A friend has forwarded a letter received from a friend of hers in Cairo. I want to share a part of that letter because it explains something that had been puzzling—the relative ineffectiveness of the government’s shutting down of the internet and of Al Jazeera.
Today, the fourth day of what must now be called an Egyptian revolution, 100,000 people showed up in Tahrir Square, the political center of the people’s protest against President Hosni Mubarak and his government and for democracy and government respect of the people. Not a bare spot was to be found.
The size of the gathering was unaffected by the government’s shutdown of the internet and cell phone services. Nor the fact that it shut down Al Jazeera in Arabic, the county’s main source of news.
That fact is, that in spite of the tremendously rapid growth in internet and cell phone use in Egypt, the major pathways for news are mosques – whose messages sound throughout the city each day and which provide public gathering places for the people, and word of mouth.
Neighborhoods are extremely tight-knit; people help each other – lending money, bartering for services, adjudicating quarrels, offering aid and spreading news. Since very few move house, the ties are long, complex and meaningful. Neighborhoods tie the country together. Word travels efficiently.