Saturday, February 12, 2011

Alf Mabrouk Masr

Feb 11 2011

Beth and I got to the Square at 10 today. The square was already crowded when we arrived. We had taken the Metro to avoid the soldier that tried to keep us from entering yesterday. It was a good choice because there were no soldiers on the street we took from the metro station, just civilian-check points. Later today I would hear that they weren’t allowing anyone with Israeli or Jordanian visas to enter the square. The person who told me this believed that it was state TV spreading xenophobia to the people even in Tahrir. I’m not convinced though, because I would only have my visas checked once by the civilian check-points, and that was the only time I was asked if I had any of those two visa. Besides that, I was shown nothing but hospitality. Besides just being welcomed, no one would let us pay for ourselves while in the square.

As we waited to get some coffee, we started talking to two brothers who were both sleeping in the square with their wives. They said that they feared today would be a bloody day, but they were doing this for their children. They would end up buying us our coffee. As we drank with them, they talked about how Tahrir has brought back old spirits and customs, such as “breaking a piece of bread in half and sharing it with a complete stranger, who in turn does the same, and so on.”

I talked to another man, a software engineer, who came back from the UAE with his son to come to Tahrir. We joked about how we should have known that Mubarak wasn’t stepping down, when the CIA and Fox News confirmed it. He bought me a bottle of water, even though I showed him that I had one.

People were still going around with books to write statements about the protests. As I wrote in the book I talked to a doctor, he told me that the death toll is 500. He also said that they are over stocked with supplies due to donations.

Noon Prayer took over most of the square. After it was over, the square reached maximum capacity, so we went down a side street to get food and sit down. Outside the square it was a street festival. Popcorn, sweet potatoes, and roasted corn were being sold on the street. Children were walking around and selling flags. Large rallies marched through the Downtown area on their way to the square, while people blasted Nasr era music from balconies and threw pamphlets down to the crowd.

Beth and I left the square, with very little sense that anything was going to change today. Mubarak seemed determined to stick around until dragged into the street. We had heard rumors of that police were pushing people away from the presidential palace. I think that was a rumor because there are reports that they threw food and water to the protesters. The square was impossibly full, with people trying to move every which way through the crowd. Yet somehow, people got where they needed to go. Sitting down in a grassy area near the Qasr el-Nil entrance, after we finally made it through the crowds, we talked to a man who came from Zaga-Zig Governance. He talked about how he carried his large cane because the Army didn’t protect the protesters from the government thugs that attacked the square. Again, I was offered food. We could see protesters in the distance surrounding the state TV station.


For a second night, we got home to news that there would be a statement. I almost missed it because literally Suleiman came on camera for a couple of seconds, said his lines, and left. It took me a moment to realized what had happened as people cheered on TV. I ran to the balcony and immediately heard the women two floors below us let out a loud twill of joy. Then I started seeing youths in the street running in the direction of Tahrir.

By the time we got to the Bridge it was packed. It was a spirit I had never seen before. People were on foot, motorbike, in busses and on top of them, all cheering. Shouts rang out of “The people finished collapsing the regime,” and sang the national anthem over and over again. People were standing on top of monuments and military vehicles.

The square was impossible full. We didn’t really walk we just flowed and oscillated with the current. Despite this, people still worked a security point or two for those entering the square. Fireworks were set off and the stoplights in the square were turned back on, adding more color to the night. People held up in triumph the posters of the martyrs.

Tahrir st. in Doqqi was backed up further than I could see. Everywhere people where hanging out of car windows and stood on roofs, waving flags. Some people told us about how they did this despite Obama’s hesitation to side with them, but more importantly everyone talked about how they are free.


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