Thursday, March 10, 2011

Back to Tahrir - Clean and Spiffy, "Empty" and Quiet

The last two days in Alexandria were enjoyable and instructive. Getting perspectives from people outside Cairo was important, especially in Alexandria where much of the revolution was inspired. More on that later - for now just a quick post about Tahrir.

I walked to Tahrir this morning, anticipating the same Tahrir - full of people and tents, etc. Rounding the corner I was struck with how quiet the atmosphere was and then looked ahead to the raised epicentric circle made by the roundabout at the center of Tahrir Square. It was empty; literally, vacant. Just as notably, it was perfectly clean, free of residue or debris of any kind. It was really stunning, actually - for, at least during my 3 weeks here in which I've spent lots of time at Tahrir - it has always been a buzz of excitement, whether that was the hundreds of thousands there the Friday I arrived (Feb 18th), or the hundreds, or the scores - depending on the day and evolution of events.

The recent, violent sectarian conflicts of recent days, notwithstanding, it seems much has changed in Cairo - the vacant Tahrir a telling sign of that. Hopefully, this means that the grand achievement of last week (resignation of Mubarak-appointed, interim Prime Minister) was satisfying enough to allow the other demanded changes to develop in reasonable time. That said, tomorrow is Friday, and who knows what's on the agenda. Stay tuned.

A very interesting co-incidence (hyphenated to not imply happenstance) with Tahrir's change was the notable presence of the police - these would be the black uniformed police who left the scence a few days into the revolution and have only been apparent intermittently. I'll need to check to see the local explanations of their return. For today at least, it was just as harmonious as it has been over the recent weeks between the citizens and the military. Hopefully, it means some level of reconciliation between the police and people, which, itself would be an impressive sign of forward movement. Stay tuned.

Update a few hours later, after interviewing a 26 year-old, deputy director of a human rights organization - himself having camped out at the circle during the guts of the revolution (much to report on that interview):

- The police are just traffic cops (from the young activist)
- Tomorrow at Tahrir: "2 Million" (from the older gentlemen I spoke to on the way back from the interview: The focus?, I asked: To call for harmony given the recent sectarian clashes and problems with the police, he said.)

Tomorrow will tell ; it will be my last Friday here (for the time being).

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