a bit crazy, with thousands of people marching in the streets. AWESOME YEAH?

Not yeah.

Backing up to earlier today: Went to Old Cairo, saw lots of stuff. The Ben Ezra Synagogue, the Hanging Church, the Roman fortress of Babylon, the oldest mosque in Africa, ventured around Islamic Cairo, saw another mosque (I wish I knew the name!), walked through Khan el Khalili – it seemed like it was going to be a great day! Everything was beautiful. I would show you pictures but I stupidly forgot my camera cord…my mom is shipping it today!

Then it’s 2pm, which is when we were supposed to have some free time to explore and shop in Khan el Khalili (big famous suuq or market). Instead, we are hustled into El Hussein Square nearby and are told we are being taken to New Cairo, where AUC is located. We aren’t being taken back to Zamalek. Why? Because the protests had gotten a lot larger than anyone expected and everyone wanted to make sure we were “safe”.

It was about at this point, standing in the square, I realized about 15 men in suits, plus another 5-10 police officers, were all standing around us. Then I realized they’d all been following us the entire time we’d been in Old Cairo/Islamic Cairo. Because as AUC American students, we are seriously protected. Apparently the U.S. Embassy knew we’d be going out and were keeping tabs on us. Crazy, right?

So we go to the AUC campus and they say to us, “We’ll probably be here for an hour or two before we can get you home.” OKAY. Macarena, Eva and I go to use the restroom, then take a seat overlooking the gardens behind the library, literally maybe 30 feet from where the main plaza and most people were. We sit there chatting for 25 minutes, then say, “Well let’s go check on the situation and see how much longer we have.” We go to the main plaza and EVERYONE IS GONE. My roommate Dakota happened to be on campus because she was getting a ride with some other people and said that the buses taking everyone home had left about 10 minutes earlier. And no more buses were coming to take us home. SO WE FREAK OUT!

We ask the security guards at the main gate if another bus is coming (it’s about 3:55 at this point) and they say yes, at 4. Sweet! Then two other girls show up who had been inside a building and had gotten left behind too. We’re all excited we’re heading back. The mini-bus shows up, we get in, then at 4:10 it turns around and brings us back to AUC.

All routes back to Zamalek have been cancelled. A whole bunch of conflicting information happens, including being told that while the buses with the other students got back safe, they are now on lock down in their dorms (not true) because of the protests (which were taking place downtown, right across the river from our island of Zamalek and were using tear gas and water canons and thousands of people…a little intense), and the roads had been blocked (true) leading to downtown, which is how we get back to Zamalek. Fun times, yeah?

Basically, we’re told we have to wait for a bus to possible come sometime later that night or spend the night at the AUC dorms. AKA STRANDED IN THE DESERT.

The five of us decide, “Well screw that.” We get the school to call us a taxi, even though our orientation leaders and Egyptian friends are saying, “No, it’s too dangerous, don’t go, really, you won’t know how to deal with things, especially if things go wrong, you can’t go back to Zamalek the normal way.”

We do it anyway! Our taxi driver however says right away he doesn’t know the streets of Zamalek and when we try to explain to him we can’t go through downtown it gets all sorts of confused. BUT EVENTUALLY, after two hours of driving half way around Cairo to go back through Cairo the other way, lots of Arabigish (Arabic+English), much misunderstanding, some crazy driving and questionable moments and police barricades, we end up back at Zamalek!

And we only had to pay 70LE total for our 2 hour excursion. Or 15LE per person. Or about $3. Haha. All of that hassle FOR SO CHEAP! In America we know that would’ve cost $100 easy, bahahaha. Oh Cairo.

Anyway, I am adrenaline-wiped out and am going to take a shower and hit the hay early.

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One Response to “Thank You Yes”

  1. Kit January 25, 2011 at 5:42 pm #

    Good to hear you’re ok, Catherine. I was kinda worried. 🙂

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