Amid Improvised Checkpoints and Makeshift Hospitals, Atmosphere in Egypt Reaches Boiling Point

Egypt's military is trying to prevent large-scale clashes, but tensions are high after violence erupts in major cities over the weekend.

Over the past 48 hours, more and more Egyptians have been walking around with sticks. The atmosphere has reached boiling point, and everyone is trying to protect themselves against an amorphous enemy.

Young people have set up improvised checkpoints where protests are taking place, while the masses have been spilling into streets beyond the designated protest sites.

Tahrir Square is full of such checkpoints, where dozens of angry young men inspect every person and vehicle that enters. I have no idea how they're supposed to recognize those who belong to the opposing camp, but those who don't comply have their cars smashed. There is nothing more light-headed than young men burning with love for their country.

Cairo was burning over the weekend. Every city center saw street clashes between supporters and opponents of deposed president Mohammed Morsi. On Friday alone, 30 people were killed. The death toll reached 37 by Saturday night.

Hatred between the camps seems to have reached a new high. One camp claims to have fallen victim to a military conspiracy (some call it a U.S.-Israeli plot), while the other is convinced that another year under Morsi rule would have meant the destruction of Egypt.

Only the presence of the military is preventing thousands of people from clashing with one another. On Friday, 1,000 Morsi supporters began marching from Cairo University, on the west side of the Nile, toward the Sixth of October Bridge north of Tahrir Square.

Though the marchers claimed their goal was to protest in front of the state television building, their opponents saw them as a provocation. Protesters from Tahrir confronted the marchers and began beating them, while a row of soldiers tried to separate the sides. On the bridge itself, a long battle ensued between the sides, and the army fired tear gas. One hundred protesters were injured, and the Sidi Jaber mosque turned into a makeshift field hospital. Later in the evening, the protesters were pushed back from the bridge but returned to the university through a different route. Five people were killed in a gunfight that ensued.

After five days in the scorching heat, people have grown nervous and suspicious of strangers. At the university, Ismail, a 40-year-old construction worker who belongs to the pro-Morsi camp, said the clash on the bridge was not their fault. "We demonstrated peacefully," he said. "They came and started shooting at us… We will never go back to the days of the military regime."