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Rantings of a Sandmonkey

Be forewarned: The writer of this blog is an extremely cynical, snarky, pro-US, secular, libertarian, disgruntled sandmonkey. If this is your cup of tea, please enjoy your stay here. If not, please sod off

Monday, September 05, 2005

Rocking it with Ayman Nour

Yesterday I was having lunch with my friend K when Hani - Happy Bushra’s brother who is visiting Egypt till Wednesday- called me and informed me that he and Big Pharaoh were going out to downtown Cairo and wondered if I wanted to join them. The Plan was simple, go to a Bookstore because Hani wants some books, and then head to a downtown bar afterwards. I am not going to lie, I hate downtown, and I’ve never heard of a decent bar there, but Hany insisted, so I agreed. He then asked me : “Did you read the Al Akhbar newspaper today?”, when I said that I didn’t and asked what the deal was, he chuckled and said “Mubarak’s campaign manager is complaining to the Minister of Media that the President isn’t getting his fair share of equal airtime with the other candidates”. Oh My God. I almost fell on the floor from laughing my ass off. Poor Mubarak. He is not represented enough in the state media. The gall! Anyway…. So Hani and BP pass by the place me and K were having lunch, and I leave with them. They wanted to take the subway, and being the Bourgeoisie that I am, I naturally refused. “We shall take a cab, or I will and you can take the subway! But I ain’t taking the subway, I refuse. Most of the people who are on it haven’t discovered deodorant!” They laugh , they relent and we hail a cab. The cab ride went rather quickly, while we attempted small talk with the driver. Even though he agrees that everything sucks, he will not vote for anyone but Mubarak. When I asked him which district he is from he informed that he is from Ayman Nour’s district. I then asked him why he wouldn’t vote for him, especially that people from his district seem to love him. “That man did everything to get elected, and after he got elected he ignored us”, He said. “He is just like Mubarak in my opinion, and the evil I know is better then the evil I don’t”. While I was about to reply to him I noticed that there was this big commotion in El Tahrir square. It seemed to be an Ayman Nour Rally or something. We immediately asked the driver to stop and we got out. It was an Ayman Nour conference, in the middle of Tahrir square, with huge TV screens and projectors, and it was filled with people. Holy shit. We were not going to miss this. Posted by Picasa When we finally arrived at the seating area, the place was crowded enough that at first we couldn’t walk through to get near the stage. Posted by Picasa We then found our way around from the outside to the side of the stage. In front of us I saw someone that resembled Mona El Tahawy, so I decided to shout her name and see if it’s her. She didn’t seem to notice and went on her way. I then decided to call Charles from the Arabist to see if he was here. He told me that he was also beside the stage, so I told him we will be there in a minute. We finally arrived to the side stage area, where Charles and the other foreign journalists were standing. By sheer coincidence, at that specific moment, NDP MOM decided to call me to see how I was. I told her that I was in downtown and that I am looking at an Ayman Nour Conference, and asked her if she knew about it. Her response was: “A convention? In Tahrir Square? No way he got a permit for that. Get out of there now; the cops will crush it any minute". I tell her I will and I hang up. Screw that. I am staying. I then notice the Mona Look-alike again and decide that I will go to her and ask her face to face. Posted by Picasa Surprise surprise, it’s her. We finally meet face to face and when I ensure to BP that it’s Mona he comes over and introduces himself. She was so happy to see us and was introducing us to everybody as Big Pharaoh and Sandmonkey. We got to finally meet Josh from the Arabist, who introduced us to Brian Whitaker from the Guardian, who wrote this piece on our Anti-Terrorism protest. I thanked him for the article and I told him how I was astonished to see that a lot of it, including the ending was what I wrote. He told me that it was written so beautifully that he couldn’t improve on it. I liked Brian immediately after that; Flattery will take you everywhere with me. I then started talking to Mona again and she was asking me what I think will happen, and I inform her that I believe what everyone else believes, that the whole thing is rigged. She nods in agreement and then points to BP and says “Look at him giving statements”, and sure enough BP is standing there, giving a statement that seems to be a speech, surrounded by 3 journalists who are feverously writing down what he was saying. “Oh, he is loving it.” I say. Big Pharaoh for President everybody. I try to call Karim, because I know that he would love this circus, but his phone is shut off. I am then approached by Josh and we talk about the other Presidential candidates with other reporters present and one mentions that this is far more exciting than the Noman Gommaa campaign event they went to. They said that he looked really grim and tired, and wasn’t saying hi or waving to the people at all. They described him as a "walking skeleton". Poor Noman. It was hot and humid as hell, and the conference hasn’t started so far with the exception of a few “Hype men” who go up, rally the crowds for 10 minute intervals with Pro-Noor-Anti- Mubarak rhetoric, which drives them nuts. No sign, however, of how long it would take until Noor arrives or something starts happening. I was thirsty and bored at this point and asked the guys if they wanted to leave, and Hani said he wouldn’t leave until he saw Noor speaking, but he agreed that it was hot and that he was dehydrated, so we went to a McDonalds and got something to drink. Posted by Picasa On our way there we passed by 3 parked cars of Egyptian Riot police. I jokingly ask them “So, when do you plan on attacking them and beating them up?” and the officer tiredly replies “Not tonight. We can’t tonight. We have orders. However, if you feel like starting a fight and ruining it for them, go right ahead. We would like to go home at some point tonight”. Hani then proceeded to ask them to