The lost euphoria of Tahrir

Revolutionary graffiti in Cairo's Zamalek district.
Sara Elkamel

Euphoria. Say it out loud. The word ends before it begins.

For 18 days last year, Tahrir Square was an idyllic scene where Egyptians chanted at the top of their lungs for freedom in 85 million different incarnations.

Egyptians felt the meaning of euphoria on this day last year. In 18 days, blood was shed on Tahrir Square’s soil, the sky became a blur of red, black and white as thousands of flags were fervently waved, and revolutionary tunes adorned the nights. Egyptians set out to demand the unthinkable: to be freed from the shackles of Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship.

On February 11, Egyptians screamed with jubilant disbelief as Mubarak stepped aside. In a seemingly surreal moment, our demand was granted. But soon, we learned that freedom is not merely the absence of chains.

That fleeting, euphoric moment soon slipped past.

Almost reborn, millions of Egyptians truly believed that the end of the old regime would be the start to a new life. But two problems with that; the end of the regime has not come, and that new life has not materialized.

Instead, we see the murder of peaceful protesters. Unjust trials. Virginity tests. Media crackdowns. What end of the regime?

The millions who met in Tahrir Square, pregnant smiles on their hopeful faces, congregated over a shared desire: a different life. But after change finally materialized, they diverged in 85 million different directions. So, what new life?

What Egyptians were able to achieve in Tahrir Square last year left the world in awe: the unity, the unwavering persistence, and the foolish, unrelenting hope.

Today, nostalgia haunts those of us who visit Tahrir Square on the anniversary of the glorious days of revolution; we are nostalgic for our own foolishness.

Those 18 days now reemerge as dreams. Sometimes we wonder if they ever really happened.

But the change was not an illusion. The walls of Cairo, dressed up in revolutionary graffiti, will tell you that Egyptians have changed. Millions of once apathetic men and women took to the streets, for the first time demanding a better life. Dissent is no longer taboo. Change is no longer out of reach.

Things do not end up as they begin. Euphoria is fleeting.

But the revolution continues.

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