In Alexandria, Mubarak Supporters Hold The City
LIANE HANSEN, host:
After nearly two weeks of street protests, residents of Egypt's second largest city, Alexandria, are trying to return to their everyday lives.
NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson visited Alexandria and found that many people in the Mediterranean city are tired of the chaos. And even some who support the protests feel it's time to get their economy back to normal.
(Soundbite of traffic and vendors)
SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: Business is good for vendors selling oranges, bananas and cauliflower at a makeshift market they've set up at this Alexandria intersection. Fresh produce is a welcome sight to many Alexandrians who struggled in the past week with bread shortages, and a tripling of prices on staples like meat and milk.
(Soundbite of gas pump)
NELSON: A few gas stations have reopened, although their offerings are limited. This station is out of everything but premium gas. Even some banks are opening their doors again. And volunteers are out on the streets, bagging garbage that's been accumulating for 10 days now.
(Soundbite of machinery)
NELSON: Locksmith Michael Roushdy William grinds a key for a customer who comes in. This is the second day he's reopened his shop and business is picking up. But William is deeply unhappy about what is happening in Egypt. He says the never-ending television footage of protestors packing Tahrir Square in Cairo is enough to make his blood boil.
Mr. MICHAEL ROUSHDY WILLIAM (Locksmith): Do you think what is inside Tahrir represents the 85 million? I don't think so.
NELSON: Yet every Egyptian is suffering the consequences. A report issued by Credit Agricole Bank estimates the political crisis is costing Egypt $310 million every day.
William's friend Raymond Fraig, who runs a construction firm, is one of the few Alexandrians who kept his business open.
Mr. RAYMOND FRAIG (Construction): The people working with me, I told them if anyone didn't came to work, he considers to be - pppft- hired and fired. You want to work, okay. You want to protest, go to the protestors and go to hell.
NELSON: But William closed his shop for a week because of the protests and subsequent vandalism and looting in Alexandria.
Mr. WILLIAM: My friend made a group over the Net, telling that we shall go work and leave what's inside Tahrir to leave inside Tahrir, and life will go on.
NELSON: How life will go on for Alexandrians in the coming weeks is another matter. Tourism isn't likely to rebound anytime soon in this city, which heavily depends on it. A growing xenophobia in Alexandria, spurred by Egyptian officials who blame international media for the political crisis, make it unsafe for foreigners to be out on the streets. In addition, the police here have yet to return to their posts, leaving it up to residents armed with sticks, bars, knives, and sometimes guns to protect their homes and businesses.
Reached by phone after curfew, Dr. Magid Etman was one of those who patrolled with his neighbors.
Dr. MAGID ETMAN: That's why most people don't go to work. They spend the night in the streets trying to, like, protect themselves and protect their families. This never happened before. You know, you used to sleep at night, you know, nothing would ever happen.
NELSON: Karim El-Sawaf, who patrols with neighbors in another part of the city, agrees. The unemployed electrical engineer, like others interviewed for this story, wants the protestors to go home.
Mr. KARIM EL-SAWAF (Electrical Engineer): It's useless, I'm sorry. They are not get anything now. People are not listening to them now. When was the last time Mubarak speak? He did not say anything more. And he will not say anything more.
(Soundbite of chanting protestors)
NELSON: But the banned Muslim Brotherhood, which is strong in Alexandria and continues to organize large protests here, like this one on Friday, appears unwilling to give up.
Mr. SOBHI SALEH (Former Secretary General, Muslim Brotherhood's Parliamentary Group): (Foreign language spoken)
NELSON: Sobhi Saleh, a former independent lawmaker aligned to the Brotherhood, says the group's supporters will march or go on strike for as long as it takes until Mubarak steps down and free and fair elections are guaranteed.
Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News.
HANSEN: You're listening to NPR News.
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