US-born and Tel Aviv resident Samuel Vengrinovich records his experience entering Egypt for the one-week anniversary of the revolution in Tahrir Square.
Everyone has their own definition of what an opportunity is for them. For me, it was the chance to get to Cairo and experience the one-week anniversary of the Egyptian revolution in Tahrir Square.
While most foreigners were fleeing the country and trying to get out, I was waiting for the opportune time to get into the country and document what was happening.
Living in Tel Aviv, I was only a few hundred kilometers away by land to Cairo. From Tel Aviv, I took an overnight bus to the border and paid the Egyptian border officers my way into Egypt. The next task at hand was arranging a ride with the local Bedouin to drive me to Cairo. On my way to Cairo, I passed nearly 10 military checkpoints.
At the last checkpoint before entering Cairo, I was caught filming the area by an ecstatic and excited young Egyptian soldier, hoping to brag to his friends about catching me. He couldn’t stop smiling at me while I was waiting to be interrogated. The Egyptian military detained me for about an hour and examined all my photos.
They were insistent and determined to find footage
of the military checkpoints that I had filmed. They told me that they had heard I was photographing them. That was the first of many arrests and interrogations on my trip to Egypt.
In Alexandria, I was arrested at a checkpoint, held in a minivan for hours, photographed, and continuously moved from place to place throughout the night until 5 a.m. in the morning.
They asked me what I was doing here in Egypt? They were convinced I spoke Arabic fluently. I’m pretty sure they thought I was an Israeli Mossad agent. I don’t really blame them though. Egyptian state television supposedly had been broadcasting reports of foreign agents or Israeli spies covering as reporters and instigating the revolution.
The Egyptian intelligence officers were intently trying to figure me out. At the end of my interrogation, one of them quietly asked me, “No one cared about Egypt before. Now the whole world cares. Why?”
I frequently get asked why did I want to go to Tahrir Square? And I always think to myself who wouldn't. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to witness a nation breathe democracy and freedom for the first time in their lives.