CAIRO – If any city deserves to be called the city that never sleeps, it’s
Cairo. Its teeming street-side cafes, shisha joints and Nile party boats usually
bustle with nocturnal Egyptians deep into the early hours. Not this week
Life comes to a near-grinding halt at 7 p.m., when the curfew
comes into effect. It clears roads, shutters shops and confines Cairenes to
their apartments until the following morning.
It’s a devastating blow to
many businesses and a serious struggle for this most social of cities. But even
after a week that was mercifully mostly free of violence, Cairo still feels like
a city under siege.
“Life is difficult,” said taxi driver Muhammad
Ibrahim, as he drove past a neighborhood police station, which – like almost all
government and military property – was ringed with soldiers and armored
He estimated his income had fallen 40 percent this
week, but said it was a small price to pay when fighting terrorism.
need to finish the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said in a brief explosion of anger,
and most others – in central Cairo at least – seem to agree.
much more mixed on former president Hosni Mubarak’s release from
To many, he’s just old news.
They have bigger, more
pressing problems to contend with.
Some, mostly the keen nationalists and
military enthusiasts, look back at his 30-year presidency with fondness. They
remember the improved economy and much-craved stability, and interpret the past
two years’ drama as evidence of the foolishness of toppling him. A number of
posters passed around on Twitter even called for his reelection.
others, his release is unfortunate confirmation of the reemergence of the old
Asked for their opinion on their ex-dictator, most people this
reporter approached declined to comment.
A rare exception, Muhammad, a
17-year-old student, spoke only in whispers, “It’s a huge problem for the
He’s the man who killed our country” The April 6 Youth
Movement has called for its supporters to mass outside the High Court after
prayers on Friday in order to protest his release, but a number of foreign
journalists have already felt the force of the Mubarak-era’s much-vaunted
At least 20 foreign journalists have been detained
around the city at some point over the past week, while a few even received
house calls from police soliciting press and passport details.
policeman told The Washington Post’s bureau chief, “If I see you again, I’ll
shoot you in the leg.”
But amidst the tedium of the dusk-to-dawn curfew,
some semblance of normality is slowly returning to the capital. Cairo’s infamous
traffic ensnares the bridges and main thoroughfares once more, while many bars
are opening earlier, to allow for early afternoon tipples.
the occasional reminder of last week’s devastation – a gunfight broke out near a
neighborhood mosque on Tuesday night; but with almost all of its leaders in
detention, the Muslim Brotherhood has failed to conduct a meaningful protest
since last Friday.
Determining what comes next is a fraught task in
Egypt’s fast-changing political reality, but taxi driver Muhammad claimed to
know what lies ahead: “Gen. Sisi will be our president. He is strong and he will
be good to us.”