On 6 October 1981, my father decided to take me and my one year old sister to the military parade that was to be held in our neighborhood, Nasr City, marking the 1973 War.
We had just returned to Egypt after a few years of diaspora, in Yemen and Kuwait, where my father took my family, following the failure of the 1977 uprising. My father’s friends at the time where either in jail or got transferred from their university jobs during the infamous September 1981 crackdowns on dissidents.
Why did my father, who had no love for Sadat, take us to the parade? It was never clear to me. My father just thought, it’s Eid, what the heck, let’s take the kids to watch the tanks, planes, and the show.
I was roughly four years old at the time, and of course my memory won’t compute the events in a historian’s fashion. We were supposed to be at the Manassa that day. My dad knew an army officer who was a close friend to his elder brother in Tanta, and the guy had promised he’d get us seats in the Manassa, where Sadat, Mubarak and co were to watch the parade.
The officer didn’t show up, according to my dad. And probably we were damn lucky he didn’t. We ended up sitting at a stage on the opposite side of the autostrade, besides the Pyramid of the Martyrs. My aunt’s husband came along with us that day, together with two of my cousins.
The stage was almost empty, except for our family. My father told me years later that army trucks arrived before the start of the show, with the “crowd” (who were nothing but army conscripts in plainclothes), and all were chanting for Sadat.
These scenes I remember well. Some noise, explosion, and my father shouting to me: “Jump!” The stage was roughly a meter or a meter and half higher than the ground. And as a four year old kid, I clung to the edge, trying to see if my legs could reach the ground. There was chaos, and the “audience” were jumping off the stage, and some were stepping on my fingers. I was screaming. My father grabbed me, and helped me reach the ground, while carrying my sister with his other hand.
We started running for our car, which was parked in Youssef Abbas Street. My cousins were following us, and all were running, screaming, as shots kept being fired.
As we arrived home (15 mins later). My father entered the house, and shouted to my mom: “I think they killed Sadat!” My mom answered, while continuing to bake the Eid cookies: “Fi setteen dahia! (Screw him)” My mom was no fan of Sadat. She had participated in the 1971-2 student revolt, was severely beaten up by the Central Security Forces, and always held Sadat personally responsible for the atrocities against the students.
Sadat was regarded as a traitor in my family. And a traitor he was. We did not mourn him. On the contrary, there were celebrations in our house, and millions of other Egyptians sighed in relief.
When the 6th of October comes every year, I remember that day. The day our president got killed. The day his vice president Hosni Mubarak took control and started his reign of terror. This 6th of October comes and Hosni Mubarak is deposed by the people, not by a gang of armed Islamists. And his trial continues, I wish him nothing short of the fate of his predecessor.