Something in the air

Since I returned to Cairo two days ago, the conversations I’m having with or hearing from random strangers are amazing.

I had to go yesterday to do some paper work at the Nasr City registrar, and as usual the procedures included photocopying my ID and every single document. I went into one of the small shops surrounding the registrar, where two women, in the beginning of their 30s I’d say, were actively attending to customers who were waving their papers, ID cards, passports, impatiently wanting them to be photocopied.

At some point, a man in his 60s came into the shop, wearing a galabiya and a traditional peasant hat, stuttering. Both him and some other man were talking to the two women workers. I wasn’t focusing, but suddenly I heard one of them shouting with humor at the women saying: “You are the post-war generation, the peace generation, what do you know?”

“Hahaha, yeah, we came in the quiet times,” replied one of the women. “No wars. Too much relaxing, eih?”

And that’s when the man in galabiya suddenly barged in, stuttering: “I think your time now is worse than the time of the war. During the war, the kilo of meat was 47 piasters. How much is it today? And who said the war is over? The real war only started. Look at the poverty, corruption and hunger. It’s an internal war. It’s worse than the war with Israelis. May God bless you and give you strength. Your generation is at war. It’s a disaster, a bigger disaster than our generation faced.”

Today, I took a cab to Ramses. The driver was silent till he found out I was a journalist. That’s when he exploded:
“May God burn down this regime. This country is going on fire soon, very soon. We can’t take it anymore. Why is everyone blaming the Nazif government? Nazif is nothing. It’s Hosni Mubarak himself who is responsible for this situation we have reached. Why aren’t you talking about Mubarak? Journalists and people on TV talk about Nazif this and Nazif that. But they never mention Mubarak. They are cowards. They should say Mubarak is bad. Mubarak is responsible…. There will be another bread initfada, like that of 1977. And this time we will burn the country down. We will not burn the cars, buses or shops. These are ours. No no. We will burn them. We will burn this government. We will burn down the police stations.”

On my way back from Ramses, also in a cab, the driver started complaining about hassles from the traffic police, and about the “scam” fees imposed on taxis by the Finance Ministry. He said he was talking with his friends about having a parade with their cabs, raising banners protesting the government. “But we have to contact the media. If there are no cameras, the police can make us disappear. They are scared of cameras. We’ll contact Al-Jazeera, Dream, Mehwar and even CNN to ride with us while we protest.”

There is something in the air in Egypt. It could be Mubarak’s Autumn of Fury, as I and increasingly many people around me sense. Not a day passes without reading or hearing about a strike. No one knows when the explosion is going to happen, but it seems everyone I meet or bump into today feel it’s inevitable.