11 Feb 2011

'All of Cairo has come to dance and celebrate'

Our International Editor, Lindsey Hilsum, reports on the scenes of jubilation in central Cairo as the news of President Mubarak’s resignation reaches the streets.

Celebrations in Cairo (Reuters)I have been out near Tahrir Square and by the TV station. The noise is deafening. It seems that all of Cairo has come to dance and scream and shout and celebrate.

Every time I tried to speak to someone or do a piece to camera I was surrounded by chanting crowds. Everyone is beside themselves with joy.

When people find out that Switzerland has frozen assets believed to belong to the Mubarak family that will make them really happy. Corruption is one of the biggest issues and one of the things people have been most angry about.

But is this really a revolution? President Mubarak has stepped down and the army higher command has stepped up. Will the army really usher in democracy?

President Mubarak himself was in the air force. The military has always been the most powerful political force in the country, since the 1952 Free Officers Coup which brought General Nasser to power.

So have the demonstrators focused on Mubarak so much that they haven’t realised that while getting rid of him the system will remain the same? But these are all questions for tomorrow.

The people love the army. First because it’s a conscript force so many serve in it, second because of patriotic feeling about the 1973 war with Israel and now because it has ousted the hated Mubarak.

The Facebook and Twitter generation started the Nile revolution, the old generals were the ones who brought it to its climax. These were 18 days that shook the Middle East.

The authoritarian leaders of all the neighbouring countries must be watching the television tonight and wondering who’s next.