Saturday, February 12, 2011

Hosni Mubarak resigns: protesters rejoice at the fall of Hosni Mubarak

Cairo: 11 Feb 2011

Their certainty was belied by the reaction to yesterday\'s announcement of Hosni Mubarak\'s resignation. From the surprise and joy transmitted from the heart of Cairo, you would have thought the news had come out of the blue.

The wave of noise spread outwards from Tahrir Square to the traffic lining the streets and the flyovers beyond, from where tear gas had poured down on the crowd just two weeks before. The city fell into a discord of horns, shouts, singing and chants of \"The dictator has fallen\".

And that was just the orchestra warming up. The revolution had begun with gunfire, when the police and presidential guard fired live rounds on demonstrators. By last night, the retorts were fireworks, not Kalashnikovs.

The noise spread north, to the Presidential Palace, where for the first time a substantial crowd had gathered right up to the walls.

Men, women and children, people of all ages, danced and leapt. Their faces were ecstatic after days of exhaustion, uncertainty and fear. They took up deep throated chants. \"Allahu akbar\" alternated with \"Hurra\", Freedom.

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\"Now we will have a new Egypt,\" one man said, embracing passing journalists.

Shady El Gazaly, one of the young leaders who started the revolution on Facebook, was outside the palace. \"First we will celebrate this victory for our people, and then we must build our democracy,\" he said. That is a refrain repeated insistently for the last two weeks: there has been no agenda for this revolution. It is the first post-ideology rebellion.

After the fury of the night before, when even his own inner circle was misled into thinking Mr Mubarak was going immediately, the hundreds of thousands in the central square yesterday were expected to go further, to confront the soldiers, to go mad. They would explode, Mohamed ELBaradei, one of the opposition figureheads, predicted.

Instead, right to the end good humour conquered.

There was a simple reason. Patience had prevailed so far, and the demonstrators believed it would again. \"He must surely know now that the people are not going to go home,\" said Imed Ali, 37. \"We have reached a point of no return.\"

The red brick hulk of the Egyptian National Museum sits almost unnoticed now at the heart of this revolution. History now lies outside its walls. To the rear are the tanks whose ambiguous role in these protests remains even now poorly understood. The army are, according to its communiqués, running the country, though the soldiers posing for photographs with toddlers and teenagers showed no sign of it.

To the side of the museum sit the burned wrecks of cars wheeled up to form impromptu barricades last week, setting off a fear of chaos that came close to realisation. But all sides drew back, seemingly saving Mr Mubarak but in fact dooming him.

And between the museum and the square, another poignant image: three women wailing in front of a banner reading: \"For your blood we will not leave until the murderers leave.\" It carried the photographs of some who had given their lives.

Everyone had suffered from the police in some way or other, said Mohammed Mukhtar, an English teacher looking on. \"It started with the police and when they gave up we thought we could get rid of Mubarak too,\" he said. \"Now we feel free. The robber thief is gone.\"

Inside the Museum lie the mummified corpses of Egypt\'s Pharaohs. Like them, Mr Mubarak\'s predecessors in Republican Egypt ruled until their funerals.

Earlier this week, Mr Mubarak hosted the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, who came from the oil-rich Gulf in an ostentatious display of support. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was particularly determined that his old friend should hang on, however grimly. These modern-day pharaohs proved themselves on the wrong side of history, a phrase that has, for once, been rightly overused in the last month. \"The Beginning\", said one improvised sign. The beginning of what, they could not say.

\"We have no idea,\" said Iman Hassan, 28, a web designer, one of the young generation whose internet skills outsmarted lumbering generals

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