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Tahrir Square feverish as revolt awaits Mubarak news

world Updated: Feb 11, 2011 01:55 IST
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Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians gathered in feverish anticipation in Cairo's central Tahrir Square on Thursday to await what they fervently hoped would be President Hosni Mubarak's resignation.

The festival-like atmosphere at the symbolic epicentre of a two-week-old national uprising became still more frenetic as news began to circulate that the military was taking charge of the situation.

"The people have brought down the regime!" they chanted. "The people and the army will complete the journey!"

While a pocket of protesters chanted "Civilians not army!" most seemed to trust the armed forces to oversee Mubarak's departure, and some were so keen to see the end of the 82-year-old autocrat they gave no thought to his successor.

At one point an MC led the crowds in a chant of "I want to get married!" -- a dig at Egypt's widespread joblessness, which forces even college graduates to work for several years so they can afford to start their own households.

Moments later a couple in full nuptial dress climbed up onto the stage and performed their wedding ceremony to loud cheers.

Photographers perched on a balcony overlooking the square estimated that at least 200,000 people had gathered there to await the news, and streets leading to the area were packed with flag-waving merrymakers.

A military cordon deployed around the square to contain the protest, backed by a squadron of tanks, remained in place as jubilant demonstrators danced and women ululated with joy.

Most of the protesters -- indeed most of Egypt's relatively young population -- have known no other ruler than Mubarak, and they were thrilled that their revolution might repeat the success of last month's Tunisian revolt.