Around 500 Libyans and their supporters celebrated outside the Libyan Embassy in the Zamalek neighborhood of Cairo from late Sunday night through early Monday morning, jubilant over reports that the Libyan capital of Tripoli had finally been taken by the opposition forces that have fought for months to overthrow the regime of President Muammar Qadhafi.
“This is not a protest; it's a celebration!” exclaimed Adel Mutawa, a member of the 17 February Youth Coalition, which has provided medical aid and foodstuffs to Libyans since the outbreak of its revolution. “Libya needs us now. It's about time we go back and build up our country.”
Mohamed Abdel Hady, who led chants from atop the shoulders of his friends, was unequivocal about what led him and other Libyans to the embassy on Sunday night.
“Libya has a problem; his name is Qadhafi.”
At around 1 am, the celebration ballooned in size, with hundreds of Libyans pouring in from different directions to fill the streets surrounding the Libyan Embassy. The dramatic increase was likely due to reports from Twitter and other media sources that Tripoli had fallen under opposition control and that Qadhafi and his sons had been captured. Qadhafi's exact whereabouts remain uncertain.
Compared to a protest outside the Libyan Embassy last Tuesday, the mood on Sunday night was festive and non-confrontational. Chants of “God is great!” “Libya is free! Qadhafi is out!” and “Libya and Egypt are one hand!” burst continuously from the crowd. And while some demonstrators expressed their desire to replace the embassy's existing flag with the one adopted by the opposition movement and the National Transitional Council, they seemed much more interested in celebrating the liberation of their homeland.
Omar Misraty, whose family lives in Misrata, claimed to have seen this day approaching.
“I am very happy, because now we can see another world. We need freedom because before [Libya] was very much like being in prison. Like a big prison,” he said.
In the narrow street running along the west side of the embassy, demonstrators set off fireworks, sprayed fire with aerosol cans, and chanted from atop parked cars. Women jumped up and down and hugged one another, the looks on their faces divulging near-disbelief that Libya was rid of the dictator that had ruled for 42 years. The mood even appeared to infect those driving by on 26th of July Street, Zamalek's main thoroughfare, as they flew opposition flags from their car windows and honked loudly.
Riot police at times pushed demonstrators back from the street in front of the embassy to clear up traffic, but generally ceded the space so that celebrants could vent their emotions toward the building that has stood as the symbol of the Qadhafi regime in Cairo.
Watching the younger demonstrators will their celebration into the early hours of the morning, Misraty was reminded of his own son, who was killed fighting Qadhafi troops earlier this year.
He only needed a few proud words to describe his son's sacrifice: “That's for Libya.”