I’ve been among the “pilgrims” who have flocked to Tahrir Square regularly in the past couple of weeks, armed with my camera and a smile to connect with long lost members of my national family. I could clearly see the evolution of a new spirit taking shape and growing more mature each day. As more diverse people joined the protesters, something unusual happened: rather than generate potential conflict, what happened was the total opposite; the residents of Tahrir have learnt to draw on the enormous pool of personal experiences and knowledge to create ideal circumstances for their Utopia, a lesson we could all learn from wherever we are in the world. Contrary to what could happen to a community of different people who have been sleeping on the streets for three weeks, the environment kept improving each time I visited.
While strolling around, I’ve heard a notable construction expert sharing logistics rules with some of the committees organizing the square; I’ve seen volunteer doctors distributing a newsletter with tips on health and personal safety to the protesters, including vitamin recommendations offered for free at the makeshift field clinics; and I’ve watched as the volunteer clean-up squads developed from using primitive brooms and discarded shopping bags to collect garbage, into full-fledged recycling stations, complete with organic and solid waste containers; something that hardly existed in Egypt before 25 January 2011, let alone voluntarily and in the middle of a revolution. One of the clean up volunteer was on a wheelchair; I learnt that he is a Special Olympics national hero. He wore all his medals while helping to cleanup his Egypt. This sense of ownership is one of the miracles of the revolution. Previously, it was their Egypt, now it’s ours! A taxi driver who drove me to Tahrir once turned out to be a poet, who had been previously detained under emergency law because his poems called for an uprising against corruption. We both had a unique taxi ride as he finally found an audience in me for his exceptionally well-written poems, while I discovered yet another proof of the new Egyptian spirit. This enriching interaction is an example of what all of us are re-discovering: each other. The protesters’ placard in particular stunned me. As a professional in creativity and communication, I was astonished at the enormous capabilities that were previously caged and were now finally enjoying the fresh air of freedom. In any protest on earth, you’ll notice a unity in the slogans and the messages. But at Tahrir, it is a carnival of creative self-expression, satire, and powerful communication, and surprisingly, from the lower education and income levels more than anyone else.
The revolution’s most precious gain
Only a few weeks ago, I was joining a volunteer effort to combat sexual harassment on Egyptian streets, but that was before 25 January, I don’t think we need it now. Not a single complaint was registered even with millions packed together in a public space, with no police in sight. Nor was there a single incident of interfaith clashes either. What’s more, one of the residents set up a volunteer school for the children who are missing classes because of the protests. This is the freedom of spirit is the Egyptian revolution’s most precious gains. It is this spirit that will rebuild Egypt regardless of what politicians decide to do. Inspired by this show of civility, a French friend told me: “Soon the world will never mention again the bloody French revolution as a historical reference, but everybody will remember the very inspiring, ethical, charismatic, emotional and spiritual Egyptian revolution as a standard of all world revolutions to come.”