Yes, a bomb went off tonight in Cairo. It’s true. It was about two miles away from us. And perhaps we even heard it from our 14th floor apartment, but if we did, it blended in with the traffic sounds and the occasional blast of fireworks that we hear every evening. I don’t mean to be cavalier about bombings and shootings. It isn’t a small thing that 9 people including 3 policemen died in the blast. And as the anniversary of the Arab Spring gets closer there’s likely to be even more violence. But is it more dangerous here in Cairo than it is in the United States?
I would say no.
I’ve worked hard on the visceral reflex that I have in response to things like terrorist attacks in the places where we live. Freaking out about them isn’t conducive to good decision-making. Last night, when I checked my email I had alerts from the Department of State and our insurance company about the bombing. It was about 11:00 PM before we even knew that a bomb had gone off because we’re in a different part of the city. Things proceeded as normal in our neighborhood. There were no riots. No looting. Just the bomb.
But all of us gathered around my computer attentively as I searched for news about the bombing. We read an article from Reuters. Then we read one from U.S. News. John and Lydian fired up their computers and started searching for more information and within half an hour, we closed our laptops quietly and stood up calmly to go to bed. A small part of my brain was still concerned, but the other parts couldn’t help but note the randomness of it all. It could’ve happened in an apartment on our floor in our building. But it didn’t. It could’ve happened as we walked by on the blasted street. But it didn’t. A person could drive themselves mad thinking about all the possibilities that could lead to an unfortunate intersection with the reaper.
“I don’t think we should go out tomorrow.” Lydian said.
But I disagreed. “I think we need to go out tomorrow.” I said. “We need to go out before Monday and get some groceries.” Our Arabic instructor has already cancelled our Monday class and told us to stay indoors on that day. She was light-hearted about it, but dead serious.
“Maybe we could even walk down there and see where the blast went off.” I said to Lydi raising my eyebrows. Lydi already knew I was going to suggest this because I always do. My inner journalist would get dressed and go hop on the metro in the middle of the night to see the underbelly of it all if I were a single woman. But I love my family so we stay in. Seeing the actual scene of something that’s been sensationalized by the media is thought-provoking on many levels and, if it seems safe enough, we go see the news when we can.
In the Yucatan, I read in the newspaper about a family in the southern town of Yaxachen whose hut had burned down while they were out on a posada. So, as a fun weekend outing, we rented a car and drove down there to see the situation with our own eyes. It was a family of eight. They lived in an elliptical open-air hut made of wood and manure. Their eight-person family shared three hammocks. And though they looked typical in the news story, there was no such thing as mail in the small village; no electricity, at least not in the tiny huts. They’d lost everything they owned, which was worth only about $2000. The community rallied to rebuild the home from wood that they cut down by hand using primitive tools. It was hard to fathom their lifestyle.
A few days later, we were robbed in our own home as we slept. The news, in that case, was less dangerous than our own house in our own neighborhood.
But still, as we stood in our living room in Cairo, considering our current situation with the bombs and IS and the Muslim Brotherhood and whatnot, John intervened, “I think we should avoid this one.” He said. And I agreed.
Police are searching apartments all over Cairo, trying to locate members of the Muslim Brotherhood. The government wants to diffuse any attempts that might be made to form a demonstration against the current regime. More than avoiding the bombed out street itself, I feel like we should avoid being out on the streets for the next few days. The odds that there will be other “mishaps” like the one that happened last night (the bombing was actually not a bombing at all, but rather a bomb that blew when a “bomb expert” tried to diffuse it) are higher than normal. There’s talk of demonstrations. The vibe on the streets today was tense.
By the time we returned from our morning jog, a large group of men had gathered in the street outside our apartment to listen to an imam preaching. Lydi and I had to walk in front of them in our yoga pants to get to our front door. If any of the men had lustful thoughts about us, Lydi and I were the sinful ones for having tempted them. Rather than yelling at the men in the street for looking at us with haughty derision, I yelled at John about the size of the frying pan that he bought at the store when we got back to our apartment.
Cairo as a whole isn’t more dangerous than big cities in the United States. But bombs going of in the Middle East seem to garner a lot of media attention though there are comparatively fewer shootings here than in the United States. But Cairo is perched the edge of something right now; something that will probably dissipate after the anniversary of the revolution.