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The square was originally called "Ismailia Square" (ميدان الأسماعيليّة Mīdān al-Ismā‘īliyyah), after the 19th-century ruler Khedive Ismail, who commissioned the new downtown district's 'Paris on the Nile' design. After the Egyptian Revolution of 1919 the square became widely known as Tahrir (Liberation) Square, but the square was not officially renamed until the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, which changed Egypt from a constitutional monarchy into a republic. The square was a focal point for the Egyptian Revolution of 2011.
At the centre of Tahrir Square is a large and busy traffic circle. On the north-east side is a plaza with a statue of nationalist hero Omar Makram, celebrated for his resistance against Napoleon I's invasion of Egypt, and beyond is the Omar Makram Mosque.
The square is the northern terminus of the historic Qasr al-Ayni Street, the western terminus of Talaat Harb Street, and via Qasr al-Nil Street crossing its southern portion it has direct access to the Qasr al-Nil Bridge crossing the nearby Nile River.
The area around Tahrir Square includes the Egyptian Museum, the National Democratic Party-NDP headquarters building, the Mogamma government building, the Headquarters of the Arab League building, the Nile Hotel, Kasr El Dobara Evangelical Church and the original downtown campus of the American University in Cairo.
The Cairo Metro serves Tahrir Square with the Sadat Station, which is the downtown junction of the system's two lines, linking to Giza, Maadi, Helwan, and other districts and suburbs of Greater Cairo. Its underground access viaducts provide the safest routes for pedestrians crossing the broad roads of the heavily trafficked square.
Tahrir Square has been the traditional site for numerous major protests and demonstrations over the years, including the 1977 Egyptian Bread Riots, and the March 2003 protest against the War in Iraq.
Tahrir Square was the focal point of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution against former president Hosni Mubarak. Over 50,000 protesters first occupied the square on 25 January, during which the area's wireless services were reported to be impaired. In the following days Tahrir Square continued to be the primary destination for protests in Cairo. On 29 January Egyptian fighter aircraft flew low over the people gathered in the square. On 30 January, the seventh day of the protests, BBC and other correspondents reported that the number of demonstrators had grown to at least 100,000, and on 31 January Al Jazeera correspondents reported that the demonstrations had grown to at least 250,000 people. On 1 February, Al Jazeera reported that more than 1 million protesters peacefully gathered in the square and adjacent streets. However, such media reports that so many people congregated in Cairo’s largest public square are believed to be exaggerated for political purposes and, accordingly to Stratfor analysis the real number of gathered protester never exceed 300,000 people.
The square became established as a focal point and a symbol for the ongoing Egyptian democracy demonstrations. On 2 February violence erupted between the pro-Mubarak and pro-democracy demonstrators here, followed by the 3 February 'Friday of Departure' demonstration, one of the named "day of" events centered in the square. Within a week, due to international media coverage, the image and name of Tahrir Square became known worldwide.
A Facebook page called "Tahrir Square" ميدان التحرير was maintained by a rotating staff of twenty during the uprising, particularly to offset the lack of and/or distorted coverage of events and responses in the state-run media outlets.
The 18-day revolt centered in the square provided the Egyptian Armed Forces an opportunity to remove Mubarak from power on Friday 11 February 2011, when the president officially stepped down from office. The announcement that Mubarak had passed all authority to the Council of the Armed Forces, was made by longtime intelligence chief and new vice president Omar Suleiman. Tahrir Square erupted in a night-long celebration after the twilight announcement, with shouts such as "Lift your head up high, you're Egyptian," "Everyone who loves Egypt, come and rebuild Egypt," and others. The next day Egyptian Cairen women and men came to clean up the square, "they came and cleaned up after their revolution," relaying 'projectiles' in the cobblestone paving and removing eighteen day's worth of trash and graffiti.
Tahrir Square, with 'democracy anniversary' celebrations and visits from foreign dignitaries, continues to be a symbol of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. British Prime Minister David Cameron, Catherine Ashton, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union, Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State of the United States, John Kerry, Chairman of the American Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Kevin Rudd Foreign Minister of Australia, and American actor Sean Penn visited Tahrir Square after the 2011 Egyptian Revolution.
One of the ships in the planned Freedom Flotilla II, intended to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza, was named Tahrir after the square. Among its passengers was Haaretz reporter Amira Hass. Ultimately, the sailing did not take place.
On 29 June 2011, Egyptian police attacked rioting Egyptian youth in the square with tear gas and other non-lethal materials. The youth had been demanding that trials of senior officials overthrown in the 2011 Egyptian Revolution proceed more quickly. The Interior Ministry blamed the unrest on disruptive and subversive groups.
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