pose for a picture, they refused, he took one anyway and they all hid their faces. Posted by Picasa The Egyptian police really don’t like cameras these days. Anyway… We go back and watch, and the crowd is getting visibly bigger now. Posted by Picasa I ask Charles if he thinks they will jail Noor after the elections, and Charles tells me that he doesn’t think it would happen. That it’s impossible for them to jail Noor at this point. “He is too high profile”. I nod my head and mention how so many of the female reporters are hot and he replies smiling “Why do you think I got into this profession in the first place?” We laugh and then we hear a commotion coming from the other side of the stage. It seems that Noor is arriving. We go to the backstage area to take a look at what’s causing this noise and the scene is unbelievable. We see what can only be described as a sea of Ayman Noor supporters all surrounding him in such a tight group that you can barely see him. Their formation reminded me of the old roman infantry platoons, nothing could penetrate that crowd to get to Noor. They were all shouting and screaming “Where is the press? Here is the President” in Arabic over and over. The people were all over him in such a way that it almost made it impossible for him to take up the stairs to the Podium. At that point I went back and stood where I was standing beefore next to Charles and BP, waiting for his dramatic entrance. He finally goes up and the crowd goes wild. He stands on the edge of the Podium while all of his supporters go nuts, with like 15 video cameras taping the event standing behind him. Noor seems to be reveling in the moment. Posted by Picasa However, once he got started with the speech, the whole thing just died down. I couldn’t really hear what he said, and he didn’t strike me as one of those speakers that can capture your attention immedietly with his speech. So me and BP started our own side-discussion and we are alternating between Arabic and English as a choice of language while speaking. Posted by Picasa BP: He doesn’t seem to have charisma or ability to get the crowd going. SM: Yeah, but that’s our perspective, and it’s not like we can really hear what he is saying. Plus, the speech is just starting. BP: True. SM: What would happen if someone assassinates him? Imagine if someone assassinates him right now. BP: Watch what you are saying in Arabic man, remember who is around us. SM: Ohh, right. My bad. I look behind me and I see that there is this rather young looking Ayman Noor supporter looking at me and BP with interest. He looks poor and he was holding an Elghad banner. I say hi to him and ask him if he is following out conversation. He blushes and he says in arabic “I am sorry, it’s just that I can’t figure out what language you two are speaking, Sometimes it’s Arabic and other time it’s English I think”. He then proceeds to ask me if it’s because BP is not from Egypt. Me and BP immediately laugh and I decide to play along: “Yeah. He is half American half Egyptian. But he speaks Arabic well”. BP then asks him if he in the Party, the kid says yes, from the Imbaba chapter. A foreign journalist asks him how many are in the Imbaba chapter and he says that he personally knows 10, but he is sure they are more than that. I ask him why he is supporting Ayman Noor and he tells me with this passionate look in his eyes “The country’s conditions are horrible, and the government isn’t doing anything to fix it. We have to do something. Ayman Noor wants to do something and that’s why the government is after him and trying to jail him. It's why I believe in him”. I look at BP and say “Wow man. We are surrounded by true believers here”. Posted by Picasa At this point Ayman Noor starts mentioning an article about Egyptians so poor that they are selling their kidneys for 250 pounds (less then 50 dollars) so that they can buy food to live. He holds their pictures and screams: "Mubarak must see this” and the crowd goes nuts. They continue their early chant: “Where is the press? Here is the President” and keep it going for a while. He rallies on “I am bringing this here so that he can see this and see what you have to say about it”, and they continue cheering him. Now it’s starting to look like a rallying speech. Posted by Picasa Shortly after, while the speech is still going on, me and the guys decide that it’s time to leave. As I am making my way out I see another cute girl that looks familiar. I go towards her and I find out I was right: It’s the socialist activist & reporter hottie Noora Younis. God, I love the Egyptian press, local and foreign; it's filled with hotties. Me and her talk, express respect despite different political affiliations and exchange numbers. I then go back to the guys and join their efforts into trying to convince Josh to join us for a beer. He declines because he has to wake up early, but asks us to drink a couple for him, since he will be having a long day tomorrow following Mubarak around. Poor Josh. Anyway, we finally leave, while the whole thing is still going on, and it seems like it wasn’t ending anytime soon either. We finally get to this seedy old bar that BP knew, where we proceeded to sit down and have a beer. All three of us are walking on cloud nine at this point. We are feeling so high from the experience we just had. A real opposition political convention, in Cairo, in El Tahrir square nonetheless. It’s unbelievable. However, for some reason I can’t get that image of that boy, that young passionate Ayman Noor supporter from Imbaba, out of my head. I tell the guys about it: "Imagine, that kid, he has nothing. He has no back up, no foreign passport of another country to protect him, no connections, and he is still doing this. If the government comes after him, he has no one to protect him or get him out of jail, yet he still does this. He has nothing in this world but his life and he is willing to put it on the line and risk it all, so that our country becomes truly a democracy". I tell them that his courage puts me in shame of my own cowardice of not really doing anything but blog, but that at the same time I can’t help but admire it. I tell them that this boy is my hero. They nod in understanding. "He is willing to do this, because he wants to dream of a better future", Hani said. Posted by Picasa Don't we all Hani. Don’t we all!


