All socializing quit when Hosni Mubarak’s image came on the screen. Our interest was invested in what Egypt’s president had to say on the seventh day of protests.
A drunk British man gave Mubarak profane names that I couldn’t understand as the others in the room glared and repeatedly told him to keep quiet. We were vacationers in Egypt’s resort city, Dahab, along the Red Sea and spent our days soaking in the sun and nights soaking up drinks. We’d watch the news during breakfast, a tea break or before-dinner beers. The unrest in Egypt seemed as far away as if we were in another country and the only real problems it presented was trying to get out of the country and lack of Internet.
After Murbarak announced that although he wouldn’t seek re-election he planned to fight for his country for the remainder of his term and protesters immediately made it clear that it was not enough; he must leave. Tipsy Brits and Aussies mocked and shook their heads at this statement as if they, the tourists, knew what was best for Egypt.
In the back of the room was Sahid, smoking a cigarette and ingesting the information. I asked him how he felt about what just happened.
“I feel better.”
Hours before, over tea, Sahid, a front-desk worker at our hotel and who’s covered nearly every shift in our five-day stay, said he liked Mubarak and wanted him to stay. Mubarak has made mistakes, he said, but he’s kept the country safe. Sahid found comfort in his leader’s decision to stay till the end of his term to ensure stability and welcome a new administration. It’s the way it should be.
Although I’ve been in Egypt roughly a week, my closest interaction with the protests was a walk through Tahrir Square two days before force of these demonstrations took form. There were no protesters, picket signs or chants of freedom. Hundreds of police with plastic shields and helmets blocked side-street entrances and black boxed vans lined the streets. It appeared to a place for potential protesting, but nothing was actually happening.
The Friday demonstrations grew stronger we left Eypt’s capitol city for Dahab, a site that was recommended to us by a fellow Peace Corps Niger volunteer who visited a few weeks prior to our evacuation. We meant for beach spot to be our escape from the unrest in our souls, but it actually became a move to ensure our safety in this country.
Conversations with strangers always slipped to the protest as if it was as easy to discuss as weather. An Egyptian on the street told us Mubarak did the right thing by selecting a new vice president and head of military but there was one thing he still needed to do — go. A hippie from Brooklyn and I shared sentiments about calming friends and family back home. For my little Peace Corps group, we realized we were on the edge of yet another evacuation. Two in two weeks, we joked.
Watching the demonstrations and protests on Al Jazeera and CNN, I began to feel for the people of Egypt and, even, joined their side. A part of me wanted to be in Tahrir Square to feel this historical moment up close and watch the passion and relentless of Egyptians carry them until they get what they desire.
Then I talked to Sahid and I realized I don’t deserve an opinion in this situation. This isn’t my country or my future and I really know nothing about Mubarak’s reign.
Yet, Egypt now owns a piece of my heart. After leaving Niger, this country gave me a place to heal, a place to regain my footing and try again. From the pyramids to the coral reef, I was allowed to clear my head and prepare for what’s next.
For that, I give this county and its people all the support I can muster and I too, like Sahid and the other Egyptians I’ve met, hope and pray for a better Egypt.