My journey to the protests in front of the Presidential Palace is a long one, much like the journey Egyptians have endured since the revolution. The closer we get to our destination, the more people park their cars anywhere they can and start to walk, the more shops have chosen to close early. Streets away from the palace, throngs of people are walking on the road or pavements, waving the Egyptian flag. People look happy to be out protesting and anxious to reach the main street.
It is on the main street in Heliopolis where the protests are held that the mood turns festive. People chant in large groups across the long street. Opportunistic entrepreneurs try attracting people with their triple-high priced products; flags, tea, cold drinks, face painting, t-shirts; the list goes on. I haven’t taken my digital camera with me, in an effort to be street-wise. But I needn’t have worried. Families with their children make up the majority of the population on this Monday night.
I even found these two elderly women sleeping deeply in the midst of loud chanting, with their cute little puppy. They look exhausted. This is what Egyptian politics have done to them, I pointed out to my family.
Every person on the street has something to say, either by chanting out loud against the Ikhwanisation of their country or by holding up signs demanding that the president leave. People here come from all walks of life, including Muslims wearing the hijab and men with beards. No one is against Islam here, my friend tells me. They are against the Muslim Brotherhood and their monopoly on the country.
Although it was 9 in the evening, people were still arriving, pushing their way through. For the first time I’ve been in Egypt, young men who accidentally shove me apologize, holding up their hands, with an I wasn’t trying to harass you there, I promise! look on their faces.
Many elderly citizens came out to protest, including this lady in a wheelchair. She wore a badge that also demands the president to step down.
Fireworks continuously lit up the sky along with green lasers, expressing the hope people here have for a better Egypt. It all felt very much like the atmosphere of the 11th of February 2011 when the then president stepped down, but this time people were out to change their situation, not celebrate after the fact.
With people up until the night of the 30th of June not sure how the numbers would turn out, people looked proud and happy that so many came out to protest. It felt like I was at a festival, or a carnival-like Notting Hill in London sans the colorful dancers.
The barricade around the palace is filled with graffiti. Freedom of expression is something very new in Egypt and Egyptians are quite creative in finding outlets to express their feelings. Drums, plastic trumpets, and whistles were all part of the sounds of the protest outside the Presidential Palace.
Perhaps there are those who think Egyptians are celebrating prematurely, but I would like to believe that they are celebrating the sheer numbers that have turned out on the streets across Egypt; and the fact that fear is no longer an issue paralyzing them into submission in their homes. Tonight thousands of people held their head high and their flags higher, knowing there was no longer that one thing they feared: fear itself.
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