Tahrir Square may not have been a popular (and infamous) place to visit while in Cairo, but today, it is
the place to see and to experience firsthand. Since January 25 th 2011, the square has been the focal point of the Egyptian Revolution that shook the country from top to bottom.
Thanks to the revolution (a protest against the former president Hosni Mubarak) and the media, the name Tahrir Square (which means Liberation Square) became known worldwide as well as it became the symbol of democracy and freedom for the country. You can learn more about the
2011 Egyptian Revolution on this Wikipedia page.
This post is not about the revolution itself, but about the people, life at the square, and the art – especially the art.
This is what I saw at the Square in a span of three days of back to back visits.
Life at the Square
This is what daily life looks like at the Square. It might look ugly and might the closest thing to a temporary slum, but it is a scene of peaceful interaction – 90% of the time. People chat about daily news, drink their tea, eat together, and just hang around. The other 10%, well, that’s what you see in traditional media. Did you know that this is actually the third revolution at Tahrir Square? The first one was in 1919 and the second in 1952.
Every Friday at 1:15 pm, they all congregate in a corner of the square to pray, as any other regular Muslim in the world does.
The semi-permanent population at the square, and the many daily visitors (most of them locals), have generated an informal market that is sprinkled all around the square. You can find anything from fruits, juice, hot food, souvenirs, jewelry, and everything in between.
Every now and then, people congregate and protest (pacifically). They give speeches and talk about their purpose – a way to lift their spirit and to keep the fire burning.
Certain streets around the square have been blocked to separate the military area from the civil area. It is common to see people peeking through the concrete blocks to see any “movement” behind them.
This is what’s seen through the blocks… Military equipment, ready for action at any moment.
The military is known to throw tear gas on the Square. While it didn’t happen at the time of this picture, this guy represents the reality of what happens every now and then at the Square.
A small demonstration in the middle of an even bigger demonstration. Sorry, I don’t read Arabic, so I can’t say what’s written.
It is a sign of patriotism to paint the colors of the Egyptian flag in any part of their body.
Even the young participate actively in the revolution.
An artist painting the image of one of the latest victims of the revolution.
All throughout the day, people stop to contemplate the art and remember the “fallen”.
This is probably the most interesting wall in all the Square. It is actually in a side street from the square – a kind of “explosive” street from all the potential energy created by the art display of their “fallen heroes”; the women and family members who come to pay respect to the image of their sons, brothers, and friends; and the proximity to the street blockade that separate the military area. This is not a safe street to be at, but it is the most interesting part of the square in terms of artistic public expression.
I love the simplicity of this graffiti. It simply states the removal of the military from power.
I don’t read Arabic, of course, but there’s something about the posture, mask, and look of this woman that intrigues me a lot.
Probably my favorite “gorilla art” in the entire square. This is a man being choked by a device locked on his neck, as if it intended to take out his voice. The lock (while not clearly visible in this particular graffiti) has the word “scaf”, which is the name given to the military, the people in power, who are trying to cut their voice and opinion.
Another piece of art I love. I believe it is pretty self-explanatory.
One of the most interesting aspects about the art at Tahrir Square is that they also incorporated their ancient cultural/artistic style into their artistic expression.
As I was told, this piece of art represents how the people are trying to climb but they keep falling. This is a representation of their current fight against the current power.
I’m not surprised the popular masked face of the movie “V for Vendetta” is displayed at Tahrir Square. Have you seen the movie? Can you see the deep relationship with this current reality?
This is basically the motto that has kept the revolution alive for over a year now. The people, Egyptians, won’t give up without a fight.
Now you know that Tahrir Square is not
just what is shown in the news.