My crew was comprised of Nasser and Mahmoud. Nasser is a dark-skinned Sudanese whose soft-spoken nature belies years of covering upheaval in hot spots like Cairo, Mogadishu, Belgrade, and Beirut. Mahmoud is hulking, musclebound, and light-skinned with an infectious sense of humor giving way to menacing body language: “Mess with me, you’ll regret it.”
The square was pandemonium. Shouting, honking horns, screaming, pushing, shoving and everyone seemed to be headed to the square center. It was madness. I suggested to Nasser we not venture deep into the square. I knew what happens when the camera light switches on at night — hundreds swarm and surround you within seconds, and a terrifying “anything can happen” sensation becomes palpable.
But on came the camera light, and we were engulfed. Poking. Prodding. Sticks in my back. Angry, demanding tones: “Al Jazeera? Egyptian television?”…
Luckily, our interviews generally ended with an all-around good feeling. The masses and myself wishing each other well in Arabic, and everyone going along his or her way. But I was well aware of the precarious nature of the energy that had, hours ago, been expressed as fury. And I was aware that that energy was still present as mostly young men pressed right up against me, breathing down my neck, grabbing my arm, fingers prodding my back.