A Summer after the Revolution

Written by Ahmed Gharib
City Stars Part 1

Let me start off by saying that if you don’t know what City Stars is then you’re probably not Egyptian. That is to say EVERY Egyptian on the face of this planet or any other knows about City Stars. So for those of you who don’t know, City Stars is a gargantuan mega-mall in Cairo. But as I’ve recently learned, it’s so much more than that; the mall itself is a small portion of the whole development. The entire complex consists of three hotels, the shopping/entertainment center, an office park, and a bunch of other shit that I don’t really feel like sitting here and listing, to be honest.

I walked in through the front entrance, or at least one of the front entrances, and was met with an armed guard and a metal detector. I started taking everything out of my pockets when the guard said, “Don’t worry about it sir. The machine isn’t working.” I stood there staring at him for a few seconds waiting for him to say, “Kidding! Empty your pockets, bitch.” But the words never came. I walked past him but didn’t give him my back until I was sure everything was fine. The map of the mall was straight ahead so I walked towards it. I was meeting my cousin Wedian here, whom I haven’t seen in like 4 months, so I was pretty excited. She told me to meet her at a store inside the mall called Mogo… or at least that’s what I thought she called it.

The map was all in Arabic. Now, I can speak Arabic pretty well but I probably read at a 4th grade level. So I decided to just skip the map and take my chances finding this place on my own. After walking around for 20 minutes, I finally gave up and decided to ask someone. This place was HUGE! Eight fucking floors! Who the hell needs that much mall?? It’s too much.. But anyway, I found an information booth and walked over to ask the guy behind the desk about Mogo.

“Excuse me, where’s Mogo?” I asked.

He looked confused and asked me, “What the hell is a Mogo?”

“I’m supposed to meet my cousin there. I think it’s a store… I don’t know.”

He looked through the list of stores in front him on the desk and then asked, “You mean Mongo?”

“Umm yeah… I mean, I guess so. Where is that?”

He stared at me for a few seconds with this look on his face that said, “Wow, what a fucking idiot…” He pointed to my left and said, “Keep walking straight that way and you’ll see it on your right.”

I didn’t understand why he was getting so bitchy with me. It was a simple mistake. So, I decided I needed to have a little fun with him. I turned around and looked in the direction he was pointing me towards and then turned back to him and said, “Oh ok, so I go straight that way and it’s gonna be on my right?”

“Yes.” He was starting to turn red.

“Ok, thank you,” I said with a smile. I turned to leave and then turned back around. “How do you say the name of the store again?”

He let out a long, frustrated sigh, “…Mongo.”


“MONGO!!!” The vein running down the middle of his forehead was starting to bulge and pulsate.

“Right. Right. Mongo. And you said it’s on the left?”

He stood up and glared at me ferociously, like he wanted tear me to shreds with his bare hands and feed on my entrails. I didn’t realize it before but this guy was huge. I couldn’t see his body from behind the desk. He looked me straight in the eyes and said through gritted teeth, “No. I said on the right.” I was about to say, “My right or your right?” which would have surely resulted in me getting my stupid ass kicked, when I saw Wedian and her friend Noha behind him.

I left the angry information desk man standing there aggravated and looking like he was about to explode with anger and ran towards Wedian and Noha. That guy was obviously not very mentally stable. I’m glad I got out of there when I did. Who knows what might have happened.

City Stars Part 2

After my run in with the deranged information desk jockey, Wedian, Noha and I went to a coffee shop inside the mall called Cilantro. If you’re anything like me you’re probably thinking, why the fuck would anyone name a coffee shop after an herb that has absolutely nothing to do with coffee? Shhhhh. You’re not supposed to ask questions like that. Contemplating such matters will do nothing but frustrate you and leave you confused and mentally constipated. But if I had to guess, I’d say it might be because the word “Cilantro” just sounds sexy and cool when you say it without knowing what it means, and I’m guessing the majority of the café’s patrons are oblivious as to what it means. They just know it sounds cool and foreign.

