Egypt has gone beyond a standoff phase. We live in two worlds, each intent on ignoring the existence of the other. On one hand, the president is holding on to power and making insignificant changes to the cabinet that are cosmetic at best. On the other, protesters are not even paying attention to what he’s doing; they just want him to leave.
No one is budging. What to do?
The opposition has called for a million man march on Tuesday. By Monday night, tens of thousands have flocked to the central Tahrir Square. They plan to stay the night there, waiting for their brethren to join them.
I can’t speculate what Mubarak is doing meanwhile, but I don’t think he’s watching TV. Otherwise, he would have heard the same word over and over again on all channels except State TV: Leave.
There is a similar state of schizophrenia in the city. A couple of hours into the curfew, as I crossed from central Cairo to the Eastern suburb where I live — to spend the first night home since Friday — I was nervous for the first time. It was a feeling I didn’t experience at the height of the violent crackdown on protesters on Jan. 28.
The military check points surrounding the presidential palace and the neighborhood watch groups on literally every corner made the city feel like a war site. Maybe it was civil war, against a faceless enemy — identified as a gang of thugs and looters in some circles and as disguised policemen executing a scaremongering scheme in others.
The people there seemed oblivious to the raging demonstrations that roamed the same streets days earlier. Maybe they had participated in some earlier in the day or will do later on. It wasn’t clear.
Spending the night on the other side of the city, I myself felt detached from the ongoing revolution – having the TV and phone as my only connection in an ongoing internet blackout. But that’s only physical detachment, because I’m already gearing up for tomorrow, ready for the million man march. I’m sure others are doing the same.
This ran in Italian in the Corriere Della Sera.