Nadia El-Awady

London to Paris Cycle 2013

Part I: The Training

When my husband first told me that he was thinking of getting a few guys from the office together to cycle from London to Paris, my

Andrew, Colin, and Nadia after three days of cycling from London to Paris. We made it!

Andrew, Colin, and Nadia after three days of cycling from London to Paris. We made it!

first thought was, “Who does crazy stuff like that?” The words that came out of my mouth were, “Can I join?”

I hardly had any experience cycling but that was not going to hold me back. I bought a cheap mountain bike in Egypt just before I climbed Kilimanjaro in 2009. I cycled a few times in Cairo as part of my training for the climb. That training consisted of leisurely cycling on flat road for no longer than half an hour at a time. I did not think it was leisurely then, of course. I now know what real training means. (more…)

Advertisements

One Year Later: What Post-Revolution Egypt Has Been Like for a Normal Egyptian

On January 25, 2011 around noon, Arwa Salah, Adel Abdel-Ghaffar and I met at a sandwich place in Shubra, a Coptic Christian majority neighborhood in central Cairo. The three of us were very skeptical that the day would amount to much, but being the people that we were, we were willing to give it a chance. We’d all given many chances before. We’d been to protests that amounted to not much more than a few yelling “troublemakers”.  We’d voiced our anger about the state Egypt was in due to a very long dictatorship in a number of forums that were available to each of us. It had always felt like our actions were not much more than a drop into the sea. But we weren’t going to give up. We were going to give it another chance.

What happened over the following days was momentous and quite unexpected by most Egyptians. I don’t think we realized the potential we had as individuals and as a people to create change. Once this realization started dawning on us, we would not allow ourselves to be convinced that we could not take our country out of darkness and into the light.

We would not settle for less than Mubarak stepping down from power. We fully realized that the removal of Mubarak and his regime would create a huge power gap. We fully realized that there was only one power in Egypt besides the National Democratic Party that had any experience and popular support to step into that gap; and that was the Muslim Brotherhood. We were completely aware that once Mubarak and his regime were removed we would be in for trying times. I remember discussions about this going on and on between revolutionaries between January 25 and February 11. I remember saying those words over and over to the various journalists who contacted me for interviews at the time and who repeatedly asked, “But what happens after you remove Mubarak?” (more…)

A Daughter’s Pain in Losing Her Father

I had a dream last night. I was missing my Baba so much that I somehow managed to get into his grave to lie down next to him. Graves in Egypt are small underground rooms. The grave door was open and sunlight was shining through. It felt nice to lie down next to him. I felt safe. As I was lying there, my Baba started to stir. He slowly opened his eyes. He was awake! I was so overjoyed. I remember feeling in the dream that the nightmare of his death was finally over. He was back as he should be. I quickly called my brothers and sister to come. Baba was awake!

(more…)

A Woman’s Independence: Fearing What I Ultimately Strive For

I live many contradictions. One in particular has been haunting me lately.

For as long as I can remember I have asserted my independence and been proud of it. I make my own personal decisions and take permission from no one. I have my own money. I own my own things.

I recently realized that I have only done this, however, under the guardianship of a male. The first 24 years of my life my guardian was my father. The following 17 years of my life my guardian was my husband.

Why do I call them guardians?

When I think of my father and of my now ex-husband I think: protection, stability, guidance, companionship, someone to trust in, someone to resort to or to fall back on…

Throughout my 41 years of male guardianship I never would have called my father or my ex-husband my guardians; especially not my ex-husband for the principle of it. He was though. They both were. I realize this now.

For the past year, since my divorce, I have been without guardianship.

(more…)

On the Prowl for the Perfect Job

I’m at a crossroads in my career. At the end of June, I’ll have completed the organization of the World Conference of Science Journalists 2011. I have been working on this conference for two years.

It’s time for me to look for a job.

Thing is, I don’t want just any job. I want the PERFECT job.

(more…)

The Egyptian Revolution, from Nadia’s Eyes

Posted by butalidnl on 11 February 2011

Mubarak has stepped down! Egypt is Free! The Egyptian people have succeeded in bringing down Mubarak, and have conquered their fear. They now need to build a new Egypt.

During this revolution, I’ve been following a Tweeter in Egypt named Nadia El-Awady. Nadia is an Egyptian science journalist. Her tweets have given me an insight into that revolution which is much deeper (and even funnier) than what the news media can give.

