Looking back on her five months studying in Alexandria,Egypt,Mae McIver says she couldn’t have foreseen the events of the past week.
McIver,23,of Salisbury,Md.,said she thought a lot about what she saw every day. The poverty,religious tension,government oppression and police corruption made her wonder,”What’s keeping this country from revolting?”
“That was always my question. I didn’t see it coming,though,” McIver said. “I didn’t really think it would happen,but it’s hard to expect a revolution.”
McIver,a senior studying government and economics at the University of Maryland,College Park,returned home Thursday because of a planned break in classes at the University of Alexandria where she was studying Arabic.
Seven other University of Maryland students were studying in Cairo,Dave Ottalini,university senior media relations specialist,said. One of the students remains at the American University in Cairo and is safe. The others have left Egypt and hope to return to the U.S. soon.
Just before McIver left,residents of many major Egyptian cities,including Alexandria and Cairo,took to the streets to protest against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s government. Mubarak said Tuesday he will not run for re-election.
Protests in Alexandria started off peacefully Jan. 25,McIver said. One group marched down a street in front of her apartment building,followed closely by police.
McIver said she and her roommate watched the protest from a distance before deciding it seemed safe enough to join. When the march reached the end of her street,she said,things began to unravel.
“There were so many people – I really couldn’t say how many were there,” McIver said. “But some people started to run,so we decided to run too,back to our apartment.”
Just then,another group of police came from behind the protest to surround the marchers. McIver said she didn’t witness any violence,but she was fearful of being surrounded so she and her roommate took refuge in a nearby alley before returning unharmed to their apartment.
McIver said that shortly after the protest she had a text conversation with one of her Egyptian professors who said she and fellow protesters had been beaten by police but were OK. The professor told McIver they planned to continue protests later that evening.
McIver,whose father is Egyptian and who still has family in Egypt,said she was aware she was witnessing history.
“It was a very amazing and unique feeling. I was very proud of the Egyptians for standing up and demanding their rights,” McIver said.
Following the first day of unrest,McIver said,the city returned to relatively normal activity. As news began to come in of continuous unrest in Cairo,however,she decided to take her chances to get to her flight,which was scheduled to leave Cairo Jan. 27.
The day after she left,Egypt’s trains,highways,airports and communications were shut down.
McIver said that she has been in contact with relatives in Cairo since returning home. Despite the unrest,she said her family is mostly optimistic and happy to see change.
McIver said it’s unlikely she will be able to return to finish her study abroad program. But she hopes she will be able to return to Egypt and see her family in the near,rather than distant,future.
“It was so sad before this. People didn’t have hope for change,” McIver said. “Hopefully,that will change,and people will become more able to have their voice heard in their government and have more rights.”