The Lotus Revolution: How We Survived The Egypt Riots - Part 5
We were granted permission from Jon Butcher to repost his and his family’s eye witness account of the Lotus Revolution in Egypt in the midst of the chaos in Tahrir Square. This is part 3 of 6.
Read Part 1 here.
Read Part 2 here.
Read Part 3 here.
Read Part 4 here.
SUNDAY, January 30, 2011
On Sunday morning, we woke up to sound of helicopters and jet fighters flying low over Cairo, in some kind of bizarre show of force. As the jets broke the sound barrier right over our hotel, the building shook like it was going to fall apart. The Egyptian army had brought out the big weaponry now, and we decided then and there that it was time to get the &*#!%! out of Cairo.
It was imperative that we get good information in order to make our escape with the kids. And that was going to be difficult, because we had no Internet, the news was no help at all. Luckily, we did have cell phone service again, it had be restored the evening before. We were able to call and text family and friends in the states, but the information coming from the States was worse than second hand and horribly distorted. No help at all…
The most important thing for us to understand was the situation at the airport. THAT was the key… And the meager, disjointed reports we’d gotten from sources in Cairo and abroad did not paint a pretty picture.
We talked to everyone we could in the hotel and the streets about the situation in the airport, including 2 ladies who had personally spent 9 hours there the day before, trying to get out of the country. Here’s what they had to say:
“The Cairo airport is a compete disaster, BEYOND insane. No one is in charge, there is no security, no one knows what the air traffic control situation is. Just navigating to get TO the airport, through the military and armed street gangs is a challenge in itself. Once you’re there, it will take you 2 hours to get through the crush at the front door, and that is if you bribe the security police with 1000 Egyptian pounds. If you get in, you’re packed like sardines with panicked, angry people all pushing toward the check in counters. There is no food, no water, so be prepared to take a couple days of supplies if necessary. We couldn’t find the Lufthansa counter, because the monitors were down. When we finally found where the counter was supposed to be, we waited 4 hours in a stampede of people and no one helped us. There was no one TO help us. The crews and employees of most airlines simply didn’t show up for work. Most flights never took off. After 9 hours, we just gave up and came back to the hotel. We’re going to wait 3 or 4 days and try again…”
This was not a good report!
So, we talked it down with John and Brad. What were our options? After exploring all the possibilities, we were left with 4 possible choices:
Stay put in the hotel, where we had food and water and our kids were fairly safe. DOWNSIDE: hotel employees we not showing up for work (they had already closed 3 of the hotel restaurants leaving only one to feed all the people who were trapped there, there were no employees to clean rooms, they had closed the business center as well as most other facilities), which meant that this oasis could eventually dry out. The intensity and violence in Cairo could escalate and with absolutely NO police on the streets, the hotel might no longer be safe, and an escape would be much more dangerous.
Try to seek safe haven in the US Embassy. DOWNSIDE: the Embassy was right in Tahrir Square, and I did not relish the thought of trying to navigate my family through the streets to get there and join what would likely be thousands of panicked Americans sleeping on blankets on the floor, waiting for the government to “process” them.
Try for the airport and take a commercial flight to an Arab country. From the meager amount of information we were able to gather, the Terminal 1 flights to other Arab nations were going out more regularly than anything else. Emirates Air, Etihad, Gulf Air etc. We already had tickets on a Gulf Air flight to Bahrain the next day, so this was a serious possibility.
Try for the Airport and the State Department Evacuation Flights. The American Embassy was evacuating Americans (50,000 people, they reported) and flying to 3 cities, Ankara, Athens and Sophia, Bulgaria. You were not allowed to CHOOSE your destination, you were only allowed 1 small bag each, and they could not guarantee that families would all be on the same flight. So f*ck that.
After a very intense day and night of talking to locals, calling the local airlines, consulting with AMEX travel agents and texting the US trying to get advice from ANYONE who knew ANYTHING about the situation on the streets or at the airport, we formulated the best plan we could based on the information we had…
It was going to be option #3. We were going to try for the airport the next morning and get out on the Gulf Air Flight to Bahrian. That flight had gone out the day before and they were planning to go out that day too. And we were going to be on that plane, come hell or high water.
John and Meredith were going to try it with us. They had made reservations on an Alitalia flight to Rome that same afternoon. They called the airline and the flight was still scheduled to depart on time just like ours. So the six of us decided to try for the airport together. Brad and Julie were scheduled to leave the next day on Air France and decided to wait for our report from the airport before making their final decision.
(final part of this series will be posted Wednesday)
|This series courtesy of Jon Butcher at www.MyLifeBook.com|