We have been watching the surreal scenes of chaos in Egypt: One would think they had been staged on a movie set. Protestors hurl stones at each other. Horses and camels charge in, seemingly from nowhere, and military personnel and their giant tanks sit on the sidelines.
Unfortunately, these are not scenes from an Arab cinema set, but indeed, real events in Tahrir Square, Cairo. I have passed into downtown Cairo on that freeway overpass at least 50 times in the past decade; never would I have thought it would be the site of bedlam, with shots fired and Egyptians attacking one another - and based entirely on a “for-or-against-Mubarak” mentality.
As many Egyptians have said over the phone, while trying to protect their offices and their homes, this is the tipping point. The country of 80 million plus people will mark February 1, 2011 as the beginning of a new chapter, when one man’s time was up and all others needed a voice at the table.
Like a good athlete, picking the correct time to exit is no easy task. It requires calibration of not only the mood on the ground, but also the feeling well beyond Egypt’s borders. In hindsight (which is always 20-20) that period was pre-global crisis, in the second quarter of 2008. Egypt’s stock market was up nearly 350% in the first three years of reform; economic growth was peaking at over 7% and foreign direct investment was flowing in.
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