That’s one of the biggest problems I have with Arab culture: we have this misconception that just because something is American or European it’s automatically better. We strive so hard to mimic western thought and culture that we make ourselves look foolish in the process. We try to copy the way they dress, what they eat, what they drive – there is no practical reason to own a Hummer in Cairo but I’ve seen at least 6 since I’ve been here. Seriously, I used to think frivolous consumerism was a problem in America but Egyptians take that shit to a whole new level. Consumerism is like a cultural mast here in the Middle East. It dictates every aspect of our daily lives. What’s especially sad is that those of us who are trying so hard to be westernized don’t understand, or refuse to believe that the west wants nothing to do with us! They view us as the enemy! …But I should stop here. I’m rambling.

You know what? Screw it. I’m gonna keep on rambling.

This obsession we Arabs have with the west is fucking disgusting! Why can’t we wake up and realize that this supreme “civilization” that we worship and idolize views us as barbarians and altogether lesser beings? It’s so fucking degrading. First they colonize us and make the Arab world their bitch, and then they let us think we’re free from their tyranny when in reality our “leaders” are nothing but puppets being controlled by the west. Yet despite all of this, we still do our very best to be like them. Thank God that we’re finally starting to rise up against these puppet governments; seriously, had it not been for these revolutions in the Arab world, I would’ve lost all faith in our people. Alhamdulillah, we’re on the road to redemption.

Don’t take what I’m saying the wrong way. I’m not saying westerners are the enemy or that we need to declare war on them or anything stupid like that. C’mon… I’m a hippie. I believe in peace, love and medicinal marijuana. And most importantly I’m a Muslim who actually understands the true essence of my religion. The last thing I’d ever advocate is violence. All I’m saying – nay, suggesting – is that maybe the western world is not the standard. Maybe we can do better. But we’ll never find out until we start thinking for ourselves and coming up with our own ideas instead of eternally living in the cultural shadow cast by the western world…

I’m sorry to get all preachy on you guys. It’s just that I heard a story yesterday about these two imams in Nashville that got kicked off of the plane they already boarded after going through security and all that jazz just because the bigoted asshole pilot was concerned that their “Muslim garb” would make other passengers uncomfortable. I just needed to vent, I guess. And trust me, the rest of the City Stars story was kinda lame. I hope I didn’t discourage anyone away from reading my blog. I know this isn’t the usual silliness I spew, but sometimes you just gotta be serious every once in a while.

Tomorrow, Inshallah, I’m going to the protest in Ta7rir Square. I’m going to pray Jumaa there and then take part in the demonstration. Expect a new post about the protest (with pictures) by Saturday. Pray for me, mofos.

Tahrir Square Part 1

May 27, 2011 started out with a fight. Not a physical fight, a verbal showdown between me and my old man. He was deathly opposed to the idea of me going to Tahrir Square for the Day of Rage protest. The news has been repeating over and over again how the protest is going to turn violent and how “thugs” are going to see this as an opportunity to start fights and kidnap people and hold them for ransom and that aliens were going to drop down from the sky and start massacring the protestors by the thousands with ray guns and space cannons... Ok, so I made that last part up. But an alien invasion in Tahrir Square is just as likely as all the bullshit about fights breaking out and the Square being “soaked with blood” as one of the reporters put it.  It was all nonsense, obviously… but the old man fell for it. As did a lot of Egyptians, for that matter. I finally told him I’m going with or without his permission, which is something I regret saying, but his attitude towards the whole issue was just infuriating.

After an hour or so of arguing, yelling and screaming, I finally decided that I didn’t have time for this anymore. The protests start after Jumaa prayer and the Azan was being called as I stood there trying to reason with him. Finally I just decided to sneak out when he wasn’t paying attention. This had proven to be a lot easier than I thought it would be.

I grabbed my brown bio-hazard bag, which I had packed the night before. I ran out and shut the door behind me and sprinted down the stair-well of our apartment building, skipping several steps at a time and barely sticking the landing each time. When I stepped out of the building and the sunlight hit my face, I paused for a moment and soaked in the rays of freedom emanating from the hot desert sun. Then I came back to my senses and ran down the street. No time for dramatics, I thought to myself. Time was of the essence.

