By Heba El-Sherif
Throughout 18 days, Tahrir Square in central Cairo gradually became a city on its own. Protesters camped there lived in tents side by side, eliminating religious and class barriers. Vibrant with cultural activities, the Square became an iconic landmark, not only because of the revolution, but for the friendships and memories people shared there.
Magdy Iskandar Saad
Like many who use art to express their frustration in Tahrir, Magdy Iskandar Saad sat on the pavement as sheets of his own writing spread in front of him for passersby to glance.
He wrote poetry, mostly expressing anger towards President Hosni Mubarak’s regime.
With a scratchy voice and barely any trim teeth left, 64-year-old Saad told Daily News Egypt that “because of Mubarak’s unfair rule, I haven’t yet gotten married.”
Saad came to Tahrir on the evening of Jan. 28 when protestors took over the square after a battle with central security forces. On Feb. 2, he fought the armed pro-Mubarak supporters with a metal skewer, but luckily sustained no injuries.
“Everything was quiet until that Wednesday [Feb. 2],” he recalled.
As he squatted down on a pile of blankets, his beard unshaven, Saad pledged that he wouldn’t leave until Mubarak resigned.
“All we ask for is for him to step down and for the two [parliamentary] councils to be dissolved,” Saad said, reiterating two of the main demands outlined by protestors in the square.
A day later Mubarak stepped down, assigning the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to run the country. The council then dissolved the upper and lower houses of parliament
Saneya El Fiqi
A researcher at Al Ahram Center for Strategic and Economic Development by day and an activist at heart, Saneya El Fiqi is also a member of the Democratic Front Party.
Referring to Tahrir as ”Revolution Square”, El Fiqi said that the protestors couldn’t have reached what they have if it weren’t for the square.
“I feel estranged when I am not here,” said the 32-year-old who spent at least seven nights in Tahrir.
A former member of the opposition movement Kefaya, El Fiqi said that she had previously broken the barrier of fear by participating in several protests, “but things took a very different turn this time,” she admitted.
“This is a fight for civil society; a fight for a free press. It’s a fight for integrity.”
El Fiqi previously took part in monitoring the parliamentary and presidential elections of 2004-2005.
Ashraf El Maghazy
Selling tea, anis and warm hibiscus at LE 1 a cup, Ashraf El Maghazy was one wheel behind Tahrir’s speeding economy.
After chaos ensued when police forces fled the streets in the hours after protestors took the square on Jan. 28, El Maghazy shut down his coffee shop in Shobra El Kheima, where he originally resided, to open a more mobile one in Tahrir.
“I graduated from business school at the University of Zagazig in 2006, but after losing hope in government pay, I decided to turn to small entrepreneurship,” he told Daily News Egypt.
His street stall, draped with the Egyptian flag, was buzzing with orders, even during the sunny hours of day.
“When Mubarak leaves, I will leave,” he said as he served tea to two men, although he remained uncertain about the future of his coffee shop in Shobra.
Mostafa Mohamed Ezz
As rain poured over Cairo Thursday afternoon, Mostafa Mohamed Ezz joined his brother and friends in hiding under their new, makeshift home built from just tarps and blankets.
He settled in Tahrir on Jan. 28. In a low, somewhat defeated voice, Ezz recalled his reasons for joining protests.
“I saw people around me being arrested all the time, and nobody was held accountable. There is no justice; our integrity has been taken away,” he told Daily News Egypt.
Before moving in to Tahrir, Ezz worked at a clothing factory in Imbaba.
“But you know, you work one week and then rest for a month,” he said.
When asked about the recent concession made by President Mubarak, which included a cabined reshuffle and announcing his intention not to run in presidential elections, Ezz was quick to refute any negotiation.
“These were just a mere change in faces. We want the whole system down.”
A graduate of journalism, Omar Basha has been participating in protests since Jan. 25. However, for the last two weeks, he split his time between camping out in the square and spending time with his family.
“I will not leave until someone [from the system] comes to speak with us,” said Basha, who lived in the affluent neighborhood of Agouza.
When asked about his reasons for his decision to come to Tahrir, Basha stated two concerns.
“I don’t want people here to leave, that’s why if I go to see my family or friends I always come back,” he told Daily News Egypt.
“The other thing is that I am afraid that the Muslim Brotherhood would take over the protests, and the square, like a lot of people have been saying.”
Hailing from Menoufiya, Mubarak’s birthplace, Israa spent the day with her family in Tahrir.
“I wish I could spend the night, but I can’t,” said the shy, slender 19-year-old. She explained that both her father and brother have been spending their nights in Tahrir, but that she and her cousin go home by nighttime.
But being away from Cairo didn’t not deter Israa from joining other protests taking place in Menoufiya.
“I will continue to go out until Mubarak falls,” she said.