I am proud to be Egyptian. That’s how I’ve felt since the beginning of this revolution, a feeling that reached its pinnacle in Tahrir Square after President Hosni Mubarak stepped down. Many dreams that were thought to be impossible are now in front of the Egyptian people, who feel that they now can come true.
Over the 18-day revolution, we proved that we could stand firm and survive. We restored our dignity and showed the whole world that we are civilized people by using all peaceful means to regain our rights, by checking protesters to make sure they were not armed before allowing them to join the rest and by cleaning up the square that was home to many of us for many long days.
At 6 p.m. on Feb. 11, I was still at my newspaper; I couldn’t leave before hearing the presidential statement, given less than 24 hours after a very disappointing one that raised the anger of Egyptians.
“President Mubarak has decided to step down…” I didn’t hear the rest of the speech given by Vice President Omar Suleiman, as all of us were screaming with joy, unbelieving that we did it and that the dream had come true.
I ran to the department’s balcony, chanting, “The people toppled the regime.” My colleagues followed, cheering with me, as we were joined by people in the street and in nearby buildings.
“Let’s go to Tahrir Square,” my boss said. We all rushed to get our bags and run down the stairs, the same stairs we ran down more than 18 days before in the first days of our revolution. That day we ran to join the demonstration that was passing in the street below our office, and to walk with the rest of the people until we reached the great square about 6 kilometers from our office that became a symbol of protest.
On our way to the square on Feb. 11, our car came to a point where it couldn’t move because everybody was heading to the same destination to celebrate our victory. We got out and walked until we reached the square, where we met thousands of Egyptians raising our flag, congratulating each other, singing the national anthem and cheering, “Raise your head up… you’re Egyptian.” I met my friends and we embraced each other, dancing and crying with joy.
In front of the People’s Assembly, where some protesters had occupied the street to put more pressure on the now-toppled Mubarak, I was standing with a friend when a young military officer guarding the building started to talk to us. “Thank you,” I said to him, as I said to each soldier or officer who I met on my way, but added, “but you know what, there were times I was afraid you might let us down.”
Smiling at me, he answered, “We would never shoot a single bullet at an Egyptian, Muslim or Christian.” After a long conversation, we left to join the celebration in other spots. Now the national songs have a different impact, I can feel the meaning of their lyrics.
During the celebrations, the young protesters didn’t forget that they still have a long way to go. In addition to joyful conversations and greetings, a new slogan emerged: “The people want to rebuild the country.” Talk began to spread about plans for the future and fixing the damage caused by the ousted regime.
The next day, both young and middle-aged people who had been occupying Tahrir Square brought brooms, shovels and detergents to clean the mess left after 18 days of a sit-in that involved some battles with thugs and resulted in significant damage.
“We won’t wait for the authorities to clean our country,” said Noor Naga, a member of a campaign to clean Egypt’s streets. “I was one of the protesters in Tahrir Square and during my stay there, we set up a group and each one of us will be heading the [cleaning]operations in his area.”
The campaign started Saturday, the day after Mubarak stepped down, and participants agreed to move beyond cleaning Tahrir Square, where many others were working, to broader areas and goals. “We have sustainable plans and it’s not just about cleaning the street; there’s another campaign to buy securities in the stock market in order to compensate for the loses that occurred during the revolution,” Naga said.
Many hopes and dreams wait to be fulfilled, as Egyptians are eager to build their future and prove to the world, and to their last jailer, that they were right – that they deserve the “democracy, justice and civil state” they called for in their protests.
“The only prayer I was saying is that my children would witness better days, and thanks to God, it’s coming true,” said Ashraf Mahmoud, a taxi driver who said he has many hopes for the reborn Egypt and is sure that nobody will dare try to fool Egyptians or steal from them because the people now know their own strength.
Mahmoud is looking for a country without corruption and with better education for his children that helps them think. He said he hoped the money stolen by the last regime’s tyrants would be returned to the country, at least to pay Egypt’s debts.
Housewife Amal Hanna said she wished the education system would introduce the concepts of tolerance and acceptance. She said she thought the country’s priority should be improving the education, health and life conditions of its young people.
“A brand new constitution and real democracy” – that’s what Aref Shanab, a PR manager, said he thought was key for a better future. He said he thought the Turkish model should be imitated as much as possible. “A secular country where the army protects the constitution, that’s what I want to see.”