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After Weeks of Revolution, 'Day of Cleaning' in Cairo

Feb 12, 2011 – 11:01 AM
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Sarah A. Topol

Sarah A. Topol Contributor

At the epicenter of the protest that brought down the three-decade regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, young men and women took to the streets again today -- only this time, with a different agenda. Armed with brooms, gloves and trash bags, they launched a massive cleanup following 18 straight days of unrest that debilitated the country.

"We're taking care of the square, and then we'll clean up the whole country," Mohammed El Tayeb said while standing amid the volunteer cleaning crews sweeping up Tahrir Square. "This is a beautiful country. Now it's ours and we're going to take care of it."

Across the crowded square, young men walked with paper signs taped to their chests that read: "Sorry for the disturbance, we're building Egypt." After days of protests that had such names as the "Day of Rage" and "Day of Millions," today's gathering was called the "Day of Cleaning." A new era has dawned upon the country of 80 million.

Some of the tents previously cramming the square were dismantled as the youth of Egypt's revolution prepared to go home. Vice President Omar Suleiman announced Mubarak's resignation last night and said the government was ceding power to the Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces.

Protesters who had been demanding an end to the regime erupted in cheers of victory. The country celebrated through the night with firecrackers, chanting, singing and car horn honking.

Egypt's military took charge today by relaxing the nighttime curfew to start at midnight instead of 8 p.m. Military officials also restricted travel by current and former government officials without permission from the state prosecutor or the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, according to The Associated Press.

Today, some protesters announced their work was finally complete and they trust the army to stay loyal to the people. Others remain skeptical of the institution's intentions.

Affixing an Egyptian flag to the top of the green tent he had been sleeping in for more than two weeks, Mohammed Nasser said he would continue to camp in Tahrir Square.

"I will never vacate this square until the demands of the people are executed by the military leaders. Until now we cannot have full confidence in them. The system has been cheating us for 30 years," the 62-year-old engineer said. "We cannot have a half-revolution, we need a complete revolution."

Others, like Sarah Baghdaely, disagreed and said it was time to go home. The 23-year-old teacher met three friends in her neighborhood supermarket on the outskirts of Cairo to purchase brooms to bring to the square today. The four women rested on the curb in the midday heat. "It's a little bit sunny, but it's fine," Baghdaely said, laughing.
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"We believe in the military. The people have to go home now," she said.

As people continued to flock to the square to celebrate their hard-won victory against the previously all-powerful regime, strangers signed each other's T-shirts and snapped photos. Some brought their families to see the protests in the square for the first time.

"We wanted to come celebrate with the youth," Mohammed Habib said; his eldest son had been participating in the demonstrations for almost two weeks. Up to now, the rest of the Habib clan had not been to Tahrir Square.

"I wanted them to see a revolution. I wanted them to see the youth," the 52-year-old electrician said about his college-age daughter and 12-year-old son, who both held Egyptian flags. "It's going to be beautiful because the country belongs to us now. ... We're all going to work together to rebuild it."
Filed under: World, AOL Original, Arab World Unrest
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