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Cairo's sudden fear of foreigners: witness

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Cairo's sudden fear of foreigners: witness


On Thursday morning thirty-something Egyptian Mohammed was walking past Talaat Harb square to get a coffee. There he met a rather lost-looking foreigner…
“There were a few people on Talaat Harb square. Maybe around 200. They were just watching each other and chatting. Nobody really knows who is on which side but it looked like they were mostly Mubarak supporters. The roads around the square are blocked by checkpoints. Talaat Harb street, which leads to Tahrir, was being blocked by a human chain and people were only being allowed through one at a time. Access to Qasr el Nil street, which goes towards the Egyptian Museum is completely closed, blocked by a barrier guarded by civilians. The road is full of stones and rocks and we saw one burned-out Vespa. Mahmoud Bassiouni street which leads to Abdel Monem Riad square is also blocked. About 300 metres further down we saw a crowded group of demonstrators. Most shops are shut today, even the little sandwich stalls which had until now stayed open. All their metal shutters are pulled down.
“We went up Maarouf street and were about to cross through another checkpoint. The young guy checking people’s papers asked me if I spoke English and said: ‘Can you check the papers of that foreigner?’ So we went to talk to him. It turned out to be a Hungarian journalist who had been staying in a hotel on the square but who, as people get suspicious of him if he stays inside, he wanted to come out. The problem is for him is that he also runs across problems in the street. In the end he came through the checkpoint with us. He told us how he’d been threatened several times the night before. Going back through the checkpoint after having a coffee, I told the young guy checking papers there that he shouldn’t be so distrustful of foreigners. I asked him why we had to check the Hungarian’s passport. He told me that he’d heard that an Israeli had been arrested at Garden City, in the town centre, and had been carrying Cairo papers. I told him to take rumours with a pinch of salt.”

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