News / Middle East

Egyptians Celebrate Revolution, Get Back to Work

A burned vehicle, piles of rubble and trash in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, February 12, 2011
A burned vehicle, piles of rubble and trash in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, February 12, 2011
Lauren Frayer

On the streets of Egypt, people are doing three things: celebrating their revolution, memorializing those who died in it and getting down to the nitty-gritty work of building their country’s future.

For the past three weeks, Farah El Moataz’s frantic father wouldn’t let her out of the house. He said a revolution was no place for a 15-year-old girl.

"In the beginning I kept begging him to go, but he kept telling me no, it’s dangerous," said Farah. "I kept telling him, at school they keep saying, you have to say your opinion. Today, finally he told me yes you can go downstairs, go to Tahrir Square. Finally I’m here."

But Farah didn’t bring a camera to capture the moment, and she didn’t even come with friends. She rode the bus down here alone - with a only a broom, to sweep the streets where her country’s protesters held vigil for 18 days. "Because it’s my country. I want it to be the best country in the world," he said.

Families stroll downtown Cairo waving Egyptian flags. Parents balance infants on the side of idling army tanks and snap photos for posterity. 18-year-old Doaa Sabry says Egypt’s youth is ready to take on the world.

"We inspired everyone in this revolution, and we want to do something that will inspire every human being in this world, because we can do it," said Doaa.

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Amin Abu Hashem describes his feeling of empowerment. "They feel a sense of hope. It’s gushing from everyone here, like we can do anything now. Everyone has this feeling of a new Egypt - making it a better tomorrow for everyone," said Amin.

But underneath the euphoria, there seems to be a sense of responsibility.  More than 115,000 people have signed onto a Facebook group called "Egypt’s Rebuilding Campaign."

Farah El Moataz picked up her broom, but others don’t know where to start.  Cairo resident Karen Kamel says that after 30 years of authoritarian rule, the idea of freedom can be a bit overwhelming.

"We’ve been used to that for 30 years and maybe people prefer stability rather than something new. I think every person is afraid of change and something very new, but I think it’s in the hands of the people to make a better Egypt," said Kamel.

Much remains undecided - who will lead Egypt long-term? What constitutional changes are coming?

Mourners throw roses and pray over the names of some of those killed in Egypt's revolution, at a makeshift memorial in Tahrir Square, Cairo, February 12, 2011
Mourners throw roses and pray over the names of some of those killed in Egypt's revolution, at a makeshift memorial in Tahrir Square, Cairo, February 12, 2011

There’s also the question of what will become of Tahrir Square, where dozens of unarmed protesters died in clashes with security agents before President Hosni Mubarak resigned. Fafette Mazloum says she wants to see a memorial built in the square.

"It’s for the people. It’s going to be a place where people can come and remember what happened here, how Egyptians were able to bring about a revolution peacefully. This is a symbol for the rest of the world, that things don’t need to be violent," said Fafette.

The future holds many big questions for Egyptians, who are just returning to normal life after 18 days of uncertainty. For now, perhaps it’s easier to pick up a broom and start sweeping.

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