Friday Prayers

February 4, 2011

Mosque near Souk Waqif

I’ve just been watching Friday Prayers in Tahrir Sq – amazing images of mass faith followed by chanting of defiance.

It’s been an odd week.

The gods were angry on Wednesday as I watched Egypts opposing sides pelt each other with rocks – it looked like rain – on Aljazeera International on TV, whilst listening to ABC24 on the PC as Cyclone Yasi crossed the Queensland coast at the same time.  I reached an overload – I had to turn the world off for a while.

Working with many Egyptians this week had given me an insight into the current situation that I would not have had in London.  The whole place glued to the screens; the euphoria of Tuesday followed by the horror of Wednesday.

Just some of the stories…

One of my drivers has a 20 year old son who has been in Tahrir Square for a week – he is safe but refuses to go home even for a meal.

When I asked about the paid ‘thugs’ – if this was a real occurrence – an Egyptian colleague said that they are hired every election – when you go to vote they come with you to make sure you vote for the current regime – that was until last election where they didn’t – instead they just claimed that you had voted and fiddled it at that end.

Earlier in the week a friend is upset as her Mother and sister in Cairo are forced to stay with neighbors as thugs shout in the street ‘give us money or we will rob you’.  All the men in the street forced to stand guard throughout the night.

A lovely Tunisian colleague claims that Mubarak’s chair is ‘sticky’ – this is the problem.  She also says that soon it will be made of tefal – no-one will be able to sit on it!

It’s made me think about those freedoms I take for granted.

I have protested in anti war rallies, reclaim the nights and against the Pope – no-one ever attempted to stop me, let alone threw rocks or petrol bombs at me.

For as much as I loathed John Howard whilst he was in power I did not feel that the elections were rigged, that my vote was not counted, that my voice was muffled.  I don’t doubt that some of his mates got some contracts, made a profit, but I don’t believe he was ‘corrupt’ in any major sense and I certainly can’t imagine that Janette Howard would have robbed the nation of 1.5 tonnes of gold – or any other of our natural resources.

Feeling very blessed to be born a white middle class Australian at this point in time.

Qatar is very safe, for those who may be concerned for me in the region – there is too much money here for the locals to complain.  Migrant workers may be another story – but that’s a story to be told over a cup of tea – not on a public forum.

Locals

Went out for a drink last weekend – a ‘Belgium Pub’ at the Intercontinental – this place, Doha, really is Disneyland, could have been in Clapham.  Met up with a great bunch of ex-pats from Aljazeera English – much more anglo based than JCC where I am one of 6.  Got pissed on three beers and nursed a headache all day Saturday – oh how times have changed!

My weeks have a rhythm, swimming after work, knitting group, lazy weekends. A third of my way through the contract and I guess I’m up to stay for a while if an offer is made.

For now the storm has been weathered at home, the International Community looks like getting tough and I guess there is hope.  The sun is shining, my hammock is up and Lewis is basking in the rays.

Streets near my apartment

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