To read the full post in Carlo’s Think Pieces: Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands http://butalidnl.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/the-egyptian-revolution-from-nadias-eyes/

I was deeply touched by this post. Thank you, whoever you are.

Inside Egypt’s Tahrir Square: “I helped topple a dictator!”

Below is a partially edited (by Yahoo!News) version of the original article I wrote that appeared on Yahoo! News. Originally, this blog post linked to the online article. I was recently unable to find the article online, so I now post it, in full, below:
By Yahoo! News – Sat Feb 12, 10:31 am ET

By Nadia El-Awady

“I’m an Egyptian revolutionary! And I helped topple a dictator!”

That was the message I tweeted to the world soon after hearing that Egyptian President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak had finally stepped down.

The rush of emotions I have felt since hearing those words has been almost crippling at times.

The Egyptian people had lived under a single dictatorial ruler for 30 years. It took less than three weeks for this regime to crumble.

For 18 days, more than 300 had died at the hands of the police and thugs reportedly leashed by the regime itself. Thousands were injured. Hundreds camped out inTahrir Square, a majority with not much more than a single blanket to protect themselves from the elements. And yet millions of others marched day after day, voicing their demands that Mubarak and his regime leave.

During those 18 days, I marched, ran from tear gas and live ammunition, filming all the while, and then I marched some more. I visited Tahrir Square almost every day and went round and round and round, taking pictures at times, filming at others, and protesting myself at other times.

For the most part, when they were not being attacked, the mood among protestors was almost like a party; Tahrir Square felt like a carnival atmosphere. On every corner, people sang, danced, recited poetry, discussed politics and, of course, marched round and round and round and round calling for an end to the regime.

Many displayed the sense of humor for which Egyptians are known all over the Arab world. One man held up a sign that said: “Leave now. I really need a shower.” Others acted out comedic plays and sketches. A protester dressed up like a soccer referee and walked around the square blowing through his whistle and waving a red card that said “leave”.

Another group of protesters who had come to Cairo from Sharqiya, a region 50 miles north of the capital, took off their shoes and used them to spell the word “leave”.  Showing the sole of your shoe has long been considered an insult in Arab culture.

On the night of Thursday, February 10, Mubarak made his third speech to the Egyptian public.  All day, rumors had filled the square that he would resign that night. People all over the capital left their homes and headed towards Tahrir in anticipation of reason to celebrate. When he said instead that he would not step down until he had presided over a transition of power himself, almost every single man, woman and child who was at Tahrir Square raised their shoes in indignation. Mubarak was not listening.

Many woke up Friday expecting the day to turn into a blood bath. Mubarak and Omar Suleiman, the long-time head of the Egyptian intelligence services who Mubarak appointed shortly after demonstrations began as his vice president, implied that they would not tolerate a continuation of disruption in the country. Since the police had not yet appeared back on the streets, this left only the army to impose an end to the protests.

But the people had absolutely no intention of backing down.

Like so many others, I left my home Friday morning not knowing whether I’d live to return. I was equipped with nothing but my camera and a bandanna to protect myself from tear gas.

If any force was used against the protesters, they had nothing to protect themselves with. We had already seen so many die at the hands of police and thugs. Nevertheless, protesters left their homes armed only with their determination and the will to make a better country for themselves.

I arrived at around noon in front of the Presidential Palace, where hundreds of protesters had gathered.  For the most part, the day was uneventful. People socialized, stopping to chant every now and then. Numbers began to swell in the mid-afternoon when thousands more poured in from Tahrir Square, 20 kilometers away.  Some waved flags and chanted, but mostly people waited in anticipation.  Several times protesters chanted, “The people and the army are together as one”, as if urging the military to stay on the side of the people.

At 5:41 pm, the call for prayers rang out in the square in front of the presidential palace. Hundreds gathered to pray while others stood around, watching and waiting. We had heard news earlier that the president’s office was going to make a statement. After Mubarak’s speech from the night before, protesters weren’t expecting much.

I called my family at home and asked that they call me and place the phone near the TV as soon as the statement started so that I could hear along with them. Sunset prayers ended and only minutes afterwards my phone rang. It was 6:03 pm. Just as my phone rang a roar exploded in the crowd. I could not hear my sister on the other end. No one near me knew exactly why the crowd was roaring.

It took a minute or two of struggling until my sister’s words finally broke through: “The President has resigned.”

