Friday, June 25, 2010

Peace and Pieces in Alexandria

Today was supposed to be the peace rally for Khaled Saeed, whom was so brutally killed by policemen a couple weeks ago here in Alexandria. The plan, as detailed on the "Kollena Khaled Saeed" (We are all Khaled Saeed) Facebook page, was simple: dress in black, go to the Korneish (seaside), and stand in quiet solidarity from 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm. Not a friend of Khaled, but no friend of brutality and torture, I got my iPhone and went with my sister to check it out.

6:30 pm we were on the Korneish in front of the Engineering Club. I had doubts that we'd find anyone dressed in black there, since the Korneish is so darn long and there was no central gathering focal point I was aware of. There were a lot of people there though with music and national songs blaring from a pickup truck rigged with audio equipment and mega-blasting speakers and a camera man. The truck moved down the supposedly fast-moving Korneish in motorcade speed and had a followership. The truck had a scouts-like parade with a large national flag waving proudly along with many other joyfully colored flags, banners with Suzanne Mubarak's name, followed by a mob of children. Most of the children were young (around 12 years old and even less) and all from lower class families, looking poor and lost. The first thing we (my sister and I) noticed was how they were all wearing the same t-shirts and obviously different colored tees: white and brown, but no black (go figure). Just outside the Engineering Club, some men had bags full with more tees and the kids were ripping into them like monkeys on a box of bananas - trying to get their share before they run out.

Now, it was very difficult to tell from the sight in front of us what the heck was going on. What was all this festivity all about? A closer look at the print on the crap-quality t-shirts gave way that there were in fact three interesting events taking place in one amalgamated super event!

Interesting how all the poor kids in Alexandria suddenly decided to get more involved in reading, giving up smoking, and discovering tourism all in one day. Actually, from 6:30 to 7:30 pm. Oh, and on the Korneish. Oh, and wear t-shirts. Coincidences are cool, aren't they!

This colorful embodiment of perplexity was headed towards Stanley Bridge, so me and my sister decided to pick up our paces and see what's going on there before this small army reaches unspoiled territory...

Meanwhile, on Stanley Bridge there were small bands of people wearing black clothes and looking deeply into the sea, contemplating, or reading Qur'an. No one seemed to really know what's going on. They were just there. I guess that was the original purpose of the 'rally'.

On the other side of the bridge though, there was much more activity and yet another mob of people gathered up in a huddle. At the center of that flock, was no one short of ElBaradei himself.

Seconds later, the jolly parade started coming into view on the bridge, and just as fast, ElBaradei slipped into his car and it drove off. There must have been some sneering, because I overheard black-shirters saying to just let the parade pass by and everyone for a brief-moment held their breaths... but nothing happened.

My sleuthing sister had a great idea of interviewing some of the kids in t-shirts. I whipped out my iPhone, turned on the voice recorder, and asked a kid if I could interview him with my pseudo-microphone in hand. They must have really thought I was press because a couple more kids grouped up around us and started chiming in and were very naive and cooperative in answering all questions asked. Here is how the interview went (sorry if I didn't post the audio file... sound quality was bad because of all the wind):

Me: So why are you here today?
Kid: There is a party for the Itihad Iskandary.
Me: You mean the football club?
Kid: Yes, football and lots of other stuff!
Me: Nice. So, the t-shirt you're wearing, was it the club that distributed it?
Kid: Yes, they are the ones that gave it to us.
Me: Do you know what's written on the back?
Kid: Yes!
Me: Well, what is it?
Kid: It says elkara2a lelgamee3!
Me: So what does El-Itihad have to do with elkara2a lelgamee3?!
Kids [chiming in]: Thakafa ba2a!
My sis: So, did you know there will be an event today, or were you coincidentally strolling on the seaside?
Kids: No... we knew... they came to us in all the marakez shabab and told us to come.
Me: So how long did you know about this event? A week? Two? Three?
Kids: Last week. They told us there will be a big party and that we should go to cheer on. They told us to also bring all our friends.
Me: So they told all you youngsters to come and gather as much of your friends? So where did you get the t-shirts? Did they give them to you at the youth centers or what?
Kids: No... we took them in front of the Engineering club.
Me: Cool. So did they tell you you have to wear them now, or was it you that decided you wanted to put them on now?
Kids: They told us to wear them. They said there will be a race later on, and we should wear them and sign up. If we win, we will get a set of clothes and medals!
My sis: So, are you guys through for the day?
Kids: Not yet... waiting for the race.
Me: Rabenna ma3akom... did you finish your tests?
Kid: Yes, and I passed alhamdulillah.
Sis: What grade are you in?
Kid: 2nd grade.
Me and my sis: Tayyeb, rabenna yawafa2kom. Thanks!

Interesting indeed!


oldmoe said...

Amazing accounts, keep it up Bebo

Mahmoud ElGammal said...

Good job, Ehab! I don't think anyone else has covered that pathetic cover-up operation.

وزنة said...

Good post for a topic where unbiased documentation is needed.

Mahmoud- Here's another account of the events:

hammady said...

Keep it up Ehab.
As for the noise in the background in your recordings, try getting a Nexus One or anything else that has 2 microphones and get rid of your toy :)

Farouk said...

Great Work !! Keep it up.

oliver lerone schultz said...


I found your site looking for the Black Dressed protesting in silence.
I would like to include this in a book/article discussing the egyptian revolution (and the role of media). it is resulting in a freely downloadable book, so no commercial interest here.
would it be ok for you to use these images in that way?
of course you would get a (printed) proof-copy.

thx for getting back!

very best regards

oliver lerone schultz said...

just to follow up...

Ehab said...

Sorry @Oliver, I just saw this. Of course you can use any of the content here. Hope I'm not too late!