The curfew is a good indicator of the delicate situation that Egypt is going through at the moment. The most remarkable thing about it is the extent to which the population is respecting it, particularly when compared to the one that the Mubarak regime failed to impose during the uprising in Egypt in early 2011. And it is extraordinary for a city that was characterized by its nocturnal activity, whether it was families strolling by the side of the Nile, young men playing football, or people simply chatting away at a street side café until the small hours.
Though certain regions of the country devoted to tourism are less affected—such as the northwestern coast on the Mediterranean and the southern coast of the Sinai Peninsula—and it is impossible to impose it in the more popular neighborhoods of the capital, much of this vast country comes to a standstill everyday like clockwork. In central Cairo, where most official buildings are situated, movement stops completely everyday from eleven in the evening until six in the morning. This is in fact a significant relief from what was in place prior to August 31, when the curfew started at seven in the evening.
Hani, a taxi driver in his early thirties who for years preferred to work at night, has had his habitual timetable turned upside-down, but despite his frustration, he nevertheless appears to be happy to comply. This is because the curfew is a sort of informal referendum on the support for the measures imposed by the Egyptian Army, as well as a sense of incapacity to resist them by those that oppose it. In Hani’s mind, for example, there is no doubt that the Muslim Brotherhood has shown its true colors—in particular, its chauvinism—during the one year that its leader Mohammed Morsi held power, and he is more than happy to see him go.
For Hani, as well as many other Egyptians, the car bomb attack against the Minister of the Interior’s caravan in Cairo earlier this month is further validation that the army is fighting terrorism, violence which, according to him, the Muslim Brotherhood is evidently behind. This is indeed one of the main narratives that General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi—who led the ousting of Morsi from power in early July and now holds the reins of power in the country—is propagating as a justification for the military intervention in the governance of Egypt and the steps taken thereafter.
Key to this narrative is the military operations taking place in the north of the Sinai Peninsula and next to the border with the Gaza Strip. In Sinai, where the army is said to be conducting major operations, movement is forbidden between towns after six in the afternoon, and within towns after eleven in the evening, just like in Cairo. Apache helicopter attacks in this area were front-page news in the official Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram, and its headline on September 8 read, “The biggest military operation to purify Sinai from the sources of terrorism.” Solid information is hard to come by, but the consensus appears to be that, this time, the Egyptian Army is planning to get rid of the tunnels between Gaza and Egypt once and for all.