Local man faces chaos in Cairo first hand

Wake County man evacuates Egypt on the heels of a political uprising. (Photo by Hank Healey)

January 31, 2011 7:52:01 PM PST
A Wake County man is sharing his long journey back to Cary after evacuating Egypt Monday on the heels of a political uprising.Hank Healey is among thousands of foreigners who left just as millions of Egyptians are expected to take to the streets of Cairo in the latest protest to end the reign of President Hosni Mubarak.

Healey is an RTI employee who was in Egypt on business and had to return early because of the chaos that's ensued.

"The room I had, had to have been the perfect room for this event to take place," he said.

Healey was staying at the Marriott Hotel on Zamalek Island right on the Nile River. He took pictures from his hotel balcony on Friday of the protestors and police clashing on the three bridges connecting the island to Cairo. He says he could hear what he thought were gunshots.

"At that point I'm calling them gunshots, because I'm not familiar with tear gas canisters," he said. "Then all of a sudden I start seeing smoke, little white smoke doing this, white smoke doing that and puffs of white smoke."

Eventually, Healey says the protestors overpowered police.

"Then you saw that the protestors made it across, and then black smoke started to surface," he said.

The National Democratic Party building was up in flames with black smoke rising up to the sky. By Saturday, Healey says chaos began to surface.

"That was the gangsters and gangs and people taking advantage of the fact that there was a law and order vacuum," he said.

On Saturday night, Healey ventured into downtown Zamalek and was amazed by how quickly the community came together to protect against looting and ransacking.

"Everything was boarded up or papered up or taped up and everyone was outside with sticks and knives and machetes and swords and a motorcycle guy would run by and they'd say, 'Don't you stop here,'" he said.

Healey says he arrived at RDU exhausted, but thankful to be home.

"It's people fighting for political freedom so in that sense you care," he said.

Healey has been to Egypt more than 20 times since 2007 and says he hopes to return soon.

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