The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

The mood in Cairo

We asked Nour The Intern to send us a ground-level view of the mood in Cairo ahead of #June30mageddon. This is her response. 

Well, the atmosphere in Cairo is relatively calm, as opposed to other governorates, like Sharqia, Alexandria, Assiut, Suez, where unrest arrived a few days early. Whether it’s the kind of calm that comes before the storm or one that could last beyond June 30, no one knows.

The weather has officially lost its spot as the number one topic for small talk to June 30. Asking someone about their views of, or plans for, June 30 is the new "Very humid today, worse than yesterday, right?" and saying "God save us on June 30," or things to that effect, has all but replaced goodbyes.

For days now, people  have been worriedly reminding each other to park in their garage on the 30th and take the day off from work for safety. Conversely, a few Morsi supporters have been advising people to do the opposite, hoping that if society as a whole goes about its day, then the protesters may mistake it for an ordinary day and forget to protest.

Essential to survival

Essential to survival

Personally, I was unfazed by June 30, until my usually aloof brother announced that he was going buy emergency food supplies. Last time he did that was on the night of Jan 28, 2011, the Friday of Wrath, and he came back, two hours and a half later, with the exact same purchase he got two years ago: two boxes of strawberry Swiss Rolls and a roll of aluminum foil.

The first box of the Swiss Rolls is for everyone to eat "at a reasonable pace" due to the dire circumstances, and the foil is for him to use its cardboard tube, his preferred choice of weaponry in case the neighborhood forms popular committees and he finds himself forced to join them again. And to protect the second box of Swiss Rolls from us.

But while my family bickers about whether or not Swiss Rolls shares should be directly proportional to height and degree of likability is fair (it is not, I get very little), the rest of the population is busy preparing for it.

"I'll be staying up all night on the 29th to sleep through the 30th," planned a depressed Mohamed Youness, a former Brother and revolutionary, who thinks that the country will suffer, regardless of whoever wins the standoff.

Revolutionaries and anti-MB activists, on the other hand, are making more active plans.

"We are going to teach them a lesson, I promise you that, and unlike Morsi; we fulfill our promises," said a very serious self-described member of the Black Bloc, who refused to be named. He is, however, happy to report that he has saved two weeks' worth of empty soda bottles to make Molotov cocktails.

"You can't judge us. The MB fights dirty, are we supposed to lie down and take it?" he added, somewhat aggressively. His attitude is shared by a lot young men these days.

Although many have not given up on peaceful demonstration, the very popular belief that June 30 is going to be far from it is leading them, especially women, to exercise more caution.

Take stay-at-home mom, Nadia Magdy, for example. She intends to wear the veil to avoid hair pulling, a mask, three layers of clothing - namely tight Carina undershirts that are difficult to put on, let alone take off - a sturdy belt and running shoes to make it harder for anyone to strip her naked. She also prepared enough food for a week for her family, in case she ends up joining her friend, Mahmoud. He's been missing since Jan 25.

Meanwhile in the other camp, the atmosphere is as characteristically upbeat and paranoid as ever. The presidential palace's gates have been reinforced, same goes for the MB's HQs. And according to el-Watan, they will station Brothers around the palace and the HQs, while Hazem Abu Ismail calls for a new siege of the Media Production City.

So far, the MB's official reading of the June 30 protests is that it's an Anglo-zionist-Egyptian-Judiciary conspiracy and/or a crusade waged by Coptic extremists with the help of atheists to stop Morsi from building state institutions by cutting of the power supply and hoarding all the gas. The saboteurs, who are a huge small group of people, are controlled by the power-hungry, hateful opposition, despite it being pathetically weak and lacking a support base, to end Islam.

"I know for a fact that liberals are growing beards now," Hany, my islamist backup driver, spoke confidently. "Some of them will dress like islamists, and others as the police to attack the liberal-looking liberals and make it seems like the MB and the MOI are killing protesters," he theorized. "That's why (the islamists) have to be there!"

"Ah, to physically stop the bearded liberals, who are pretending to be islamists, from beating up their beardless friends to make you, the islamists who are only there to beat up the actually liberal fake-islamists, appear to be violent?" I asked, feigning shock.

"Yes, yes, that's exactly it," he seemed proud. "That and because they must shut up and give Morsi a chance to work--" [got cut off by a bearded man, who was texting and driving] "Ya Kharouf (sheep, the derogatory reference to Brothers). May Allah take you all!"

He then went on to explain how the word “sheep” is not bad in and of itself and how that was not a freudian slip of the tongue for the rest of the ride back home, where I found my near-immobile mother downstairs for the first time in months. Apparently, some Tamarod campaigner said that if you can’t protest for whatever reason, go downstairs and sit in front of your building in solidarity with them.

“You’re a few days early, ya madam,” the doorman informed her with a sarcastic smile.

“We’re a year late, Mahrous,” she said, before taking a seat next to him.