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Life during chaos: Egyptians talk about coping

By Michael Pearson, CNN
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Tue August 20, 2013
  • Egyptians describe life during the country's violent protests
  • "I worry about how much longer I'll have to stay at home," says a 20-year-old student
  • Protests prevent many Egyptians from going to work

(CNN) -- There's more to do in Cairo than just protest. Just look at lifestyle website CairoScene.

On Tuesday, for instance, there's Johnny's Karaoke Night, Culturewheel's Mime Festival and the Arab Music Festival Ceremony at the Cairo Opera House.

You can get one pizza free if you buy another at Boosters, and it's ladies night at Yasso Lounge.

The young Egyptians who put out CairoScene work at a building in an upscale Cairo neighborhood. It's next to Nahda Square, where the Muslim Brotherhood staged a sit-in, and the protests sometimes prevented them from getting to work.

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Today, the Brotherhood protesters are gone and there's no missing the military presence outside the building. At one intersection, troops stand guard from an armored personnel carrier as pedestrians stroll by.

Inside CairoScene's offices, young Egyptians huddle around sparkling white tables and lounge on white couches, peering into computers. They talk about their latest stories and the unrest raging across Egypt.

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"We asked for this," site co-founder Timy Mowafi said. "The Egyptian people asked for the army to intervene."

Among many in the newsroom, the military crackdown against supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsy is necessary, if unfortunate.

"It's devastating to think of the numbers who have died on either side, but there were armed people on the streets," Mowafi said. "This would not be acceptable in any other country."

But not everyone agrees wholeheartedly.

"Personally, I'm not with the military, but I'm also definitely not with the Brotherhood," said Eihab Boraie, a senior writer for the site.

Unrest has prompted Mayar Adly, 20, to spend most days in her Cairo apartment with family members and their cats.
Unrest has prompted Mayar Adly, 20, to spend most days in her Cairo apartment with family members and their cats.

"We will have to take up Tahrir again," he said, referring to the landmark Cairo square that served as the backdrop for the 2011 protests that led to the ouster of longtime Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak.

"And when we take up Tahrir," he said, "it will be against the Brotherhood and against the military, and it will be for peaceful transition to immediate election."

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'In God's hands'

With hundreds dead, funerals are frequent.

One recent day, relatives held the funeral for Ammar Badie, the slain son of the now-arrested leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.

He was shot twice in the head last week as security forces clashed with protesters.

On this hot, sunny Cairo day, mourners carried his plain wooden coffin into a crypt. Men wept, shook hands, said goodbye.

"It's a disgrace people were saying he was a terrorist," said Ammar Badie's cousin, Omar Rabiya. "He was not -- he was a person of peace, a smart guy -- and he just wanted his country to be free."

Ammar's brother Bilal told mourners not to cry.

"This is in God's hands," he said.

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'The church is my home'

Outside Cairo last week, 67-year-old Shenouda el Sayeh swept up ashes amid the burned ruins of the Virgin Mary Church.

The church was one of at least 30 attacked last week amid backlash over the military crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. The Rev. Boktor Saad, the church's pastor, said Islamists were behind the attack.

"They started organizing marches and demonstrations, chanting outside the church, chanting down with the church," he said.

To el Sayeh, the church, now charred and gutted, was home.

"I'm sad," he said. "My religion tells me to come clean. I clean the church. The church is my home."

Mayar Adly\'s brother Seif, left, hangs out with cousins Nour, Omar and Hanna Hassan at the Adlys\' Cairo apartment.
Mayar Adly's brother Seif, left, hangs out with cousins Nour, Omar and Hanna Hassan at the Adlys' Cairo apartment.

'I feel frustrated'

Life amid the chaos isn't terrifying for 20-year-old student Mayar Adly. It's boring.

"I don't go out as much as I used to go before," she said. "I'm so bored. My life sucks."

And there are moments of panic.

A couple of days ago, the family heard gunshots outside during a protest.

"I thought it was fireworks, but they told me it was gunshots" Adly said. "My mom told me to stay away from the window. It was kind of freaky. I was scared."

Barred from protesting by her father, she spends most of her time in a three-room high-rise apartment with her two younger brothers, her parents and five cats. A local market delivers their groceries, and she gets to go out only rarely -- to a cleaning job at a nearby bank.

She spends time on Facebook, reading and watching television -- but not the news.

"I'm fed up with news," she said. "I used to be interested in the news, but I'm not as interested as I used to be."

I feel frustrated," she said. "I worry about how much longer I'll have to stay at home."

U.S. temporarily holds up some military aid to Egypt

CNN's Ian Lee and Arwa Damon contributed to this report.

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