Brandon just told me that one of his callers, who lives across the street from the Maadi Grand Mall told him that the mall has been looted and is now burning. I never thought that Maadi would see looting and violence. Mark commented earlier that when looting begins, it is the end of the end. I have two sets of go-bags packed – backpacks for a quick trip on foot, and carry-ons for something more organized by vehicle. I never thought that I would have to pack a go-bag. When I look around my apartment and think that I may never see these things of mine again, I do not believe it. Five percent of my mind considers it as a possibility, but the rest knows that nothing like that can ever be.
As the day has progressed, I have become increasingly alarmed. If Brandon were not taking phone calls, I would be much more sanguine. However, when somebody reports seeing the mall burned, I can’t help but be alarmed. I am not a naturally nervous person, but I feel my limits beginning to be tested. This was somewhat exciting fun at first, but I don’t like it now.
I have discovered how news travels when there is no official source – rumors. Yolanda will talk to Brandon who tells me and I pass it on to Mark. I talk to Rere and pass on what Samir has told me. This is like passing on juicy gossip about horrific events that are happening around you. I can understand how rumors grow larger with each passing.
The children are watching Mary Poppins, and I am grateful that they watch so few movies so that they can be entertained for a few hours. Edwin has caught on to the mood and is disconsolate unless being held all of the time. I grew tired of hauling his 22+ pounds around, and so pulled his high chair into the study and he’s watching the movie snuggled up to his blankie and thumb.
I told Kathleen that I had to pack some things, and she asked if they could come to. I told her that of course, and she asked me where we were going. When I told her that we might have to leave and fly to the US, she brightened and clapped her hands with delight. One of the primary children had the same response yesterday in church.
I just saw two tanks drive through Nahda Square. They rumbled past and I assume went to the Maadi police station. Rere called a few minutes ago and said that looters are coming through her neighborhood. The men of her building are standing outside with knives and hammers to keep the looters away. Apartment by apartment looting is occurring in Moquattam. Mark thinks that we will be evacuated, and so I’ve gone through the house with our video camera to film all of our possessions.
The girls are excited to leave; Sophia just brought me her shoes to put on and was disappointed to learn that we wouldn’t be leaving just right now. I have that surreal sense of now that I suppose has been described as living in a dream. Everything that is happening is real, too painfully so, and I am scared. I know that faith is a rock, but right now it feels a flimsy support. Brandon assured me that everything would be fine, and it will in the cosmic sense, but right now I wouldn’t describe as ‘fine.’ In the end, however, as long as I have my family, I have all that is important.
Something is burning. A very large something, judging by the huge clouds of billowing black smoke coming from behind a building we can see from the front room. The fire just started, and I don’t know where it is coming from. The building is across Nahda street north of the metro.
In the street below, crowds of boabs are gathering with baseball bats, golf clubs, and assorted long, deadly weapons. I am impressed. They have almost no stake here in Maadi – no family, no property, and only a very little pay. But they gather to protect that which is not theirs. There’s not much I can do, but we’re baking cookies. Whatever the situation, cookies are always appropriate.
I put my head outside, and Maadi is eerily quiet. No horns honk in the passing traffic; no traffic is passing. The ubiquitous rrrrrrr-tu-tu-tut of delivery scooters is silent. No music comes drifting out of a passing car window. All I hear is the quiet talk of the men in the street and an occasional sound of gunfire. Sometimes the single shot is close, sometimes it is far away.
Mark called earlier and reported that Road 9 is being looted. As he says, ‘looting is the beginning of the end.’ Egypt has changed irrevocably. Tomorrow morning or next week when the rioting has stopped, the stores will still be smashed, the buildings burnt. The storeowners will be destitute and some nameless man will hoard all of their work after winning it in a night of larceny.
Brandon thinks that if we are to be evacuated, it will be tomorrow. The girls keep asking when we will go to the airport, and don’t believe that something bad could happen. I think it is better that way – if they did believe they’d never sleep. I hope, of course, that we won’t need to be evacuated. I can believe the situation is slowing more readily because Brandon is off right now and is trying to get some sleep. I imagine when the calls begin again, I will feel the fear again.
Brandon thinks he is coming down with strep throat, and has a rising fever and chills. While he was getting ready for bed, I blocked our front door with the sideboard, the front entry table, and two chairs. I tried to use the study sofa, but I couldn’t get it through the door. Hopefully I’ll just laugh when I see them in the morning.