Egyptian protests: A report from Cairo as jubilation turns to disappointment and anger.

Notes from different corners of the world.
Feb. 10 2011 8:15 PM

Rage Against the Regime

A report from Cairo as jubilation turns to disappointment and anger.

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Suddenly another hush rolled over the square. Mubarak had started speaking. Everyone gathered around Tarek, who was listening from his headphones and trying to repeat what he heard. But he was too nervous. He couldn't breathe, he was shaking, he kept messing up the speech.

Then, just as suddenly as the hush, a voice filled the square. It sounded like the voice of God. As thousands stood with heads bowed in complete silence, straining to hear the omnipotent voice booming across the expanse, Hazem held his hands over his face. Tarek held his arms up, fingers laced through his hair. Mohammad stared at me, shaking his head.

As the speech continued, people began breaking off to cluck their disapproval. Their neighbors quieted them. A little girl sitting on her father's shoulders energetically waved a flag, but few noticed. As Mubarak continued to speak—his speech lasted 17 minutes—people sank into themselves. The crowd was literally deflated. As soon as he was done, one chant went up through the crowd: "Leave!"

But Mubarak had just explained that, though he will hand over power to Vice President Omar Suleiman, he will remain in office until the elections scheduled for the fall. "I don't know how I feel," Tarek said. "I feel like I've been cheated. … He said he'll continue until September, so he'll still fuck those people until September." The giddy excitement of earlier in the night was gone. His eyes pleaded with me: No more questions tonight.

As I leave the square, I ask for any final thoughts. The guys near the statue can only think of one thing to tell me in English: "Motherfucker."

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Sarah A. Topol is a journalist based in Cairo. She has reported from Yemen, Libya, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank. Her writing has appeared in the Atlantic, Foreign Policy, Newsweek, and the New Republic, among others.