Jingo hooligans and the police state

Things are getting increasingly strange here. Hosni Mubarak’s eldest son, Alaa, has basically added fuel to peoples’ fake fire against Algeria – the government co-opting popular frustrations with Wednesday’s loss and the news that Egyptian businesses in Algeria were attacked and Egyptian fans in Khartoum were assaulted by Algerians.”It is impossible that we as Egyptians take this, we have to stand up and say ‘enough,'” said Alaa, who had traveled to Khartoum for Wednesday’s game, the AP reported. “There should be a stance, we have had enough. When you insult my dignity … I will beat you on the head,” added the younger Mubarak.”

Today Zamalek is a cordoned police zone, thousands of Central Security troops and dozens of trucks not only around the Algerian Embassy, but on every side street on that side of the island. Honking horns and chants against Algeria can be heard in the air — I was walking near the Indian Embassy this afternoon and heard crowds, probably across the river in Bulaq. 26th of July street is littered with rocks, garbage, and broken glass. Storefronts on money exchanges and the various other shops — Egyptian stores — were smashed late last night, early this morning.

I took some video of the protests on 26th of July last night, but before the rioting really took off. Still, people were burning Algerian flags, waving huge Egyptian ones, and chanting insults to Algeria – (not just “Allahu Akbar” as the AP and other agencies focus on). More vulgar things.. insults more suitable for a kind of soccer riot, which this is, sort of, but is clearly ballooning into something else.

How I got home, 2006-2007

Classes are over and once again I’m standing in the street downtown near Tahrir, or Liberation, Square, trying to hail a cab. For a while none will stop. Those that do will refuse to go to Zamalek, just across the Qasr al Nil bridge, because it’s five or six and the traffic up the island is total gridlock. Eventually one stops, but the driver demurs when I insist on five pounds.

“No. Ten pounds.”

“By God, ten pounds?”

I’ve been trying, probably to the delicious amusement of Egyptians like this cab driver, to pick up the local tongue. Lots of exaggeration and gestured proclamations tinged with “by God”s and “God willing”s.

“Five pounds, my friend.”

He mutters another “khalas” – enough – and starts to pull away.

“Seven pounds?” I yell looking at the license plate of this old Fiat, which then stops.

“Tayeb. Yalla.” Okay. Let’s go.