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Astonishing Change in Egypt

Praying Amid Protests - photo: Women Worldwide Initiative
For anyone fascinated by the Middle East, as I am - or in the vital role of social media such as Facebook and Twitter in events such as Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution - the events of the past four days in Egypt are truly remarkable.

As I write this at Friday lunchtime, Los Angeles time, I am watching and listening to Al Jazeera English's incredible Live Streaming coverage online - without doubt the best source of news out of Egypt right now - and it is impossible to keep up with events on the ground in Cairo and throughout the country.

The Egyptian capital is "ablaze" - the ruling National Democratic Party's headquarters are on fire, with no attempt to extinguish the flames - and there are astonishing images of ordinary people climbing onto tanks and military vehicles, apparently welcomed by the soldiers.

At least part of the Egyptian army and police appears to have shifted allegiance to the protesters and either the army or the protesters - or both - are now thought to be in charge. Protesters have been cheering the army and welcoming their presence.

"Top Egyptian businessmen and powerful figures have just got onto a private jet and left the country," according to Al Jazeera's live coverage, and there are reports that army tanks are outside the US and British embassies, to protect them.

Even Al Jazeera isn't sure of the location of Egyptian president (or about-to-be-former-president) Hosni Mubarak and when or if he is going to make a statement. Various commentators on Al Jazeera's Live Streaming believe that Mubarak has already lost power and that by tomorrow (Saturday) there will be a new regime in Egypt, possibly with temporary rule by the army.

There is also speculation that this is "the Arab world's 1989" - when Eastern Europe threw off Soviet rule - and there are protests on the streets of other countries such as Yemen and Jordan...and even reports of protests in Dubai.

I have found Twitter to be the most immediate and intimate source of news (despite the Egyptian government's attempt to close down the internet across the country), aside from the Al Jazeera stream (which is curious to watch because so many of their presenters are former British TV anchors and/or reporters) - and by following hashtags on Twitter such as #Egypt and #jan25.

I have come across incredibly moving personal on-the-ground reports, such as the abduction by Egyptian security forces of a woman named Salma Said, the wife of Louis B Lewarne, a film producer currently based in Cairo - and her remarkable escape.

Lewarne (whose Twitter name is @dancefromiraq) tweeted: "After the worst 30 mins of my life, got news from @salmasaid she escaped #mybeautifulwife"

I tweeted Lewarne how glad I was that his wife was safe and he replied immediately, thanking me. His tweet was so simple and the hashtag #mybeautifulwife so instantly involving, that it brought a sense of immediacy of the situation in Egypt that even the best reporting could not.

Too much is happening to write more or to keep up, but for comprehensive reporting, aside from Al Jazeera, I would recommend The Huffington Post, Wired's Wiki Guide to the Arab Protests and the website of the British newspaper, The Guardian.


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