I had spoken on the phone earlier that morning with my friend Hussein and he gave me directions on how to get to Tahrir. He said to take any taxi to the nearest metro station and then ask at the ticket desk about which train to take to the Sadat Station, which is right in the heart of Tahrir Square. So the first step was to get a taxi – this was easy, taxis are quite abundant in Cairo. I hailed the black and white cab down and got in the back-seat, which is considered rude here, but I didn’t care about that at the time. My main concern was getting to Tahrir in time to pray and take part in the protesting.

“Where’s the nearest Metro station, please?” I asked the sweaty middle-aged cabby. He turned around to face me. I could see my reflection in his gigantic Aviator sunglasses. You don’t see those very often in Egypt. This man, despite his occupational handicap, had class.

“Ramses Station, sir,” He replied.

“Alright, good,” I said. “Take me there. And step on it. I’m on a very tight schedule.”

He starred at me, saying nothing – Not very friendly. “Let’s go!” I half-yelled at him. “What are you looking at me for? Look at the road.” He turned back around and started driving off. I know what you’re thinking, dear readers. You’re thinking, wow, what a fucking asshole. And I couldn’t agree with you more. I was watching myself behave in this strange manner but I couldn’t do anything about it. My body and my tongue were running on auto-pilot while my mind was miles away in Tahrir Square.

Traffic was especially slow today, I was getting restless. Cairo traffic is notoriously slow. It makes New York traffic look like Talladega. Ridiculousness. I decided to pass the time by looking through my bag and making sure I had everything I needed. I had my notebook and several pens and pencils, my Nokia digital camera, my iPhone and the accompanying white headphones for voice recording purposes, a foldable comb – not really sure why that was there, a salt shaker half-full of cocaine, a small pocket-sized Quran and a large bottle of ice-cold water.

In case it’s not clear, I’m obviously joking about the cocaine… I was going to leave this little disclaimer out but then I realized my mom reads my blog. I can just see her calling me in a deranged frenzy and screaming, “WHERE DID YOU GET COCAINE FROM, YA 7OMAR?!?!?!?! ARE YOU CRAZY?!?!?!” I figured it’s better to set the record straight so I wouldn’t have to deal with that… Love you, mama. Sorry if I gave you a heart attack.

Half an hour after I got into the taxi we arrived at the Ramses Station. It quickly became abundantly clear to me that I could’ve walked and gotten here faster… stupid. I got out of the cab and then engaged in the customary price negotiations with the driver.

“How much do I owe you?” I asked him.

“Whatever you feel like paying, ya basha.” He responded with obvious disdain in his voice.

I looked through my wallet for a second and then asked, “How about a five?” This was evidently not enough seeing as how his nostrils began to flare and his hand started inching towards the door handle on the driver side, as if he was going to come out of the car and beat my face in.

“Are you kidding me?” he asked. Clearly I had insulted the man.

“…. Yes. Totally kidding. Here’s a ten. Keep the change,” I said as I ran towards the stairs leading down to the subway.

“What change, you son of a…” I was too far away to hear the rest.

I ran down the stairs and followed the signs, making a series of lefts and rights till I found the ticket office. The lady behind the glass case was gorgeous. For a few seconds I forgot all about Tahrir and just wanted to chat her up, but then I saw the clock on the wall behind her, 12:43 was the time. I bought a ticket and then asked her for her phone number… except, not really. I asked her which train to take to Tahrir Square. She smiled and then said something that I couldn’t comprehend – my brain was still trying to get over the shock of how pretty she looked when she smiled. I nodded my head and thanked her, then walked backwards slowly while still staring at her smile… It was like a trance. I was thinking, stop smiling damn you, I have to go. Luckily, I tripped over my own shoes while I was walking backwards – the trance was broken.

 The train was on its way to the station, I could hear it coming fast. I sprinted towards the rails and almost jumped over the turn-stiles until I saw that there were at least a dozen Police officers standing close by. The train was pulling into the station.  I put my ticket through the slot but it came back out. I kept trying as I watched the train stop and people get on and off. One of the cops saw me and came over to help me. He was taking his good ole’ time, though. I wanted to say, Hurry up you sluggish bastard, you’re wasting my time, Goddammit! But I knew that would only work against me, so I kept mouth shut and pretended that I didn’t care how long it took him to get to me. When he eventually made it over, he inserted another ticket in the slot. I ran through the turn-stile and pushed through the people and made it through the train door right when it was about to close.

