Saturday, 5 March 2011

Friday Prayer and Demonstrations on the Tahrir Square

At 9:30 pm I left the house and started walking towards Tahrir Square. The streets were still quite empty. The people selling nationalistic emblems and souvenirs started to set up their posts and young men where offering bunches of red-white-black colored flags to the cars passing by.
By the end of the streets leading to the square, the civil control which the Egyptian Youth of the Revolution is organizing by their own initiative, was already performing the body-check of the ones who attempted to access Midan at-Tahrir. The young lady with her blue, glittery headscarf who was in charge of me, took a glimpse into my bags, smiled at me and let me pass.

The square looked again like at the beginning of a huge festival. People were selling nuts, drinks, T-shirts, flags, bags, badges, hats and all kinds of other gadgets with nationalistic logos. The men painting Egyptian flags on people’s faces were loudly advertising their service while holding three glass bottles in their hands with the colors needed.

Men and women went to deposit flowers in front of different memory-walls dedicated to the martyrs which consist of big white blankets decorated with pictures, spread out around the “utopian perfect city” of the steady revolutionary front, in the middle of the square.
Different stages were set up. Music was playing loudly from all directions. People started to line up for the prayer and men who were selling “one-use” prayer carpets were busily passing through the masses.
Wherever people saw me film, they came along and wanted to tell their story. Some of them said jokingly: “Ah you are from Switzerland, so you have got all Hosni’s money at the moment!”“I will bring it back to you, tomorrow!”, I replied with a smile. This was obviously not the only joke which was told on the square. The Egyptian taste for satire is omnipresent. A puppet-player who was carried on shoulders was holding-up a Mubarak-marionette and making it move pleasingly while a teenager was calling out the rhymed lines which people had to scream at the puppet.

People gathered around me with huge posters which lamented the decease of martyrs, promoted change and freedom and attacked corruption. Some of them carried newspapers and pointed at articles which talked about the revolution. Still, the Egyptians not only seemed to worry about their own future but already showed solidarity with their neighbors who are desperately fighting for freedom at the moment. This is the reason why quite a lot of Libyan flags and posters against Gadaffi’s iron regime could be seen on the Tahrir Square today.
All classes of Egyptian society were present. A group of women in black and wearing niqab loudly screamed on one side while the protectors of the “core utopian city” in jeans and with their Palestinian scarves around their heads where watching. Children were happily dancing, playing with flags and singing nationalistic songs. Elderly people were sitting on the small stone walls or leaning against the green iron fences which border Tahrir square.

Today, I had the privilege of being offered two balconies to film for free. Both of the apartments belong to people who have been giving support to the demonstrators since the beginning of the revolution.
The view of the thousands of people lined up in rows, side by side, women and men, poor and rich, old and young who were following simultaneously with the movement of their bodies the prayer of the Imam was astonishing. I held my breath and scarcely noticed how the sun was burning my face.

After the solemn prayer had come to an end, music started and people chanted nationalistic slogans anew.  Suddenly, the new Prime Minster Essam Sharaf appeared among the masses, only protected by a few soldiers and constantly interrupted by the demonstrators. He started his talk by lamenting not to have been able to attend the Friday prayer on the square. The new Prime Minster then remembered the families of the martyrs of the revolution. In the middle of the crowd he confessed to his people that his task will not be easy. He further assured them that whenever he feels that he cannot master his duty, he will come back to them to the square. According to him, a free and secure Egypt is the highest of his goals and he therefore promised that the security forces will back up the Egyptians. Essam Sharaf solemnly concluded his first speech to the nation by saying that the Egyptians had just won a small Jihad but that the most difficult Jihad was still to come: the reconstruction of the Egyptian state.

I left the square when the sun was starting to set. Some blocks away, when the streets had become less crowded, I passed a father who was holding an around three years old child by his hand. The small boy who had the Egyptian national colors painted on his cheek was waving with a tiny flag and happily chanting all to himself in perfect rhythm:  "The people want the fall of the system!" (as-shahb yurid isqat an-nizam).