Curfew in Cairo: Before & After

Cairo and many parts of Egypt have been under curfew since Wednesday. With curfew hours starting at 7 pm and ending at 6 am, it feels as though I’ve been transported to London where shops close early and silence fills the night air; quite unusual for a busy city.

An hour before curfew I visit Rabaa. Traffic was sprawling through the area, the police and army have allowed cars to pass through. A green tent has covered the mosque, presumably while renovations are carried out.

A man stands in front of a destroyed flower shop. I used to buy flowers here. Behind the flower shop are the Rabaa apartment buildings; the sit-in was right below these apartments and stretched out across the road. It was here that there was a strong stench of excrement and urine.

Scaffolds are being erected against the Rabaa hospital. We asked the doorman — captured in the distance — if he had been present during the clashes. He nodded wearily at us. When we asked if he saw who torched the buildings he replied, it was the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi.

This a poster was found at multiple locations around the street. It translates to: “Martyrdom Project”, visually preparing supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi to die for their cause.

The residential buildings in the background are opposite the Rabaa mosque. Being at the site of the sit-in, these residents have expressed that they experienced the most stress. But this is not only a residential area, these buildings contain many doctors’ clinics, offices, and a private tuition center. A friend, a doctor who owns a clinic in one of the buildings, hasn’t been able to make a living since the sit-in closed off the area.

Many people driving by would momentarily park in front of the burnt buildings and take photographs on their mobile phones. They looked bewildered, saddened and upset by the sight. One bearded man with his veiled (niqab) wife also taking photographs told us to curse the people who had ruined the whole area. Strangers spoke to each other on the street, a silent sadness written all over their faces.

Life before the curfew was busy. The roundabout in the middle was always filled with cars trying to get to their destinations until the wee hours of the morning.

Shooting the same roundabout during the curfew has rendered it into a quiet, ghost-like street. There are, however, a few curfew breakers, as the white light shows a car passing after hours.

Being locked in at home forces one to look upwards to the sky, especially during clear nights like this. I had a go at photographing this star using a tripod, but for some reason, it came out looking like an icy ring of fire. How fitting, I thought to myself, it’s as though nature is reflecting exactly what is going on down below and shedding a silent tear.

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