Luxor's reaction to Hosni Mubarak's sentence.

We are contemplating a little bit re-styling work for the guest apartment, through which case we ended up in Ahmed Hashem's tile and bathroom shop in Madina Street last night. Of course, it's like 'Casey's Court' in there, and trying to get Hashem's sole attention is very difficult. Plus, when you do manage it; it's a very fleeting experience!

I was torn between trying to regain his attention from a group of raucous Egyptians, while at the same time trying to listen to Freda who was wanting me to look at some innovative bathroom appliance, or whatever, in another part of the shop. All of a sudden, up he sprang with all of the Egyptians following him towards the stairs. "Now that they are leaving; I'll get to speak to him again", or that's what my mind was foolishly telling me.

A thousand curses on my dodgy hearing!!!!! They were dashing across the shop floor in order to view the source of the racket coming from down in the street outside. As I resigned myself to waiting a bit longer, I followed them over to the windows, to see what was transpiring. A relatively large group of men and boys were processing up the street towards the 'Police Hotel' (or perhaps the Police Station further up, who knows?) with placards and banners and much chanting. Cameras and camera phones were merrily clicking away, and one protester even took a picture of the onlookers crowded against the first floor windows of Hashem's 'Ideal Standard' shop!

Both of us being monolingual dummies, we asked Hashem to tell us exactly what they were parading and protesting about. (Of course we knew that it would be connected with the sentencing of the ousted President.) He explained that the Egyptian people saw his sentence as being far too lenient, in that he would be continuing his life of luxury, and having his family around him etc. etc. in the very plush International Hospital, where he's been under guard during his trial. However, that's not what the news reports are telling us! According to various sources; he will be in prison now, albeit the prison hospital, but even there he will wear prison uniform instead of his favoured designer sportswear. Also, his two sons (Alaa and Gamal) have miraculously been acquitted of corruption, even though they have been re-arrested and are to be charged with 'insider dealing'. People are nowhere hear being happy with this outcome of Mubarak's 10 month long 'show' trial.

Never mind, we really aren't allowed to have a 'position' on all this, as we're not Egyptian, and therefore have no way of affecting anything here. So, after Hashem had shocked us to the marrow with his prices, we made our way down to the 'little' baker on Madina Street and then along past the houses of the late Abu Naggar (the famous desert guide) and Hod Hod Soliman (the even more famous hot-air balloon operator) and Mr Bahaa Sherif (owner of the famous 'underground' household goods shop on TV St.), to Khair Zaman, also on TV Street and opposite the aforementioned 'underground' shop.

After trailing around the supermarket (and again spending more than we should have!) we emerged to find an arabiya ('bus) to ferry us home. Lo and behold, we stumbled straight into the demonstration! They had obviously not been going to the 'Police Hotel' or even the Police Station, they'd marched up Madina, along New Hospital Street, and here they were, part way down TV Street and holding up the traffic; big time!

I parked my three shopping bags on the steps to the shop, and my bottom on the step above, we were surely in for quite a wait! All in all, I would estimate the crowd at about 200, mostly on foot but including about 20 or 30 of the ubiquitous motor cycle brigade following on behind. Among the crush of demonstrators, there were two or three of the three-wheeled motor cycle trucks which have become very popular here over the past few years. (I was told that they cost 9000le [less than £1000] and they are used for everything!) On one of these contraptions, there was a small boy standing and screaming a chant into a microphone; to which the crowd were replying with their own chant. It was a very jolly affair, with, again, cameras and camera phones clicking away everywhere you looked. (At this point, I should apologise! After taking a picture of some tiles in Hashem's shop, my camera batteries went dead! I was now sitting there fuming at my re-visited impotence, which was made more infuriating by the fact that two new batteries were lying at home after being bought the previous day when the 'Low Battery' warning had come on the camera. Typical, eh?)

After just a couple of minutes, the motorbikes at the tail end were past us, and the cars and mini-buses were piling up behind, in a mass of maniacal horn sounding and shouting out of windows. We were soon seated in one of the slow-moving arabiyas, having paid our 1le fare. At this point Freda just happened to comment, "They'll be going down our street, so we'll be stuck behind them all the way!" An old woman, sitting behind us, decided that she would be quicker walking, and got off the 'bus as it stopped for the hundredth time in twenty yards! She hadn't reckoned on the driver using his initiative, (he was Egyptian, after all!) though. He turned off TV Street and into the maze of smaller streets which lie north of TV Street, eventually emerging ahead of the demonstrators at the junction of Ahmed Oraby Street and  Manchiya Street, where the new Mosque is, and heading towards the railway station.

The procession must have turned down Station Street (Sharia Mahatta), because they never past the end of our little Haret Osman., and ended up at Abu El Haggag Square, behind the Temple. Although there were certainly one or two angry faces in the crowd, the protesters were mainly (as is usual in these sort of circumstances in Luxor) of good cheer and seemed to be enjoying the gathering and the opportunity to make even more noise than usual!

So, there you have it, Mateys! I'm sorry to keep disappointing you all with these tales of non-violent and non-intimidatory protest here in Luxor, but that's the way it is here in the far-flung reaches of Upper Egypt. It's too hot to get wound up about these things for very long; they're better discussed quietly over a shisha, in the relative coolness of a balmy evening at your favourite coffeeshop!                        

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