Field-Marshal Hussein Tantawi, Egypt’s de facto ruler, paid a surprise visit to Cairo’s flashpoint Tahrir Square on Sunday afternoon.
According to media reports, Tantawi, head of Egypt’s ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), wanted to ensure that traffic was running smoothly in the square, which has continued to serve as a rallying point for political dissent since Egypt’s January revolution.
Hundreds of protesters, who have been occupying the square since 19 November to demand that the SCAF hand over power to a civilian authority, removed all traffic barriers on Saturday. But they maintained makeshift tents in the square’s central island and in the area next to the administrative Mogamaa building.
Tantawi’s visit was the first of its kind to the iconic square since late last fall, when he made a brief appearance in downtown Cairo wearing civilian garb, igniting widespread speculation that he was considering a bid for the presidency.