- Life Style
The mood at the protests in Tahrir Square today was festive. Still, charred vehicles, destroyed stores and littered rocks remained as potent reminders of the fact that, only four days ago, the area was a deadly impasse.
Despite that, families came out en masse, while many of the now-seasoned protesters appeared more relaxed, singing their slogans rather than chanting with anger.
“I’m having fun,” 13-year-old Mariam said. She was rollerblading on the street, while her parents, Ramy and Maha chatted and joked with old friends. Nabil, Mariam’s 15-year-old cousin, was also out enjoying the sunny Monday afternoon, despite having had his first taste of tear gas days earlier. “It was horrible, but today is totally different,” he said.
Mahmoud Gamal has been camped out in the square for four days, having participated in the protests everyday since the 25 January Day of Anger. The mood among the protesters has fluctuated on a day-to-day basis, he said. “It was extremely hopeful and surreal at first, then there were a few days that felt like an all-out war. After that it was tense. Today feels more like a carnival.”
People felt free to sing the chants accompanied by musical instruments, while using characteristic Egyptian humor, something most protesters had refrained from in the much graver past few days. One sign told Mubarak to, “Leave already! My hands hurt from holding this up!”
In previous days, protesters distributed food for free among themselves, a deep sense of camaraderie having been instilled in the revolutionary crowd. Now many street vendors took the opportunity to come out and sell nuts, drinks and koshari. “Today feels like more of a festival. People are out to protest, but also to celebrate. So I felt it would be OK to come sell food like I would at any street festival,” said koshari vendor Selim Ahmed.
Street artists took advantage of the atmosphere to display their talents. One group of activists were writing down different messages on the street and then coordinating their chants according to the messages. “These messages are meant for the helicopters, because we know that they have cameras up there,” said Khalil Salamah.
Even scientific minds were put to good use. At one point a mini hot air balloon was released from Tahrir and floated into the sky while protesters made good use of a potential metaphor by chanting, “Go away! Go away!”
Many protesters gathered around a screen to watch Al Jazeera’s live coverage of the protests. The channel gained credence among activists since the government’s decision to ban it from operating in the country for “defaming” Egypt. “If this government hates it so much, then they must be good,” one bystander joked.
Complementing the carnival atmosphere was a marked diversity in the crowd and their seemingly unified stance. Everyone in the square—across age groups, religious leanings, political convictions, and gender--seems to agree on one thing: Mubarak must go. “The unborn calf in its mother’s stomach hates Mubarak,” one sign read.