Wednesday 25 January 2012: Anniversary of a Revolution
No internet and no satellite TV when I got home yesterday evening, all very reminiscent of January 25 2011. Mubarack had pulled the plug on Egypt's internet during the demonstrations at Tahrir Square, hoping to stop the people spreading the news and cut the connection with the outside World.
There were a few small gatherings in the Abu El Hagag Square as I arrived in Luxor, but I didn't feel threatened or intimidated.
Felucca men had decided to close the Corniche road, that runs parallel to Luxor Temple. The reason being, they want the Police to reopen a closed Temple entrance, as coaches used to stop and wait for tourists, giving these guys a chance to approach the tourists. It used to cause congestion, on what still is a very busy road. Firstly, the police don't have the authority to open closed exits and secondly, there is a purpose built coach park at another entrance?
The Governor of Luxor, Dr. Ezaat Saad, held an informal celebration for the 1st anniversary of the 25th January Revolution. 17 people from Luxor were injured in the streets here and 3 died at the demonstrations in Cairo. It was an important day to honour the Martyrs, the injured and their families.
Quite symbolically, the meeting point for the procession was outside the Luxor Library (Formerly named Suzanne Mubarak Library) Girl scouts dressed as ancient Pharoanic Queens, beaded skull caps and black khol around the eyes carried names of all the villages in the Luxor Governate. Some 30 boys carried bright veil like flags and gave the Victory sign as they asked 'Sowareenee' (Take a photo of me)
The Egyptian flag was carried by anyone that wanted to be a part of the moment. It wormed it's way through the streets, a wave of red, white and black, fine, silk, 15 metres wide and 300 or so metres long.
A Tanoora with his spinning skirt and jacket that lit up, joined in as the musicians played, heading towards the Conference Centre on the River Nile.
Not everyone was able to follow and cars had been previously arranged for them. These men had sustained permanent injuries from gunshot wounds, one had lost a limb and was in a wheelchair, another immobile and could only walk very slowly with crutches and one man that now had learning disabilities and was disabled, due to being hit over the head (with an unknown object) by a Policeman.
Major General Agab, whom I had previously met, introduced me to three of these brave men and they explained their individual circumstances to me.
Mamdour told me he was representing his 25 year old brother, Hamada Hamed, that had been killed in the Cairo demonstrations. He swallowed hard, as he said he lived in Karnak and was a beautiful boy. He proudly showed me the personal invitation, printed on a yellow card from Dr. Ezaat Saad.
Maher, was in an armchair, a bearded man in his early 40's maybe, he had lost a leg. As I stooped down to speak with him, I mentioned that his face looked familiar. 'I used to work in the Sonnesta Hotel' he proudly told me 'You may know me from there' I found it hard to grasp his name and had to pronounce it a few times, his face lit up, as he told me it meant 'Clever' in English. I was beginning to feel tingly, as I said how sorry I was. He replied 'Al Humbdullilah' (Thanks God) and smiled. Despite having his World turned upside down, losing a leg, he was happy to be alive and was still smiling, proud to be here, part of the event and part of Egypts historic and World changing Revolution.
The 3rd young man I spoke to, had his mother by his side, holding his crutches as he sat watching people arrive. He also had been shot, the bullet went into his back and had left him able to walk, but unaided. He could move very slowly and spoke very slowly, but had a permanent smile, that drew people towards him like a magnet.
Once inside, powerful street images from the last year in Luxor, filmed by residents on mobile phones, silenced the audience. The faces of those that were injured and had died appeared before us and tremendous applause and cheers echoed through the auditorium and onto the streets as a TV had been put outside for all to see. A powerful reminder of what Egypt and it's people have endured to be where they are today. News footage of the announcement that Mubarak had finally gone, was so emotional, I can't explain in words how the people must have felt at this news, elation filled the hall.
Heartfelt speeches from the Governor, Dr.Ezaat Saad and 2 members of the Martyrs and Injured Families, over ran the proceedings, as emotion consumed them. Freedom to share their story, thoughts and experiences had no time limit and they had to say what they had inside, I felt it was almost a closure for them, but not?maybe a cleansing. 'Seeba' the crowd chanted 'Leave him alone' or let him speak, as security tried to take one man from the stage.
Poetry was read by a small boy, no more than 5. He wore a tuxedo complete with sparkly bow tie. Like a doll, he stood on the stage, dwarfed by the orchestra and belted out a poem from his little lungs. He forgot the last few lines and smacked himself on the head as he looked to his mother in the wings, he finished to a rapturous applause!
Traditional Luxor folklore dancers livened up the proceedings, as many unbeknown protestors had their own hidden agendas. Sudden outcries, by a group of women wanting flats, broke though security to speak directly with the Governor. A group of 3 young men had placards and started shouting words that many people agreed with and made me feel a little uncomfortable, as we didn't know if it was positive or negative shouting, my Arabic is not that good sadly. Everyone was allowed their say and then calmly ushered out by security. The man next to us that now had learning difficulties, due to being hit over the head by a Policeman, sobbed and screamed as he became upset by the noise. I really felt so much emotion and was experiencing a different part of the Revolution. Until now I had only seen TV reports, heard people talking about it and read stories on the internet. I was now directly feeling what these people had been through and were still going through.
Dr.Ezaat Saad made his way to the stage. The image on the podium (And in the photo) is of Ahmed Samir Yussef, who was the first young man to die in the Tahrir Square Demonstrations. One by one, the names were called out and men came to the stage to be honoured and collect a medal for their bravery. Not all were able to make it, the Governor left the stage to come to Maher sat in his wheelchair, which people applauded. The boy on the crutches tried his best to make the stairs, so again, the Governor gave him his medal in his seat.
What does the future hold? No one knows, but thanks to these people and many others across Egypt, the future is brighter.