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You are in the the 28th Child Diary of the Liveblog of the 2011 Egyptian Uprising and other uprisings spreading throughout the Mideast.  We stand with our Egyptian friends and their courageous struggle for freedom.

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Al Jazeera English - Watch Live

Al Jazeera live also available on
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Al Jazeera Live on YouTube
 English Stream
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BBC Reports

bicycle Hussein paladin - Why Iran 1979 Went to the Islamists and This One Won't
weasel - Updates on the Egyptian Protests

People to follow on twitter:
@speaktotweet: Egyptian Voice Tweets on Twitter

Previous Child Diaries:
Egypt Liveblog: Sub-Diary #27 by danmac
Egypt Liveblog: Sub-Diary #26 by unaspenser
Egypt Liveblog: Sub-Diary #25 by unspeakable
Egypt Liveblog: Sub-Diary #24 by dingodude
Egypt Liveblog: Sub-Diary #23 by unaspenser
EgyptLiveblog: Sub-Diary #22 by conchita
Egypt Liveblog: Sub-Diary #21 - FlySwatterBanjo
Egypt Liveblog: Sub-Diary #20 - Scarce
Egypt Liveblog: Sub-Diary #19 - Lexington1
US calls for an "orderly transition" Elbaradei: "I would advise him to leave today" - Lefty Coaster
Egypt Liveblog: Sub-Diary #17 - BlueDragon
Egypt Liveblog: Sub-Diary #16 - by David_PA
Egypt Liveblog: Sub-Diary #15 - by politik

Eastern languages are often curious to those of us in the West. The letters are different, more intricate, and the sounds are alien to us.  To my cousin John,* the Arabic language was particularly captivating. Thus, after he completed his master's degree in French and Arabic, studying at the Sorbonne among other places, he decided to get a PhD in Arabic at the American University in Cairo. He's currently working on that degree...or at least trying to as classes have been delayed and curfews imposed as the city experiences unrest with the current uprising.

We got word that he was safe a few times, but it hasn't made us any less uneasy.  When we couldn't get through via e-mail and cell contact, many of us grew more than a little concerned. Luckily, as I'll explain below the fold, Egyptian hospitality and care for one's neighbors allowed us to get word that John was not only safe but being cared for like a son by his Egyptian neighbor.

John's mother--my aunt-- had just come back from visiting him and touring Cairo, she joked with us that the revolution was all her fault in an e-mail. The internet was down at that point, but phone lines were still active:

I spoke to him last night and he was staying indoors with his friend. I am attempting to call him again today.

I know it’s all my fault.  Revolution and overthrows of government just exude off of me and I guess the people of Egypt sensed that :-)

I will let you know when I touch base with him again. The internet is indeed down but I was able to get a cell call in to him last night.

Later that day, the Egyptian government shut down cellular communications, meaning we were unable to ascertain whether John was safe. Luckily John's neighbors in Cairo were looking out for him too, and my aunt let us know:

Just got a call from Canada! Some guy named Ahmed got a message from his mom who is a neighbor of John’s in Din Cairo. John is with this guy’s mom and his brother and sent me a message that he is safe, and he will call me as soon as he can get thru.  Whew!

John's neighbor called her son in Canada on a land line to ask him to call my aunt in New York to let her know that John was safe. It's always difficult to humanize events like these, but it was an important reminder that in good times and bad, irrespective of their leaders, good people look out for each other.  And the next day we got news that cell service had been restored:

I just spoke with John via cell phone.  They were restored at around 3:00a NY time. Still no internet. He said he’s OK, his neighborhood (REDACTED) is relatively quiet, he has enough food and he is with friends. The University told them that they are not starting classes Monday as planned but that they hope to resume the semester on Thursday.
If the streets have not settled down near downtown Cairo where the University is by then, they will attempt to hold classes on the new campus which is an hour outside of Cairo.  We plan to speak again tonight. More John news as I get it.

It was good to hear that my cousin was safe and being cared for, but we knew that everything was still (and is still) dicey. We had communication lines open, but even then we knew he wasn't out of the woods, what with the protests growing in strength and a regime that is probably getting more desperate by the day. Two days ago we got a long message about the status on the ground:

I spoke to John about an hour ago. I told him I was watching military helicopters flying over downtown Cairo on CNN and he said he could hear them really loud, even as we spoke! Weird to be that connected.

It seems the neighbors on his street are keeping vigil in shifts overnight. When he and his friend Steve* went outside this morning, they saw towers of tires, cement block barricades, ropes, etc. on each end of his street.  And the coffee cups and tea glasses were still there next to the folding chairs where the men were keeping guard, indicating they’re resting now but will be back when the sun sets.

The grocery store at his corner is still operable. They have plenty of food which John has stocked up at his apartment. One of his roommates, Joe*, has had his parents visiting for the last 2 weeks. They were there when I was there. They’ve been staying at the Four Seasons, due to leave today.  Of course, their flight was cancelled and they’re supposedly rebooked for Tuesday, tho I don’t know how they’ll get to the airport. Joe is refusing to leave with them, choosing instead to stay in Cairo along with John and the others.

The parents and Joe went to the American Embassy today and were told "sorry, we’re closed today." Totally unhelpful.

The director of the University has been calling each student (about 30 of them) individually because there is no internet. He told them that if they want to leave it is, of course, their option but that they are planning on resuming classes on Thursday.  I don’t think that will happen but they’re not offering plans for the students to leave. John is there with their program so he’s following their lead.

He wanted me to tell everyone that he is OK. He feels safe. Everyone in his apartment building is sticking together and treating him like family.  I am also in touch with his friend, Steve’s parents here in the states. If there is anything further to report, I’ll let you know.  We are in close contact daily.

Neighbors looking out for neighbors. Not only were the students sticking together, but the locals were treating them as their own, and standing guard over their neighborhood. Naturally, my cousin felt safest with his Egyptian friends, a decision my own father lauded yesterday when he too called my cousin:

Just spoke with John. He sounds great! Witness to a revolution, talk about is friends and neighbors. The Egyptians will keep him safe, far safer than the weenies at the US State Department.

I don't know if I'd call them "weenies" myself, but there is greater comfort knowing that John is among those who will help him stay safe as the protests continue. And let's hope that peace and democracy come to his neighbors sooner rather than later.

EDIT: Another note from John through my aunt moments ago:

Spoke to John around 3:30 Cairo time. (I know, that’s a movie). He was cooking at home, having just come from marching in the demonstration. He said he has never felt threatened or unsafe in any way thus far. I heard from the program director by email that he and 13 of the other fellows had picked up their stipends (cash) this morning so he’s got enough money for the month. "I hope you’re not believing the news reports, mom. Everyone has been extremely helpful here."

They are planning to resume classes on 2/13 in the Cairo campus. The school is taking a wait and see attitude.  Meantime, I am looking into contingency plans to get him home if this program is suspended indefinitely.

*All pseudonyms.

Originally posted to Red Sox on Tue Feb 01, 2011 at 06:33 AM PST.

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