Google Exec Free in Egypt; Protest Numbers Fall Some as Media Fatigue Starts to Set In
Wael Ghonim, the Google marketing executive in charge of the Middle Eastern and North African regions, who jumped into the Egyptian protests only to be snatched up by government authorities, is now safe and free, tweeting Monday around 8 p.m. Cairo time, "Freedom is a bless that deserves fighting for it." Previously, Ghonim wrote, "Pray for #Egypt. Very worried as it seems that government is planning a war crime tomorrow against people. We are all ready to die #Jan25." He was then not heard from for more than a week.
Now, he's just happy to be out:
Habib Haddad, a Boston-based businessman and a good friend of Mr. Ghonim, said he spoke to Mrs. Ghonim after his release on Monday. "Not sure I ever heard someone that happy and emotional," Mr. Haddad posted on his Twitter account.
Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that "Cairo appeared to be resuming normal life on Monday: A.T.M.'s dispensed much-needed cash, shops and banks were staffed...and the city's drivers were snarled in a vast traffic jam."
The Times report comes amid announcements that President Hosni Mubarak announced "a 15 percent salary hike for government employees," in an effort to get the country back on track by encouraging the "six million workers on the government payroll" to return to their jobs.
But the article, which leads with the idea that Cairo is getting back to normal, soon counters itself. Is this just the mainstream media preparing for the inevitable loss of interest for citizens Stateside after two weeks of exhaustive coverage?
Still, signs that the revolt had not ended were rife. Plans to reopen the stock exchange were postponed until Sunday. The army kept columns of armored personnel carriers patrolling the streets, and burnt-out vehicles remained in various squares. The group of young professionals who used Facebook to organize protests called for a general strike Tuesday.
The crowds were "smaller," but "enough to form a human chain blocking the entrance to the Mugamma, a huge edifice on Cairo's central square..." Meanwhile, Google searches for Egypt from the Unites States were already on their way down after peaking last Saturday, according to the available metrics:
And yet, Sunday's numbers in Cairo's central Tahrir Square still topped 100,000. More are expected later in the week.