Photo Essay: Scenes From Tahrir Square

Tahrir Square. That’s a place that I’m fairly certain that everyone in the world knows about by now, thanks to its infamy of the birthplace of both the “Arab Spring” and Egypt‘s revolution of 2011. A place that has also gained noteriety for its harsh military crackdowns. Its a place that holds incredible significance in the mind of Egyptians after their stunning success at ousting fromer President Hosni Mubarak, a name that none dare utter in modern Cairo, one that has been struck from anywhere it was once written, including a bustling Metro station.

I was in Tahrir Square on my recent trip to the Middle East, visiting on Friday, December 30, 2011, one of the biggest protest days of the week and less than a month before the one year anniversary of the start of the rebellion that shook the world. On this, that 1 year anniversary, I’d like to share some of those images with you now.

Egypt Revolution Banner

First though, notice the photo of what Tahrir Square used to look like before the revolution. With grass and a fountain. It’s on the lower left corner of the banner above. Then check out the photos below of what Tahrir Square looks like after everything that’s happened…

Tahrir Square

I was struck by how much the permanent protesters in Tahrir Square resembled the recent Occupy Wall Street protests in the U.S. Tents were everywhere, as were people with their protest signs, as well as reminders of the events that had occurred there.

Tahrir Square Encampment

Protests Signs on Lamposts

Tents in Tahrir Square

Images in Tent

Improvised Tent

Tahrir Square Encampment

Friday Protests

The day started out quietly, but things picked up as the day grew later, peaking in mid-afternoon.

Man Carries Flag

Man Holds Protest Sign

Protests at Tahrir Square

Tahrir Square Protests

A Burned Building

It’s hard to miss the burned shell of a building next to the nearby Egyptian Museum. This place was formerly the headquarters for Mubarak’s “Political Party.” Much like all references to the former regime, this building now sits abandoned in ruin.

Mubarak's Former Party Headquarters

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21 Responses to Photo Essay: Scenes From Tahrir Square

  1. The World of Deej January 25, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

    Incredible shots…What an experience.

    • Aaron January 25, 2012 at 9:22 pm #

      Thanks!

  2. Lisa @chickybus January 26, 2012 at 7:34 am #

    Wow–this is really something else. You did a fine job on this, and I’m impressed! The photos really tell a story–and a very important one. There’s something about the light peach-colored sky that really seems to represent the mood.

    • Jaime January 28, 2012 at 5:35 am #

      Agree with everything Lisa said. Now that I am here, it’s just something so amazing words, can’t describe. The energy is just wow… and the people all so nice.

      • Aaron February 2, 2012 at 10:52 am #

        Yes, the people are great, though around touristy sites I couldn’t help but feel like everyone was trying to sell me something…

  3. kelly January 26, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

    They are amazing photos, its just such a crazy world we live in so much greed – why can we all just live in peace and enjoy life

    i hope the egyptian people get what they want governments forget that they work for the people not the other way around

    • Aaron January 26, 2012 at 5:04 pm #

      I hope so too! And thanks!

  4. Cathy Sweeney January 26, 2012 at 10:45 pm #

    Powerful photos, particularly the one of Mubarak’s former HQ. What a memorable experience to visit Tahir Square at this time. I was struck by the resemblance of the permanent protestors to the Occupy encampments in the U.S., too.

    • Aaron January 27, 2012 at 1:51 am #

      Protests or not, it was quite powerful just to be there to witness the place where so much had happened in the past year. And what I learned from talking to Egyptians is that they are incredibly full of hope about the future. And quite eager to forget the past, as the former regime is still, understandably, a raw wound there.

  5. Ali February 1, 2012 at 1:58 am #

    Great post, great pictures! I love what I keep hearing/reading about the Egyptian people and how hard they have fought, and continue fighting, for something so important.

    • Aaron February 2, 2012 at 10:55 am #

      Thanks! I was certainly struck by how resilient the people seemed, especially given all they had been through.

  6. Leslie (Downtown Traveler) February 1, 2012 at 11:36 pm #

    Amazing photos Aaron! So cool you were able to visit Tahrir and see this first-hand. It does look a lot like OWS, which makes sense– since that was inspired by the Egyptian activists!

    • Aaron February 2, 2012 at 10:56 am #

      Actually what I came to learn in Israel is that OWS was in fact inspired by protests that had the same aim was OWS that occurred in Israel a good year before the Arab Spring…

      How is Tahrir different these days than when you visited back in April?

  7. Audrey February 2, 2012 at 7:52 pm #

    Thanks for sharing these photos – it’s great to get a more personal feel for what is happening in Tahrir Square than the overview shots. How was the mood and feeling in the square when you were there? I ask because when we were there earlier in December, there was a lot of violence and vigilante justice going on in the square.

    • Aaron February 3, 2012 at 10:52 am #

      It was a pretty calm day when I visited at the end of the December. Things didn’t really start to heat up until mid-afternoon when protesters started to block most of the roadway, but a few hours later when I returned, you’d never have known there were any protests there at all and police did not intervene. No violence or vigilante justice to be found anywhere.

      I did hear from some Americans who were studying in Cairo that a couple of weeks before I went they had walked out of the Metro station there only to see bullets flying, so I guess it depends on the week…

  8. Rease February 20, 2012 at 3:57 pm #

    How did the people react to your presence and you taking photos? Did you talk to any of them about what had happened? Nice photos, I am sure it was a really serious, humbling experience.

    • Aaron February 20, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

      People didn’t seem to mind. The only shot we were told we could not take was a candid one of someone sleeping in a fairly dramatic way. We certainly weren’t the only foreigners there clutching cameras and many people seemed happy to talk to us to get their side of the story out. The protests then were not against the Muslim Brotherhood but instead against the continued military rule. And yes, it was a serious and humbling experience to stand on the very ground where such a giant event occurred that really set the stage for the past year!

  9. Sabina April 24, 2012 at 1:50 am #

    I too got to visit Tahrir Square on a Friday afternoon a few months ago. It was fabulous. I went with my male Egyptian friend and we stayed about four hours. It was completely safe, although of course trouble could have erupted any moment. There were many protests, but they were all peaceful. I too wrote a blog post about it. I stayed about a ten-minute walk away at the Cecilia Hotel, and all four of the streets around it were completely closed off with tanks, barbed wire and soldiers in riot gear. There were burned out cars in the street as well as one burned out building right across the street. It was quite a sight to behold, but honestly it was still safe. I loved it!

    • Aaron April 24, 2012 at 2:32 am #

      You know, it’s funny, for all the hubub back home about how unsafe Cairo was, there was never a moment where I felt concerned for my safety, even when gunshots broke out on the street my first night there (the timing couldn’t have been better as I was sitting there talking with some fellow travelers about how safe we felt when suddenly everyone rushed to the window)! Turns out it was just two shop owners having a tiff and the notion that guns would get involved is apparently not unusual in the Middle East…

      As for Tahrir Square, it was a fascinating experience! Like you said, lots of protests but it was all peaceful. As the day went on they started to take over the roadway a bit so I found it best to keep a bit of a distance until evening. I didn’t see any burned cars though. But the energy, the people, the history and the graffiti were all worth the visit!

  10. Kadri February 27, 2014 at 5:37 pm #

    I’ve never been a fan #1, but your shots of Egypt are great.
    Kadri recently posted..Thai People – They Like to Do Everything for You

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