When the going gets tough, I reminisce


When I walk along the crowded Cairo streets, and receive indecent comments, I reminisce.

When people supposedly on “our team” back stab you, and try to pull you down, I reminisce.

When my family sends me messages saying “we forgot how you look like”, I reminisce.

When I am unappreciated and criticized, I reminisce.

I reminisce about the days I spend in Utopia. And when I snap out of my daydream, I find my self recharged.

And this is what I reminisce about….

I wake up to the beautiful chants of the “moral support committee”….

“Salute the brave who protected the square”

Of course in Arabic, it sounds many times more poetic.  I push away the covers from my face, and my eyes squint from the harsh sun. I try to rearrange the mess that is now my hair, and start pulling off myself the numerous blankets and coats placed over me to help overcome the cold of the night. I look around me for my sense of security, my Tahrir family. The young boy Badr who ran away from home to be part of the revolution lays still asleep to my right and on the left the woman with a child’s face that has become known as “the commander”. Now I feel safe and secure.

I look around me. The daily routine starts. The first awake looks for the tea and biscuits for breakfast, and even before I get up, I find a young man handing me the “continental Tahrir breakfast”. The cup of tea and the date biscuit. I smile at him and nod my head. He nods back. I smile remembering the earlier days of the revolution when we could not find a sip of water. When the government would not let in medicine, and the hired thugs stole the food and drink from those entering the square. I smile and add this cup of tea to my list of successes. We have done a lot.

The group starts to wake up one by one, with the exception of course to those who had night duty and just fell asleep after sun break.

I give the rest of my tea to the next person awake, and head off to the mosque to wash my face and go to the bathroom. I reach there, to find a long queue of people waiting patiently and quietly for their turn.

By the time I get closer to the toilets, I smile again, to find that the showers in the mosque are in maintenance by volunteers, and not only that, but they are installing new shower heads. I get into the bathroom after a long wait, to find it clean and smelling of disinfectant. As I “do my business”, I smile again at how civilized thousands of people from different backgrounds can be.

It is now time to clean. To clean the square that is, from the remains of last night’s visitors. I join the cleaning committee, I take the big black garbage bag, and gloves and start my task. I smile again remembering the first days when we picked up the garbage with our bare hands, or using newspapers as mittens, since we did not have access to so many “luxurious” resources.

I suddenly hear a voice “excuse me miss…”

I look up from my kneeling position of picking up the garbage, “yes?” I smile

He did not speak; he just takes off his neck scarf to give it to me.

My smile now is just for him. I take the scarf and put it around my neck to cover my cleavage, and he nods at me and walks away.

I continue the first task of the day.

One of the women from the security committee waves at me from far away, signaling it is my turn to join the front lines at the entrances.

I put on the security badge, and take my spot at kasr el Nile bridge entrance. I wave a salute at the army soldiers on top of their tank and start my second task of the day.

The women enter, we check their ID’s, we search their bags, and we pat their bodies in search for weapons.

The faces are different, we welcome each one, and we apologize for the inconvenience. Thousands of women per hour pass through, all Egyptian, all beautiful in their own way. The foreign reporters are escorted in and welcomed by individual volunteers who speak their language to help them around the square, and give them a tour if they are new comers.

Bags of food, sox, underwear, blankets, cigarettes, pamphlets, booklets of the constitution, art supplies for signs, medical supplies, Egyptian flags all enter as we smile and apologize for the inconvenience.

We start hearing the banging on the metal, signaling intruders. All the men run towards the sound to create the famous human barricade. They stand arm in arm, staring into the eyes of the thugs and looters trying to enter. The “bad guys” throw rocks, shout insults and threats, and our men stand their ground, united in an intimidating silence. Until the thugs trickle away.

The day goes on. And we smile.

It is now time for the rallying. Back to the base, under the infamous “Leave” sign.

The overnight warriors are now all awake, and the others have now arrived at the headquarters.

A group takes the signs, and start chanting our now well known verses, calling for our demands, for our freedom and slowly promenade around the garden mid square. We are joined by many, from all walks of life, and we join others and the “demonstrations” begin.

Another group is “mingling” with the other groups, taking contacts; setting meeting times late at night after the “visitors” have left, to create a network from all forces in the battle ground.

Another group is talking with reporters, doing interviews, sharing with the world our demands and our legitimate needs. We tell them what we need to be done for us to leave Tahrir, and secretly dreading the day we have to leave our new home. The day we say good bye to our revolution families.

Internet is slow on smart phones, if present, so we have to wait for those responsible for updates to come in and fill us in on what the world has to say today.

We sit in groups of diverse group representatives, and try to make sense of what is happening outside our Tahrir.

We find many public figures demonstrating, many professionals from different sectors; we ask them to sit with us, to lecture us on the constitution, on the economic status, on the legalities of our demands. We spread the word. We keep smiling.

By sun down, we hear news of friends who are missing. We go to our allies on the other side from human rights movements. We ask about them, we find they are missing as well. We look up to see the “government” helicopter circling our territory. It gives us some sort of comfort. It means we are feared. We are being watched.

We walk back to the base, noticing the man following us. We smile. We know by now the tactics of our enemies. They start to take videos of us at our base. We are now used to them standing closer to hear our conversations. We are now very much familiar with the unknown numbers calling us with strange threats and questions.

It is now night time. We start to hear rumors of groups of vicious thugs moving through the city heading towards us. We smile, because the government now has become quite predictable. It is time for the mind games. Spies in the morning, rumors at early evening and hired thugs at night. We smile because we remember the first days of the revolution when it was, police and thugs in the morning, police and thugs at early evening, and finally, police and thugs at night until the break of dawn.

I hear music from back at the base. I go back and sit down. A young man from a nearby governorate is playing sweet oriental tunes on his lute, and our young friend on the other side playing a Spanish guitar.  Girls with long flowing hair sit cross legged, our young friends, who were called “homeless street children” outside of Tahrir are sitting on our laps. A sheikh with a long beard is singing with a beautiful voice tunes of freedom and songs of courage. The sky is clear with stars as we look up, we smile. For the first time ever we can see clear skies in the Cairo night. We see it as a sign of hope, although it could logically be the effect of the decreasing number of cars and public transportation in the streets because of the curfew. But we still see it as a sign of hope, because since the 25th of January, Egypt is truly ours.

Some kind people hand out food to us. We welcome the offerings with grateful eyes, they smile at us. We smile back. We share the food and we sing. In the background of our songs we hear gun shots, and we adjust our tunes to accommodate the familiar sounds.

Our songs are interrupted by nearby shouts, indicating the emergence of a fight inside the square. We run almost hypnotically, carrying our “Peaceful” signs. The brave females with long hair stand in between the 2 who are fighting shouting “Peaceful”. The security committee come over and separate. Both men participating in their disputes are firmly asked to present their identification. One of them turns out to be a low ranking police officer in civil clothing. He tries to run. He is caught, and taken on a tour around the square so people can see his face, it is the walk of shame, and then he is placed in the prison we have created. He then is handed over to the army. Peaceful it will stay.

We go back to our base. Emotions building up all day start to emerge. Some may have tears of frustration in their eyes. They are comforted instantaneously with a word of support, a pat on the back, or a joke.

It is time to sleep. We cover ourselves with all the blankets we can get, and stare up at the stars. Girls sleep in the middle and the men surrounding them. Some sleep and others take turns to watch over those resting. In the middle of the night we wake up to one of ours frightful scream. It was a nightmare. He shares the dream. We comfort eachother. We smile. And we sleep again.



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