The Saddat Station was three stops away, right after the Nasser Station. I remember thinking, What, no Mubarak station? I laughed out loud like an idiot and the people standing around me on the train looked at me like I was crazy. I looked down and didn’t look back up until we got to the Saddat station. 

When the train stopped I was the first person out the door. I ran towards the signs leading to the exit and passed though a hallway that looked like a museum of pictures of the revolution. I made a mental note to come back and look at these later in the day. I finally got to the stairs leading up out of the station. There were five or six young men standing there checking IDs and patting people down to make sure nobody had weapons or anything like that. They were very efficient – there weren’t any cops or soldiers, just a bunch of college kids, my age, standing there and taking control of the situation and protecting the rest of us from any danger. I remember wondering if this would be mentioned in the news that night, that regular citizens were taking it upon themselves to make sure that everyone was safe while at the same time safe-guarding the legitimacy of the revolution. When it was my turn, I showed them my Pennsylvania Driver’s License as an ID and then a guy with an orange name-tag named –surprise, surprise – Ahmed patted me down and checked my bag.

“I’m sorry, but we have to do this to everyone. I hope I didn’t offend you,” Ahmed said.

“No, no. Are you kidding? Thank you guys so much for doing this,” I said. I thanked him again and then shook his hand. I walked past them and walked up the rest of the stairs…

I was finally in Tahrir Square.

Tahrir Square Part 2

Maybe it was because I was underground for so long, but when I came out of the Saddat Metro Station into Tahrir Square, the air seemed… sweeter.  I had been vehemently following coverage of the revolution since January 25th, dreaming of the day when I can finally stand here and protest alongside my Egyptian brothers and sisters. Before the revolution started, I had given up hope on any notion of change in Egypt. I was born in Egypt in 1989 and lived there for the first 7 years of my life before my family moved to The States. For the first 21 years of my life I knew it as “Mubarak’s Egypt” and I had accepted the fact that it would always be that way. I took no solace in the fact that Mubarak had been dying for the last few years because his son, Gamal, was being groomed to take over the throne after his father’s much overdue expiration. It was just going to be more of the same – the same corruption, the same violations of human rights, women’s rights, and the same brazen ass-kissing of the western world and Israel at the expense of the people of Egypt.

So that wonderful morning when I walked into Hillman library to write a paper – that was at least 2 days overdue – I decided to check Google News before I started working and to my surprise/shock saw a title that read “Protests Breakout Throughout Egypt”.  I forgot all about the overdue paper and opened every news site I could think of, even FOX News, and eventually found a link to a live stream of Tahrir Square on Al-Jazeera. When I saw those 90,000 people taking to the streets and asking for Mubarak to step down…  I started crying. I cried like a fucking baby. Just loud, shameless, extremely slobbery weeping. Everyone sitting around me put down their books and looked away from their computers and stared at me. I’m not sure exactly how long it took for me to notice that other people were observing me in this embarrassingly moist and garbled state, but when I finally looked up and saw the concerned look on their faces I started laughing and said with snot and tears running down my face, “No, no, it’s ok… (sniffle)… I’m Egyptian… (sniffle).” It felt like the only logical thing to say at the time.

Four months later and after the fall of that diseased-camel’s-DICK of a president, I was finally standing in Tahrir Square. I felt a single tear roll down my face as I looked into the heart of the Square and I saw thousands of people praying Jumaa. Keep it together, dude, I thought to myself. This is no time to break down and cry like an emolittlebitch. This is civil disobedience. Act accordingly. I wiped away the tear and slapped my face a few times  to remind myself to man up and keep my emotions bottled up and shoved deep down in the wine cellar of my brain until after the protest. Had it been back in January during the revolution, it would’ve been perfectly understandable for a grown man to cry in front of a crowd of this size, but now it would just look bad. These people wouldn’t assume that it’s my first time. No. They would say, “What the fuck is wrong with that guy? He’s acting like he’s never been here before. What a homo.”

