Egypt – That’s tear gas, shut the window!

Cairo, Egypt News articles on the BBC website often ask “Are you in country x? Have you seen the riots, (floods, fires etc…)?” I’d never been in the thick of such drama until Tunisia, but now, in Egypt, I have a sense of deja-vue. Protests, inspired by those in Tunisia, have started in Cairo and Suez as people look to oust President Hosni Mubarak.

We were having a pretty ordinary morning: lodge visa application at an embassy, look up garages to do a car service, have lunch, take car to garage, avoiding any obvious unrest hotspots. While Ven stays with the mechanics, I go to retrieve our passports. The snatched photos below show my cab ride back to the garage.

Lines of army vehicles along the main roads, by metro stations and under bridges. Groups of army officers in riot gear and carrying shields stand in small groups six deep. Roads surrounding key government buildings and large open spaces are blocked off. The cab driver makes several diversions, in particular avoiding Tahrir Square, which has been the scene of a large demonstration. At one stage we drive through a throng of people shouting and walking purposefully in the opposite direction. People had climbed onto ledges and rooftops of buildings. The atmosphere was very tense and you could sense the situation could become violent quite quickly.

Back at the garage after the unnerving cab ride, we had to find a route back to our hotel. We take one of the flyovers to avoid any roadside activity and and just as we think we’re almost back at base our eyes and nose start stinging. “That’s tear gas. Quick, shut the window!” As the police have sealed off areas where protests had been the previous day, they seem to be spreading to other areas and tear gas used to disperse groups of people.

We decide that it may be wise to fill our tank in case the situation escalates the following day. We spend the the next hour looking for diesel and eventually find it on the road half way to the Giza Pyramids. The traffic back into town is horrific so we decide to carry on and see the pyramids by night before heading back!

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