I have finally arrived in Egypt for our second pre-production trip. There was a point in November when, in the midst of renewed protests and violence in Cairo, I wondered whether this trip would ever happen.
On the night of November 23rd, 24 hours before I was originally supposed to make this trip, we heard via Twitter that our writer for Egypt, Mona Eltahawy, had been arrested during the demonstrations in Tahrir square.
Through the many tweets that followed, Mona revealed the details of her ordeal, one more horrifying than the next.
But Mona, I now know, is unstoppable. After her release she went public to condemn the actions of the military police. I was awed by her fearlessness in speaking out so soon after her attack, but more than a little relieved when I received an email saying, “I’m ok, but I think I may have to come home early. I won’t be very useful to you with 2 casts on my arms.” I wanted her home in NYC safe and, I have to admit, I was not too eager to fly into that chaos. But then another e-mail from Mona followed, “I really don’t want to leave, Tahrir is where I want to be.”
It’s hard for me as an outsider to understand this desire to be there; to put yourself in the middle of a square packed with energized—sometimes angry—always unpredictable hordes of people. But since the very beginning, women, both intellectually and physically have been at the center of what Mona calls “the revolution of the Egyptian mind.”
And as we found out one week later, one of the leading candidates for our film felt the need to be _there _too.
“Aya is missing,” Noran, our fixer in Cairo called to tell me. “They think she went to Tahrir last week to be part of the demonstrations and now they don’t know where she is.”
We were seriously considering 13-year-old Aya, a street kid in Cairo, to be our heroine for Egypt. But in the midst of the ever-evolving revolution, she’s gone missing.
Tomorrow on the blog: Where’s Aya?