Safe, sound but weeping for Egypt

Former Maple Ridge resident flees with family to London

Looped footage of fiery chaos in a city she loves brings Angela Armsby to tears.

Cairo, the capital of Egypt, is under siege as pro-government and anti-government mobs clash in Tahrir Square.

Now safe at her in-laws home in London, Armsby, who grew up in Maple Ridge, feels helpless.

“I feel like we’ve left our hearts in Egypt. Everything happened so fast.”

Egypt’s pro-democracy revolution to end President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year-rule descended into violence overnight.

When the protests first began 11 days ago, Armsby was glad “Egyptians were standing up from themselves.”

“We were fine until Saturday,” she says. “It was very peaceful.”

Even with the Internet and cellphone lines shut down, Armsby, her husband and two young sons – aged one and three – were prepared to stay in Egypt.

Maadi, the suburb where they lived, a 30-minute drive from the capital and with its large expatriate community, had been shielded from protests.

But by Saturday night, after police vanished from streets across the city, the community was under siege.

“There was a couple of hours where there was absolutely no law enforcement,” says Armsby, whose U.K.-based company Angelily manufactures nightwear made from Egyptian cotton.

Then guards at a prison in Maadi abandoned the facility. Their departure was followed by looting throughout the suburb.

To protect Maadi, Armsby’s Egyptian neighbours and security guards set up check points at every intersection in the suburb.

They cut down bits of trees and parked cars across the street.

“They did whatever they could to block the intersection,” Armsby says.

The men armed themselves with golf clubs, sticks, knives and whatever weapons they could pull from their homes to protect their community.

The neighbours told her: “You don’t need to worry. We are protecting you.”

“It was happening all over Cairo. Why did they have to care about us? We are foreigners,” Armsby says.

By Saturday night, the U.K. consulate advised the family to barricade itself in a windowless room.

“We feared for a lives that night,” recalls Armsby.

The family attempted to leave Egypt on Sunday, but without paper tickets was prevented from going inside the airport.

Armsby and her family finally flew to the U.K. on Monday as the massive protests turned violent.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay reports that as many as 300 people have been killed since the protests began.

Foreign journalists have been attacked by mobs and many detained by the army.

“I didn’t want to leave. It is my life. I have been there for six years. It was tragic,” says Armsby, who will stay in London until Cairo calms down, keeping a close eye on situation in a country she’s grown to love.

“We are displaced people now. Our homes are there and everything we own is there. Our lives are there. We are just waiting to see what’s going to happen.”