This week, as part of our ongoing series to highlight photos from our new Out My Window/participate project, we go to Alexandria, Egypt.
These are the stunning photographs of Corinne Grassi, as she documented the events of Egypt’s revolution unfolding through her 7th floor window in the northern, coastal, ancient city of Alexandria. She wrote to us during curfew, earlier this week.
“When I look out of my window, I’m in the heart of Alexandria with – on one side – the magic sea covering the antic lighthouse not far, the famous Bibliotheca, and – an the other side – Champollion street passing all the way from the medicine faculty and Shalalat gardens to the sea. Just behind the building where I live, is the Ibrahim mosque.”
“For years, I’ve shared this window on a terrace, gathering often here with friends and colleagues. During Ramadan, every night brings more and more people praying in the streets. The 27th night (Leila al Kadr – the night of power) is a captivating moment where thousands of people pray, all following a magic and captivating voice.”
“The first time I witnessed it, I got vertigo looking from the 7th floor at those thousands of people – I was told there was about a million of people praying – in a real communion, doing exactly the same thing at the same moment.”
“During the recent Egyptian revolution my spot at the window was, of course, the place where I spend a lot of time, especially in the moments when it was not always easy or safe to be down in the streets. This window between the 28th of January and the 18th of February gave me a real feeling of being part of Alexandria’s life.”
On “Guerrilla Day”, Corinne went into the streets to look for a colleague. “We could just see the crowd of protesters going towards the riot police with stones and then they were running backwards when tear gas was coming. This gas was incredibly strong, stinging the face, the throat and the eyes. The police continued for hours. Because the colleague had told her family she would watch from my terrace I felt responsible to go down the street as well to check what was happening.”
“As the neighbour had Al Jazeera on, we learned what was happening in Egypt, but there were no images from Alexandria. So, I went on the terrace of the women. There, we saw that the riot police were loosing the battle as they were trapped between a group in Champollion street and a group at the mosque.”
“They were also running out of the tear gas and the demonstrators were progressing and starting to burn cars and trucks. Even if one can understand all the anger people have towards police it was shocking to see the police vans leaving in hurry without several of their guys. Some of the crowd protected the police that were left behind.”
“At some point I realised that on an opposite roof someone was looking at me taking pictures. For a minute I thought taking pictures as a witness may be dangerous. But I could not stop because all those hours I also realised that I had not seen a single journalist. It seemed the few that had stayed, were on the mosque side.”
“The next day I went in the close surroundings with a colleague to see what was happening. There was a feeling of liberation among people. All burned trucks and cars were like trophies where people where taking pictures, asking to be photograph proudly. People were shinning and happy.”
“As soon as I found an internet connection before people got internet back, I took the risk to download all my pictures as soon as possible to share with the outside world.”
“One day I understood that people had really been over their fears when the demonstrations were like floods of people along the Cornish, in all the streets around. It is only the “day of the Victory” that I felt I had to join people, full families with little children well dressed up with red-white-black flags on their faces and in their hands.”
“Since “victory day” the mood is quite nice. My colleagues less afraid to express their opinions, to enter discussions about democracy, civil society, politics and corruption. Immediately after “guerrilla day” people showed they were responsible and took in charge neighbourhood security with traffic, buildings, cleaning.”
“The first 2 weeks were sometimes euphoric with flowering initiatives and ideas from everywhere. Many young people started immediately deep cleaning in the streets and gardens, painting pavements. Many things in the streets are painted with the Egyptian colours. A week ago there was a very nice festival, “Start with yourself” (part of the new album on flickr) in a park with many activities like painting, photo, make up with the Egyptian flag, origami, different kind of bands. Actually the band of my neighbour has been one of the most pro-active playing immediately in different cafés in the city.
“Now the view from the window is like before with many cars on the Cornish. But still and probably this Friday too it is still a spot to look at the size of the demonstrations which continue on Fridays.”
Corinne Grassi has worked with international NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) all over the world, including Europe, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the West Bank, Siberia, Burkina Faso, Yemen, Libya, and Lebanon. She has worked with the Council of Europe, UNESCO, UN, and has been in Alexandria since 2009, working with EuroMed, to build dialogue between cultures.
“With the Egyptian revolution, I never felt in danger and did not feel to evacuate. So, it was clear to me that to stay would also be to witness [with my camera], because I could not contribute too much by joining demonstrations, by making posters and so on. Many Egyptians gave me positive feedback on the fact that I was there, that I had my way to show them, others and outside that things were maybe not exactly like on the TV news. I got similar feedback from abroad. Now I feel more in the local life of the city and I feel a responsibility to continue to keep images of what is happening since the 11th of February. My camera has been, in the last month, a way to approach people and start to exchange ideas and experience to improve things.”
Check out Corinne’s contribution to Out My Window/participate through our new showcase, along with 500+ other photos from highrise windows around the world.