Last night Omar and I went over to Luxor to do our shopping. I buy my wool and fabric from the old souk and we buy our butter and cheddar cheese, and other stuff we can’t get on the West Bank, in a supermarket on Television St.
On the way across, on the ferry, we had to wait a while for it to leave. While we sat there I was very aware o the air being ‘heavy’, as if a dark cloud was pushing down on the city. For the previous few days both Omar and I had been feeling an entire layer in the collective unconscious of Luxor of not being cared about. Psychically it was like the dementors in the Harry Potter books, cruising through the atmosphere sucking the souls from human beings and leaving them as empty husks.
It is the first time I have ever had this experience and it felt horribly oppressive and dark. It told me a lot about what was happening energetically, and practically, in Egypt. Governments who care only about themselves and their own power. The people on the ground are not cared about at all, and everybody feels this, whether they are aware of it consciously or not. It comes out in their everyday behaviour and beliefs and how they are unable to care for themselves, never having learned how.
So, going across the Nile and feeling this oppressive emotional energy covering the city, we decided to see the results of the last fires which burned people’s businesses to the ground. Fires set by the Muslim Brotherhood in Christian premises in revenge. But revenge for what I don’t know as I’m pretty sure the army and police are not Christian!
The buildings were all on the same street, parallel to the Avenue of the Sphinxes between Luxor Temple and Karnak Temple. Some adjoining businesses, not belonging to Christians were also damaged.
We bought some shawerma sandwiches, Koshery and liver and went to the Souk to eat them with a cup of tea. The feeling of oppression never left. Once we were finished we bought our fabric supplies and a couple of tagine bowls and headed up to Television St. to the supermarket. We avoided the Muslim Brotherhood Rajab sons supermarket and went further up to the other one, which in many ways is actually better, (and which was, or still is, MB owned according to another Luxor resident. I can’t win!).
One of the things I noticed this time, more than any other, was of being watched and commented on. As a foreign female face this goes with the territory here in Luxor. But on the West Bank, not usually on the East Bank. Normally here I feel pretty invisible as people are so used to seeing foreign faces, but not tonight. Men stared everywhere we went and women pointed me out to their husbands in the supermarket. Now I dress very conservatively here, covered up with little skin showing, so I’m not sure what they found so interesting but I didn’t like it. I also didn’t see another foreign face during the entire trip!
So things were feeling relatively relaxed, except for that, and after getting what we needed we decided to check out the situation in the Rajab Sons supermarket, which is owned by one of the big Muslim Brotherhood leaders. When the MB were retaliating in Luxor for the their dead ‘brothers’ in Cairo they had positioned men with machine guns on top of the building to defend it from any possible attack. Tonight there were no guns but when we entered the supermarket via the downstairs entrance there were two security guards who told us to leave our bags at the door. They had put up shelves for the purpose. It felt like Cairo museum. They were taking precautions! The supermarket was still as busy as ever though…(Amendment: apparently they have always been there but I never noticed. Not sure why would they would need that kind of security in a small supermarket! I guess it speaks for the paranoia of the MB).
Walking back down to get our motorboat we noticed a fracas with policemen. Checkpoints are beginning to make checks like they did in Mubarak’s time. Little by little…An army tank was stationed outside the HSBC and the Iberohotel, just in case. That was the road which saw so much violence on the last friday of the troubles there.
So, apart from the oppressiveness and watchfulness it felt relatively normal. But on the way across the Nile we saw a huge fire raging behind Luxor Temple. Smoke filled the sky and we could see the flames rising higher than the temple, even though it was obviously some distance beyond it. Omar’s first thought was that someone had set fire to the Train Station, but that seemed unlikely.
We took a few photos with our mobile phone from the boat, not brilliant but you get the idea. When we were leaving the boat a group of wealthy Egyptian men were getting on it and one of them, who spoke perfect English, was speculating with us on what it might be. No-one even considered that it might be accidental. It was immediately assumed that it was intentional. Such is the fear here, always just beneath the surface. It felt much like when I went to New York a few years after the 9/11 Twin Towers. People wary and watchful, afraid basically!
Omar phoned his brother-in-law who lives just down the road from the Train Station, and he had gone to have a look. He had been out with his wife, Omar’s sister Warda, and their baby daughter and as soon as they knew what was happening she ran home with the baby to be safe while her husband went to check it out. The fire was on the street one up from their flats and was a four-story building, the first floor of which was an internet business, the top three were filled with carpets from a carpet business. No-one actually knows how the fire was started but it was so big it could be seen from Medinet Habu Temple on the West Bank.
People are not sure of what is happening and no one trusts the situation. As soon as anything happens, it is assumed to be an attack. Even if it was an accident people will still speculate about whether it was or not. People are still nervous.
When we spoke to my sister-in-law Warda later, she told us that they had all been nervous, assuming that it was another attack, and why wouldn’t they, they live in the middle of Luxor which saw all the violence two weeks ago. She also told us that they were preparing for more incidents on Friday as the MB have been planning them for two weeks, so they don’t quite know what to expect, but they are nervous now.
When we got home we checked out the internet for news and spotted an article by a ‘foreign journalist’ in Arabic which said that a petition filled with 2 million signatures, mainly from Luxor, by people who wanted Gen. Abdel Fattah al- Sisi for President. Make way for another Gaddafi/Mubarak people! I’m just going to wait for the next revolution!
Here’s the link if you’re interested. Google translate does a pretty decent job of translation! http://www.v22v.net/go322.html