Local Reporter Covers Cairo's Neighborhoods

Host Liane Hansen talks with Egyptian journalist Mohamed El-Meshad. He's been covering the protests in Cairo for the opposition newspaper Al-Masry Al-Yom and has been visiting neighborhoods in Cairo to see the effect of the protests.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

For a perspective on what daily life has been like in the city of Cairo Egyptian journalist Mohamed El-Meshad is on the phone from Cairo. He writes for the Egyptian opposition newspaper Al-Masry Al-Yom. Welcome to the program.

Mr. MOHAMED EL-MESHAD (Journalist, Al-Masry Al-Yom): Hi, Liane. Thanks.

HANSEN: What kind of stories have you been covering over these days of protests?

Mr. EL-MESHAD: All kinds of stories. Most recently, I'm writing right now a story about the opposition - or lack thereof - to the revolution, and the slums of Cairo, where I toured yesterday. I wrote about the mass arrests that went on a couple of days ago, which included journalists, included foreigners, included activists. I did a lot of daily reporting and updates from Tahrir Square as well, which is where I spent I lot of the last couple of weeks. And I profiled a couple of political parties that are appearing on the scene on and off, although they haven't been trying to ride the wave or claim any sort of leadership in the revolution.

HANSEN: What have the people in the street told you as these protests have gone on?

Mr. EL-MESHAD: It varies. Some people haven't been to Tahrir at all. When I went to one of the poorer areas - some would call it slums - in old Cairo - I mean, it's called the (foreign language spoken), it's one of the poorest parts in the city - people who live on a day-to-day basis, live on day-to-day salaries and wages, have been saying how they've been suffering because economic conditions have been at a standstill in Cairo.

But at the same time, they've been reaping some of the benefits, which includes no more police repression. So, most people I will say agree that we need a change in the system and are happy with some of the changes that happened. But as it drags on and as people still are in Tahrir and the country's still at a standstill and curfews continue, a lot of people are a little speculative and they think that maybe the group of protestors in Tahrir should ease up a little bit.

HANSEN: The banks in Cairo open today. They were closed for most of last week. What have you seen?

Mr. EL-MESHAD: Lines in front of ATMs, people hoping that their salaries are paid. Not everyone was paid but some people were. Some of the banks weren't open, like, weren't fully functional, especially in the area near Tahrir, but the ATMs are all open and there are lines in front. I stopped by some of the ATMs to ask people whether it's been working, whether they've had their salaries. A lot of pensioners are there waiting on their pension. Not everyone has been paid but everyone at least has that little blanket of security knowing that their ATM cards work again and some sort of an access to cash.

HANSEN: Are stores open?

Mr. EL-MESHAD: In the square where a lot of commerce goes on, none of the stores are open, obviously, 'cause there's still a lot of protestors. But for the most part, stores are opening. Yesterday, when I talked to a few people who deal in, like, scrap metal, one person who ran a pharmaceutical plant who was telling me that for the past week there has been nothing going on. But yesterday people have started going back to work. Maybe not as much trading has been going on, but people have gone back to work to sort of get the wheels in motion again.

HANSEN: Mohamed El-Meshad writes for the Egyptian opposition newspaper Al-Masry Al-Yom in Cairo. Thank you so much.

Mr. EL-MESHAD: Thanks, Liane.

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