|From Cairo to Istanbul|
As I got on the plane en route to Istanbul a couple of days ago, the newspapers in Cairo reported another breakthrough in the Egyptian revolution of January 25th. Hosni Mubarak and his two sons, Alaa and Gamal Mubarak were jailed for 15 days pending further investigations on alleged use of force against peaceful protesters. They also face corruption charges. These news came almost a week after two million people went back to Tahrir Square. Another demonstration, even bigger, was planned for Friday, if the military in charge didn't show signs of being pro-active towards the demands of the revolutionaries.
When I first heard of Egyptian's revolution, I must say that I was a little puzzled at the level of organization of the youth that took to the streets. When we arrived in Cairo February 12th and saw people cleaning the streets, directing traffic and camping out at Tahrir Square, I didn't really understand how they were organized and even thought of conspiracy theories to explain it. But now I understand the process a little better.
Non-violent techniques to overthrow ex-President Hosni Mubarak have been brewing in Egypt since 2005, led by a trio of expatriates who live in London. Hisham Morsy, a physician, Wael Adel, a civil engineer and Ahmed, a chemist, have been giving training on civil disobedience to their compatriots since 2005. Later, the trio morphed into an organization called the Academy of Change and in 2007 published three books to disseminate the new method of resistance: “Civil Disobedience,” “Nonviolent War the 3rd Choice” and “AOC MindQuake.”
In 2008 “Shields to Protect Again Fear” came out. This was a manual/training and it helped union organizers to go on a successful strike in 2006 with later setbacks,. But the seeds and the techniques for non-violent, civil disobedience were planted, culminating on the Facebook group and the revolution itself. What three people can accomplish with training, discipline and organization, is an example of what is possible for all oppressed citizens in the world. I pray that the Egyptian revolution is successful in bringing effective changes. After being in Egypt for close to 3 ½ months, I almost feel Egyptian and already find myself missing it.
When I flew over Istanbul, it was very obvious my travels here were going to be very different. For one, it had just rained all day. Even from the air I could see that the city was all wet, there was a lot of green, a lot of water and the buildings looked all finished, unlike the landscape in Egypt, where the need of public works is obvious on the streets. Some buildings, private and public, look unfinished, and the entrances to some of them look like that were just bombed. Both cities have the same population: 16 million people, and are prawling metropolis. But the feel here in Istanbul is very much European, while Cairo is all Arab.
I was shocked to see how many tourists were arriving with me at the Istanbul International Airport. Yesterday, when I went to the Blue Mosque and the Topkapi Palace, I could not believe my eyes when I saw bus loads of people disembarking, cameras at hand, photographing palaces, mosques, grass, flowers, fingernails... I am just kidding, but you get the picture. This is a VERY touristy city and I found myself missing Egypt again, being one of the few tourists there, the pyramids and temples almost all to myself.
But I must also give justice to Istanbul. It is a very beautiful city, one of the most beautiful I have seen, surrounded by water, majestic buildings and mosques. The Phosphorus strait connects the Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea and divides the city into European, the historic and economic centers, and Asian, the Anatolian side. The Golden Horn is a long, natural harbor. I took a ferry there today with my traveling partner, Emma, from the UK. We took the teleferic when we got to Eyup, at the end of the line, and had tea in the nippy weather, overlooking the great views. The number of mosques per capita must be highest in the world and they are all amazing buildings. And I haven't even gone to a hamman yet. I have just gotten here, I will give you a full update in a week.