Two years ago


It started with a facebook event, a man who set himself on fire and a neighboring country which accidentally toppled its president.

I was walking zigzag among the parked cars around Al-Batal Ahmed street, yelling at a friend who’s no longer a friend on a rainy, cloudy day.

Monday, January 17. My exams had just gotten postponed because the government had suddenly realized they had scheduled exams on a Coptic holiday. The realization arrived only a couple of days before the holiday. My final was moved to January 25. My friend believed the government’s clumsy behavior was justified considering the sectarian tension which followed the Two Saints Church bombing.

“This behavior means either of two things,” I yelled at her over the phone as I made my way to Hardee’s to meet with some friends. “A) the government is oblivious to the Coptic calendar; an unjustifiable explanation considering they should be slightly more informed than that, or B) they weren’t oblivious to the holiday, they just couldn’t care less until the Copts’ became slightly dangerous following the bombing and Tunisia; which proves the government is discriminating against Copts!”

The phone call didn’t end on a good note. It was the first of many such phone calls to come; eventually ending my friendship with a person I could no longer recognize.

It started as a joke; a sad one.
“But you know why I don’t wanna join the protests?” Another friend of mine informed me in another phone conversation as I walked back and forth along the entrance to Le Pasha; Saturday, January 22. I had retreated from my cousin’s wedding the moment the phone began ringing. The friend on the other line was merely a passing friend back then; we’d never spoken to each other on the phone unless one of us urgently needed the other.
Yet, there I was, standing inside one of Zamalek’s posh boats, the high, pointed heels of my camel-brown sandals having their toll on me as I desperately tried to figure out what the ulterior motive behind my friend’s phone call was.

“I’m not joining; not because I have an exam the next morning. I can easily handle that. I’m not joining because Egyptians are a pack of uncivilized creatures. They’ll soon turn it into a bloodbath, each chanting for his own agonies and forgetting about the so-called demands.”
Deep down, I believed her. And agreed with her. But deep down, I still wanted to join the protests.
It started with a facebook event. And a string of facebook activities which closely followed. A post I was tagged in, written by a friend of mine who was studying political science back then. Her argument was that this event can never work; we are not Tunisia. Not only because the Tunisians are ten times more literate than we are, but also because while Tunisians saw Bouazzizi’s death as an act which set the nation free, we see it as ‘haram’ and frown-upon it. I responded to the post with a very long comment. My point was that a full-scale revolution was quite unlikely, because the average Egyptian citizen is as corrupt as the regime he’s expected to topple is. I believed a full-scale revolution needed major societal transformation; to take place throughout a large timespan. My answer was to go the whole nine yards, every step of the ‘Tunisian’s’ way and stop right before toppling Mubarak. Instead, we’d get him to meet our demands instead of overthrowing him and revelling in the chaos of being president-less.

It started with protesters, a whole bunch of them. Not screaming, not exercising violence, not even chanting selfish demands; simply standing with their backs facing the security forces and quietly chanting one word: “Leave”. It killed me to see a protest pass right down our window and not be allowed to join. It killed me to receive a text from that same friend who had interrupted my cousin’s wedding, telling me that she’s joined the protests. It killed me to see the security forces use water and teargas to disperse the protesters who, only a few minutes later, were happily singing about spending the night in Tahrir Square.

I had often wondered about how painfully uncomfortable it would be to sleep in a sit-in. How cold the ground would be, almost stinging the body. How hard! How exposed! All until I heard that chant; “الجدع جدع و الجبان جبان, و احنا يا جدع حنبات في الميدان.”

It started with the false belief that the new dawn erased yesterday’s events. That the security forces’ success in clearing out the square Tuesday night meant the swift death of whatever was born during that short-lived sit-in. I cried all day long; thinking it was all over. I staged a fight with my mum just to let the anger out. I only started feeling better when I saw the facebook event to the ‘Friday of Rage’.

Next morning, my mum took me shopping as a bribe to have me forget about Friday. I accepted the bribe, yet silently vowed not to give up on joining the protest. Up until Thursday night, everything was normal … relatively. I listened to Mohamed Mounir’s songs about Egpyt. For the first time, they rang so true, made such sense.

It started with the square. And it’s funny that two years later; it’s all about the square. Last year, the Muslim Brotherhood spent the eve of January 25 at the square to book it for their “celebrations”. I still recall our entrance to find them playing the Quran, full-blown, in an attempt to dissolve our anti-army chants.

It started with a pattern; a pattern which has persisted for two full years:

1-      It ain’t crowded until Tuesday

2-      It ain’t official until Friday

3-      It ain’t bloody until Wednesday

The nostalgia those pre-revolutionary days are having me go through make me believe that it’s bound to start all over again. Soon.

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