Having been organized mainly online, through Facebook and Twitter, one would've expected to see a young crowd in the protests. While the youth played a large role in what was happening, and made up a relative majority of those protesting, there were also so many older people as wellsome, I'm sure, had never even heard of Facebook before this day.
The protests continued for nearly three weeks, with an official tally of the dead at just over 300, with many hundreds of others injured. But even with all the ugliness and blood and tension that arose during these three weeks, something truly beautiful and incredible also happened. Egyptian people acted as one. Milton was right in implying that every cloud has a silver lining, and this was the Egyptian Popular Revolution's silver lining teamwork and camaraderie.
Throughout the protests one could hear inspiring stories everywhere of the deeds Egyptians were doing for each other. Every day, Twitter and Facebook were filled with requests for medical supplies, water, and food to be brought to the protesters, with contact names and numbers included for accessibility. Egyptians who could not bring these supplies to the squares themselves donated money for their purchase. Doctors and pharmacists set up makeshift triages and clinics near known landmarks in the area and numbered them so that the injured or sick could receive care.
Everything was considered and our fellow Egyptians were prepared. Small "kiosks" were set up in Liberation Square, where various goods could be purchased. Electricity hubs were also set up where people could charge their mobile phones to keep in touch with loved ones not at the protests There was even a "pre-school" of sorts for mothers with young children who wished to attend the protests. Egyptians were banding together to make it easier for everyone to voice their opinion and make their voices heard!
It didn't stop there! In the square, areas were designated for various functions. There were bathrooms (even showers were set up later on in the protests), water points, street vendors selling food, and campsites. There was even television footage of people collecting garbage within the square during the protests, with the aim of keeping their "living space" clean.
Once President Mubarak stepped down from office, incredible rejoicing broke out. I went down to Tahrir Square that Friday night. Though everyone said it would be difficult to enter, and it wouldn't be worth it to go so late, I went with two other females, and braved the crowds, to celebrate with the people of Egypt. As an American living in Egypt, my experience was one I'll never forget.
Nighttime celebrations in Tahrir Square, immediately following the resignation of President Mubarak. Celebrations included fireworks and songs, and continued well into the night.
As we approached Tahrir, there were so many people celebrating in the street, cars honking, flags waving, and people singing and dancing. No matter how far away one parked, there could be no confusion as to where to find this celebration; just follow the throngs of people headed to Tahrir!
Once we arrived, we were quickly sent to the entrance (the other side of the street was designated as an exit) and organized into two lines; one for men and one for women and families. While in these lines, we were searched by ordinary citizens who were very polite and all had smiling faces. As we entered, I realized just how overwhelming the crowds were. No images on television, however accurate, could have prepared me for the sheer volume of celebrators in Tahrir Square. I also couldn't be prepared for the goodwill of strangers that I was about to experience.
On our way in, being three females without a male escort, we were spotted by a group of men in their mid-twenties to their mid-thirties. They approached us, and told us that they would help us enter Tahrir, and make our way to the area that had been sectioned off for women and children. Almost instinctively, they formed a human barrier around us, making a long oval shape linked together by holding hands, and making their way with us through the people, easing the process of moving through the immense crowds. With hundreds of thousands of people in the street, there is hardly any room to move, so pushing and shoving are commonplace. These people kept us safe until we reached the "women's area".
Once we'd reached our destination, we were allowed to move back behind another human barrier - a line of men standing between the women and the rest of the crowds. To say that we were safe is a complete understatement! Women who were already there were making way for us newcomers to stand as comfortably as possible and be able to witness the celebrations. People were singing and chanting, flags were waiving, and fireworks were set off, all to celebrate one thing: the people of Egypt had come together, made their voices heard as one, and achieved a common goal! The atmosphere was electric, and there are simply no words to describe the feeling that night.
Nighttime celebrations in Talaat Harb Square, immediately following the resignation of President Mubarak. Hundreds of thousands celebrated their victory in the fight for democracy.
After leaving, and witnessing the rest of the celebrations on the way home, the news began to spread that there would be a clean-up project in Tahrir Square the next day. We all went to bed to prepare for a tough day of cleaning. Saturday morning came, and everyone was ready to head downtown and take part in the cleanup. Having arrived relatively early (around noon) with our cleaning supplies, we realized that we were actually late! Most of the square had already been cleaned, with people even starting to dismantle the camps that had been set up.
Not being phased, we decided we would take a look at the side streets to see the work that had to be done there. The sight was nothing less than inspiring! Groups of people, mostly young, wearing gloves and masks, carrying brooms and dustpans and plastic bags, cleaning the streets! They weren't just cleaning the streets of trash, they were even sweeping up the dust on the roads as well! Older men with shovels helped pile the rocks together. On every street corner there were piles of trash, in bags, ready to be picked up by trash collectors. No job was too big or small, and nothing was beneath us! Groups of people who didn't know each other were helping. There was even a street corner with trash under barbed wire that my cleaning partner and I couldn't move, so a nearby group spotted us, and all came with cardboard boxes and old rags. The helped drag the barbed wire away so that we could clean the corner. It was such a beautiful sight!
Even more incredible was the reactions of the people around us, the ones who lived and worked in Tahrir, and even just passersby! Old men were giving out biscuits to keep up our energy while small children were giving out candies. People who had been injured in the protests and who weren't able to clean were giving out sandwiches so that those cleaning didn't go hungry, and people who saw small groups cleaning even went and bought drinks to refresh them! People were even giving away brooms and cleaning supplies just to help out! There was a feeling of support, of camaraderie, such that I have never experienced before! As we walked through the streets looking for more to do, we saw more and more people not only cleaning, but scrubbing out graffiti, and even painting over it. Some people were even painting the sidewalks! Egyptians had finally begun to feel that this was their country, and genuinely wanted to take care of it!
Everyone was amazed! A CNN reporter said, "For the first time, we see people revolt and then clean the streets afterwards." People all over the world were inspired by what they had witnessed. American President Obama said that American children should be educated to become like the youth of Egypt. Egyptians were being hailed all over the world for their peaceful revolt, and their sense of responsibility towards each other and the country!
The feelings I felt as I joined in these activities, and in the days since, are indescribable. Egyptians care so much for each other, and for their country. The teamwork that was everywhere was incredible. Egyptians really can be proud of everything. After the resignation of President Mubarak, there was a saying that was repeated everywhere. Literally translated, it meant "Hold your head up high, you're Egyptian." After everything I'd seen, the Egyptian people had every right to say this!