The famous Egyptian city square that shaped a nation’s history

Cairo’s Tahrir Square isn’t actually a square — it’s a traffic circle. Today, years after it was the site of anti-government demonstrations, it’s a beautifully manicured, sterile space. (AFP)
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Updated 24 January 2020

The famous Egyptian city square that shaped a nation’s history

  • Following the two mass demonstrations, Tahrir Square, which lies at the midpoint of Cairo, has become not only a significant part of Egyptian history but also a popular tourist attraction

CAIRO: As famous city squares go, few can have played a more prominent role in shaping a country’s history than Tahrir Square in Cairo.

Best known for providing the stage for nationwide protests, which led to the ouster of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, the public gathering place is one of the capital’s most important sites.

For 18 consecutive days, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators — some reports put the number at millions — descended on the square before Mubarak finally resigned after 30 years in power.

And the anti-Mubarak protests were not the only political demonstrations Tahrir, also known as Martyr Square, has witnessed.

On June 30, 2013, a year after Mohamed Mursi became the Egyptian president, thousands of protesters gathered in the square demanding his resignation.

Following the two mass demonstrations, Tahrir (Liberation) Square, which lies at the midpoint of Cairo, has become not only a significant part of Egyptian history but also a popular tourist attraction.

Directly after the protests, Egyptians and foreigners feared venturing into Tahrir after it gained a reputation for being unsafe, despite a heavy police presence.

Nine years on from its most significant event, the square is now once again bustling with commuters being within walking distance of the Abdel-Moneim Riad bus station and a transport hub.

Tahrir is also home to the Egyptian Museum which houses more than 100,000 artifacts from the country.

The square is overlooked by the downtown branch of The American University in Cairo, one of the most famous international educational institutions in the country and the Arab world. In 2008, the university relocated to New Cairo, in the Fifth Settlement, taking with it a significant amount of traffic.

Renovation work resumed this month in the square, part of which will involve the addition of four rams restored from Karnak Temple’s Hall of Celebration in Luxor. They will be placed around an obelisk being moved from Sun Al-Hajar in the east of Egypt.

With the Egyptian Museum due to relocate to Haram, near the Giza pyramids, the future of the square is not clear. But with its history, offices, schools, coffee shops, restaurants, hotels, and timeworn residential buildings, Tahrir Square is guaranteed never to be short of visitors.

Former European leaders slam Trump peace plan

Updated 20 min 29 sec ago

Former European leaders slam Trump peace plan

  • The letter expresses deep concern over the plan

LONDON: The Council for Arab-British Understanding (Caabu) has gathered 50 former European leaders and foreign ministers to jointly sign a letter condemning US President Donald Trump’s peace plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

British signatories include former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, former International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander, and former Foreign Ministers Sir Alan Duncan, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Peter Hain and Ben Bradshaw.

The sharply critical letter, published in British newspaper The Guardian, expresses deep concern over the plan, saying that “instead of promoting peace, it risks fueling the conflict.”

The signatories note that the plan has been met with “widespread opposition in the region, in Europe and in the US.”

The plan “allows for annexation of large and vital parts of the occupied Palestinian territory and legitimizes and encourages illegal Israeli settlement activity,” the letter reads.

The plan “is not a roadmap to a viable two-state solution, nor to any other legitimate solution to the conflict.”

The letter adds: “The plan envisages a formalization of the current reality in the occupied Palestinian territory, in which two peoples are living side by side without equal rights. Such an outcome has characteristics similar to apartheid — a term we don’t use lightly.”

The signatories believe that the annexation could lead to Palestinian enclaves reminiscent of South Africa’s bantustans during the apartheid era.

The letter follows increased tensions between the White House and the Palestinian Authority, with Washington threatening to withhold aid as part of a diplomatic pressure campaign at the UN.

Chris Doyle, director of Caabu, told Arab News: “We’re delighted to see so many distinguished former European political figures signing up to what is historically a very strong letter about the plans for annexation. It also clearly references that it would produce apartheid-like conditions.”

He said: “That brings into sharp focus exactly how disastrous this plan is. Even if it isn’t implemented as per the document, the plans on the ground have already been enacted effectively.”

He added: “The only way forward are talks based on international resolutions and consensus that envisage a two-state solution based on the 1967 lines with a shared capital in Jerusalem and fair resolution of the refugee issue.”