Living out in the desert is great. A lovely compound where houses are built on comfortable parcels of land, where you have neighbors who are far enough for privacy, but close enough for comfort. Though at the time of the January 2011 revolution I had been living there for a few years, yet the compound was not yet finished and we still had several areas that were under construction. It was still a work in progress.
The excitement of the revolution happening, and watching all the action on television was a full time job, at least for me. I could barely sleep a couple of hours, so as not to miss what was going on. The excitement of seeing the hoards flowing into Tahrir square, of seeing them maneuvering with the police and finally triumphing in taking over the square. The heartbreaking events unfolding with all those young people killed by snipers, by thrown stones from great heights, or by being beaten to death. The inspirational heroism of those doctors who set up those field hospitals where they treated the throngs of those injured, while they themselves were under fire. The exciting and very courageous young men who, on their motor bikes ferried the injured from the middle of the “battlefield” to the field hospitals which were usually set up on the periphery of the action.
I was there, heart and soul, I could barely eat or sleep, actually living moment by moment with all those people fighting for a principle, and for their lives there in that now very famous Tahrir Square. But suddenly I was brought back to earth and to the compound where I was living through two incidents. The first was when word spread that several jails were stormed and the prisoners let loose. The first version we heard at the time was that it was part of a plan by Mubarak’s Minister of Interior to ensure the prevalence of chaos that would help them take control of the country again.
Where I live is somewhat near to a very large and important prison, the Wadi el Natrun prison, where Morsi and his Brotherhood members were imprisoned. On that day, on hearing that the prisoners were let loose, a wave of fear swept through the compound. We were on the way of any prisoners heading to Cairo. Images of having gangs of murderers, terrorists, thieves, rapists, all descending upon a residential compound of a certain affluence, put us all in a spin.
I had, at the time, six large black dogs and three men employees, all from Upper Egypt. These Upper Egypt men are known for being very brave, fighting men, very honest and loyal. So I felt quite secure, but still caution is of the essence. So when it was put about that these prisoners were about to descend upon us, I gave instructions to my staff to ensure that the outside iron gates were locked and chained, that the dogs were left loose in the garden, then we turned our attention to the house itself.
My ground floor is around one and a half meters above ground level, so for anyone trying to climb through a ground floor window, already has one and a half meters to overcome. All throughout the house I have huge windows, a great many overlooking balconies, but all having wooden shutters then double glazed windows that lock from the inside. We went all through the house making sure that all the shutters were securely shut and all the windows closed and locked.
My staff have their quarters in a separate building right next to the garage, but I felt that this was not secure enough, so that evening I told them to bring in their mattresses and spend the night in the study downstairs, armed each with a lethal looking poker from the different fireplaces in the house. We put out all the outside lights and all spent a vey tense night.
Next morning word spread like wildfire that eight prisoners were caught in the compound. But the story told was something totally different from our fears and expectations. It seemed that these prisoners were frightened, exhausted men who were forced out of jail at gunpoint and told that they would be shot of they did not flee. They had walked all day and half the night, feeling lost in the desert, till they came upon our compound. They were so hungry, cold and exhausted,,they were so relieved to give themselves up to anyone who would just give them some food, and would turn them over to the authorities. So they were taken in by the residents of the compound, given food and water, some were given clothes, then were driven twelve kilometers to the nearest army post on the desert road.
Once this scare was over, we thought that caution is the better part of courage, so we kept the shutters in place for the duration of the revolution. But the men refused to come into the house anymore, and spent their nights in their own beds in their quarters.
The second scare came a few days later. There was a very strong campaign of terrorizing the people as a whole. There radio and television shows where people, and especially women, telephoned in and were in hysterics about being attacked at home, of armed outlaws terrorizing unarmed people going peacefully about their daily life. The scene was being prepared to expect murderous attacks by armed marauders at any time and anywhere. So when it happened at the compound, it did not come as a surprise. Again word of mouth spread like wildfire that any of the residents owning any type of firearm is requested to immediately take it and go man the main gates of the compound as it was being attacked.
It seemed that one of those armed marauding groups was passing in front of the compound peppering it with bullets, but could do no more than that as the gates were protected by the heavy building equipment being place as a first barrier at the entrance. Behind the heavy equipment the residents started shooting back. Once this happened the half tuck filled with these outlaws immediately took off. It seemed they were not expecting any kind of resistance. Finding that they were bring shot at was enough for them to flee, and we were never bothered by any type of attack after that.
These were very exciting days, tinged with fear and insecurity, not knowing how things would end. This feeling went on for quite some time. For months on end it was too dangerous to travel on the desert road after sunset. This, to a certain extent curtailed our activities, but bit by bit life came back to normal, and as we started finding out who was behind all these acts of violence, that the Muslim Brotherhood was the instigator and perpetrator of all terrorist activities and assassinations, arson and bombings that took place since then and up till now, it was another nail in their coffin which culminated on June 30, 2012 in a total popular revolt against that terrorist organization.
13 April 2014