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Cairo Families Try To Stay Out Of Harm's Way


Army tanks and soldiers moved into Cairo's Central Square today, to keep apart the anti and pro Mubarak demonstrators who fought bloody battles last night. The unrest has caused foreign companies, along with the U.N. and the U.S., to get their people out of Egypt. And it's caused some Egyptians to hole up in their own homes. We reached one of them, Medhat Saad, who makes his living as a tour operator.

Thank you for joining us.

Mr. MEDHAT SAAD (Egyptologist): Thank you, ma'am.

MONTAGNE: Tell us, please, about your neighborhood and what you and your family are doing in the midst of this upheaval.

Mr. SAAD: We are just guarding the whole neighborhood. I mean, it's so dangerous, prisons are all open. We have no idea how. We cannot accuse anybody for the moment, but almost according to the statement of the minister of interior affairs, 17,000 prisoners are on the loose. I mean, who opened it? A governor or somebody else. I cannot personally confirm that, but they are on the loose and they are threatening the whole country. I mean, but mainly Cairo. I mean, we are in great danger.

MONTAGNE: I understand that you did participate in early protests. Were you at that point excited about the idea of being able to voice opposition to President Mubarak?

Mr. SAAD: Yeah. I'm against him, of course. I mean, we - peacefully everybody was asking him to leave. It was a very peaceful demonstration on January 25. Everybody - I mean, the whole country actually is asking him to leave, to reform the constitution, to dissolve all the parliament and the city councils. But we've been attacked by the police, you know. And about maybe 200 were killed.

MONTAGNE: But at what point did you start feeling that you needed to stay home and protect your family?

Mr. SAAD: After the attack. I mean, we've been in the Tahrir Square and we got the news that the prisons are opened and that lots of criminals are attacking people all over. So, we left the site and we came back to protect our houses and our families.

MONTAGNE: Are you in a way, you know, holed up there with your wife, your children - your two children, in your house?

Mr. SAAD: Yeah, they are - it's me and my son just watching outside. And my wife and my daughter is just staying at home. But people are watching. And some people are getting out to get some supplies, you know. But still watching - all the day, all the night - even now.

MONTAGNE: So what do you feel, now, about the coming days, the near future for you and your family?

Mr. SAAD: I don't know. I started thinking seriously to leave the country actually. It's a hopeless case. I mean, what's coming - if this man stays in power it will be a disaster for Egypt. This man should leave. I mean, if they...

MONTAGNE: And do you think if Mubarak leaves quickly, that would be a good thing?

Mr. SAAD: Of course. Everything will get back to normal. It's just him to leave. I mean, no hatred, no hard feelings against him, but the idea that nobody likes him, nobody wants him except his party, his ruling party. And they are causing all the trouble, you know. I mean, it's total chaos. I mean, to save the country, for the sake of the country, if he really likes this country, he should go. And it will be easy and everything will get back to normal.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.

Mr. SAAD: You're most welcome.

MONTAGNE: Medhat Saad is an Egyptologist and also a tour operator in Cairo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.