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Bloc Party

So there is all this Cairo chitter-chatter about the Black Bloc. The very name strikes fear into the hearts of men who quiver at the very sight of masked bandits roaming around lawless streets of Cairo. But who are they?

Who are these wild Tasmanian devils who place a high value on anonymity? Are they jobless teens, organised political beings determined to work outside the bounds of acceptable behavior, or perhaps just angry workers from KFC Tahrir? Colonel Sanders would be so disappointed.

I have not a clue about the questions above but I have an interesting anecdote to share about the Black Bloc.

Last Friday, I found myself waiting on the metro platform in Sadat. The typical smells of stale air, body odor, and lingering tear gas enveloped me in a strangely familiar embrace – akin to the hug you get from a distant great aunt. You don’t want to experience that every day, but it is nice to have very once in awhile. Anyway, there I am, minding my own business (and that of everyone else around me in my attempt to become the ultimate Sherlock Holmes) and I hear a drum. My first thought is that the Culture Wheel has sponsored a metro concert to celebrate Egypt’s most cost and time efficient method of public transportation. Wrong. It was the dreaded Black Bloc (GULP!). Or was it?

Fast forward one day. Cairo’s illustrious newspapers ran stories about the Black Bloc protesting in the metro and preventing metro trains from running through Sadat. I know better, I can tell you what really happened.

Rewind back to real time. So here comes this crowd of teenagers led by a massive drum beating that resembled a war cry. It would have been something straight out of a Lord of the Rings battle scene had the protesters not been wearing skinny jeans and Skittle-coloured polos. So these kids (none of them were masked, by the way) jump down into the subway tracks and start having an Egyptian-style dance party with hips shaking, hands clapping et al. Sure, everyone’s vision of a great time, minus the impending doom imposed by oncoming trains pioneered by conductors who are busy eating koshari most of the time, instead of keeping their eyes on the track.

Not so scary after all...

A train is coming, you are all going to die! Wait, one of the kids is actually lying down on the tracks with a big grin on his face! Thankfully, the conductor is not eating koshari at this particular moment and stops in time. People are yelling at the kids to get the hell out of the way, the conductor is swinging out of the train door to see what is going on and I am just standing there taking it all in. Then the group starts marching towards the train shouting, “Down with the metro!” LOL, just kidding. They just kept on dancing and I snapped a quick, grainy picture before I see the metro moving again. I thank the Heavenly Father (who just lost his Pope) and board the train with other weary commuters. The train shoves off and leaves the kids free to ramp up the dance party again.

That was my experience with the infamous Black Bloc (or at least those that others refer to as the Black Bloc). They looked like bored teenagers who wanted to do something stupid. Blocking the metro clearly served no purpose. Sometimes kids just need a place to go and be kids.