Blankets, rice pudding... and angry faces

Blankets, rice pudding... and angry faces
Blog: I lived near Tahrir Square as the January 25 revolution kicked off. I did what I could to help the protesters, but soon found out not everyone backed me.
3 min read
28 Jan, 2015
Tahrir Square was the focal point of the 2011 revolution [AFP]

On 23 January 2011, I moved into a flat on Qasr al-Einy Street, near Tahrir Square in Cairo, as I prepared to study a new music course. Two days later, the revolution began.

By nightfall on 25 January, it was clear the enormous rally in Tahrir Square was not simply a one-off that would be peacefully resolved. For days, I watched the drama unfold: the police state had become a bullring in which rampant bulls were bewildered by new bullfighters, brandishing cameras and computers.

     The Egyptian revolution inspired real hope in a new era.

As a Palestinian who had grown up in the hopelessness of a country gripped by foreign occupation and its own crumbling authority, the Egyptian revolution was something magnificent. It inspired real hope in a new era – one in which the Arab people would be able to reclaim their pride and dignity. I considered myself incredibly fortunate to be witnessing such a historical event.

Yet as the founders of the revolution spent days protesting in Tahrir Square, I became consumed by an overwhelming feeling of shame. What was my contribution to the revolutionary spirit? One afternoon I decided to cook an enormous pot of rice pudding, a deliciously sweet and creamy dish that is easy to make and keeps you going during the cold weather.

I put the mixture into plastic cups – of which, as luck would have it, I had enough – and carried them in a box towards Tahrir Square. However, the box was empty before I even reached the square. It was a bitterly cold night and so I decided to give three blankets from my rented apartment to a group of protesters.

After Mubarak's regime collapsed, Qasr el-Einy Street became a focal point for protesters, making it very difficult to enter and leave. I decided to move to another flat in Emad el-Din Street in downtown Cairo. When my landlord came to inspect the apartment before I left, he asked me about the three missing blankets. I cheerfully told him I had given them to revolutionaries in Tahrir Square.

My landlord immediately began a tirade of abuse against all sides involved the revolution, and demanded I pay him double the original value of the blankets. 

The look on his face haunted me for a long time. Every time I heard news from Cairo, I saw it glowering at me.

I cannot help but imagine him being among those who sought to reverse the revolution. I imagine him backing the counter-revolution and the charges being dropped against Mubarak and his children.

My former landlord meanwhile looks on, watching the city weep over her remains, without a single blanket to protect her.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.