About 15 more rounds just fired in the Tahrir Square area. There continues to be a lot of cheering and chanting coming from the square, though, which is a good sign. In fact, it’s getting louder.
11:00 pm: There has been loud cheering from the square for the past several hours, which is a good sign that the rally inside continues to be large and safe. However, I just heard nine gunshots — three bursts of three — from my hotel, which is five minutes’ walk from Tahrir Square.
Also just heard banging on metal gates. The anti-Mubarak protesters inside Tahrir Square have often used that as a sign of trouble coming.
6:30 pm: Today has turned out to be a peaceful day of protest. I spent the afternoon in Tahrir Square, and saw no pro-Mubarak thugs on the way there, nor any police.
The atmosphere was similar to Tuesday’s — though perhaps slightly more sha’bi (“of the people” — that is, the “ordinary” people) and less intellectual-activisty than Tuesday. The square was packed to the gills. The speeches were a combination of political exhortation, a few religiously inflected speeches, and even a rock band that made the place feel like Tahrirapalooza for 20 minutes. They jammed out (think high-school garage band, with enthusiasm making up for quality) to the same lines that everyone has been chanting for days: “irhal!” (get out!), “huwa yamshee; mish ihna hanamshee” (we won’t leave until he does), and so on. It was fun to see everyone — from kids to conservatively dressed women in niqaab and religious men in long beards — rocking out to distorted guitar.
Speaking of conservatively dressed women, one of the photos I took on Wednesday was of a woman in niqaab holding a sign in English that read, “Democracy, not hypocricy” [sic]. Spelling aside, it was great — a reminder that sartorial conservatism and political progressivism are not antithetical in the Muslim world. More Westerners could stand to see that sort of thing. Too bad it was in the camera that was taken from me during Wednesday’s barricade fighting.
I hope that things stay peaceful, inshallah. And that Washington turns up the heat on Mubarak. Maybe he’s busy trying to convince someone to take him in. Whichever country accepts him (if any) will earn the enmity of millions of Egyptians who want him tried in Cairo.
The crowds in Tahrir Square have a sardonic take on this: “Imshee, imshee, ya Mubarak! Til Abeeb intizaarak” (Hey Mubarak, take a hike! Tel Aviv awaits you.) And given how often I’ve heard chants and speeches describe Mubarak as a Zionist and an American ‘aamil (lackey), with one of my youthful interviewees today joking that “he only speaks Hebrew, and doesn’t even speak Arabic,” it’ll be fascinating to see how US-Egyptian and Israeli-Egyptian relations shake out under the new regime that is surely coming.
The longer the United States appears to dither about how staunchly to back the opposition and pressure Mubarak out, the bigger its trust gap will be with the new Egyptian government and its people.
5:20 pm: A rumor coursed through the crowd that thugs were approaching Tahrir Square along Talaat Harb Street. A stream of men started calling for volunteers and making its way through the crowd to fight them (“Yallah, ya rigaalah!” — Let’s go, men!). I joined the stream, but by the time we got to the Talaat Harb entrance to Tahrir Square, others waved us off: “Ma feesh haagah” (there’s nothing going on). False alarm. Al Jazeera reported later that some pro-Mubaraks had tried to enter, but had been stopped by the army. Hey, those are some ballsy thugs — they were willing to take on the hundreds of thousands inside the square?