a tale of a few cities

Take the Time to Read This Moving and Harrowing Account of Cairo & Share This With as Many People as Possible

Posted in Cairo, Photography by petercombe on February 4, 2011

Mariam A., Square of Angels

I just came back from Tahrir Square on my way to ease the horrible sense of guilt I felt for not having been there with them during the dark hours when they were being mercilessly attacked by the mercenaries…

My friend and I thought those heroes needed food, water, and medical supplies; however, upon reaching there, we realized they had all had their breakfast (consisting of dry bread and cheese mostly, not Kentucky) and that they had already been supplied with rather more bandage than we provided!

NOT by foreigners, not by hamas, not by MBs, not by Israelis or even Martians… they were already provided by those things because God is great in his most gracious way has managed to send out people like me who could make it earlier….

Despite the ruins, and the massive injuries, I had a very soothing sense that I was in heaven… for the first time in my life the sight of blood did not turn my stomach, for the first time in my life the the smell of horse pee (near the entrances) or that coming out from public restrooms did not make me gasp for air or feel sick!!!!

I was among ANGELS, not human beings… I was surrounded by people with a spirit higher than the sky, THANKING ME, ME!!!!!!!! I did all I can to smile at them, and thank them, and pray for them when all I wanted to do was weep and hide in their arms, and kneel to kiss their feet for making me feel so safe in a place so ruined and destroyed, for making my tense muscles relax after a long night of hysteric crying!!

They were not thanking us for the little food we brought or the few bandage rolls that could fit in my bag… they were thanking me for believing in them, for having swollen eyes that cried for them… for asking them if they had breakfast yet!

I dared not ask them how they were; I was afraid I’d cry and get them down when all they had done was get me up!! One of them asked me and my friend  as his face beamed with a smile “why did you come?“… my friend said “because this is our country…“, I looked him in the eye and resisted hugging him as I answered “because YOU are my country“… and they are, Oh God, they are the country I have been looking for my entire life and I finally found it… I found it praying for me and it made me feel like I was safe beyond any harm… the only real harm is the fear that I would lose them to those bastards BASTARDS who try to massacre them when they were so peaceful and unarmed and mostly gracious!!!

One of the women around me who also arrived early this morning like me to help and to find redemption and refuge stood there and kept shouting at the top of her lungs at the army soldiers in their tanks “TRAITORS, BASTARDS, DIRT BAGS” I felt like joining her, I felt like spitting at them… YET, those injured yet high-spirited men asked her politely to stop, then they even apologized to the Army soldiers saying the most adorable Egyptian phrase “7a2ak 3alaya“… They even shared the breakfast they had already had before we made it there with those Army soldiers who stood there all night and watched them fall all around without moving a muscle to protect them… WHO DOES THAT???? Certainly not those who were sitting safe in their homes, either completely ignorant or consumed by pain like me and those who share my feelings… I wanted to snatch the necks of those soldiers, but seeing those people defending them made me respect and honor their wishes, so I wiped away the nasty look I was giving that Army Soldier as he was biting THEIR bread, yet still, I refused to offer him food…

They were smiling faces who welcomed me and apologized for searching me… they thanked me as they refused to take more food than they needed to eat, and pointed to a far away direction saying “our brothers over there have not yet, perhaps“… when I told them “where can I find those who have not eaten“, they smiled at me and thanked me and my friend and prayed even more for us! And when I walked too close to Abdel Moneim Riad Square, the line of fire, one of the men asked me to “stay safe” as he offered to take the food to his brothers at that end, to keep me safe!

Before we got in, as I was calling one of the amazing guys who spent the night there to ask where “our people” were to feel safe, he just said “you will know them, they show“… as I told him in a shaky tone of voice “it’s hard to tell“, I suddenly felt that strange yet very fulfilling sense of security taking all over me as I saw their faces… It was NOT how they looked, it was the aura that surrounded them…

While I was there, I heard that horrific sound of metal clashing, the sign they have amongst them that an intruder is trying to get in… my friend tried to grab me away from the commotion… but I stood still feeling absolutely no fear… I was CERTAIN no one can touch me or harm me as I stood there between those who had sweat and bled all night for my safety while i was sitting on my bed doing nothing but wailing words on my FB account and feeling utter shame.

Those people DO NOT need food or medical supplies half as much as they need our constant and most dedicated support, and presence by their side when the night approaches and those murderers attack them… But most importantly, they DESERVE our utter and complete RESPECT…

As we were walking home, after having passed the secured areas, I began to feel less safe and rather more skeptical of every one walking around me… when a man in a Blue Elantra approached us asking where we had come from, I said “Tahrir Square“, he asked “and who are you”, I found myself smiling in the same spirit they left me with as I very calmly (yet secretly doubtfully) asking him “and who are you?”, he said “are you those who are protesting?“… I smiled even more and told him “those who are protesting are much much better than me, I am only here hoping to help, but who are you with?“, he said “I am with Egypt“, I pointed towards the end of the street that leads to Tahrir Square and told him “Egypt is right there“…

I collapsed and cried my heart out the moment I stepped home… I have sobbed to at least 4 of my friends after my mom and sister sat to hear me as I told the story just like above to make their voice heard because it’s the very least I should do… I bid you all to pray for them… I could not tell their faiths, their socials classes, their educational backgrounds… they all looked the same with their tired yet hopeful faces, with their injured bodies yet healing souls… they looked like a country I would have loved to stay in

If it weren’t for my two sons, I would have stayed there and never left until either Mubarak left or until I had died there between MY PEOPLE, MY FAMILY, My BROTHERS AND UNCLES AND THOUSAND DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF MY FATHER… I would have rather died there with them than face the fear of living a shameful unsafe life among those who doubt them or say what they would have done had they been in their shoes…

I felt like millions of arms were holding my soul safe and sound, and giving me a sense of peace and tranquility I had never experienced before… And now, my heart, my body and my soul are shaking because I left that safety behind as I returned home, I left it there for fear to fill its place, fear of losing those people… fear, and massive disappointment that those people are being called so many bad things they are most definitely NOT…

Today, I have seen Angels in shape of humans… I have seen heaven in the midst of ruins… I am so close right now to faith and yet so close to losing it…

God, please PLEASE be there for them to keep them safe and sound… God, please protect them and shield them from all harm… God please don’t let them go in vain… God please change the hearts of those who are in their homes judging and condemning them and send your angels to fight for them…

Until I went today, I only knew few people who were there by name and a friend for whom I was concerned… but as I left there, I left a huge part of me that I know I will always always miss…

I could not change or sleep even though I had not slept in more than 24 hours before I shared this with everyone who can read it… may my words be of use, may those who read my words feel the way I feel right now..

by: Mariam A., Single Mother of Two Living in Cairo, Thursday, February 3, 2011 at 3:24am, Cairo

UPDATE: Friday, February 4, 2011 at 12:25pm, An Overdue Acknowledgement… >

Added note: While communicating with Mariam through Facebook, and her not knowing that my sister is now safe in England, Marium offered to go to the Maadi district to see that she was ok. The heart knows no bounds.

Photos Timothy E. Kaldas

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One Response

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  1. vonney said, on February 9, 2011 at 3:13 am

    I have never read writing like this before, as if a poet spoke and angels wept!! So haunting and sacred how you write about your love for your people.

    thx 4 posting


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