In this post, I'm continuing to publish things I wrote while locked down in our apartment in Maadi. Please remember that errors, contradictions, and uncertainties were left in deliberately in order to reflect my experiences at the time. The following updates were written the evening/night of Friday, 28 January 2011.
Update 7:29pm – a member of the Regional Security Office who lives in our building told Jeff that (1) the guards downstairs, who can’t go home tonight due to the curfew, are okay for food; (2) there are cars burning near Maadi Grand Mall; and (3) someone breached an embassy parking lot (not the embassy compound itself) downtown. I hope no one tries to breach the embassy itself. I won’t talk about my opinions regarding this protest—it isn’t my place to have an opinion in a public forum, although I do have one in private conversation—but let me say this loud and clear to anyone and everyone: The U.S. Embassy compound is sovereign U.S. territory. If anyone breaches that, it’s up to the RSO and the Marines what consequences they will face.
7:37pm – Jeff just called me out to the walkway, telling me it was my one chance to see it. The protesters are in the midan a short block away. I ran out there to see, but Jeff pulled me back in less than 15 seconds later, before I actually saw anything. He wouldn’t let me take the camera. When we came back in, he asked me to take Alexa and go into our safe room, just in case. We usually have several police around our compound in addition to our guards. Currently we have two. We’re more vulnerable now than we usually are, and if anything were to happen, it would happen fast. Better to be already in the safe room.
7:41pm – Jeff just stuck his head outside (wouldn’t let me do it) and reported that the protesters seem to have been just passing through the midan near here on their way somewhere else. I’m allowed back in the living room now.
8:00pm – We heard gunfire outside. It wasn’t really close, but fairly close. Couldn’t tell if it was really guns or if it was tear gas. This is turning into an interesting evening. I think we’ll be up late tonight, monitoring the situation.
8:13pm – they’re in the midan again. The shots—it sounds like tear gas—are coming fast and loud. I heard what sounded like heavy vehicles right outside our compound wall. Jeff is looking to see if it’s the military replacing our police officers. The police around the embassy downtown also were pulled. They were supposed to be replaced by military but I don’t know if they have been yet.
8:18 pm – it wasn’t the military. The protesters are filling the midan to the point that incoming traffic is being diverted down our street. We’re hearing shots that don’t sound like tear gas but also don’t sound like the AKs carried by Egyptian police and military. Not sure what that is.
We’re staying in touch via landline with other embassy people, primarily those in Maadi. I’d like to check on my non-embassy friends, but I don’t have their landline numbers. Our people are all okay so far, staying in their homes. The protesters aren’t mad at us this time, so there’s no real reason to think they’ll try to breach our housing, but the guards turned off the walkway lights as a precaution. The protesters are targeting police stations and public buildings like ministry buildings and NDP headquarters. We should be okay as long as we don’t go out. But I don’t see this night ending without more casualties among Egyptian protesters and/or police.
8:28pm – Jeff just confirmed that people are getting shot in the midan outside. We don’t know if the police/military (not sure who’s firing) are using rubber or metal bullets, but the guards are listening to the police radio, and people definitely are getting shot.
8:35pm – Alexa just fell asleep, hopefully for the night. She slept in her crib last night for the first time. Not so tonight. She’s sleeping in the safe room tonight. We don’t expect anything to happen to us here, but if it does, it will happen quickly enough that we want her already in there.
8:41pm – I no longer have any desire to go out on the streets. I occasionally poke my head out the door onto the walkway, being careful to have no light behind me (silhouetting is bad). We just received a transmission from the Marines over the emergency radio: “Anyone outside will be shot.” I assume that’s the rules of engagement the Egyptian police and military are using at this point. Some idiot actually replied to the Marines with “Are you serious?” I loved the Marines’ response: “Be advised, anything coming from [call sign] is serious.” Come on, people—if you’ve been listening, you’ve heard the stress in that young man’s voice increase throughout the evening. Shut up, listen up, do as you’re told, and let the man do his job.
10:39pm – I’m beat. It’s been quiet here for a couple of hours. Last I heard, the military were entering Maadi. The police had backed the protesters away from this area to the Maadi Grand Mall area. By now, I would assume that the military is on the scene and the police are off the streets. The people like and respect the military a lot better than they like and respect the police (for whom they have zero liking and even less respect), so military presence alone should calm things somewhat. I need to go to bed. Jeff is planning to doze on the sofa with the news on TV. Hopefully things will be better tomorrow … but honestly, things are already worse than we expected them to get at all, so there’s no predicting how the weekend will play out.