Just back from Tahrir Sq.  Before you read any further please remember that there are basically 3 groups of people in Cairo today.  The first are those who are into the hype and excitement of the moment.  The second are those who are interested but detached from the excitement and see a different version of what is happening.  The third is the group that are completely detached and disinterested in what is going on.  We all tell the truth as we see it through our personal lenses.

I belong to the interest but detached from the excitement group.  So in comparison to what you see on the TV my version is very tame!

My trip to Tahrir was rather an unreal experience.  The nearer I got to Tahrir Sq.  the more evidence I saw of the events that had taken place.  Broken pavement, broken windows – but what surprised me was not the amount of broken windows it was the lack of broken windows!  Maybe one window for every 20 shops.  Having lived in Egypt for so long if I had not known about the disturbances I would have thought that what I was looking at was normal.  It didn’t look too different to areas of Cork city on a Saturday or Sunday morning!   Not all the shops had shutters on them so it is amazing that there were not more broken.  Most of them had taken their goods out of the windows and this probably discourage looters,but this morning all are again setting up their window displays.

I brought food with me from Luxor because there were reports in the media of shortages!!  Maybe there are but not in downtown Cairo this morning, plenty fruit, veg and as you can see in the middle of the photo – bread!

Everywhere there are people dressed for work, bank doors are opening, there are people at ATM’s, street cleaners are out, traffic police are at the crossroads.

Before I left I turned on the TV and could not find any coverage from today but all were rehashing the most exciting and gory of the previous days, again if I was not paying close attention and not recognised footage I have seen several times already I would have thought that I was looking at Tahrir as it is this morning.

As I got to Tahrir Sq, the first and most notable sensation was the smell of urine, it rained last night so it was obvious that the puddles of water contained huge amount of urine and were to be avoided!  Ugh!  I passed through several civilian checkpoints.  The young people manning them were very nice, very apologetic about having to pat me down and check my passport, only at one of them was there a young man who really did not want to let me into the sq. having checked my passport.  It was obvious from my visas that I was not just a tourist so he was suspect!  I was sure my little camera was going to result in my being turned back but I was allowed through.  Phew!

All the roads to the square had several check points (civilian) and most but not all had a army tank or two also.  Near the museum seemed to be the hot spot.  There were several layers of barricades here and the lines of men were older and more purposeful.  Then there were lines of army personnel and a few tanks.  There were people sitting on the road in front of the tanks.  The destruction to the road, and the debris was at it’s worst here, railings had been pulled from their settings, pavement torn up etc.

There was a makshift first-aid station, people sleeping along the pavement (here again I was even more surprised at the lack of damage to the shops lining the road.  At first I was very hesitant to take out my camera but as I relaxed I began to notice that there were cameras everywhere!  People of all ages were walking around taking photos if not with cameras with mobile phones.  There seemed to be many professional photographers and reporters around.  So out came my camera, nobody said a word – in fact nobody even seemed to notice!

Now that I was able to relax knowing I was not going to be attacked as a foreigner or a camera holder I was able to focus better on my surroundings.   There was no atmosphere of excitement, if anything it was a bit tired and the voices of those trying to rouse the spectators were a bit hoarse here and there.  I say here and there because that is what it was – just here and there.  Most people were just sitting reading newspapers, drinking tea, chatting and looked a bit tired.

When my attention was drawn to an area of shouting, flag waving etc. I went to investigate – that is when I felt more like I was on a film set than in the heart of a demonstration zone.  I don’t want to belittle the efforts of the protesters or their legitimate demands but film crews were busy shooting orchestrated hype such as the following……the difference between my shots and theirs is that my shots show the full size of the events because I shot from further back rather than close up.  The following was one such demo by about 50 – 60 women the film crew being in front.

At 19.54 Cairo time – just saw this above piece of filming on a station called PRESS TV, sure enough it looked massive!  Wonderful filiming!  It just goes to show how you can portray almost anything you like as “fact” with the right camera and video shots and angles.

There seemed to be two main focal spots where the cameras were set up – which also surprised me because I was under the impression from all the reports that they could not be visible in what they were doing.  The points are at 90 degree angles to each other and it is in front of these areas that the crown gather for filming, shouting, flag waving etc.  The following is one spot

This is the second one.

Excuse me….I can’t believe what I am seeing on the TV…..is that the metropolitan police baton charging a crowd of students?  and police on horseback?  In democratic England????  Now that I come to think of it….I seem to be seeing protests and demos all over the world at the moment…mmm is this really catching on or is this media hype?  Someone enlighten me,  is the world falling apart?  Is the English PM going to resign over this unrest on the TV?  Seems like citizens are not happy anywhere!

Back to Egypt.  The following are shots I took of what I am thinking are media people wandering around looking for news and, most probably, discussing angle shots today in Tahrir Sq.


Now, if I were making a film or a documentary and I could move the participants around to my liking I would move them all to one half the square, stop panning the camera before coming to the edge of the crowd AND I would use low camera angle shots….but then that’s just my logical thinking…..could that be what you are seeing on the TV?  Maybe the Egyptian government are not reacting because their helicopters are taking arial shots so they have a better idea of what is happening?

The dense crowd you see in the background in the next photo is gathered in front of one of the media spots I told you about earlier.  You would be looking at this crowd from the media camera naturally….whereas I was looking at it from the side.  You see camera angle and location can be used by anyone to show what they want….I want to show that there is not much excitement etc. going on here so I can shoot from a preferred location and the media who are interested in hype and excitement can have the people crowd together and use a different angle.  The question is WHY are they fueling this event the way they are instead of impartial event reporting?  Maybe this is a good time to be asking who owns the News Channels, who are the news editors, what are their political/economic agendas (if any).

The crowd in the background of this shot are standing in front of the other media station.

The following photos I took walking around Tahrir today.  The problem with deciding who is taking part in the protest is that……who knows how many people are demonstrating as opposed to how many people are there to take photos, to watch what is happening, how many people are crossing the sq on their way to somewhere else etc.  By the way, watching from the side is not allowed nor is walking around the side……you have to walk in the sq. itself.

The last one has got to be the best!  Remember the French Revolution and the women knitting in the shade of the guillotine?  This lady is winding wool in the shade of one of the media stations!

What more can I say?

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One Comment

  1. Mara, Thank you for sending a more realistic view of what is happening. We have been wondering how you are doing. This must have a huge impact on your business.
    Josh and Patsy–we stayed with you in November 2009.