Egyptian tells story of escape from Algeria

Mohamed Mustafa did not expect that his business trip to meet a mobile operator in Algeria last Saturday would end in his being held up in a fearsome siege and forced to escape disguised in police clothing, for the only reason that he is Egyptian. 

Mustafa, an engineer, recounts the details of his visit to Algeria, where he experienced events that made him believe he had strayed from an Arab country into the territory of an enemy hostile to all that is Egyptian. 

"I arrived in Algeria on Saturday morning and checked into one of Algiers’ famous hotels. Then I went to meet the owner of a mobile phone operator to conclude a business deal. I was however surprised to be informed that the meeting would be delayed," Mustafa told Al-Masry Al-Youm. 

"I then went to have lunch at a restaurant in Bab Azwar area. The waiter knew that I was an Egyptian national. Another Egyptian joined me. Minutes later, we were surprised to see dozens of Algerian youth pouring into the vicinity, and we did not know the reason. I said to my acquaintance that we should leave, because the situation was so disturbing," Mustafa recounted. 

"Once we reached the restaurant door, the Algerians began throwing stones at us. […] The restaurant owner asked us to go up to the second floor to take shelter and sit under tables so as not to get hurt, especially since the restaurant front was made of glass," Mustafa added. He said the situation went on like this for two hours. 

Luckily, dozens of Algerian police, who had been watching over nearby hotels, arrived on the scene. They were unable, however, to disperse the large crowds, which had begun to increase as reports spread that Egyptians were present waving national flags and cheering the Egyptian national team. One of the policemen approached the frightened pair of Egyptians, telling them that he was the security chief of el-Dar el-Baidaa area. He handed them Algerian police uniforms in black plastic bags. 

The police chief asked Mustafa and his companion to put on the police clothing. He gave them a wireless device and told them that there was a car waiting outside in the next street. "We left the restaurant and got into a car that took us to the police headquarters. We were then driven back to the hotel after the officer advised us to board a flight bound for Damascus, because Algerians are familiar with the Egypt Air flight schedule and lie in wait for their passengers." The two Egyptians took a flight to Damascus at dawn on Tuesday, and then continued to Cairo. 

Mustafa said that what troubled him most was not the Algerians’ actions, but the lack of any role played by the Egyptian embassy during the saga. "I contacted the [Egyptian] embassy, told them what happened and asked them to help me travel to Cairo. They however told me that they would call me back, without even taking my phone number or my residence address. This is in stark contrast to the actions of the Algerian police officer, who continued to stay in touch with me over the phone until he was assured I had left Algeria." 

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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