I can’t even remember shutting the phone. My best friend Arwa, who was among the throngs, ran up to me in tears saying, “He’s gone, Nadia. He’s gone!” We hugged and cried, then hugged complete strangers and cried with them. We roared and sang and chanted along with the thousands in front of the Presidential Palace, “The people…indeed…have toppled the regime.”

The throngs almost immediately left the square in front of the palace and started marching towards Tahrir Square. Chants of “Here are the Egyptians…here, here, here,” and “Egyptians, raise your heads and be proud,” rang everywhere on the streets of Heliopolis, where the presidential palace lies.

Fireworks erupted from apartment building balconies, cars took to the streets and people honked their hearts out. Flags were everywhere. People hugged army officers as they passed;  it was the most jubilant scene I have ever witnessed or taken part of in my life. And over and over, one chant was repeated:  “Martyrs, you can now rest in peace”.

As jubilant protesters marched, we all reiterated to each other that we have honored the blood of those who had died. We had done this for them and for the future generations of Egypt.

Tahrir Square was a bees-hive of activity. By the time I arrived, the exhaustion of three weeks of protests had begun to set in. I made a quick round of the overcrowded square. I only stopped once. I saw an elderly couple I had photographed three nights earlier in the square. That night they were holding hands waving the Egyptian flag in support of protesters. On Friday night, they were walking through Tahrir, holding hands, waving the flag, a huge smile on their face.

I went to them. “I saw you the other night. I was so proud of you. I wanted to come to you now and say congratulations,” I told them. We all hugged and cried and congratulated each other. We took pictures together. The smiles on their faces were priceless.

I walked home from Tahrir Square with my friend Arwa waving what was probably the 13th flag she had bought in as many days. We greeted cars on the way and sang with people riding in them.

The second I arrived home, my legs gave way. For 18 days, I marched and marched and they carried me through. But they now needed a rest.

I slipped into a deep sleep and got up around 6 o’clock on Saturday morning to pray the dawn prayers. As I tried to go back to sleep afterwards, I shed tears for the Egyptians who had died for their country.

I felt proud to have stood with them shoulder to shoulder. I felt proud to have stood my ground when things got rough in the following days of the revolution. I felt I had honored their deaths. I felt proud that my children finally had a chance to live a life of freedom. My greatest sense of pride came from how my fellow Egyptians handled themselves through those toughest of times, honorably, in style, with a great sense of humor. Egyptians had shown the world that we were a peaceful nation, even at times of revolution.

Today, and everyday henceforward, I am proud to be an Egyptian.

 

Memories of an Egyptian Revolutionary

It’s been very hard for me to even consider writing lately. When I write, I share my soul. And my soul is dark these days.

Egypt – and Egyptians with it – has witnessed since the start of 2011 some of its most difficult and its most triumphant days. Within a period of less than three months we have experienced the full range of human emotion in its utmost intensity: curiosity, wonder, hope, fear, desperation, anger, absolute loss of fear, grieving, resolve, steadfastness, and more hope, fear, desperation, anger, loss of fear and grieving. Festiveness, light-headedness. Looking death in the face and accepting it should it come to take us. Hope, indignation, anger. And boom! Triumph! Then exhaustion. The most intense exhaustion one can imagine. Mental and physical. And a return of grieving. Followed by hope. Then confusion. A continuous unrelenting state of confusion. But always, ALWAYS, there is hope.

In my head, images from the past two-and-a-half months go round and round and round. I keep them in this state of constant motion. This way they are only a blur. But every once in awhile, an image will jump away from the blurry mass and bam! A jolt of intense memory electrifies me. These runaway images are more likely to jolt me if I’m watching television and actual images of the revolution are shown. Early on, I learned to shut my eyes as tight as they can be shut when such images go by on the television screen or to change the channel altogether.

Memories of a revolution – a revolution hardly over and just beginning. Memories I need to document, to share, to lighten my soul. They are way too many to list. They are in too much of a jumble to put in any sort of chronological order. No matter how painful some of them are, they are all dearly cherished and have come to be a part of me and of who I am.

(more…)

A New Adventure and New Fear: To Mont Blanc I Go

June 27: Why, oh why, oh why?

It’s that time of the year again. I’m preparing for another adventure; this time to Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe.

“Why?” you ask. Since you are asking me only a few days before I set off, I really have no satisfying answer for you. I’ve been asking myself that same question. Why, Nadia? Why, oh why, oh why?

Mont Blanc is a mountain that involves ropes and ice axes, crevasses that people fall into and falling rocks that cause people to slip and fall.

Why, Nadia? Why, oh why, oh why?

(more…)