Middle East

Mubarak resigns: Day of glory for Egypt protesters

Celebrations in Tahrir Square, Cairo

There is a huge victory party going on in Tahrir - or Liberation - Square, complete with fireworks, flag-waving and jubilant whistling and cheering.

Chants go up: "This is freedom for Egypt" and "The people have won - it's over". "Mubarak go to hell," yells one man in the crowd.

After the announcement on state television that the president was stepping down, news spread quickly through the streets with drivers honking their horns.

Quickly the tide of people turned back to the square that has acquired deep symbolic meaning during two and a half weeks of unprecedented protests.

"It's amazing. I can't describe it. It's like a dream," says Mohamad el-Ethy, grinning broadly. "I am 28 years old, you can say I've lived 28 years of emergency law and one president. This is an historic day.

"Now there will be change."

"We're just very, very, very happy," comments Nora el-Fangary. "We've done what we wanted peacefully. We're just asking for our basic human rights and it shows that determination gets what you want. We're looking forward to a brighter future."

Many have come with their extended families to witness the moment. Two small children, with painted faces, joyfully sing the national anthem.

A father hoists his little son onto his shoulders to get a better view of the remarkable scenes.

"I am so proud to be an Egyptian. I want everything that is best for my country," says a middle-aged mother, Olfat al-Shaharty. "Now we will build a new Egypt. Where my children and grandchildren can breathe and walk and talk freely. They will have the voice that I didn't have since I was born."

The sense of optimism is not dented by the prospect of military rule.

Shouts continue: "The people and the army in one hand."

Soldiers smile as they allow groups of friends to pose in front of their tanks, positioned on the nearby streets.

"The army proved they will never betray the people of Egypt. We can hold on until the next elections," says one student.

There is a general acceptance of this takeover, justified as a temporary measure until political reforms can be executed ahead of the presidential election due in September.

"We do want a civilian state, not a military one," insists Sobhy el-Said Mohasen. "This situation will not last."

"This will be a liberal, civilian country, like those in Europe. We want democracy, freedom of speech, no corruption and free and fair elections," declares a journalist, Ibrahim Ahmed.

He came to the square on the first day of protests on 25 January only to quit his job and join in. Like many who have camped out here and engaged in daily political debates, he has clear ideas of the direction that the country must now head in and is conscious of Western concerns.

"Do not be scared of the Muslim Brotherhood," he adds. "It will not take over but it is part of the fabric of society so we cannot marginalise it. It will make a contribution under a civilian umbrella."

Others stress that a cross-section of Egyptian society has taken part in what they are now calling a revolution.

"I want people to know this is Christians and Muslims, rich and poor, old and young," says a young doctor, Ahmed Abdul Salem. "I am speechless about what I have seen in the last couple of weeks - days of violence and this day of glory. Now all Egyptians know we have rights."