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Slideshow: Little Egypt Reacts To Mubarak

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

A few hours after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak released a recorded statement saying he would not seek re-election this Fall, WNYC's Kristen Clark visited "Little Egypt" in Astoria, Queens to get reaction to Mubarak's statements, and the pro-democracy protests taking place around the Arab world.

Kristen Clark

The Egyptian Cafe on Steinway St. in Astoria. The sign in the window reads, "Egyptians demand Freedom."

Kristen Clark

Ali El Sayed owns the legendary Kabab Café on Steinway, one of the very first Egyptian businesses to open in Astoria. On Tuesday night, he’d stopped into the Egyptian Coffee Shop across the street to sit with friends and watch Al Jazeera. Ali arrived in the U.S. before Mubarak came to power. “People have a very short memory – they think we’ve been in a dictatorship for only thirty years, but we are in a dictatorship for sixty years – since Nasser, Saddat, and Mubarak as well. One of the most important reasons I left," he told me. “I hope that this administration just doesn't give any suggestions about the coming administration in Egypt…We cannot be the police for all the world…We have to let the Egyptian people decide what they want.”

Kristen Clark

Just outside the Egyptian Cafe, Mohamed Soliman flagged me down. Mohamed works with Civilizations Bridge, a non-profit organization dedicated to carrying out the goals of the New Library at Alexandria. He expressed solidarity with the protesters: “Mubarak must go, and I’m supporting my family and all of the citizens of Egypt” – but wanted to make sure I heard from non-Egyptian members of the neighborhood as well. “We’re not just from Egypt here – we have people from Morocco, Tunisia, everywhere. This concerns us all, we all have something to say.”

Kristen Clark

I met Mahmuod, Iman, and Mohamed at Firdos, another Middle Eastern cafe on Steinway.  I asked them if they thought Egypt could wait for elections in September, or if Mubarak needed to leave immediately.  Mahmoud: “They’re not gonna stop till he’s out.”

Mohamed continued, “Mubarak: Go out. Stop acting.  The game is over.”

Ali Essa has been in the U.S. for about two years. He works at Alfrha, a Mediteranean and Halal grocery story and keystone of neighborhood life here. He was one of a very few that was relieved to hear that Mubarak was planning a slower transition out of power: “The best thing he do is to stay to finish his period, then he leave. He cannot leave right now.” Ali Farha, the owner of Alfrha, agreed: “We have to give him a chance to finish everything slowly, to let everything move rightways (the right way).” Behind them in a few of the pictures is their good friend Bob, a convert to Islam and self-proclaimed (and often disputed) “mayor” of the block. While the group in Alfrha seems more cautious about the transition, the attitude here is still joyful and exuberant. Essa has worried about his family over the last few days, but says they are all safe now. 

Kristen Clark

My last stop was Duzan, a falafel and sandwich shop. There I met Emad Hamouda, who returned to what seems to be the most popular of tonight’s sentiments: “Mubarak should leave right away.  We can start thinking about the future after he leaves”.

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