I wanted to go join the people praying but there was a green fence that wrapped around the sidewalk. My first instinct was to just jump over it but I didn’t know if that would be allowed. I decided to err on the side of caution and just walk down the sidewalk away from the people praying until I found an entrance to the square. Along the way, I came across dozens of street vendors selling everything from bottled water and cans of pop to giant flags and revolution-themed T-shirts. I stopped for a second to take a look at the T-shirts but none of them really caught my eye. They were kind of bland – not clever at all – so I just bought a flag for five pounds. I wanted to haggle with the vendor but right when I was about to, I noticed he was missing an eye so I decided his life probably sucks enough as it is, he didn’t need some asshole arguing with him over a few pounds. I gave him the five and kept walking along the green fence until I came to the entrance to the Square and saw a big crowd of people gathered around near it.

I was going to just walk past the crowd and go to the entrance but I was curious, so I went for a closer look. In the core of the crowd was an older woman screaming at a young man and calling him all sorts of names. Her face was red with anger and she looked like she was getting ready to kill somebody. Her small, beady eyes were fixed on the kid like a predator ready to attack. Had the crowd not intervened, it would not have ended well for the poor bastard. There was a stocky, heavy-set man standing close by smoking a cigarette and laughing to himself about the whole situation. I went and casually stood next to him and asked about what had led up to this ordeal. “She didn’t want to be searched before entering the square. I don’t understand who she thinks she is. What makes her so goddamn special? If the rest of us have to be searched before going in then why does she expect to not be? What a bitch. I swear, kid, some people are just plain stupid,” he replied. I couldn’t agree with him more.

After gladly agreeing to be searched by the college-aged volunteers and walking into the Square, I walked back the same way I came but on the other side of the fence, right in the middle of the street. The streets surrounding Tahrir had all been blocked off, there wasn’t a car in sight. On my way back towards the people praying, I saw more vendors. I had already bought a flag so I walked past the countless other stands selling ones similar to the one I bought, ignoring the men and women that were badgering me about buying their shit. Other vendors were selling things like arm bands, baseball caps, bumper stickers, etc, but none of those interested me.

Then I saw a face-painting stand and I began seriously contemplating getting something done but there was a long-ass line of people waiting to get their faces painted. The man doing the painting was working on a little kid that was getting her whole face painted red, white, and black. Her mother was standing near-by, watching as her daughter’s face became living proof of the woman’s own patriotism, while her own face remained unpainted. After he was done with the little girl, the face-painter began working on his new canvas: a somewhat good-looking hijabi that was covered from head to toe in flag colors. Shortly after he started on her face, I decided it wasn’t worth the wait – there were at least a dozen other people standing in front of me waiting for their turn and I still hadn’t prayed Jumaa.

So I got out of line and kept walking toward the crowd of folks praying but before I left I decided to take a picture of the hijabi getting her face painted. Of course, being the gentleman that I am I asked her permission first before snapping the picture and I could tell she appreciated that, she smiled and simply said, “Sure.” I took the picture, thanked her, and then went on my way to go pray. When I got to the prayer area, I was just in awe of how many people were praying; it was a lot more people than I had originally thought. They were already in the middle of the second rak’a so I quickly stood in the prayer line next to this kid that looked like he was about my age. I put my bag down next to me and joined in but not before I snapped another picture of two men that were standing together in prayer on top of a street lamp. What a sight, that was. How the monkey did they get up there?

When I was done praying, I took out my camera and started snapping pictures of everything around me– and I mean everything – like this adorable little girl who was standing with her mom watching as the people began to wave their flags and chant after the prayer. I can’t explain the feeling that came over me when I saw the demonstration begin to build up. There were more and more people showing up every second by the hundreds. Four stages had been erected in advance, each with different messages – not opposing messages, just different. The imam that had been giving the khutbah a few minutes ago was standing on the stage that was put up by a group that called itself The Youth Coalition. It quickly became quite clear that this stage was the focal point of the protest, simply because as soon as they were done praying, the people found themselves right in front of it. I took some pictures of the people occupying the stage and jotted down a few notes in my notebook and then walked further into the Square.

Suddenly I remembered that I was supposed to meet my friend Hussein here, so I called him up. By that point, the crowd was so fervent and loud that we couldn’t hear each other over all the chanting. He answered his phone, “Hey Gharib, where the hell are you?”

