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‘Tahrir safest place in Cairo’

world Updated: Feb 06, 2011 00:50 IST
Amitava Sanyal

As darkness falls on Saturday, the crowd at Tahrir Square is swelling. Diehards who have been here for all the 12 days that have shaken the Arab world give guesstimates of the crowd’s size: “The number is double of what there was at noon today. But half of what there was on D-Day — Friday’s Departure Day.”

Despite a persistent light rain, people are still streaming into the square by the Castle Bridge that spans the Nile. Of the three checkpoints into the square, two are manned by volunteers from the anti-government protestors.

Lines of Egyptian civilians cheer and chant, showing their support for those entering the square. Just a few days ago, this was the site of pitched battles broadcast around the world. "Today," says Muhammad Shalaby, a 42-year-old engineer, "Tahrir is the safest place in Cairo once you are in." Thousands mill around. There is a mood of charity. If you are wounded, there are dozens to tend to you. The many children are carefully shielded from the jostle.

Waves of rumours spread across the square. At dusk, the word spreads through the crowd that Mubarak has resigned his party posts. On its heels comes another rumour, that the military wants Tahrir cleared tonight. Ultimately the rumours make little difference. These people are here for 'tahrir', Arabic for liberation, and they are staying put.

"No one knows what will happen to us here," said Hisham, a 30-year-old writer. "Even if Mubarak has resigned his party positions, it does not matter. What we want is for him to leave the country."