Thursday, 3 March 2011

Liberation Square (Midan at-Tahrir)

At the moment, when approaching Tahrir Square, one might get the idea that the Egyptian national team must be playing in the Soccer World Championship. Everywhere street-sellers offer different items in the colors of the Egyptian flags, even the hats, which are typical for soccer fans and other kinds of gadgets with football symbols, can be purchased. However, the more the visitor comes nearer, the clearer he/she can see that the souvenirs, which are sold, are labeled after the “Revolution of the 25th of January 2011”. Pins are decorated with the line “Hold your head up high, you are Egyptian” and Plastic badges are sold with the pictures of the “Martyrs of the Revolution of the 25th of January 2011”. 

Even though the cars are driving around the square again, the middle is still occupied by the remains of the victorious revolution. In order to get access to this sandy circle covered with tents, one has to pass a body check organized by the demonstrators themselves, which is similar to the one at the airport. A girl with headscarf very naturally passed her hands over my breasts and hips and then let me in. The setting looked similar to an open-air concert at its beginning or end: people peacefully sitting around in tents, children getting their faces painted with the colors of the Egyptian flag, men selling different kinds of nuts but also eggs and other kinds of food and two men repairing a water pipe.

However, something is strikingly different. Poor people, with dirty galabiyyas (traditional long dress) are sitting next to men in suites. Women who are wearing niqab (face-veil) are carrying their children along next to a modern style igloo-tent, where a girl in jeans is eagerly typing on a laptop while the setting sun is making her hair glow with a red shine. On every face, whether poor or rich, sitting under dirty blankets or in a clean lycra tent, shines the national pride. 
These are the people of Liberation Square, the youth (even though there are people of every age) who have just proved to the whole world, that revolutions can be won pacifically. Children are smiling at me and ask me to take pictures of them. Afterwards they want to see them and then proudly walk away. People approach me and ask whether I am a journalist in order to make their stories public. Men and women are carrying all kinds of painted banderoles and posters, which request different kinds of changes. Flags and medallions are carried around which promote the union of Egyptian Muslims and Christians by the symbol of the crescent, which surrounds the cross. A column of memory pays tribute to the martyrs of the revolution. Everybody is friendly smiling and enormously proud to be a part of history. The spirit to fight for social and political changes is very high and people spontaneously gather in small groups and cheerfully chant slogans and walk to the buildings which host the institutions targeted for reform.

“I am Egpytian, I am free: Revolution of the 25 of January” is written on some badges which are sold and as the general mood is so energetic and happy, even a Khawaga (foreigner) like me can easily get 50 Piasters off when buying nationalist symbols. Something else is the rental of balconies for filming. This has turned into a very lucrative business. We entered a shop and asked whether it was possible to get access to the roof-terrace of a building in order to film the Friday demonstrations. The person at the entrance acted as if he did not know what we were talking about but very insistently sent us to the manager of the building. This happened to be a bearded old man, who was wearing a black galabiyya and was counting receipts on his small table, which was squeezed into some kind of mini-office under a staircase. The place, even though tiny, was adorned with all kinds of religious decorations. The manager told us that for 500 Egyptian Pounds a day we could get the terrace and that this was still cheap, considering that last week he was still getting 1000 Pounds from the big international news-channels …

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