All around the country people are on the streets making their voices heard. Navigating through these heady times can be challenging, whether you are partaking in protests or not, so here are some tips on how to stay safe.
Getting around during the day
In the early hours of the day the streets are empty because a lot of companies have given their employees the day off and many businesses are closed. You may be tempted to jump in your car to get where you need to go in record time, but before you set off we recommend you pick up a friend or co-worker or two. Carpooling is always a good idea, but especially so during these times. By the time you are ready to go home the situation in the streets may have changed and there is always safety in numbers. And who knows, maybe the habit will stick. Using traffic apps like Bey2ollak is a good idea, since people report streets where traffic is blocked as well as dangerous areas.
Parking is another concern. If you work or live near an area where there are protests, it is a good idea to park your car a bit further away from the protests, since sometimes when there is chaos, cars get smashed. However, do not jeopardise your own safety, a car can always be replaced.
Getting around at night
Check sources you trust to find out what the situation is in the area you are going before you leave. Tempers might fray over the next few days and there is no point of a family visit if it will land you in a battlefield. Choose your route carefully; there is a possibility that unsavoury characters will take advantage of demonstrations to commit petty – or not so petty – crimes, so stay on roads where there will be other cars. Again, it is always better to travel with someone than alone, it makes you a more difficult target. Again, there is safety in numbers.
While there have been many reports of people stocking up, most supermarkets still carry everything that you need and most still deliver. It makes sense to get your shopping done early in the day when things are expected to be quieter, especially if you live around areas that are seeing a lot of protests. Chances are that food deliveries after dark will be harder to arrange, restaurants will not send their delivery guys into a large demonstration to get you your hamburger, so maybe it is a good time to do some home cooking.
It is summer in Egypt and it is hot, so wherever you go, protesting or not, it is important to carry water with you. Sodas, coffee and tea will not replenish the fluids you have lost through perspiration as well as water does. If you are outdoors in the direct sun wear a hat and equally important, cover the back of your neck. If it gets really hot splash some water on your scarf, shirt or whatever you use, it will help cool you down. And if you can find some shade, get out of the sun occasionally.
We have often experienced power and water cuts over the past months and it is possible this will get worse during these days. Make sure to have a supply of candles on hand and fill empty bottles with tap water to use in case of an outage. Remember to charge your phone and laptops so if the power cuts you are able to connect to the rest of the world.
With passionate believers on every side, rumours will abound. Keep an eye out for updates from legitimate news outlets, reporters and people you trust but don’t fall in the trap of repeating unconfirmed stories on social media; the wrong information can put others in peril.
During protests hostility is sometimes directed towards foreigners. It is a good idea to stay away from protests completely if you are a foreigner. If your work involves covering protests, try to wear clothes that enable you to blend in the crowds. Always have your ID and work credentials ready to show whomever asks. If you will use your camera, be discreet about it and if people ask you not to take their photo then graciously concede. It is often then a good idea to leave that area. It is always better to go to a protest with some Egyptian friends so that they can explain to people that you do not mean any harm.
If you are not protesting, but are going to deliver supplies to other protesters, it is a good idea to meet up at the fringes of the demonstration or sit-in. Make sure this person is affiliated with the movement or organisation you are dropping things off for; in the past people have claimed they would get the supplies where they were needed but in reality, they disappeared never to be heard of again.
Only pack things that are not perishable and lots of liquids. In this heat, people will get more thirsty than hungry. Dates, dried figs and other dried fruits are preferred since they supply people with energy and do not spoil easily.
DIY pepper spray
Given the current lack of security, which could encourage criminal behaviour, it is a good idea to carry something on you to fend off attackers. Do not panic if you did not buy pepper spray, you can easily make it at home. The recipe is adapted from thesurvivalistblog.net.
- A spray bottle
- 6 dried peppers/chilli peppers (whatever you can find, the hotter they are, the better. If you can’t find dried peppers, you can use 2 tbs of cayenne pepper but it will be less potent).
- 1 tbs black pepper
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1.5 cups/ 12 ounces/ 340 milligrams of vinegar/ rubbing alcohol
- 2 tbs baby oil
- glass container with a cover
- rubber gloves
- safety goggles
To make pepper spray:
- First, put on the gloves and the safety goggles to protect your eyes from any vapours from the peppers or rubbing alcohol.
- Place the chilli peppers or cayenne pepper and black pepper in the blender.
- Chop the garlic and add to blender.
- Add the baby oil to the blender.
- Add the vinegar/alcohol to the blender.
- Place the lid on the blender, place a rag over it and blend well until everything is combined.
- Pour the mixture in the glass container, cover tightly and put in a cool place to sit overnight.
- After it sits overnight, strain the mixture into the spray bottle using the funnel.
- Store in the refrigerator or cool place. The mixture should last for up to three months.
Finally, here are some emergency phone numbers to help you, supplied by the Front to Defend Egyptian Protesters:
In case of attacks on media: 01025100408
In case of sexual harassment: 01011910917–01016051145–01157892357