“I’m here, bro!” I replied


“I said, I’M HERE! I’m in Tahrir! Where are you?” The crowd’s chanting was deafening. I couldn’t hear myself yelling into the phone, so I was certain he couldn’t hear me.

“Gharib? Where are you?” he asked again.

I was getting annoyed, “I’M IN TAH – Fuck it, I’ll call you back!” I hung up and started walking further away from the crowd. The intensity of the crowd was almost intimidating. The afternoon sun was beating down upon my face – I was sweating quite profusely. It must have been at least a hundred degrees that day. The sun coupled with the hot, stinky breath of the thousands upon thousands of people chanting was enough to make even the brawniest of men dizzy. A few minutes later when I had gotten to a somewhat quieter spot, I tried calling Hussein again.

He answered again, “GHARIB! CAN YOU HEAR ME?”

“YES!” I replied. “CAN YOU HEAR ME?”


At that point I looked around and realized that I was yelling louder than I needed to. The people around me had stopped chanting and were instead staring at me. Their glares were making me uncomfortable, but not enough to force me to stop yelling into the phone at the same volume. “I’M IN TAHRIR!” I replied.

“NO SHIT,” he said. “WHERE IN TAHRIR?”

I took a look around, searching for some distinguishing aspect to my surrounding and saw that I was close to another stage that was put up by The Popular Alliance Party. “I’M NEAR THE POPULAR ALLIANCE STAGE! DO YOU WANT TO MEET ME THERE?”

“NO, THERE’S TOO MANY PEOPLE THERE,” he replied. “WE’LL NEVER FIND EACH OTHER! DO YOU SEE A GREEN LIGHT POST? I’LL MEET YOU NEXT TO THE GREEN LIGHT POST!” and then he hung up. I looked around – the whole damn Square was filled with green light posts. Was he trying to play a joke on me? Was the bastard having a laugh at my expense? And then I remembered who I was talking to. Hussein is a sweetheart. He’d never fuck with me like that.

There was no smart way of doing this, so I’d go up to a random green light posts and call him and ask him if he can see me... This went on for a little more than half an hour. It wasn’t as pointless and time-wasting as it sounds. I was taking pictures the whole time. And when I had to walk through a crowd to get to the next green light post, I’d join in the chanting with them.

“NO MORE CORRUPTION!” chanted one crowd. Yeah, fuck corruption, I thought. Corruption blows. I hate that shit.

“DOWN WITH THE PROSECUTOR GENERAL!” chanted another. I didn’t even know who the dude was, to be honest, but fuck it, down with his more-than-likely-corrupt ass. Later I found out why they were chanting this, but more on that later.

Finally, I gave up on the whole green light post business and decided to look for something else that I can tell him to meet me by. I looked around for a bit and saw a statue of a man wearing a galabyah and a turban. There was nothing else like in the Square so I called Hussein as I was heading over there and told him to meet me there. “WHO’S THE STATUE OF?” he screamed into my ear.

“BRO, I DON’T KNOW!” I screamed back. “THIS IS MY FIRST TIME HERE! HANG ON, LET ME ASK!” There was an old man sitting at the foot of the statue with five women sitting around him like they were his harem. “Excuse me, sir,” I said in my normal tone of voice. “Who is this statue of?” He looked up at the statue, as if expecting it to respond to my question, and then looked back at me. “I’m not really sure,” he replied. “Whose statue is this?” he asked a member of his harem that was sitting closest to him – she looked like she was probably the bottom-bitch of the group. “It’s Omar Makrum,” she replied.

“HUSSEIN! ARE YOU STILL THERE?” I screamed into the phone, again.



“MASHY!” he sounded excited. “I’LL BE THERE IN FIVE MINUTES!”

Tahrir Square Part 3

“YALLA, HURRY UP!” I said to Hussein on the phone. “THESE PEOPLE ARE CREEPING ME OUT, BRO!”

