As the call to prayer reverberated across Cairo, the sound of horns honking in jubilation grew louder after a night when millions across the Arab world’s most populous nation joyfully celebrated the fall of the president.
“The people overthrew the regime”.
“The Revolution of the Youths forced Mubarak to leave”, said front-page headlines in the semi-official al-Ahram newspaper.
It remains to be seen how the armed forces’ high command will create the foundations of democracy for the first time in a nation that traces its history back to the pharaohs more than 5 000 years ago.
A wave of people power has roared across this key American ally in the Middle East, just four weeks after Tunisians toppled their own ageing strongman. Now, across the region and beyond, autocratic rulers are calculating their own chances of survival.
“The January 25 Revolution won. Mubarak steps out and the army rules,” said the official newspaper Al-Gomhuria. Mubarak (82) was thought to be at his residence in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
Eighteen days of rallies on Cairo’s Tahrir, or Liberation Square, resisting police assaults, rubber bullets, tear gas, live rounds and a last-ditch charge by pro-Mubarak hardliners on camels, brought undreamt-of success.
“We are finally going to get a government we choose,” said 29-year-old call-centre worker Rasha Abu Omar.
“Perhaps we will finally get to have the better country we always dreamed of.”
The army dismantled checkpoints yesterday morning around Tahrir Square, which has become the epicentre of the protest movement, and some makeshift barricades were being removed. There was a party atmosphere and people were once again streaming in to the square, not to demonstrate but to celebrate.