TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Kai Ryssdal: It’s the 11th of February, one for the history books, it’s fair to say.
We made some phone calls this morning.
Tamer El-Ghobashy: Suddenly it was broadcast on TV and there was just a massive roar from the crowd in Tahrir.
Amira Ahmed: I am completely ecstatic. I never thought I would live to see this day. There is so much celebration in the streets, everyone has gone out of their homes and everyone is hugging and kissing on the streets.
Mahmoud Kassem: There’s cheers and cars honking their horns and gunfire being shot in celebration.
That was, from Cairo, Tamer El-Ghobashy of the Wall Street Journal, Amira Ahmed from Daily News Egypt, who we spoke to yesterday, and Mahmoud Kassem from Bloomberg News, not long after the announcement this morning that Hosni Mubarak would step down.
We reached Amira Ahmed first.
Ryssdal: What’s happening out there? Give me some sense of the people you’ve talked to.
Ahmed: I’ve spoken to a couple of people in the business world, so far everyone is very optimistic. There’s a huge sense of optimism around the country. Like people have been saying for the past two weeks, even though the economy was hit hard during the past two weeks, but there’s a sense that this newly empowered youth that now probably feel a lot more empowered. And personally speaking, I do too.
Ryssdal: I don’t know if this is a question for a later time, but is there anybody talking about what happens now, about the uncertainty and about when things get back to normal?
Ahmed: This is the question on everybody’s mind right now, even though everybody’s very busy celebrating and trying to let it sink in, so as not to waste the moment of celebration. But yes, there’s a lot of questions and a lot of uncertainties surrounding what’s going to happen next. We’re still trying to figure that out ourselves. So there isn’t really a sense of when things are going to get completely back to normal, but hopefully it will be a smooth process and hopefully it’ll be something very positive.
We asked Bloomberg’s Mahmoud Kassem when we got him on the phone about the second half of today’s news — that after Mubarak, the Egyptian army will be running the country and the economy.
Ryssdal: What will happen, do you think, with the military in charge? Will there be continued labor strikes? Will things happen that might get the economy back on track faster?
Kassem: That’s a very good question, because, you know, while the resignation solved the political question, it doesn’t solve the country’s myriad economic problems, such as massive bureaucracy, such as high terror death threats, so I think the army’s going to have to move quickly to find ways to solve these economic problems.
Ryssdal: Is it your sense that they’re equipped to do that, or are they mostly doing what armies do?
Kassem: Well, exactly. The army’s not usually known for their economic or financial prowess, so they’re going to have to get in really good people to manage this economy, I think.
Ryssdal: Do you have any sense of how long people can tolerate this state of economic unrest, with the banks and the markets and everything being closed and not functioning?
Kassem: Well actually, things have started to gradually open; banks have reopened, the stock market should be reopening on Sunday, I think. Life, to all its intents and purposes, has returned to normal within the past week, with the exception of Tahrir Square.
Ryssdal: Is there any sense of not fear, exactly, but unease of worry?
Kassem: Well I think at the moment, most people are too excited and jubilant to be concerned about what happens next. But I think when the cheer and jubilation dies down, I think people will start to become a bit apprehensive about what happens next.
That idea of next — of what happens tomorrow and the day after that and in six months or a year — is an easy one to be thinking of from 12,000 miles away. But Tamer El-Ghobashy of the Wall Street Journal told us if you’re in Cairo today right now, it’s just not time yet.
El-Ghobashy: Right now, I think everyone’s just caught up in the euphoria of this moment. It’s very difficult to get anyone to stop, you know, singing and dancing to really consider tomorrow. I think this is very much in the moment right now.