2011, Egypt, Reportage, Telegraph Calcutta

Wassup? Rule nothing out – Escape theories swirl, so does discontent in Egypt

Feb 10, Cairo: News, as we know it, scarcely ever emanates from secretive seraglios such as the one President Hosni Mubarak continues to command at the fenced-off Heliopolis Palace in north Cairo.

Often what eventually becomes information starts off as an unsourced, though inspired, leak and is allowed to float about till it becomes, at the very least, a believable rumour, as opposed to boudoir gossip.

One such — birthed on credible German websites and currently in frenzied word of mouth circulation here — is that Mubarak might invoke failing health to fly off to a posh infirmary in Baden-Baden as a best-of-both-worlds solution to the tense Egyptian deadlock.

He’ll remain President in title, but not in effect, and leave newly appointed deputy Omar Suleiman to grapple with the mess at home until he can ‘honourably’ retire at term-end in September.

Should you believe the Cairo bush telegraph — even some of its private television networks and newspapers — the great escape is one of the deadlock-breaking possibilities the army and the self-appointed group of “wise men” has been discussing with Vice-President Suleiman, even as the regime maintains a grand façade of being in control. Continue reading “Wassup? Rule nothing out – Escape theories swirl, so does discontent in Egypt”

2011, Egypt, Reportage, Telegraph Calcutta

Protester in battle as long as it takes

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

Feb 9, Cairo: For the first time since anti-Mubarak protests exploded on Egypt’s streets on January 25, she was headed for work this morning, to the labs in Cairo University where she is a cancer researcher.

“But be sure I will be back in Tahrir by the afternoon,” she hastens to add as if to allay any impression she had tired of what she insists on calling the “Egyptian revolution”. “We have not come this far to back off, Egypt will never be the same again after what has happened over the last two weeks. It might take more time than we initially thought, but the change will come.”

Mona Seif Hamad might seem an unlikely revolutionary lunging at the foundations of an entrenched police state masquerading as democracy —- slight of build, soft of speech, her mop of ringlet hair and her sophomore’s manner verily belying the reality of a 25-year-old scientist locked in the throes of a turbulent street enterprise. You’re almost tempted to ask what’s a nice girl like you doing in a rough place like this? Continue reading “Protester in battle as long as it takes”

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”