Africa

Egypt unrest: Less appetite for conflict in Alexandria

Protesters run from a tear gas volley outside the interior ministry building in Alexandria, Egypt - 23 November 2011
Image caption There have been nightly clashes in Alexandria between police and young men

Violent protests against Egypt's governing military council have spread beyond Cairo to several other cities, including Alexandria, from where the BBC's Wyre Davies reports.

I spent several days in the northern city of Alexandria during the "original" Egyptian revolution in February. Then, the atmosphere here was arguably more volatile and tense than it was in Cairo.

Now, things are subtly more different. Yes, there are protests here in Egypt's second city mirroring those in the capital but they are small and have not engulfed or affected most of this coastal city.

Outside the interior ministry building in Alex there are violent nightly clashes between riot police and a couple of hundred angry young men; men without jobs, excluded from wider society and ready to attack any symbol of the state.

But the rest of the city is busy, trying to get on with things and resurrect a moribund economy.

'Go home'

The traffic is hellish. There are many more cars on the streets and goods in the shops than I remember here nine months ago.

One senior Muslim Brotherhood politician here told me that it was "now time for the protesters to go home".

Mohamed Soudan said: "We haven't got all the concessions we want from the military council, but they gave us enough."

Acknowledging that such a stance would cost votes for the Muslim Brotherhood's "Truth and Justice" coalition in Monday's election, Mr Soudan said it was nonetheless important for the sake of Egypt for the protests to end.

Others, of course, are less forgiving and suspect the military of wanting to hold on to much power as they can, despite promises to bring forward presidential elections and form a government of national unity.

Protesters chanting peacefully outside a central army barrack in Alex tonight also accuse the Brotherhood of duplicity and of chasing votes above all other concerns.

What will make the angry young men, the "ultras", of Alexandria and Cairo abandon their protest, is not clear.

What is obvious here on the northern edge of this huge, troubled country is that many have lost their appetite for violence and conflict and are desperate for their country to move on.