by JENNY MONROE
A LISBURN student has returned safely from Egypt where she witnessed thousands taking to the streets to protest against the authoritarian regime of President Hosni Mubarak.
Lara McIvor, 21, was in Cairo studying Arabic as part of her Oxford University languages degree. She spent days watching the protests escalate from her apartment in Central Cairo before leaving the city on a planned field trip in Luxor. The university arranged flights home for Lara and her fellow students.
The second year student and her friends, who were living in a poor area close to Tahir Square - the focus of the mass demonstrations - had been watching the protests for days from their balcony. Lara said that at times the air was thick with tear gas. Speaking shortly after her return to London on Wednesday evening Lara said:
"The situation was frightening but I didn't feel threatened as the local people were very good us and made sure we were ok. It was a very surreal time. Tear gas was being used and the police were extremely violent. It looked like a scene from a war with rubber bullets and tear gas being used."
She continued: "A field trip to Luxor had already been organised so myself and two other students took a risk during the curfew and went to the metro to get the train to Luxor."
Lara wasn't overly keen to leave to leave at first but now feels it was
the right decision. "When the University told us we had to return I really
didn't want to at first but now I realise it was for the best but I do hope
to go back soon and I would like to resume my studies there. There has been
talk about us going elsewhere in the Middle East to complete the year but I hope this doesn't happen. I'll know more when I'm back at the University."
Her parents, Lynne and Jonathan, are glad their daughter is safe. Lynne said she knows Lara will have enjoyed being part of Egypt's history. She commented: "It was exciting for her at first to be part of history in the making and she was pleased for the local people and the prospect of change for them.
"I have been able to keep in contact through texts and Skpe phonecalls so I knew she was safe. A lot of the local people she was friendly with have been looking after her and her friends."
The scene at central Cairo this week.