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Egyptians have again taken to the streets of Cairo today.
But they're not protesting. There would be no need, since their popular revolution successfully ousted former leader Hosni Mubarak on Friday, February 11. No, instead of brandishing signs and flags, today they're carrying brooms and paintbrushes. They're cleaning up after the rallies that went on for 18 days in Tahrir Square, sweeping and painting to make their symbol of freedom -- "tahrir" means liberation in Arabic, and, appropriately, it was the site of the most intense protests -- look like new.
It was "the most inspiring scene ever," said Mahmoud Ahmed Gomaa, who shot the above photo. "Very symbolic ... People from diverse backgrounds, ideologies and beliefs all shared passion to rebuild the country, all considered it a new start."
"These pictures say a lot about the Egyptian people," she said. "This Egyptian revolution was something that brought out the best in all the people in Egypt."
The clean-up isn't the first display of national pride and responsibility that Egypt has shown the world during this revolution. When protests first broke out, citizens formed a human chain to protect the Museum of Cairo and stood guard outside other museums and historical sites. Egyptologists say this pride in their heritage was critical to protecting the country's national treasures. Citizens pled with tourists not to leave their country and promised to keep them safe. And throughout the protests, witnesses say the mood was surprisingly upbeat and positive.
"Very peaceful, festive mood," said Cairo resident Abdel-Maguid Ramzy of the Tahrir Square protests. He said it was more like being at a park than a protest, even as the people remained stern in their demands. "Biscuits and sandwiches distributed from ordinary people. Tea and beverages donated and for sale. You can buy food, banners, head bands, flags of all sizes, flag hats. You can sing along with different musical gatherings. Children having their own stage. And of course the most moving, the corner with the framed photos of our lost ones surrounded by flowers and silence."
Tourists noticed the positive atmosphere as well.
"All of the [protesters] we met, even at the neighborhood barricades, were warm and friendly," said Mike Miron, an American who spent four days in Cairo at the height of the demonstrations. "The protesters genuinely want a change in their country."
And it seems that when that change came on Friday, it only energized Egyptians more. Just watch this video of people flooding the streets to help cheerfully pick up trash, sweep, and repaint Tahrir Square.
"It's never been this clean," said Alexandra Stock. "The protesters are claiming their space by ... sweeping the streets and repainting the square."
"I am proud of you," he said. "And I am proud to be Egyptian."
Good Job Rachel, I wish you come and visit us in Egypt one day. You'd see how amazing the country and the people truly are.