We hung up and I sat down next to the old man and his harem. They were each sloppily chewing on an ear of grilled corn, which they bought from a man with a push-cart about twenty feet away from us. It smelled extraordinary. I hadn’t eaten all day and I wanted one, but looking at the people sitting next to me chewing away at the corn made me lose my appetite. They looked like a bunch of horses in a stable chewing their food sideways while bits of corn and spittle were ejecting from their disgusting mouths and flying in every direction. I realized I was staring at them for two long when the man stopped grazing and turned his attention to me.

“Excuse me,” he said. “But what are you looking at?” there was a piece of corn stuck in his mustache. It wiggled every time he talked.

“Oh, nothing,” I lied. “I was just wondering if you could tell me who Omar Makrum was.” I lied again.

“Oh,” he burped and the piece of corn that was wedged between the bristles of his mustache  flew out in the current of corn-permeated air projecting from his disgusting mouth and onto my face. “Well, Omar Makrum was a revolutionary who…” I stopped listening. He just kept on talking about Omar Makrum like nothing happened. Goddamn you Hussein, hurry the fuck up, I thought to myself.

As if he heard me telepathically, Hussein showed up with that big goofy smile on his face. I jumped up and ran towards him, while the old man went on about the British and the revolution. “Habibi ya Gharib. How are you, bro?” he said as we hugged and kissed each other on the cheeks. That’s normal here in Egypt. It’s not gay, at all.

“I’m good, dude,” I replied. “How have you been?”

“Perfect.” He said. In my excitement I failed to realize that Hussein had been accompanied by a guy in a Batman T-shirt, sporting a fisherman’s hat. “This is my friend, Mustafa,” Hussein said. Mustafa and I shook hands and exchanged pleasantries.

“Alright, guys,” Mustafa  said. “What are we going to do?”

“Let’s go find my mom, first,” Hussein replied. “She’s around here somewhere.” He looked around and then said, “Hold on, let me call her.”

While Hussein was on the phone with his mom, I stood there staring at Mustafa’s shirt. I wanted that shirt. Would it be weird to ask him to trade shirts? Would he understand that I’ve been obsessed with Batman ever since I was old enough to know who  the caped crusader was? Probably not. He noticed me staring at him and gave me an awkward smile. “That’s a really nice shirt, man.” I said. “I used to have one just like it.”

“Thank you,” he said as he looked down at it. “What happened to yours?”

“Never mind that,” I replied. He looked confused. Luckily, Hussein was done with his phone call. I didn’t need to explain myself.

“She said she’ll meet us here,” Hussein informed us. A few minutes later she met up with us, accompanied by two young girls, who I assumed were related to Hussein somehow. Introductions were made and then we agreed to split up and meet back in front of the Omar Makrum statue in an hour or so.

So, Hussein, Mustafa and I went straight into the crowd, to the heart of the whole protest: The Popular Alliance stage. There was a good-looking middle-aged man with shaggy hair giving a speech and riling people up. Hussein told me that he was a famous director here in Egypt named Khalid Yousef. He had a certain inflection in his voice that really got the crowd going. Everytime he said something, no matter what it was, the crowd would go crazy and start cheering. His speech had an obvious anti-Muslim-Brotherhood sentiment. The Brotherhood had boycotted today’s demonstration and had contributed to the recent attacks on the legitimacy of the protest.

On top of that, the Brotherhood (along with the Al-Qaeda-aligned Salafist groups in Egypt) issued an official statement supporting the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces—who has taken control of Egypt after the fall of Mubarak – and vowed to not take part in any demonstrations against them. To the young men and women that were here today in Tahrir, this was a slap in the face and an act of treachery against the revolution as a whole. Before this, I hadn’t really made up my mind about the Brotherhood, but their betrayal of the movement was enough to help me issue a verdict on this pseudo-religious faction. It became abundantly clear that the Brotherhood only took part in this revolution to further its own political goals and ambitions.

Khalid Yousef was pretty much mirroring my views on the Brotherhood, almost verbatim. The crowd started chanting, “Here is Tahrir. Where is the Brotherhood?” This chant sounded a lot better in arabic… it rhymed and everything. And then somebody screamed, “Khalid Yousef for president!” It might have been me – I can’t be sure. The weird part was that there were members of the Brotherhood in the crowd that were there despite their party’s official denouncement of the protest. It must have been awkward for them.

