2011, Egypt, Reportage, Telegraph Calcutta

Google face enlivens Tahrir – Mubarak disdainful, deputy dangles more sops

These pieces under the tagline “Ringside at Tahrir” were first published in The Telegraph in February 2011

Feb 9, cairo: They want his head; he’s offering them decrees of reform and pay-rise, no more.

The strident Go-Mubarak cry was pitched up on Tuesday with protesters demanding his trial for “crimes against the people and the state”, but Hosni Mubarak remained disdainfully indifferent to the clamour, even receiving the UAE foreign minister to suggest the uprising hadn’t cast a shadow on scheduled business.

Much of Cairo was immersed in recovery rites after a protracted shutdown. But spurred by the sudden release of Google executive Wael Ghonim, whose Facebook page became the staging-post of the January 25 eruption, a human torrent billowed into the smouldering heart of Tahrir Square on Tuesday afternoon, assailing the establishment with that one demand it has refused to heed: Go Mubarak! Cairo’s face remained bizarrely fractured between the quotidian and the chaotic. Continue reading “Google face enlivens Tahrir – Mubarak disdainful, deputy dangles more sops”

2011, Egypt, Reportage, Telegraph Calcutta

Revolt at wits’ end, Cairo takes a detour to humdrum business

These pieces under the tagline “Ringside at Tahrir” were first published in The Telegraph in February 2011.

Feb 8, Cairo: If you didn’t know of a place called Tahrir Square in Cairo, or didn’t stir in its direction, you wouldn’t guess there is a revolt blazing that the world is glued to.

This has become a schizophrenic capital, besieged at its heart by a vibrant uprising that refuses to ease its octopus like grip but utterly humdrum beyond the fringe of barbed wire and clay-footed tanks that contain Tahrir Square.

The police and their dreaded undercover cousins, the Mukhabarat, are back on the streets, ordering traffic and seeking papers. Shops and offices are open and banks have long tails of customers hanging out. The downtown is a bumper-to-bumper anarchy of honking and spewing diesel fume. Streetside cafes are rearranging their upended tables and the menus are laid on crisp plaid. Continue reading “Revolt at wits’ end, Cairo takes a detour to humdrum business”

2011, Egypt, Reportage, Telegraph Calcutta

Throne offers revolution a table, Mubarak pulls a talks stunt

These pieces under the tagline “Ringside at Tahrir” were first published in The Telegraph in February 2011.

Feb 7, Cairo: This must be the only revolution where entrenched adversaries have gone to talks in grandiose halls on the sidelines of an intermittently bloody siege.

A surreal, and eventually sterile, subplot to the Tahrir Square stalemate unfolded this afternoon when Vice-President Omar Suleiman lured the incipient revolution to a gilt-edged round table presided by a looming portrait of the very man it’s gunning for: Hosni Mubarak. Continue reading “Throne offers revolution a table, Mubarak pulls a talks stunt”

2011, Egypt, Reportage, Telegraph Calcutta

Tahrir Square smells blood, Mubarak shuffle fires up street

These pieces under the tagline “Ringside at Tahrir” were first published in The Telegraph in February 2011.

Feb 6, Cairo: President Hosni Mubarak attempted to throw off the grinding siege on him late tonight, dismissing the top leadership of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) and replacing son Gamal with Hossam Badrawi, a known reformist, as general secretary.

The manoeuvre was immediately and summarily rejected by protagonists of the Tahrir Square uprising as cosmetic concessions dangled by a panicked dictatorship. Hosni Mubarak does not want to budge from presidency, at least until September, and the protesters would have nothing short of that. “Mubarak must Go!” they continued to chant, “Go, Go, Mubarak!”

Continue reading “Tahrir Square smells blood, Mubarak shuffle fires up street”

2011, Egypt, Reportage, Telegraph Calcutta

Barrier of knives, carrier for ride

These pieces under the tagline “Ringside at Tahrir” were first published in The Telegraph in February 2011.

Feb 4, Cairo: Shafa Naguib spoke too early. He said we’d beat the end of Friday prayers and breeze into town. “No police, no problem,” he said expansively, dropped into the front of his ramshackle cab and nudged his son to drive.

The police were really nowhere beyond the perimeters of the Cairo International airport; we whistled along past unmanned barricades and dead traffic lights, just the kind of advance Naguib had promised.

“I said you, no? No problem,” he chattered self-importantly, “Give me cigarette, I take you hotel so fast.”

There was barely any traffic and there were barely any people. Hosni Mubarak loomed everywhere the gaze flew in the bereft afternoon air. A Soviet-style iconography of murals and friezes installed to immortalise a man who isn’t quite dead yet: Mubarak flanked by the Pharaohs, Mubarak surveying the Nile with Nefertiti, Mubarak rejoicing with victorious soldiers in the Sinai desert, Mubarak looming over the ancient wonders of Giza. Continue reading “Barrier of knives, carrier for ride”

2011, Egypt, Reportage, Telegraph Calcutta

Go-go dance and a doubt – Throng wonders what will make Mubarak go

These pieces under the tagline “Ringside at Tahrir” were first published in The Telegraph in February 2011.

Feb 5, Cairo: Towards the end of it, as a darkening chill fell over Cairo and mob clashes crackled on the eastern fringes of Tahrir Square, the lament of the elderly man pulling home from the proceedings, told the day.

“If people dying won’t make Mubarak leave, people dancing won’t.”

Youm-el-Raheel, or President Hosni Mubarak’s “departure day”, was petering off in trails drifting away from a thundering six-hour “Go, Mubarak, Go!” vigil.

But the besieged dictator is still in saddle and Egypt’s turmoil still lies coiled around Cairo’s heart, refusing to go anywhere. If this is the successor to Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution, it sure is living up to its given name; jasmine comes tortuously slow to colour and scent.
Continue reading “Go-go dance and a doubt – Throng wonders what will make Mubarak go”