At 9/04/2005 02:20:00 PM, Blogger Papa Ray said...

"He has nothing in this world but his life and he is willing to put it on the line and risk it all, so that our country becomes truly a democracy". "

I've posted on your blog and on this blog that the only way change will come in the ME is for the people to be willing to give up their lives and what little freedom they have to make a difference toward real freedom.

Remember that ol' saying... "Freedom isn't Free"?

Well, this guy knows that and is willing to pay the price. What needs to happen before you are?

Papa Ray
West Texas

At 9/04/2005 03:14:00 PM, Blogger stefania said...

Great post Sam ! I was waiting for it !

Shukran wa Mabrouk !

At 9/04/2005 04:08:00 PM, Blogger programmer craig said...

Woohoo! You met Mona, even! I've seen her on interviews here in the US!

Sounds like a lot of fun. I hope you have many more rallies like that in the future :)

At 9/04/2005 05:04:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've grabbed the essence of democracy, a hope for a better live.
Reading about the rally I was just hoping that there was some substance going with the flash but if Noor sticks by his ideals of creating a better life for everyone then he will do a great job.
Love the pictures.

At 9/04/2005 05:38:00 PM, Blogger N/A said...

Great post my friend... I wish i was with you guys...Keep up the good work...

At 9/04/2005 06:14:00 PM, Blogger Louise said...

Wow. Best post yet, Sandmonkey, and believe me there is tough competion. You prolific bas****! Great job!!

At 9/04/2005 06:47:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Never give up hope - perhaps things will change.


At 9/04/2005 08:07:00 PM, Blogger ikhnaton2 said...

Nice posting Sandmonkey. The most thing I liked is its spontaneous. Your interview with police soldiers and this boy from Imbaba were inspiring. I post about this post in my msn space

At 9/04/2005 11:21:00 PM, Blogger Kat said...

I have to say that I enjoyed that much and the sentiment is shared. I often feel the same way. Do, not just talk.

But, don't forget that that talkers are often the inspiration, the reminders and you continue to remind us.

I am also awestruck that the rally took place and the police did not go in. I feel the electricity from here. Democracy is in the air.

I pray it is not rigged. Even if Mubarek wins, I hope that he wins by a realistic majority and not a fake 90%

At 9/05/2005 01:13:00 AM, Blogger The Sandmonkey said...

Kat: conventional wisdom around here is that Mubarak won't make it seem like he won with a 90% majority, that would make it seem like the forged election that it is. Instead they will forge it so he can have a majority in the 70% range. The 70% range is the magic number: Not too much of a percentage to raise eyebrows, but just enough to show unquestionable absolute majority.

At 9/05/2005 08:21:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post Sandmonkey! The police photo was priceless!

The look in that boy's eyes must have been truly inspirational.

At 9/05/2005 09:17:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So you actually have Noora Younis' phone number? Wow! I saw her a couple of times in cafes and she's really kewl.

At 9/05/2005 09:24:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think attending that rally was great for your networking SM ;) This is a good post .


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