It was June of 2010. I had just returned from Egypt (and Morocco) on a long Egypt Air flight and then two buses and five hours on Amtrak from New York City. I was quite tired and it was about eleven o’clock in the evening.
Protests had been ongoing in Egypt but had received no coverage at all in the United States or Europe. The first protests over Khaled Said’s death had taken place; also el-Baradei’s supporters were protesting, there was a labor dispute out below Qatamiyya which interefered with traffic as the CSF forces arrived, and another demonstration in Abbasiyya. I was trying to get the U.S. Embassy in Cairo to speak to me over an visa issue to no avail. If anything their procedures were worse than ever – although I was the petitioner, I have no rights to speak to anyone. Although that was my main business, punctuated by several lovely visits with friends and family, I couldn’t help note the atmosphere of uproar and I couldn’t help being struck by the arrogant confidence of Gamal Mubarak’s posturing statements in the press.
There were only two cabs outside the train station and one appeared to be driven by a man closely resembling the imam of the Harrisburg mosque. It was not he, for this was an Egyptian, with a long beard and white galabiyya. I rubbed my eyes. Maybe I had not taken my flight back to the U.S.? No, this was possible. I got in the taxi and began a conversation about Egypt and mentioned the various protests. My driver grew agitated, and summer thunder and lightening unleashed along with pouring rain when I began speaking of Gamal Mubarak. “We won’t let that piece of trash succeed!” “Mark my words! You will see – It will all collapse, no-one will stand for him to succeed. Everything in that criminal Hosny Mubarak’s government will change!” In the months leading up to the revolution, this oracle was in the back of my mind. ‘No,” I said to myself, “Egypt’s been close to collapse for so long, and somehow the regime always manages to retain the emergency laws which permit it to repress and manage any uproar.” I was wrong. And I have yet to see that taxi driver again.