Meanwhile in Cairo…

It’s been a couple of weeks since we left Cairo for cold but peaceful and safe Sweden. Unfortunately the stories we keep hearing from our friends back in Egypt tear us apart.

We’ve heard about MP forces shooting at, beating up and attacking many of the people we met. MP has also broken into apartments, confiscating equipment used for live broadcasting of the unrest.

One of the more disturbing stories came from Mahmoud - whom we met by one of the many camps at Tahrir Square. He was part of a group of students that spent most of their days and nights at the square to support the revolution.  They usually slept 2 or 3 hours a night and then headed off to class for a couple of hours before returning to the square. We shared some great moments on the grass in front of their tents, talking about the current situation in Egypt, their hopes and dreams for the future and comparing life in Egypt and Sweden. 

The story tells us that many of the guys seen in this video have been beaten up and Ahmed who was translating many of the conversation has been shot. Ahmed reportedly survived the shooting and our thoughts are with him.

It’s incredibly hard to express how it feels to get these eye witness reports from people who you hung out with, sang songs and discussed architecture with just a few weeks back. It’s also devastating to see the streets we just recently walked and the street corners where we were invited for tea with random strangers, are on fire with violence again. 

ending this post with some words from Mahmoud, don’t think we could say it better ourselves…

"One day we will be free .. and we will sing 2 gather again. promise we will be free soon"

Back in Sweden

Wow. Just wow. There are so many thoughts, impressions and notions in our heads right now that it would be unfair to try to cover them all in one post. We’re back in Sweden now and it would be an understatement to say that contrasts are quite major.

We are so happy we got this opportunity to visit Cairo, thus the turbulent times. It’s been a true pleasure to meet with our Egyptian users, activists, people on the streets, students, voters, salesmen, egyptian street food, camels, The Swedish Embassy, media, crazy taxi drivers, Pyramide-guides, hoteliers and last but definitely not least - Amr, our friend who looked out for us during our stay. Thank you so much everyone!

And to our crew back home who’s working days and nights to make Bambuser what it is today and who’s been supporting us in a tremendous way - you guys are rock stars!

We’re gonna keep this blog up and use as a channel to highlight and discuss how Bambuser is being used as a catalyst for fee speech and we will also make another post summarizing our visit to Cairo, so feel free to bookmark us if you haven’t already and make sure to check back every now and then.

Tuesday in Cairo

Yesterday marked the last day of the first phase of the election. It continued to be a peaceful and worthy process with only minor flaws and breaches.

We took the opportunity to meet up with some journos and do a couple of interviews. We did a Skype interview with Ben Rooney from The Wall Street Journal, his nice postwent up early yesterday. 

Around lunch time (well, Egyptian lunch time, meaning 2PM) we had coffee at the Swedish restaurant at Tahrir Square together with Nancy from The Next Web and her friend. We had a really great talk about Bambuser, Egypt and its future and the cultural differences between Egypt and Sweden. It was great interview/meeting/hangout and the article that was posted later that night was probably the best summary of our trip here :-)

Back at the hotel, we also had a Skype interview with Clive Thompson from Wired. It turned out great and we’ll cross our fingers that it will make it to the print version of US Wired :-)

Later that night we strolled down towards Tahrir Square to meet up with our friends at Mosireen and Malika Bilal from Al Jazeera at a Pub called Estoril. The pub is situated literarily 40 meters from the Square. As we walked into the pub, everyone was on their phones and the atmosphere started to get a bit upset. Turned out that hell just broke loose at Tahrir, which we crossed 1 minute ago. Some salesmen was caught doing drugs and the self appointed security people threw them out. Soon after the salesmen returned to the square with their families and armed with sticks, knives and weapons.

As everyone was eager to get back to Tahrir, we were advised not to come. Also Malika was called back to her bureau by her security staff so we didn’t get to do the interview. Instead we went some 100 meters east of Tahrir to have some Koshary (traditional Egyptian dish made of macaroni, lentils, rice, spagetti and a hot chili/oil/garlic sauce). Yes it looks like puke, but it’s actually not that bad :-)

When then decided to head back to the hotel which is basically on the other side of Tahrir. We started to walk (as it’s not that far to take a detour around the unrest at the square). But as we kept walking we felt more and more unsafe. We found a cab and headed back home. Just a minute later we found ourselves in the middle of clashes that had broke out at the highway! Honestly, it was kinda scary stuff but the taxi driver was not a newbee and quickly got us out of there through oneway streets and a couple of pavements… Check out the video below

Eating koshary

What a fantastic day! You could almost touch the happines in the air today. After some 30 years since the last free election, people celebrated the dawn of a democracy. We talked to a lot of people, had tea with some and everyone wanted to share their stories and hope for the future. It was truly magical! We passed Mohammad Mahmoud Street, but didn’t notice any major clashes (although we didn’t go all the way). The polling stations are now closed for today and we’re looking forward to a peaceful and calm day tomorrow as well. 

Election day and we’re on the streets

Election day

Election day!

Today is the first day of the election here in Cairo and 8 other municipalities. We’ve heard on the radio and TV that it’s been calm and peaceful so far. 

Amr, our fantastic hotellier, tells us that he is very happy with the reports so far and that he has great hopes for the election to continue in a peaceful manner - not so much because he believes the outcome will be significant for the future of the country (since there will soon be re-elections etc) but because this could prove that Egypt is ready for a true democracy.

We’re soon heading out to get a glimpse of the polling stations here in Garden City, Cairo and hopefully do some broadcasting. However, we heard from the Swedish Ambassador who we met with yesterday, that foreigners with cameras are not very well greeted around the stations, so we’ll be carful :-) 

Today we spent a lot of our day on preparing for tomorrow, making sure all connections was ready etc. Eveything is still very uncertain on what will happen tomorrow. We also spent a couple of hours at Ramy Raoof´s office. Ramy showed us among a lot of other thing this very interesting image over timeline of communication shutdown during the revolution in January and February. 

Today we spent a lot of our day on preparing for tomorrow, making sure all connections was ready etc. Eveything is still very uncertain on what will happen tomorrow. We also spent a couple of hours at Ramy Raoof´s office. Ramy showed us among a lot of other thing this very interesting image over timeline of communication shutdown during the revolution in January and February. 

A storm is brewing

After spending most parts of yesterday in one of the most surreal apartments we’ve ever been in, we have the impression that this is the day before something really is about to happen. Tomorrows elections is expected to be greeted with skepticism from the people.

As one man we talked to puts it; “The people that are supposed to watch over the elections are the same people that’s been firing tear-gas, burning tents and killing our neighbors - how can we trust them, how can we obey them and do what they say?”

So most likely tomorrow and Tuesday will be turbulent days. 

We’re currently at the hotel trying to help organizing interviews and chats between some of the people we’ve met and BBC, Reuters and Financial Times. We’re also meeting up with Swedish freelance journalist, Yasmine El Rafie (SVT, SR) in a couple of minutes. Later this evening we’re off to the Swedish Embassy.

View from Tahrir, sticker on a Flip cam and rubber bullets fired at the demonstrators