January 25th Revolution, One Year Later

On this day, one year ago, Egyptians took to the streets to protest the regime of then-President Hosni Mubarak. Following the example of Tunisia, protesters gathered to demand “bread and freedom,” and later escalated their demands to “the People want to bring down the Regime. ” The independent paper Al Masry Al Youm reported that it could be “the start of something big.

And so it was.

Two and a half weeks later, Mubarak stepped down. People rejoiced–they had brought down  the Regime.

A year later, though, it’s clear that the Regime is still here–like a hydra, its head was removed only to sprout a dozen more in the form of the generals of SCAF. Mohamed El Baradei, Nobel Peace Prize winner and presidential hopeful, publicly withdrew his candidacy because “the old regime has not fallen yet.”

It’s been an interesting year. A year of hope and disappointment, of protests and violent military crackdowns reported as “clashes.” Of increasing confusion as to what the revolution has accomplished, and whether or not is has continued  or concluded or simply fallen into stagnation. A year whose official timeline is incomplete and filled with blood.

Today, people are gathering all over the city to remember this last year of revolution, to commemorate all those who died, all those who were detained, blinded, tortured, and sexually assaulted. All roads today now lead to Tahrir, and some reports from Twitter say that the square is already so filled with people that the marchers coming in from all over the city might not even make it into the  square itself.

Today’s marches and demonstrations, inshallah, will be peaceful. Indeed, I’m fairly sure that they will be, for as long as the daylight lasts.  But the worst military crackdowns have always happened after dark, and so I’m waiting to see what happens after sunset, and what happens over the course of the next three days.


For real-time updates, I’ll be following the Egypt Live Blog on Al-Jazeera. I recommend that you do the same.




Happy New Year from Cairo!

This post originally appeared on the Planeterra Community Blog.

A lot has happened  here since my last update. Following my visits to Alexandria and the Sinai Peninsula, I went to Upper Egypt, home of the cities of Aswan and Luxor. From Aswan, I joined a group to visit the incredible temple of Abu Simbel, one of the most impressive sites in all of Egypt.  The temple itself is awe-inspiring in its size and grandiosity, but even more impressive is the fact that it was moved completely when the Aswan High Dam was built—each individual block was painstakingly transported and reconstructed so that the temple would be preserved. Pretty awesome!

Posing with Walid from G Adventures in front of Abu Simbel Temple

I also had the chance to take a daylong felucca ride down the Nile on the way from Aswan to Luxor.  Temples are impressive, but I found the felucca ride even better. In a sailboat, you can watch the palm trees and temples roll by, with scenes of daily life unchanged for hundreds of years.

A Felucca on the Nile

Following Luxor, I went out into the remote Western Desert to visit the 5 oases of Kharga, Dakhla, Farafra, Bahariya , and Siwa. I even got the chance to go camping among the mysterious rock formations in the incredible White Desert.

Standing with a Rock Formation in the White Desert

In each of these amazing places, I found a host of potential projects for Planeterra to support. Village associations with their own schools and health centers, women’s cooperatives for sewing and handicrafts, irrigation canals and sanitation projects…every place I went had a different priority, a different effort to improve local livelihoods. The sheer number of projects to look at was daunting, but also an incredible sign of local efforts to improve their own lives and situations. International media might focus on Egypt’s difficulties, but in my work and travels here I’ve been impressed by Egypt’s strength. Every village is full of possibilities, and Egypt’s people are full of hope for the future.

With Local Children in Aswan

It’s important to point out here that during all of my time and travels in Egypt, I’ve never once felt unsafe.  Despite all the unrest in Tahrir, Egypt remains a very safe place for foreigners to visit. I’ve been welcomed with goodwill and hospitality in every town and village, and the other travelers I’ve met here all agree with my conclusion: Egypt is an amazing place to be.



Sunset over the Nile