4 Feb 2011

Egypt: tens of thousands on the streets in Alexandria

As protesters in Alexandria promise to stay on the streets, and sing “every dictator must have an end” to the tune of the national anthem, Lindsey Hilsum asks where Egypt can go from here.

The demonstration in Alexandria today was much bigger than I’d expected. From our vantage point near the mosque I think I saw at least 10,000 people streaming past.

They were shouting “Mubarak must go!” and singing “every dictator must have an end” to the tune of the national anthem.

It still seems unsafe for us to go out on the streets, after our experiences of the last couple of days, but the local Alexandrian reporters we’ve been working with told me that there were huge numbers all the way down the corniche and around the railway station.

In Alexandria people are not staying out all night as they are in Tahrir Square in Cairo but that doesn’t mean the anti-Government fervour is any less widespread. Today, the lawyers, teachers, doctors, accountants, and farmers unions were all out with their banners. From what I’ve heard there was no violence and a promised pro-government demonstration near the stadium seems to have faded away. Nonetheless the doctors’ union had a bus done up as an ambulance with medical supplies just in case.

From the window I could see two small kids jumping up and down on a burnt-out vehicle – one of the remnants of last Friday’s more destructive demonstrations.

So where do we go from here? After 11 days, vast numbers in both Cairo and Alexandria are still out on the streets and diplomatic sources tell me that the Americans are putting “heavy heavy” pressure on President Mubarak to leave. But he seems determined to ignore both the people and his American sponsors who have backed him all these years.

In Alexandria it’s hard to see where this can go next. Thankfully there hasn’t been violence but today people were saying they would come out on the streets again and again until he leaves. And nothing I’ve seen today suggests that their determination will be daunted.