On Mostafa Kamel Street today, the grandfather with the four chirping parakeets in his balloon shop, the dark-haired musician with his guitar slung over his back, and the mild-mannered intellectual with relatives in Pennsylvania all agreed on the targets of their anger.
"Today, Arabs are mad with our own governments," said Sayed Salah, the shop owner, whose birds chirped happily as he put his head in his hands. "Why couldn't they get together and stop this war? Why are they, can I say, so weak?"
On the same working-class street in a dusty music store that has sold thousands of copies of Egypt's pop hit "The Attack on Iraq," shoppers primarily blamed the United States for the coming war. But they said the tape should be sent not only to the United States but also to their own government.
"The song writer did the impossible," said Yasser Kaza, 40, who is worried about his brother who lives in York, Pa. "He wrote very simple lyrics to speak to very simple people. Maybe now our governments should listen."
After President Bush issued an ultimatum to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on Monday, the leaders of the Arab world were largely silent. The only exception today was a speech by Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah, the kingdom's de facto ruler, who said his country would not take part in a U.S.-led war and would not allow U.S. troops to launch attacks from its soil.
"The kingdom will not participate in any way in the war on brotherly Iraq, and our armed forces will under no circumstances enter a foot of Iraqi territory," Abdullah said on state television.
Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa canceled a last-minute peacemaking trip to Iraq today. His spokesman, Hisham Youssef, said that going there now would be dangerous and pointless. "We have failed," Youssef said in an interview. "Then again, the whole international community has failed. It is a terrible day."
Newspapers in Cairo had strong words for the league's leaders for failing to unite at a rancorous meeting on March 1 and to challenge the United States with a set of plans and protests.
Ibrahim Nafie, the editor in chief of Egypt's largest and most influential daily newspaper, al-Ahram, wrote in an editorial:
"It's as if the Arabs are telling the world we are not qualified to deal with large problems, we have done what we can and we wait the outcome of your negotiations and competitions and we will adjust with whatever the results are. We are spectators to our own pain."
In Beirut, antiwar protesters attended candlelight vigils. "I hope that in the coming period the Arab countries will stand close to each other and hold hands, otherwise, they will fall, one after the other," said Ibrahim Ibrahim, 30, a Palestinian vegetable vendor who lives in a refugee camp in Beirut.
In Jordan, which declared itself the United States' "best friend," people interviewed on the streets by reporters for a local radio station accused their government of being afraid of the United States and of failing to end the long-running conflict in Israel, not to mention Iraq.
Governments in Egypt and other countries are trying to manage the outrage and protect themselves from what could turn into widespread chaos on the streets, analysts said.
"If this war drags on and there are a lot of violent protests, I am sure we will see a Middle East that we will not recognize," said Diaa Rashwan, head of the comparative politics unit at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. "There is a real risk of anger and radicalization on the Arab street. Or it could go the other way [toward democracy]. Anything could happen."
On Mostafa Kamel Street today, there were calls to fight and calls for peace and calls for everything in between.
Inside his tiny shop, Sayed Salah told his 15-year-old granddaughter about the injustice of the war and the need to rally in the streets when the United States starts dropping bombs. His granddaughter, Shimaa Tawfiki, wearing a butterfly clip, looked worried.
Down the street, Nora Ahmed, 22 and pregnant, clutched her swollen belly in pain. "I just want to have my baby and be left alone to live," she said. "We all live in fear now."
Customers in the music store said they regretted to say that they now feel compelled to hate the United States.
"We used to love America, the country was our godfather," said Mostafa Kamal, 34, owner of the music store, who was smoking and sipping tea. "Now people think [Osama] bin Laden is a hero. The war and the policy in Israel have pushed us to this."
Special correspondent Alia Ibrahim in Beirut contributed to this report.