When Mohsen Sabares stepped out of his home onto a crowded Cairo neighborhood on Monday morning on the way to work, he did not know the day would be extraordinary.
A mere factory worker, Sabares would soon enter into legend, and his story would no doubt be passed on to future generations, told and retold with exaggeration and flair. But the truth was fantastical enough: he left for work and returned home without being forcibly disappeared by the country’s ever-vigilant security services.
“It was a normal day like any other, the weather hot and the air dusty, the streets crowded, and arbitrary detention levels normal,” Sabares said in an interview. “I woke up, drank coffee, put on my clothes, said goodbye to my parents and my younger sister and a framed picture of my disappeared brother, and walked out.”
Sabares said he believed in his ability to survive on Cairo’s streets without being arrested, armed by luck and his mother’s prayers. A neighbor laughed when he told her that he planned on being home for dinner, and asked him to say hello to her son who was detained last week.
But he said that even he was surprised at his luck. On his way to work, he walked by the local grocer and a bean sandwich cart, strolling along main boulevards and side streets, and at one point passed a police car without drawing any attention. He even evaded an impromptu ID check on the bus.
“On the way home, my heart never stopped beating,” he said. “I ran into a security officer at the pharmacy, and I was sure my time had come, and my entire life flashed before my eyes, but he bought viagra and left.”
“When I returned home my parents were in tears because they could not believe their eyes, and I thanked God for being a marginal, invisible person unable in the state’s eyes to commit any crime,” he added.
Sabares said he understood that luck and privilege played an important role in his survival – not only was he employed, but he also had enough money to travel to and from work and return home as if he were “a Swiss citizen.”
He mused about venturing outside again to buy a lottery ticket.
“My survival today was a miracle, and nobody knows what will happen tomorrow or after tomorrow, or in a few minutes,” he said. “I won’t have this sort of luck again.”