4d: Khalid – The Canadian-Egyptian Revolutionary

[Prelude: Read my post for background information about what happened during the Egyptian Revolution.]

Sunday, January 30th

“Dude it would be awesome if we went to Egypt right now.” Khalid told Hossam. Khalid leaned back against the kitchen counter, a crooked smile on his face. Khalid and Hossam were at their friends house for dinner. The conversation revolved around the Egyptian revolution of course. It was the only thing Arabs, and pretty much everyone else, spoke about these days.

I remember in my circle of friends, the Al Jazeera’s livestream from Tahrir Square was the permanent soundtrack of any gathering.

“Yo man, I’ll go if you go.” Hossam shrugged and replied in his deep, rumbling Canadian drawl. Khalid stared at Hossam. Neither one looked away. Neither one thought the other would go through with it and go to Egypt.

Khalid received the Facebook invite to join the protests on January 25th. Khalid smirked. He received an Egyptian protest invitation almost every week. Khalid clicked ignore, as did many others.

“I dismissed it as being the same as the April 6th movement and all that. And these sentiments weren’t mine alone. No one thought the revolution would actually happen in this magnitude in EGYPT of all places!”

Khalid was born and raised in Canada. The last time he was in Egypt was 13 years ago, so staying up to date on Egyptian politics and current affairs was difficult. Khalid didn’t tune in on the protests gripping Egypt until January 27th, when Canadian news outlets started tuning in.

The next day Hossam and Khalid called up a couple of friends, decided to meet up and brainstorm what they could do to help the revolution. They came out of that meeting a trio- Hossam, Khalid and Noha, their third companion. They also came up with several ideas including making a website, collecting donations to take to Egypt.

Had I known Khalid back then I definitely would have joined in, but as it is, I at least get to write about his trip to Egypt that would prove to be quite the adventure.

Every night, at 8pm sharp the group of 9 would have a conference call and touch base on everyone’s progress. Every day a new donor signed up for a few hundred, sometimes even a thousand dollars. Eventually they had collected $10,000 and almost 3 suitcases worth of medical supplies. They bought cotton swabs, needles, medicine, pills and sanitizers. The plan was to look at hospitals in need of supplies to help as many people as possible.

“Yo, dude, we’ve got a problem.” Hossam told Khalid on the phone early Sunday morning. They were supposed to leave two days later, on Tuesday. Hossam told Khalid how angry his parents got when he told them he wanted to go to Egypt. Khalid himself had trouble convincing his mother. Khalid’s mother cried and begged him not to go. At first Khalid was outraged, he knew he was doing the right thing, why would his mother come in the way. But Khalid calmed down. He didn’t want to leave his mothe ron such a bad note in case something happened to him in Egypt.

“My whole life I’ve been trying to raise you to be a good person not just for me or for yourself but for society, so what good would it be if I held you back from this? Whats the point of me even raising you?” Between tears and half-smiles, Khalid’s mother finally agreed. There were two conditions however, Khalid had to keep his temper under control and call her every day.

Hossam’s parents told Khalid to come over. They wanted to convince Khalid not to go. That Sunday evening Khalid left the house with Hossam’s parents blessings to let both Khalid and Hossam go to Egypt. The one problem was they still hadn’t booked their tickets.

They were lucky enough to find a ticket for Tuesday. Canada to France to Lebanon and then finally to Egypt on Thursday, February 10th.

Tuesday, February 8th

Khalid, Hossam and Noha had a 6 hour layover in France. The trio decided to explore the country and eat frog legs (which apparently taste like fish, but I’m not willing to test this out). When they got back to the airport they discovered the luggage storage room was closed for the night. Panic ensued. All their belongings were in there, including Hossam and Khalid’s passports. Noha was the only one with her passport and had an army official waiting to escort her through the airport in Egypt. So they decided to let her go ahead. Khalid and Hossam would catch up tomorrow.

A Frenchman approached Khalid and Hossam as they marched back and forth in front of the luggage storage room. Hossam claimed he knew french and took up the task of communicating with the Frenchman. Khalid doubled over laughing at Hossam and the Frenchman’s conversation that was composed of basically “et… umm… je….” and wild hand gestures. Eventually, they made progress, through hand-gestures of course. The Frenchman helped change their tickets to the following day for no charge.

Feb. 11 Celebrations in Tahrir Square

Friday, February 11th

Hossam and Khalid finally arrived in Egypt on Friday, Feb. 11th. They passed airport security without any truffles. Nevertheless, Khalid and Hossam’s blood pressure increased two-fold in anticipation of what airport security might ask them. Khalid and Hossam headed straight to Tahrir Square. In order to get to the square itself, Khalid and Hossam had to go through the concentric circles surrounding the square. Khalid reached the first checkpoint, palms and face drenched in sweat, heart pounding and a piercing headache. Khalid presented his birth certificate and gave the young man checking it the 30 second speech he had practiced explaining who he was, how he wasn’t a spy and that he was here to help. However, the only piece of semi-Egyptian ID he had was his Canadian birth certificate stamped at the Egyptian embassy. The young man laughed, kissed and hugged Khalid, letting him go through. Khalid got to the next checkpoint. Khalid received another kiss and another hug and went through.

Khalid prayed the Friday congregational prayers at Tahrir Square with the largest group of people he’d ever prayed with. Khalid then retreated to one of his friends tents and took what was supposed to be an hour nap. Khalid woke up 2 hours later to yells, screams, tears, thudding feet and high pitched female yelps. Stumbling out of the tent Khalid was bombarded with hugs and kisses from people he didn’t even know. Khalid saw the smiles, the tears of joy, the cheers and chants and heard the national anthem erupting in every corner. Mubarak had stepped down.

Stay tuned for more about what Khalid and Hossam went on to do with the supplies and money they took to Egypt.

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