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EGYPT: Life slowly returns to normal

CAIRO, 14 February 2011 (IRIN) - The world has been transfixed by the 18 days of protest in Egypt that ended 30 years of Hosni Mubarak’s rule. But away from the surging crowds in Tahrir Square demanding change, other Egyptians have been preoccupied with the more mundane struggle of trying to make ends meet.

When IRIN last visited the Mansur family on 2 February, the eldest daughter, Fatma Sayed, was due to give birth, but worried that the streets may not be safe enough to go to hospital; her youngest brother, Mohamed, was not going to work as he believed it more urgent to stay up all night to protect the neighbourhood with other young men who had formed vigilantes.

Much has now changed in Egypt, and for the Mansur family. Fatma Sayed seized the chance of improved security a week ago and went to a nearby hospital for a Caesarian delivery. She called her baby daughter Ahlam or “dreams“.

“I am so grateful that I managed to do it at last,” Fatma, 31, said. “I am happy that my daughter sleeps on the bed beside me now. I do not care what will happen next.”

What happens next is not entirely clear following Mubarak’s resignation on 11 February, succumbing to the pressure of nationwide demonstrations that began on 25 January.

Mubarak has handed power to the military, which has promised to pave the way for parliamentary and presidential elections, dissolved parliament, and suspended the constitution – the major demands of the protesters.

Normal life

The pledge by the military for a democratic transition sent hundreds of thousands of demonstrators back home, and returned life to near normal in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, and other cities. However, the Suez Canal city of Port Said, and Beni Suef, about 120km south of Cairo, are still turbulent, with angry citizens attacking government offices and police stations.

On 14 February, thousands of people from impoverished districts stormed empty apartment blocks in Beni Suef and occupied them. They also torched some government offices.

In Cairo, however, banks partially resumed work on 10 February, allowing Sayed’s husband to withdraw the money he had deposited for his wife’s Caesarean. “We would never have been able to go to the hospital without this money,” he told IRIN. “We could not have just gone there and told the doctors that we need an operation, but we do not have money.”

More security

The Egyptian army has reportedly managed to arrest about 10,000 inmates out of the 20,000 who are believed to have escaped following the disintegration of the police and prison services after clashes with demonstrators on 28 January.

The army has deployed soldiers across the country to bolster security and even take on traffic duties, giving neighbourhood watchers the chance to return to their professional lives.

Mohamed, 21, a house painter, now goes to work each day. When he comes home he checks with his neighbours and spends a few hours with the other men, but when night falls, they all go home. “Although the army is not deployed everywhere, there is a general feeling of security these days,” Mohamed said. “Most of the thieves have already been arrested.”

Supplies replenished

The army has relaxed the night curfew it imposed on 29 January. Instead of 4pm, the curfew now starts at midnight and lasts until 6am, giving Mohamed’s mother the chance to go to the market.

“After an initial wave of rises, prices started to go down,” said Rida Mansur. “Most commodities are now available.”

Shopkeepers say the fragile security situation and an early curfew denied suppliers the chance to bring their produce to market. Bahaa Bushra, a vegetable seller in Sayeda Aisha where the Mansur family lives, says this was partially responsible for the rise in prices.

“There was no supply of almost all articles,” Bushra, 35, said. “People also bought large amounts of everything, pushing the prices up even more.”


Copyright © IRIN 2011
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

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