The Evening of Friday, February 11, 2011

by Hamdy El-Gazzar  , Translated by Amani Elmawed  /  February 10, 2014  / 1 Comment

Remembering the beginning of Egypt’s new chapter.

Egypt Flag Revolution

Photo: Shawn Hayward via Flickr.

On the evening of Friday, February 11

The presidential palace was isolated behind barbed wire, guarded by tens of armed tanks and military machines of the Republican Guard, and trapped by tens of thousands of revolutionists who had converged upon it from every direction the night before.

  1. Off-Screen
  2. “From Egypt” attempts to draw a cultural map of Egypt and the Arab world by profiling the artistic, literary, and political issues that affect the region via on-the-ground coverage of current events, publications, and the fight for freedom of expression.
  3. Hamdy el Gazzar
  4. Hamdy El-Gazzar is an Egyptian writer and one of the 39 young Arab writers included in the Beirut 39 Project. His first novel, Sihr Aswad (Dar Merit, 2005) won the prestigious Sawaris Award, and was subsequently translated by Humphrey Davies (Black Magic, AUC Press, 2007). His second novel, Ladhdhat Sirriyya (Secret Pleasures) was published by Dar al-Dar in 2008. He is currently working on a third novel.

At sunset, from the presidential palace, the former senior official of the Reconnaissance Squad, the Vice President, appeared on the government TV channel.

In the first moment of his silence, the man’s old, harsh, grim face was desperate, like a fugitive heading to hell. He kept silent for several seconds more, staring at the paper in his hand, swallowing. Like a condemned man presenting his own execution to the world, he announced the resignation of the President. Now a delegation of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces would control the country’s affairs.

On the evening of Friday, February 11

In Talaat Harb Square, at the end of that short, one sentence report, as the old face disappeared from the screen forever, a guy made his way through the elegant arena among the crowd of thousands. He climbed from the base of Talaat Harb statue up to the head, kissed its forehead and tarboosh, and started to wave his flag through the sky and the stars shouting for liberty.

Detached from the joyful and bustling chirps in the square and the streets, this guy shouted and called to the sky, as if it was his own celebration and victory.

Around the statue people were singing and dancing, laughing and crying, flowing and roaring like a giant, like the sun and the mountains. The giant was singing, happy and drunk, shaking the earth with millions of creeping steps and releasing fireworks from every side, in one direction—towards the sky.

On the evening of Friday, February 11

For the first time in my life something came over me, and I bought a flag. A big flag. For the first time in my life my heart throbbed while holding it firmly, but gently in my hands. I touched it with my fingertips and felt its fabric with pleasure and awe. For the first time in my life I wanted to grip it with my right hand, above my head, and swing it along my arm with my other hand, moving it in the air of my country, right and left, as a miracle, as good news, listening with all my might to the beating of its waving, staring at its colors and vulture.

I raised it high with my physical and mental energy. I waved it for others like a happy child, smiling with all my heart, shivering with satisfaction and peace.

Maybe I do what I do to see others and let them see me at the ends of the streets, from the windows and balconies, in the roads and arenas. Maybe I do it for the sake of breathing their air and being alive, to touch the cheerful cloud that stays with their presence, surrounding their bodies and faces, hovering over their heads wherever they go. I stopped and gently touched the shoulders of excited men and women. Looking into their eyes, I saw that they had been lit after a long darkness. Then I told them without moving my tongue: “I’m also proud tonight, and only tonight, I’m born here like you, and I’m one of you.”

Then I became a molecule of sand, a drop of water in a public sea rushing down the sidewalk of Talaat Harb, where it was so dense there was no room for any others to step into the street. I moved smoothly with this great will-less creature, hypnotized and dazzled like never before. I raised my flag like a sail on a boat, my eyes looked towards the moon in the sky, and, beyond it, to the greatest God.

“Allah is the Greatest… Allah is the Greatest…” from every tongue and every mouth the praise rose to the sky.

From behind, I held the hand of a hesitant teenager with my flag, and I looked at him wondering. When our eyes met, he whispered: “I wish I could wave a flag.”

I let mine go into his fingers, to the cheerful eyes, and the youthful smile.

In one swift motion, his friend picked him up onto his shoulders. Both penetrated the crowd flowing towards Tahrir Square and blended into the street.

From atop his friend’s shoulders, he started to wave the flag as if the spirit of his nation and his golden treasure were in his hands. In a thundering scream he said: “Egypt is free…Egypt is free!”

Quickly, I went from the sidewalk to the street, running after him and repeating what he said: “Egypt is free.”

About the Author

Hamdy El-Gazzar is an Egyptian writer and one of the 39 young Arab writers included in the Beirut 39 Project. His first novel, Sihr Aswad (Dar Merit, 2005) won the prestigious Sawaris Award, and was subsequently translated by Humphrey Davies (Black Magic, AUC Press, 2007). His second novel, Ladhdhat Sirriyya (Secret Pleasures) was published by Dar al-Dar in 2008. He is currently working on a third novel.

View all articles by Hamdy El-Gazzar

One Comment on "The Evening of Friday, February 11, 2011"

  1. Rafael February 10, 2014 at 3:51 pm ·

    Although the translation with the help of Google, I could feel the verve of the story of that popular enthusiasm that February 11. My body has also vibrated. Bravo dear Handy!

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