Sarah Garfinkel, Journalist Update on Egypt

February 4, 2011

At the beginning of February, I was asked to write a follow-up story to the blog I kept during a recent study abroad trip I took to Egypt through Bradley University. The reason is obvious. The recent upheaval of Egyptian society is all over the news and internet.

I had my story all planned out, but the violence started and everything changed.

I spent nearly three weeks in Egypt this January with a study abroad trip through Bradley. The trip was enlightening and a lot of fun. We experienced the culture and visited the requisite tourist attractions. While there were definitely a few moments of uncertainty, I never felt unsafe walking the streets of Cairo.

That being said, there was certainly a noticeable feeling of unease brewing under the surface.

Cairo is an overpopulated and over-polluted city. With a population of 17 million and a struggling economy, it's no wonder the people are fed up. There are few good paying jobs for the masses and we were told that the average salary is equivalent to about 200 USD a month.

Every attraction had countless men, women and ragged looking children waiting to push tourists to buy souvenirs. We passed homeless children lying in the street on our route to class and brought them our leftover food.

A tourist who does not speak Arabic cannot always judge the mood of the locals, but by the end of our trip I had a feeling of unease. It was clear that things were not going so well for the Egyptian people and the uprising in Tunisia seems to be the spark that ignited the flame.

I have been glued to the cable news channels the last couple of days as the conflict has taken a turn for the worse.

With the arrival of the pro-government groups, the once peaceful and almost celebratory protests have become violent and bloody. Not even journalists on the ground are safe. Anderson Cooper of CNN and his crew were targeted and attacked as they attempted to walk through the crowds. Other journalists and aid workers have been detained and attacked.

As time goes on and the violence escalates, it is inevitable there will be more deaths and injuries. The entire region is in turmoil and it's unclear what will be left when the smoke finally clears.