From London to New York, Egyptians are jubilant

Reuters, Saturday 12 Feb 2011

Egyptian expatriates joined their countrymen in celebrating the fall of President Hosni Mubarak

From New York hookah lounges to London's streets, Egyptian expatriates joined their countrymen in celebrating the fall of President Hosni Mubarak.

In London's upscale Mayfair neighborhood, about 200 people celebrated Mubarak's departure outside the Egyptian embassy where they beat drums, danced the conga, hugged and chanted "Bye bye, Mubarak" before marching through the streets.

"This is the beginning of a new chapter for Egypt, for human rights, for democracy, and dignity in Egypt and the Middle East," said 30-year-old student Basim al-Bahalwan.

Barber Mohammed Zayed, 28, said Egyptians were delirious. "Our dignity has returned now this dog has gone."

In New York, dozens of people blocked a street in the borough of Queens, waving Egyptian flags and banners reading "Congratulations to Egyptian youth, your dreams come true" and chanting, "Praise be Allah" and "We live for Egypt to be proud."

"It's finally free," said Hoda Elimam, 32, as she joined in the celebrations with her three children, wearing a sparkly headscarf. "We freed ourselves without blood. I don't fear that Islamists will take power because the faces that make this revolution, I know them, it's just young people."

In Berlin, about 300 Egyptians held a spontaneous rally at the Brandenburg Gate -- the scene of celebrations 21 years ago when the Berlin Wall came down.

Some chanted "Long live Egypt" and sang the Egyptian national anthem, others waved "Power to the People" signs.

Not all Egyptians abroad were certain about the future of their country. Sayed Galal, 32, an Egyptian student in London said, "We're happy but also scared. We're hoping that finally we'll get someone who serves the people before himself. This is the most dangerous time for Egypt."

But Ahmed Ali, 30, an Egyptian waiter in London, said Egyptians were ready for a new chapter. "Whatever comes next, even if it's hard, it's better than more Mubarak," he said.

Some Egyptian Americans were critical of the way Washington acted during the crisis. For more than two weeks, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton struggled to find a balance between supporting the democratic aspirations of the protesters while being wary of openly abandoning a long-time ally or fueling upheaval that may spread through the Middle East.

"I was extremely disappointed in the way Obama and Clinton handled the situation, America is a democracy. It should have stayed by the people since Day One. For me it tainted the reputation of America," said Mariam Allam, 24, a New York marketing student.

Hamdi Hamza, 52, owner of "On the Nile" cafe in the New York neighborhood of Astoria, said that while Friday was about celebrations, some Egyptians feel forgotten by America.

"The Egyptian people love the American people but why did America stand by Israel and forget the Arabic people," he said at his cafe as the television showed the Al Arabiya channel broadcasting images of the celebrations from Tahrir Square.

Obama said after Mubarak's departure that the world had witnessed a historic moment and "Egyptians have inspired us."

But some were concerned about what comes next.

"I don't want the Muslim Brotherhood in power. I'm a practicing Muslim and I don't want extremism," said Allam.

In London, Egyptian financial worker Youssef El-Baz, 32, said Mubarak's ouster was just the first step in a tough road ahead. "We still want the deeper cleansing of the regime."

Also in London, while Egyptians celebrated, one Iraqi restaurant worker offered some words of caution.

"Saddam went, and what did we get? Worse," said Imad Abu Othman, 40, referring to the years of chaos and bloodshed that followed the 2003 ousting of Saddam Hussein after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

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