Thousands packed into Tahrir Square tonight to celebrate the official victory of former army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi as the new president of Egypt.
Prior to the official announcement of the election's results – stating that El-Sisi won nearly 97 percent of the votes, or 23.78 million ballots – Egyptians made their way around streets blocked off by army tanks and through metal detectors to enter a festive atmosphere marked by a blissful crowd showing its patriotism and support for the former defence minister.
One middle-aged man donned an Egyptian flag as an apron and weaved through the crowd with an army tank strapped to his head and a Quran in one hand and a cross in the other. Others carried large signs decorated with military leaders of the past such as Gamal Abdel-Nasser and Anwar Sadat alongside Egypt’s new president. Other prominent figures placed with El-Sisi included Coptic Church leader Pope Tawadros II, Al-Azhar’s Ahmed El-Tayyeb and Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim.
One middle-aged woman who held a picture of ousted president Hosni Mubarak alongside El-Sisi was met with jeers from the crowd, who eventually took the picture of Mubarak from her and ripped it into pieces.
(Photo: Amr Kotb)
The crowd was thickest at the east side of the square, where a stage had been erected and popular songs Boshret Kheir and Teslam El-Ayady played at high volumes nearly consecutively. Peddlers made their way through the crowd, offering those nearby dinner plates with the former general’s picture on them, Egyptian flags of all sizes and the opportunity to paint their faces with the colours of the flag or the letters "CC".
As the sun began to set, the raucous and joyful crowd fell silent to listen to the official results. The celebrators were so anxious to hear the official announcement that even the mention of El-Sisi’s name as a candidate sent a handful of fireworks into the sky and had people dancing on several occasions.
Yet none of the false alarms at the mention of the field marshal's name compared to the thunderous celebrations which erupted when he was announced as president. Youth wearing headbands reading "I love you Sisi" jumped into one another’s arms, middle-aged women ululated and middle-aged men shook hands and hugged.
As the area around the stage quickly shrank to standing-room only, the atmosphere in the square began to resemble that of a concert.
Similar celebrations were taking place across the country and were expected to continue well into the night.
While many of the supporters in the crowd in Tahrir stated that they had come because of their admiration for El-Sisi, others expressed their hope and optimism for the future.
Twenty-year-old Mohamed told Ahram Online that he had come to the square tonight to "celebrate with all the Egyptian people" and that he had voted for the former general because he trusted him to solve the country’s problems. Mohamed added that he planned to stay in the square "well into the evening hours".
Another man stated that he was not in the square to celebrate Sisi himself. "It’s not about Sisi for me," he said, "it’s just having someone who can get the job done and even if that person was a four-year-old boy, then I would still be here celebrating."