Cairo Awakes To A New Dawn

Cairo and other cities in Egypt are wondering what's next after the historic resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. Host Scott Simon gets the latest from NPR's Soraya Nelson in Tahrir Square.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Egypt is exhausted but jubilant this morning. The anger that rang out from Cairo's Liberation Square and forced the ouster of a dictator became an all-night explosion of joy that has yet to wind down. We'll report on the reaction of the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak throughout today's program - from Alexandria to the world's capitals to a neighborhood in the United States called Little Egypt.

First, we go to the still-crowded littered streets of Cairo. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson joins from Tahrir Square, focal point of the protests. Soraya, what have you seen so far today?

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: Well, there's still a fairly carnival-like atmosphere here in the square, although what's different is that people are cleaning up and packing up and getting ready to leave. We spoke with one of the ElBaradei supporters here - this is Mohamed ElBaradei, Nobel Laureate - and he's saying the plan is to sort of clean up and allow Tahrir Square to return to normal but with the understanding that they will return if the army does not oversee the transition to democratic reforms that they're looking for.

SIMON: Well, and this raises the next question. The protestors, in a sense, have tasted power. Do they have a new agenda they want to pursue?

SARHADDI NELSON: Well, there certainly are mixed feelings here. I mean, again, some people are saying it is time to go but then we talked to others who are saying that, no, we better stay because many of the key demands have not been met yet. I mean, the question is what happens with the remnants of the regime who are here? What happens with the military? I mean, how are they going to oversee this transition? And then who comes next? Who are the new political forces that are going to help move this forward to a democracy the way the Egyptian people here in Tahrir and elsewhere seem to want?

And a lot of those questions have no answer yet at this point. But the feeling here is that the biggest thing that they wanted, Mr. Mubarak leaving, has been achieved and that they need to allow Egyptians and this country to return to normal. And so we see so many people in the streets and volunteers sweeping. There was a water truck that came through earlier. And we saw trucks carrying out some blankets that had been used night after night in the square here. Completely different scene from what we've seen in the past 18 days.

SIMON: And anything from the new military government, Soraya?

SARHADDI NELSON: Well, we've been waiting for more communiques to come out on state television. There has been nothing - at least that we're aware of - thus far. One thing that state television did announce is that the curfew is being moved or being shortened. So, now it's only going to go from midnight to 6 a.m., again, with an attempt to return things to normal.

The other thing is that announces of schools are open tomorrow, which is the first time in almost three weeks.

SIMON: And tell us about the army - not just the ones in the new military government but out there on the street and this extraordinary relationship they seem to have with the people of Cairo.

SARHADDI NELSON: The still are continuing that. They're sort of standing back overseeing some of this volunteer work that's going on. We did see one officer politely asking somebody with a tent in the street over there watching that they clean that, you know, that they move the tent aside. And I'm not sure if they've complied yet - I think they might be in the process of doing it.

But they've sort of taken a stand-back role and have not really interfered with what's going on here, waiting to see what the people do. It is important to say though that the police seem to have returned to some neighborhoods, like Heliopolis, which is where the presidential palace is. And so it'll be interesting to see how that relationship unfolds with the people.

SIMON: NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson joining us from Cairo this morning. Thanks so much, Soraya.

SARHADDI NELSON: You're welcome, Scott.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.