The muffled cries of demonstrators, freedom fighters, martyrs-to-be? waft electric in the breeze to my room perched three blocks from the epicenter of this revolution. The emotional roller coaster of the last two weeks has just taken another loop at full speed, inspiring some to tears, shaking shoes into the air, and causing all Egyptians to grip even tighter to their dream.
In Tahrir this evening the festival was taken up another notch with the giddy expectation of victory smiles were wide, singing was full voice, and the people were infused with an energy like that which emerges in the last lap of a race. The mood was celebratory on the streets adjoining the square. Mubarak’s resignation is seen as a forgone conclusion here and it seemed for these hours that this goal was about to be realized. In the hour before the speech Tahrir waited. Sporadic chants, drums, and dancing echoed throughout this the largest waiting room on earth, punctuated by rumor induced hushes. Along pathways delineated by chains of men we forged our way through the crowd to cross the square, arriving in front of a loudspeaker just as Mubarak’s first remarks rang out. A nervous quiet settled over the people, gazing in the direction of the sound. I never imagined it was possible for so many people to be so quiet.
It seems that he didn’t even write a new speech but simply added a few flourishes and condescensions to the first one. The gall he has to claim a share of the people’s pain, the martyrs’ sacrifice. As the realization dawned that he would stick like molasses in his chair, few burst out only to be hushed, and one by one the shoes rose over the heads of the crowd, soles pointed at the origin of his voice, a gesture that is one of the greatest insults Egyptian culture has to offer. With disbelief and anger, exhaustion and determination, the protesters went back to business as usual with cries of ‘Irhal’ rising into the night. The elation of the evening was premature, this is a long distance race, one that many more may not finish.
What could the goal of addressing the people so be? On the eve of what was already expected to be the biggest day of protests yet, Mubarak has turned to the country and like a child stuck his tongue out, wiggling his fingers, and said ‘na, na, na na, na, you can’t get me’. He has lost any chance of retreating gracefully. This past Tuesday, two weeks into the revolution, 15 million people were in the streets demonstrating. This is twelve percent of the population of Egypt… 12%… again that is 12 out of every one hundred people in the whole country out in the streets actively demanding a free Egypt and the end of the Mubarak regime! It is not numbers he is waiting for, so what? The demonstrators have already alluded to marching on the presidential palace and if they do this tomorrow he may squeeze more blood out of the people.
I walked home tonight from the cafe carried in the wake of a of group of protesters heading for Tahrir. The people were chanting “bukra, bukra”… tomorrow, tomorrow, in Arabic.