Living in Cairo square, scripting a revolution

Saturday, February 5, 2011

CAIRO/NEW DELHI - The sprawling ground is overflowing with people filled with hatred for Hosni Mubarak. Thousands have made it their home. The food is free. The anger palpable. Welcome to Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the epicentre of massive protests to oust the Egyptian president.

Even as the anti-Mubarak campaign entered the 12th day Saturday, with no sign of when the embattled president might call it quits, the tens of thousands — or hundreds of thousands — massed in the heart of Cairo are starting to look at a post-Mubarak Egypt.

Across the city, most shops have shut down, fearing looting or in solidarity. “They are expected to open tomorrow (Sunday),” said Mohammed Yahia, 28, a journalist who too has made Tahrir Square his home.

But there seems to a division among the crowds.

Some want to go for work and “come in the evening to the square”, Yahia told IANS in a telephonic interview. Others are asking everyone there not to move out until Mubarak goes.

With Friday being a holiday, Tahrir Square drew an estimated one million people. Mass protests were also reported from most major cities in the country.

On Friday, the square was “extremely crowded…there were young children, old people, young people, representatives from all walks of life, the rich, poor, men, women,” Yahia said.

People, he said, were holding on to the square as it symoblises the revolution that has swept Egypt, a front-ranking Arab country that borders Israel.

There are now “a lot of women at the square. They are active, chanting slogans against Mubarak”, he said. Many have turned up with their children, including toddlers.

During the day people sit in groups, discuss politics and how the country will fare if and when Mubarak leaves, he said, giving a detailed account of life in Tahrir Square.

“There are those who recite poetry. Of course, there is constant slogan chanting.”

At night people wrap themselves in blankets, set up tents and sleep, waking up in the morning for more sloganeering and more protests. Soldiers have ringed Tahrir Square, partly to keep away pro-Mubarak mobs.

According to Yahia, food is never a problem. “A lot of people bring sandwiches and distribute it to the protesters. No one has to pay for it.”

Isn’t the Egyptian winter harsh?

In the evening, the temperature goes down to 10-15 degrees Celsius, in the morning it is warmer.

But the cold, Yahia said, is the last thing on people’s mind. For now, the crowds have only one wish: the end of Mubarak’s 30 years of rule.

Filed under: Politics

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