Mabrouk, Egypt. After three decades of corruption and state terror, you came out on top. We're all praying that you stick to the path you're on, and become the first (or second, after Tunisia) real Arab democracy.
I think the best way to highlight this special moment is to share the experiences of an Egyptian friend who celebrated the fall of Mubarak with her fellow citizens at Tahrir Square.
Here is a note Yasmin Nouh wrote on her Facebook profile earlier today. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
If you want democracy, you will find it in Maydan Tahrir
First, May God reward the Egyptians with a smooth transition into democracy and a just leadership. Second, this post is a little overdue.
--- Parts from a day in Tahrir -- Wednesday, February 9, 2010
Although the entrance was lined with tanks and gun-clad soldiers, I felt like I was entering a sanctuary. A group of young men welcomed us with cheery chants, rhythmic drumbeats and warm smiles.
If you want democracy, you will find it in Maydan Tahrir – free, open and safe. I had entered a realm that did justice to one of the revolution's slogans: 2eed wahid. One hand. I found myself among artists, poets, doctors, engineers, farmers, the rich, the poor, families, children, Christians, Muslims, youth activists and those who were previously indifferent, the secular and the religious, all united against injustice.
As one poster in the square put it, "May God forgive you Mubarak. You made us Egyptians all love one another."
The people entering the square were divided into two areas – one where the men searched men and the other where the women searched women.
I was searched at three different checkpoints, one after the other upon entering the square. I was searched not by the army, but by the protesters. My broken Arabic made the first two women smile.
“I forgot my ID at my house,” I said.
The lady at the last checkpoint laughed at me, and said the same thing as the first two women.
“It’s fine. It’s fine. Not a problem. Just bring it next time, okay?” After a pat down, I was let through and entered a world completely different from the Cairo I had been living in. Clean, vibrant, and for the first time, I saw smiles emanating a fight for hope instead of a sorry acceptance of loss.
Inside Tahrir, you will find a makeshift medical clinic near the entrance. It wasn’t located in the center of the square, because the fights between the pro-democracy protesters and the pro-Mubarak thugs took place near the entrance.
You will find multiple memorials honoring the 300+ revolutionary martyrs who died during the clashes.
You will find a large poster of the youngest martyr – a boy of nine – hung up behind the main stage area, along with many other signs with revolutionary chants written on them.
Outside Maydan Tahrir, in the rest of the city, you will find enormous piles of trash on the streets and their corners. Inside, you will find young men and women picking up newspaper remnants, garbage and plastic bottles, separating wastes from recyclables. They will ask you whether you have any trash, substituting the word trash for Mubarak.
“Do you have any Mubarak you would like to throw away?”
No. I had nothing on me, not even a small scrap. I looked at the ground to find a piece of newspaper, anything to throw away the regime, but there was nothing.
You will find men and women in sleeping bags nestled at the foot of a few army tanks.
"So they don't move," they explained to passerbys. And the tanks did not move - neither them nor the people camped underneath.
And when the time for prayer came, thousands formed into straight rows. And around them, others locked arms to protect those who prayed from the overwhelming crowd of people. Chainsmokers locked arms with Muslim scholars, and businessmen with villagers. Christians, even though they weren’t praying with the Muslims, would repeat the Imam’s takbeerat*, because it was so noisy, to help the Muslims in the back rows follow the prayer.
Inside Tahrir, you will find children on their fathers’ shoulders, waving shiny Egyptian flags, leading chants among the protesters. I saw one boy, maybe no more than 10 years old, with a bright face, but an aged voice.
“Ya Mubarak Ya Khasees, dem al-Masri mish rakhees.” (Oh Mubarak, You betrayer, the blood of an Egyptian is not cheap).
You will find women in niqab yelling at the top of their lungs, “Mish hanimshee, huwa yimshee.” (We’re not going away. He is going away). They broke stereotypes imposed on them (by the West and East alike) in minutes. They were not quiet nor meek and the only thing that had been oppressing them was their government, not the veils wrapped across their faces.
You will find women walking in business suits, some were foreign journalists and others were Egyptian workingwomen.
You will find vendors selling bread and traditional Egyptian desserts.
“Want Kentucky?” Some of them would jokingly ask.
(Some people claimed on Egyptian state television that the protesters were being paid and receiving free meals from KFC to protest against Mubarak).
You will find young men carrying bags of cheese and meat sandwiches, asking people in the crowds if they had eaten lunch. They would do the same thing later on for dinner.
You will find people selling red, white and black headbands - the colors of the Egyptian flag.
You will find white-bearded men side-by-side with youth chanting underneath a large Egyptian flag “Al-sha3ab yureed isqat al-nitham.” (The people want the order to fall down).
You will find groups of men and women with anger in their eyes, sitting down in the middle of the square and staring out into the crowds. You will find others with their heads down, reading the Egyptian newspapers. And others jogging across the square screaming chants.
You will find an old fala7i (villager), selling his shoes for seventy billion pounds (the same amount that Hosni Mubarak allegedly holds in his assets).
You will find groups of young women, who, for the first time, looked safe, in the place that was once infamously known for incessant cat-calling and hoot-hollering from men who had nothing better to do.
But now those same men had something better to do. They finally had an outlet, a way to express their frustrations in a dignified manner, instead of through self-demeaning cat-calls.
You will find a city of tents, where people of all different classes, ages and colors camped out, and were being served tea and sandwiches. Some looked calm and content; I could hardly see what the past 30 years had done to them. Others looked apprehensive and worried, waiting to revive a strong memory of better days that were too far behind them (Egypt used to be known as the Paris of the Middle East).
At the main stage area, a group of well-known Egyptian academics and leaders from various opposition parties spoke, ending each speech with a revolutionary chant. And although they were prominent and well-respected, it was clear who the real leaders on stage were - twenty and thirty-something year olds directing the stage, announcing updates in between speeches and paying close attention to the crowds' movements.
Right before maghrib prayer, a man from an opposition party said something I can never forget: "They say we can't have a democracy. They say we don't know what democracy is." He paused and pointed at the crowd. "We say, look at Tahrir sqaure. Look at everyone in Tahrir square, and right here is where they'll find the real democracy."
His words were immediately followed by cheers and then the mantra for the day echoed throughout the crowd, "2eed wahid. 2eed wahid." One hand..one hand..