WRITERS IN THE REVOLUTION: Mahmoud El-Wardani recalls the onset of the Tahrir demonstrations

Mahmoud El-Wardani, Thursday 17 Feb 2011

Mahmoud El-Wardani witnessed the first moments of what eventually turned out to be a revolution

I am very fortunate indeed, for my heart has never beaten so powerfully over the last 60 years! January 25th had seemed like a very normal day. I had intended to join the demonstrations as usual; standing for a while inside a cage screaming for one or two hours, surrounded by police troops composed of poor soldiers trained for nothing but violence. And indeed, a few minutes after 1pm, there were tens of people standing at the Supreme Court’s doors, and as usual also, I was supposed to enter the cage like all of them and “have fun” as the President had mentioned earlier!!

Since it has been a public holiday, the 26th of July street was fairly empty, so instead of entering the cage, I decided to walk on until I reached the street behind it and saw only 4 demonstrators who noted “May God send more people” so I decided to take a stroll for a while returning back to my first position. Yet before entering the cage, I discovered that there is indeed a demonstration that succeeded in breaking the cage and walked into the main Ramsis street … so I happily joined that one.

Ever since that instant, the face of this country has changed forever … and indeed the regime fell! The mythical miracle was taking shaped right in front of my eyes! Tens and tens of young people walked through Ramsis Street and into Abdel-Monim Riad square on their way to Tahrir. Prepared from the onset for a peaceful demonstration, there was no violence and screaming Selmeya (Peaceful) and following the path of their Tunisian brothers, screaming “The People … want … to topple the regime”. The number kept increasing and increasing with able youth who are can protect the demonstration despite the friction with the police.

Once again I was fortunate to observe myself the entry of the first demonstration into Tahrir square. I witnessed the young men crying – indeed in tears – as soon as the square was conquered. On the other end of the square, another demonstration was being chased away using water pipes and tear gas, but the people kept pouring in! I – the old man – climbed a small wall to observe it all myself, and was then sure about how lucky I was! Approaching from a third side of the square were hundreds of people, and more were coming from where I left earlier, and pouring in from every single entrance to the square. The police was completely taken by surprise, unable to contain the masses, with signs of desperation even on their big trucks.

I have observed that day – and the following – that as much as these young people are able to contain any vandalizism or violence, they have no hesitation in facing the police. As soon as the police strikes, they also move forward, fearless, jumping above their cars pouring water to block their pipes. That night, it wasn’t only Tahrir square, but indeed all of Egypt became Tahrir square: in Shubra (north of Tahrir), Bulaq el-Dakrour (north west), Bulaq Abul-Ela (North), and in other parts of Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, Ismailia, Quena and Menia among many others.

Is it a revolution then???!!


Mahmoud El-Wardani is a novelist and journalist, winner of the Sawiris Foundation Award 2010



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