“Sinai” is a tongue-in-cheek thriller set in post-Mubarak Egypt. Intrigue, bombs, and breathtaking vistas ensure a riveting read for all. The story, needless to say, is entirely fictional. In real life, as opposed to Sinai’s 2007 etch-a-sketch prediction, the military doesn’t seem to be waiting until after elections to stage a coup..
The police and military hovering close by in APCs can’t reach the swelling scene until it reaches them. The crowd moves between the motionless vehicles like waves on a pebble beach. Hundreds now. Thousands. More.
Warning shots are fired, but the multitudes swarm, and the poor and destitute join the vexed and jaded; the night bulks with opportunity and danger. Warning shots are fired and some rookie cop forfeits his sidearm to quicker wit.
A patrol car catches on fire. Regular cars follow suit like it’s the new black; others are overturned, beyond help like dung beetles, burning tires in vain seeking purchase on the throbbing air.
New arrivals can only guess as to what caused the disturbance. Bread prices surely. Perhaps the recent hike in metro fares, or the cancellation of petrol subsidies? Who cares? Youth improvise slogans against the junta and hastily smeared banners dance above the undulating faces. The fire spreads. The hated ‘Mugamma’ is sacked and a blizzard of paper trails down on the square. Smoke billows up from improvised bonfires; descending paper and smoke meet halfway along the facade.
Hot town, summer in the city. Shots ring out through the night. The Nile Hilton burns. The Semiramis is saved by a hair’s breadth. Can you believe the weather?
Gamal was proud to be part of the televised address. He didn’t have to say anything. Just being there next to the general was enough for him. They had prepared diligently for this day, a day that belonged to all the people. The general performed admirably, statesmanlike.
Gamal brought to mind the days when he first met Abdul Hakim. They were marching all the way from Port Said to Cairo after the disaster of ’67, in rags, mentally and physically. Abdul had always been the leader, decisive and somehow untarnished, unbroken by defeat. Unlike so many others. “It’s only just begun,” he’d said. “It’s only just begun. Y’Allah!”
They joked about how they would run things, fix things.
Gamal had forgotten all about such youthful boasting until the general called him up six months ago.
“You remember those things we used to talk about?” he asked. Before Gamal had had a chance to answer he said: “I can’t talk about it on the phone, let’s meet up. 26th of July Bridge. In 45 minutes? Ok?”
Only as he slammed the battered taxi door had Gamal begun to suspect what this was about. As if the gunshot clonk of steel on crumpled steel brought back, by Pavlovian reflex, memories of the war and its tumultuous aftermath.
Today Abdul Hakim spoke more or less as he had that day. So much conviction and vigor. Here was a leader. A man with an iron will. A hero. Gamal was proud to be there.
“We wish to stress that this is a strictly internal affair. There can be no pressure or interference from outside on the people of this proud nation. Our forces are ready and capable of resisting any attempt to change the path that our sovereign will has decided upon.”
The plan was genius, as they say, because of its simplicity. Tried and tested formula. No need to reinvent the wheel, here.
“As to the situation on the peninsula, things are once again firmly under our control. The terrorists, who are responsible for the massacre, whoever they may be, and wherever they may hide, will be found and brought to justice. The Sharm El-Sheikh airport has closed again for now, but will reopen as soon as we are able to guarantee everyone’s safety. From that point on we will facilitate the evacuation of foreign nationals to the best of our capabilities. But before that, we wish to ask everyone in the area to stay where they are and await further instructions. We ask the people to be patient.”
Today they had really done it, Gamal thought. Rulers of Egypt. There was a Pharaonic pride there, an intoxication he found hard to resist.
Sinai is available here.