The cars started flowing through downtown Cairo’s Tahrir Square again on Sunday. Most of the protesters, who had made the massive public space their revolutionary home since 28 January, departed willingly. They meticulously cleaned it before they left, and many already spoke of a growing sense of nostalgia for the utopian ethos that embodied the Republic of Tahrir.
When Mubarak’s resignation was announced on Friday — less than 24 hours after his final, disastrously tone-deaf speech to his people — Egyptians basically launched a three-day street party. I heard a lot of people making, “It’s like we won the World Cup” analogies; I even made one myself.
But looking back, this seems even bigger. This was a “Berlin Wall” moment; the euphoria and national pride that accompanies a huge football victory was mixed with a realization that everyone’s life would be different after today.
Even now, as normality largely returns to the city, there’s a valedictory mood. Friends who hadn’t met since before Friday are still greeting each other with “congratulations”.
It’s a time to recover and take stock.
Mubarak is apparently in his presidential palace in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh. Unconfirmed rumours abound regarding both his health and his potential exile destinations.
The Supreme Armed Forces Council, which now runs the country, has dissolved the parliament, suspended the constitution, offered new elections in September and pledged an orderly transition to an elected civilian government. They haven’t however lifted or repealed the notorious “emergency laws” and there’s concern that a current wave of post-resignation labour strikes will be banned or forcibly suppressed.
Journalists are shifting from breathless news reports to more investigative and exploratory work. A lot of journalistic effort is being spent meticulously recreating Mubarak’s final hours — leading up to and following his Thursday night non-resignation speech.
Some (including this reporter) are even planning to take long-suffering spouses out for an actual Valentine’s Day dinner.