“SOS: Same thugs from last night have crowded around #Semiramis and attempting to break in again. Both back & side entrances. #Tahrir #Jan28” This was the tweet, yes – tweet, that one of Egypt’s most famous hotels posted Tuesday night. According to USA Today, the Cairo hotel had been ransacked by looters late Monday night and early Tuesday during protests on the anniversary of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution.
After attempts to reach the police for help failed, the hotel began sending out tweets in desperation such as “PLEASE SEND HELP #EMERGENCY! WE ARE UNDER ATTACK!” and “SOS If anyone knows anyone in #Military #Police #Government, please send help! Thugs in Lobby #Emergency #Tahrir #Jan28 #Egypt.” It was only after a manager issued the tweets that help finally arrived from Egyptian special forces and a group of protesters who helped push out the assailants.
The fact that the Egyptian hotel went to Twitter with its SOS exemplifies the media revolution that has and is occurring in the Arab World. It raises questions as to why the hotel had to resort to Twitter in such a terrifying and serious situation, the effectiveness of local and hotel security, and how problematic this will be for Egyptian tourism and its economy. As Zweiri and Murphy discuss in New Arab Media, media is “exposing the vulnerabilities of the Arab world, it’s political immobilism, economic stagnation and ideological insecurities.” Aside from these posts reflecting the terrorism and violent protests in Egypt, this showed the country’s need for “safety, stability, and security” as USA Today highlights.
While exposing a small piece of the current situation, the social media site allowed a message to not only be shared immediately, but to be acknowledged immediately. Responses from all over the world were posted resulting in conversation and discussion worldwide and most importantly, help during an emergency – when conventional efforts did not.
Mahjoob Zweiri and Emma C. Murphy (eds.). The New Arab Media: Technology, Image and Perception. Ithaca Press. 2011.