"Revolution Tourists" Flock to Tahrir Square

An Egyptian woman presents white flowers to Egyptian army soldiers in Tahrir Square, in downtown Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011. Egyptian protesters were jubilant Saturday over their success in ousting former President Hosni Mubarak, but many vowed to stay camped in Tahrir Square until they hear "clear assurances" that the military will meet their demands for democracy. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
AP Photo/Khalil Hamra
Egypt celebrates
An Egyptian woman presents white flowers to Egyptian army soldiers in Tahrir Square, in downtown Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011.
AP Photo/Khalil Hamra

After the revolution - comes the party - and the clean-up. Across Tahrir Square volunteers - many summoned by tweets, picked up brushes to sweep away the detritus left behind after 18 days of protests. Others took paintbrushes and cans of black and white paint to repaint the curbs. We saw one man dressed in a business suit and tie and holding his briefcase in one hand, painting away with the other hand, as the student from whom he had borrowed the brush looked on with bemusement. Everywhere people carried garbage sacks, dodging in and out of the cars that are now free to drive through the square again.

There are still some protesters left in one corner of the square, a hardcore group who want more changes - for example the lifting of the state of emergency, which Mubarak imposed 30 years ago and allowed his security forces to detain almost anyone they wanted. The army has now cordoned them off, and their numbers are slowly shrinking.

The bigger issue in the square now is the congestion caused by "revolution tourists". Cairenes who didn't take part in the protests are now flocking to the square to see the place that has changed all their lives forever. They have all been watching television images of the square for the past 18 days - now is the time to come out, get your picture taken sitting on a tank, (the army are very relaxed), read some of the posters commemorating those who were killed, and tell everyone for ever after that you were "in Tahrir Square".

Today we met a teacher who had been working in Qatar and flew back to Egypt to be part of the ongoing party in Tahrir, as well as a Canadian-Egyptian who couldn't get enough of the revolutionary spirit.

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After dark, the square becomes an immense launching pad for fireworks, which explode over the square with less murderous intent than the live gunfire that echoed here two weeks ago. At one end there is still a stage that protesters have been using to give speeches and play music from - while the tents were still pitched in the square it made the whole place feel like a Middle Eastern Woodstock.

More than one woman has said to me that Tahrir Square over the last 18 days was the only place where they felt no sexual harassment or discrimination. Many now refer to the "Spirit of Tahrir," by which they mean a mix of freedom and respect for others that is new to them. And others say, only half joking, that if the army doesn't accede to their various demands, "then we now know very well the way to Tahrir."