As Cairo effectively shut down last Friday, heeding security warnings and calls to protest, Sina Stieding ventured out...
Remember how you locked yourself up in your apartment on Friday because there was a protest warning? I don't. The reason for that is not my amnesia but the simple fact that I did not stay in. Despite me being a blonde European girl that catches a fair bit of attention on an ordinary day I found myself in Heliopolis on Friday morning, urgently needing to go to Zamalek. Having stayed over at a friend's house, and breakfast calling in Zamalek, my boyfriend and I conspired about how to get there the best. When we saw that Al Ahram station was open, we decided to take the Metro.
My boyfriend, an Egyptian with a beard he more than likely only keeps around because I like beards and not his passionate affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood, doesn't usually strike security personnel. However, as we were trying to enter the station our bags were checked. After realising we were not carrying any bombs, one of the security guards demanded to see my boyfriend's phone, browsing through his messages, Facebook, Instagram and even his iTunes for fifteen minutes. What exactly the guy was trying to find on iTunes remains a mystery. My fluent-in-English boyfriend doesn't operate in Arabic on this phone so he kept his cool which is not an entirely reasonable reaction to a stranger invading your privacy. As he was being observed, the security guard stepped aside, leaving us with a couple of other security guys that confirmed it was indeed my boyfriend's beard that made them search his bag. Unfortunately for me, they told him to shave to avoid these checks from happening.
When the security guard returned with the phone we had to undergo an impromptu passport check. My passport copy was not enough for these guys, so we were rejected from the train. I was let go in order to fetch my passport at Attaba station where I said I lived. However, I was expected to return as soon as possible. As we were leaving with no intention to come back, one of the other security guys whispered "Don't come back!"
Since we got pretty close at Al Ahram we decided to just try the next station. At Kolleyet Al Banat, we were admitted to the platform after a bag check. Apparently, nobody else had tried as we walked onto a deserted platform. Only a police officer eating a breadstick shared the empty space with us, clearly having the most boring shift of his life. We got onto the second compartment and, again, were shocked by being the only ones on the entire train. FYI, the seats in there are actually blue, not sure everyone's ever been able to see them before.
Now opportunities like these don't come along very often. Outside of this country a make-out session on a Metro train would probably not make people's bucket list. However, I sensed a once in a lifetime opportunity to tick this unlikely box to be ticked so we had to. Three stations later someone else joined the train, not the compartment, so we were fine...
Changing at Attaba, we underwent another security check. As a result, 100% of all passengers were checked since it was only us. The security guards at Attaba station also had a couple of questions, including asking if my boyfriend smokes. I'm touched they are looking out for him to exceed the age of 34 but it does not really make a lot of sense. We were spared another security check leaving Opera station which only makes sense in the light of the fact that Tahrir Street and Opera Square were wiped out. After an hour we had reached our destination after three security checks, a reassessment of our Heliopolis exit strategy, an invasion of privacy and a casual kiss on a Metro carriage.