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Egyptians Cheer End of Mubarak Rule

  • Elizabeth Arrott

An Egyptian soldier holds a boy atop an army vehicle as they celebrate the news of the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, who handed control of the country to the military, in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, Egypt, February 11, 2011

An Egyptian soldier holds a boy atop an army vehicle as they celebrate the news of the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, who handed control of the country to the military, in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, Egypt, February 11, 2011

The resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak electrified the tens of thousands of people in Cairo's Tahrir Square. People danced, cheered and shed tears of joy as the central demand of their 18 days of protest was met and nearly 30 years of a presidency came to an end.

"It's over. The nation ended the regime." The words were chanted by young and old, men, women and the children they brought to celebrate the profound change Egypt has undergone.

"Welcome, welcome in New Egypt. Welcome in new Egypt." The simple sentiment of this protester was expressed by many on the square; an era has ended, and the future is theirs.

Women ululated, young men danced in spontaneous conga lines, and everywhere on the square - remarkably well-kept after 18 days of occupation - emotions overflowed.

Another protester said, "We were suppressed. We were subjected to such tyranny, and now I am saying we won the match against him."

"Him" is former President Mubarak, whose seeming intransigence in a speech the day before prompted opposition figure Mohammed el Baradei to warn the nation would explode. And it did, just not in the way he thought.

Even in the street party that engulfed Cairo, however, there were voices of trepidation.

Cairene Adel Mohamed is among the wary. "He should have stayed until he finished his duration, and then he should have seen who comes after him. It's going to be chaos."

Watch Elizabeth Arrott's video report:

The military that has stepped in is promising to protect the nation, an echo of the origins of the regime that is now at its end. Not everywhere do people welcome a takeover by the armed forces, but such was the case in Egypt in the last century, when Gamal Abdel Nasser helped overthrow the monarchy and told his countrymen to "lift up your heads"

The same words were chanted anew Friday on Tahrir Square, a reminder of the American author Mark Twain's observation that "history doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme."

Others, like Karim Fanous, joining in the mass movement to the streets, looked to the long days of hard work ahead.

"It's a very important transition that needs to be undergone progressively and carefully monitored," said Fanous. "I still don't believe it frankly - a bit skeptical."

With few independent institutions and a civil society that has been stifled for decades, plus a victorious opposition that includes secular leftists and conservative Islamists, there are many questions about how the transition will proceed.

On this Friday, though, this Cairo woman, was thinking of the more immediate future. "I think it will be the biggest party that Egypt's ever seen probably."

As Halah Said held a flag, whose colors emblazoned the band holding back her hair, she added, "I can't believe that it happened."

Watch Luis Ramirez's companion video report

Slide show of protests and reaction

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