Thursday, November 24, 2011

Practical Tentacles of Tahrir

One of the explanations the military or its defenders have given for opposing the takeover by protesters of Tahrir Square has been the congestion it causes to transportation in that important area of Cairo. That claim has always seemed shallow to my naieve perspective. Last night, I was afforded two insights that matured my view some. I learned that while it may well be a regrettable but unavoidable consequence of the revolution (as surely the protesters would claim), at least there is some credibility to the argument against the congestion.

When getting the call that Aly was wounded and in the hospital, I rushed quickly to see him, not knowing how critical his condition was. Once having received directions to the hospital he is in, I flagged a cab and implored him to hurry because of the urgency. (Here but one of several examples on this trip where the improved Arabic skills I'm gaining in Jerusalem have paid off nicely). The driver understood clearly, but . . the route to the hospital? - directly over the bridge leading to Tahrir. As always these days, it was packed with traffic and we were forced to inch our way, with my frustration growing by the second. I wondered in that moment just how many thousands of people feel even more urgent frustration in accomplsihing their varied activities or duties.

After visiting with Aly, his doctor helped me flag a cab at 1:00 am. With the early hour and the distance from central Cairo, there were relatively few. Finally one came who had a fare that he was dropping off close by. I jumped in to finish that short journey with them, before making the 25 minute drive back to my hotel in Zamalek. The cabbie and his fare soon got into a furious argument, with the man wanting the driver to go closer to his home through narrow streets that the driver insisted were not for cabs, but for "tuk-tuks" (motorized rickshaws).

The driver relented but not without various displays of resentment. On our way onward he explained that he didn't want to enter those streets because he was frightened, given that there are no police around. "These streets are not safe without police and I'm frightened to drive in them", he pleaded as if he needed to defend his position to me. His fear was clearly genuine and he confirmed that the absence of the police was due to the on-going revolution. He didn't seem to be against the revolution, but he surely was effected by it.

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