As I sit here in the heart of the Old City, Friday prayers here have finished – and the noise of live news broadcasts over the radios in the shops are blaring away to empty cold streets.
But that's hardly the case in Egypt where the world's attention is focus. It's being reported that demonstrations there are well underway. At the time of this posting some 20,000 protesters are on one side of the many bridges that span the Nile's delta that makes up the many faces of Ciaro. They are being blocked by riot police from crossing over and connecting to another large unnumbered mass of protesters where one person has reportedly died from gunfire. Police across Egypt are using teargas, rubber bullets, and water cannons to try and control the post prayer crowds.
There is a kind of uneasy motivation and anticipation in the air… something like the masses getting at the West, who is blamed for the living conditions, illiteracy, and lack of hope.
From my experience here – the West is not the problem – but the masses problems are palatably real, and they are surfacing in a big way today in Egypt – a country of over 80 million people – called upon today for demonstrations against their authoritarian government.
The Arab world, some commentators say, is ripe for revolt. This is the natural evolving in society – but the projected problem is that – particularly in Egypt, the demonstrations for democracy and civil liberties will be hi-jacked by the Islamic fundamentalists who will eventually impose a more restricted way of life.
This is one of the reason's Mohamed El Baradei has returned to Egypt and will be on the street. He doesn't need the limelight or the fight. He appears to want to help usher in a genuine democracy. And again, with the Muslim Brotherhood's declared endorsement of the anti-government demonstrations – his task will be even more difficult to secure.
Change is a natural in life and in government. But here in this region, change has always been slow – with growth and rights for the common man hard to maintain. But what I am hearing time and time again, is that change is needed, change is coming…
That's exactly what has become the mantra for Mr. El Baradei. Both before his departure and after his arrival in his native Egypt, interviews with the media, from whatever persuasion, have run with this sound bite of 'change'.
When we look further afield we can draw a line from Tunis, Egypt, and Yemen where these demonstrations are taking place and discover that longstanding pro-western authoritarian role over the decades is now, if the masses will have their way, headed for change. Even across the valley literally minuets from Jerusalem in Jordan thousands have taken to the streets and raising their voices in support for change.
Change in any of these countries will be hard for the US and the West. If the situation were examined finely it may come to surface that the leaders of the West paid to much attention to the leaders of these countries. This turned into comfort for them and their constituencies and further separated the government that was supposed to be shaping itself for the people. Now the people are on the street – getting at their leaders – and under it all, a deceive statement to the West.
In the end however, it is the leaders them selves that ultimately must chose to serve the public rather than self – and that's hard just about anywhere in the world.
Middle East Correspondent