January 2011. The first revolution of the Egyptian people. I was in my third week of student teaching at the American International School of Egypt when the initial murmurs of a revolution made its rounds. My host teacher checked her cell phone during a break, commenting on a newsfeed on the Facebook page, We Are All Khaled Said. It was the brutal murder of Mr. Said by corrupt police that was one of the major turning points for Egypt’s future. The Egyptian people had been oppressed long enough.
Through social media and cell phones, Egyptians formed a “Day of Rage” on January 28, 2011 which was intentionally planned to coincide with Egypt’s National Police Day. On this day, over 50,000 people showed up in Tahrir Square to demand that their president, Hosni Mubarak, resign from office.
Images of the protests were broadcast on every T.V. station. Some stations showed true events of the demonstrations while others showed a single bridge over the Nile River, with lights sparkling off the water to instill a false sense of security. Outside my villa, I could hear semi-automatic weapons being fired while military tanks scoured the neighborhood. I wondered if I would ever make it back home.
Over the next couple of days, the number of protestors grew, despite the fact that Mubarak had shut down all internet and cell phone capabilities and cancelled all national railway services. He also instilled a curfew demanding that all civilians stay in their homes. No one was allowed to step outside their home after 5:00 p.m. I knew my family back in the states must be terrified as they watched the demonstrations on the news.
On January 29, the first protestors were killed as they tried to enter the Interior Ministry building. The number of civilian deaths increased by the hour as the demonstrations continued. Phone communications had been restored at this point and I was able to get in touch with the US Embassy. They advised me to get to the airport as soon as possible. I packed my suitcases and prayed for a miracle.
On February 1st, I was able to get a ride to the airport in Cairo. Luckily, I already had my round-trip ticket for my return to the states. I had to stand in line with hundreds of people who were trying to flee Egypt. I finally made it to the ticket office and changed my return date, which was early the next day. However, at this point, the curfew had set in and I was forced to sleep on the floor of the airport. I still considered myself lucky. Other Americans who were being evacuated through the US Embassy had to accept flights to other countries and find their way back home from there.
People ask me if I would return to Egypt. I suppose that depends on the outcome of the current revolution.