Egypt celebrates return to path of revolution

Crowds in streets and squares across country exploded into cheers at Morsi ouster

A member of the “Tamarod - Rebel!” petition drive against Mohamed Morsi gestures with an Egyptian flag in front of army soldiers standing guard in front of anti-Morsi protesters. Photograph: Reuters

Egypt held its breath for five hours beyond the army's deadline until the roadmap was announced for a transition from the exclusive rule of the Muslim Brotherhood and its representative president Mohamed Morsi to inclusive multiparty democracy.

At that melodramatic moment, the streets and squares across the country ploded into cheers and millions of Egyptian opponents of the Muslim fundamentalists began to celebrate the country’s return to the path of the “revolution” launched 28 months ago.

There was a flurry of flags across the square. Firecrackers crackled, roman candles shot balls of fire and green laser beams flashed across the sky. Cars headlights were flashed and horns were hooted.

Flags proclaiming patriotism hung from balconies across the city, flags proclaiming both loyalty and opposition to Morsi.


Huge flags were strung across streets, small flags decorated the baskets of bikes delivering groceries, pizzas and laundry.

Tahrir Square
In response to a call made via mobile phone text by opposition activists, hundreds of thousands had gathered at four o'clock at Cairo's Tahrir Square, at two presidential palaces and at the Republican Guards headquarters, where Morsi was thought to have taken refuge.

The main chant was, "Erhal," the command issued to Morsi to leave. The protesters would accept no compromise.

Individuals, couples and small groups carrying flags made their way along the broad avenues leading to Tahrir Square, chatting, laughing, making the “V” for victory and thumbs-up signs.

A youth wheeling a wooden barrow piled high with seasonal prickly-pear fruit served as a reminder that Egypt’s next ruler will have to come to grips with a very prickly situation: a polarised society, a hostile Brotherhood and a collapsing economy.

Cars and motorbikes slowed while drivers beat out a salute of two long and three short blasts on their horns.

There were many women in Tahrir-bound groups, in spite of reports that 91 women had been sexually assaulted in the square this week. Armed soldiers stood at attention outside wire enclosure surrounding the state televi- sion building on the eastern bank of the Nile River; officers were said to be inside monitoring programming. Like Cairo University Square in Giza, one of the two sites where the pro-Morsi camp has gathered, Tahrir has instituted simple security measures. The entrance to square has been roped off, checkpoints installed at either end, and paving stones ripped up to provide ammunition in case of attack.

Morsi’s call for a national unity government drew boos of derision from the crowd in Tahrir as people waited, lazily waved their flags and sipped water from plastic bottles to stave off dehydration as the breeze from the Nile faltered.

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen contributes news from and analysis of the Middle East to The Irish Times