When his speech was over, Yousef walked off the stage and immersed himself right into the crowd, which surprised me. Since when do celebrities walk amongst the normal folks willingly? I wanted to go into the crowd and attack him somehow as a warning against his doing so. Why not?

Afterwards, the three of us walked around the Square checking out the scene. The most memorable thing about the whole protest was the sheer number of vendors that have set up carts and stands in Tahrir in an attempt to capitalize on the event as much as possible. The food vendors were the most impressive of the bunch, selling things like fool, falafel, koshary, kofta and kabob, and even molokhia. Everything smelled delicious and appetizing. There was one vendor selling cheese sandwiches that he advertized as “sandwiches of the revolution”.  The three of us were dying of laughter as we walked by this dude. If profiting from the revolution was a sporting event, this guy would easily take home the gold.

After walking around for a little longer, we went back to the statue to meet up with Hussein’s family. His mom decided that it was time for them to go home. Mustafa decided to stay, but I felt like I had my fill of the revolution for the day. It was a good day and the protest was inspiring, to say the least, but I couldn’t help but feel like I had missed. This protest was a mere sideshow compared to the protesting that took place between January 25th and February 11th.

We walked down the stairs into the underground hall that lead to the subway. I said goodbye to Hussein and his family and walked towards the train that would take me back home. I wasn’t in a rush this time so I took my time getting the ticket and getting to the train. When it finally arrived, I waited until everyone else got on and then I walked on to the train. The train wasn’t as full as it had been when I was coming to Tahrir. There were open seats everywhere. I asked one of the people on the train which stop I should get off at to get to Abbassya and then took a seat. I took a deep breath and went through the events of the day in my head as the train started picking up speed and left the Saddat Station. The day was over. Or so I thought…

There I was. Minding my own business, not bothering a soul. I was sitting there on the metro looking forward to going home and passing out on my bed, when a younger guy came and sat next to me. I didn’t pay him any mind, he looked decent enough. A little unclean, perhaps. But certainly not dangerous. It’s absolutely imperative to understand that the last thing that was on my mind was getting held up by this kid on a night like this.

I felt a sharp sting in my side as the kid moved closer to me. At first, I thought it was a stray pin or something sticking out of his shirt.. why not? It’s a lot more believable than what I saw when I turned toward him to ask him to move down a little. The kid was looking me straight in the eyes and jabbing a sharp, jagged-edge knife into my side. “Don’t think,” he told me. “Just hand over your wallet or I’ll cut you up into pieces.” Words failed me. I wanted to say, fuck off, but thank God I was catatonic. Had it been otherwise, I would’ve surely been stabbed multiple times and left there to die on the subway. Without thinking, I took out my wallet and handed it over to him. No more than fifteen seconds later, the train was pulling into the Nasser Station and the kid got up and jolted out the door. I sat there just staring at the door with my mouth wide-open like an idiot. Should I run after him, I asked myself. Run the fucker down and stab him with his own knife? But it was too late. The doors had closed and the train was already leaving the station. The whole incident took no more than 2 minutes. The bastard had timed his attack so that soon after I gave him my wallet we’d be at the next station and he’d be able to make a run for it.

I looked around at the faces of the people sitting around me. They all seemed calm and collected, unlike yours truly. Had no one seen what just happened? How was that possible? A man could have been killed right in front of them and no one seemed to have noticed. I had eighty dollars and two credit cards in my wallet. Also, my Pitt ID, my library card, a collection of business cards, and my Dunkin Donuts rewards card. I still couldn’t believe what had just happened. It happened so fast, my mind didn’t have time to register the last 5 minutes of its young life.

Three stops later, we were at my stop, the Demerdash Station. I got off the train and walked towards the exit. A wave of grief and self-pity washed over me as I began to realize that I didn’t have any money to take a cab to my house. I asked a man standing outside the station smoking a hand-rolled cigarette which way was Abbassya. He pointed me in the right direction and I started walking. I had to ask about fifteen other people on the way how to get to my house. About half way to Abbassya, I was walking through a pretty shady neighborhood. Suddenly I heard three gunshots go off and I started running, screaming, “SONOFABITCH!” I didn’t stop running until I got home.

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