Arita Baaijens, ‘He’s gone, the Pharao is gone!”

After the revolution  – Sunday 20 feb 2011, Cairo

by

Arita Baaijens

‘He’s gone, the Pharao is gone,’ I shouted when I received a text message that Mubarak had stepped down on 11 February. I had just come back from Cairo to Amsterdam and sat there, dazed, happy, not knowing what to do. The only thing I wanted was to join the crowd in Cairo and celebrate, but I had obligations at home.

Back to Tahrir Square

To cut a long story short – I went back a week later, last Friday, and arrived on time to join the festive crowd in Tahrir square on the Day of Celebration.

‘We have our country back!’  people told me time and again with a big smile on their face.

A positive vibe surged through the city and the whole country. Don’t forget that also elsewhere in Egypt people had taken to the streets to protest and fight for freedom. My eyes popped when I saw young and old cleaning the streets. Others painted lamp posts and bridges.

‘We want a clean start.’

Teenagers kept up signs on  Tahrir square to show citizens what they could do for their country: Keep it clean, learn about the constitution, do not pay bribes, pay decent salaries, become active.

Khaled

That Friday I stayed out till late at night and ended up in a coffee house in a small alley in down town Cairo. ‘Hey, Arita.’ It was Khaled, a young sound technician with whom I had worked two years ago when he had been my guide into the world of young writers and bloggers for a feature I was working on. As  I remember, it was quite depressing to listen to these kids with talent and who had lost hope. The only thing that kept most of them going was the dream about leaving the country and start a life elsewhere although leaving Egypt is the very last thing an Egyptian wants to do.

One of the organizers

Khaled happened to be one of the organizers of the demonstration on 25 January – ‘the day I was born’ as he and others refer to that day. We talked for hours about the events that had taken place. The organizers were not a movement or a political party, they knew each other from Facebook.

We are fast,’ explained Khaled the main tactic during the revolution. ‘Someone has an idea, others join in and we act.’

Khaled in the middle

Because of their speed and unpredictability the government was always light years behind the demonstrators. There wasn’t one leader on the square so nobody had to wait for orders. Ideas could be carried out instantly. The group was amorphous, which is why bribes and pressure did not have any effect. Since this revolution took place I believe in miracles again. Not only did the people on the square do the impossible – stick together and beat the system – they didn’t stop there. Take yesterday. I spent all day with Khaled and his friends and went with them to Qasr el Eini hospital. The group wanted to find out how many seriously wounded  people were being treated there. ‘We feel responsible for them and want to help them.’ The director of the hospital stated there were only 3 injured people left. One was in a coma, two others in intensive care. Nobody believed him but the group didn’t press the director. They were more clever than that and sent in an under cover girl. She talked to all the nurses, searched the wards and came back with a long list of patients who had been shot, beaten or who suffered from injuries because of stones thrown from roof tops. The girl was pretty upset when we met her a few hours later in a down town café. She had seen gruesome things and wondered why the director had lied.

Did he receive orders? If so from whom? Were authorities afraid that more deaths would trigger violent reactions?

The group is going to find out in a meeting today with doctors and with the press. They will not rest until there’s a list with patients. Patients who need support and money for treatment because they fought and protected the boys and girls who now walk around free. This is only one example of what is going on in post revolutionary Egypt.

Old System still in place

The old system is still in place and demonstrators realize they have a long way to go to change this country. ‘But we’ll do it because this is our country now and our responsibility.’

Arita Baaijens is one of the worlds most famous desert travellers. You can read more about the fantastic personality at http://www.aritabaaijens.nl andhttp://www.linkedin.com/in/aritabaaijens

Arita has featured or written 3 articles already on my site here.

1. Thoughts after meeting a female explorer

2. Exploration, an outdoor activity or what?

3. Female leadership in the desert.

4. Article on ExWeb: From the saddle Arita Baaijens in Cairo; Those kids really pulled it off!

Arita Baaijens - desert explorer
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