Victory Friday in Cairo's Tahrir Square

Tens of thousands of Egyptians pray and celebrate the fall of the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak
Tens of thousands of Egyptians pray and celebrate the fall of the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak, and to maintain pressure on the current military rulers, in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 18, 2011.
AP Photo


CBS News correspondent Terry McCarthy files from Cairo, Egypt

Friday hundreds of thousands of Egyptians turned out on the streets of Cairo to celebrate what they called "Victory Friday" - just one week after Mubarak stepped down after 30 years in power. The state media, that had pretended the anti-Mubarak demonstrations were not taking place while he was in power, have now come over to the other side, and they estimated today that there were some 2 million people on the streets of Cairo.

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And although Friday's celebrations were not marred by violence, the Egyptian military warned Friday that "illegal" strikes could not continue. It was not clear if the warning was aimed at the celebration in Tahrir Square or rather to labor strikes that have taken place this week.

On the way to the square we came across Abdulaziz, who was standing by his car which was covered with heaps of white t-shirts with "I Love Egypt" stenciled on the front. He was selling them for 20 Egyptian pounds each, about $4, and business was so good he was afraid he hadn't brought enough with him. He had already sold 2,000 in 2 hours, and would run out pretty soon if people kept buying at the same rate.

"I have always been proud to be an Egyptian - but today is special," said Abdulaziz, who wore huge mirror shades and confided that he had lived for some time in Orlando Florida before returning to Egypt.

It was a celebration of being Egyptian in the square. There was a sea of flags - the army was even handing out flags to people as they came through the army checkpoints on the entry roads to the square. One group of people had formed an enormous conga line with a 200-yard long roll of material in the red, white and black colors of the Egyptian flag - they snaked back and forth through the crowd, making especially good pictures for anyone on a balcony looking down on the square. People with pots of red, white and black paint were doing brisk business painting peoples' faces with Egyptian flags. And the crowd kept chanting "Hold your head high, you are Egyptian" - the words they have been using all week since Mubarak left.

We waded into the crowds, headed for a stage with a camera that was broadcasting live from the square. After much pushing and shoving we made it to the stage - it was an amazing view, but it was almost impossible to hear what the producer and anchor in New York was saying into my earpiece because of the noise of the crowd. But I managed to start speaking at about the right time, and ended when the producer on the ground gave me a hand signal. Then it was back into the crowd. One man wanted to lift one of us up on his shoulders, others said the characteristic "Welcome to Egypt" that we have heard so often from strangers here.

In the midst of the square we bumped onto Hussein Hamdi, a 23-year-old web designer, who was only too happy to tell us what he and everyone felt about the recent events.

"I am happy, so happy. I cannot tell you how happy I am," he said. And then he turned and said - "You want to know what it means to be free?" and he put his hand up in the air, and began shouting "Hold your head high, you are Egyptian."

Soon we were surrounded by a small crowd of impassioned Egyptians, all chanting the same thing, all holding their heads really high ...

  • Terry McCarthy

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