Arabic: ميدان التحرير
Midan Tahrir, or “Liberation Square,” is a main roundabout in downtown Cairo. It became an iconic symbol of Egypt’s January 25 Revolution, which ousted 30-year president Hosni Mubarak from power.
Tahrir Square, just meters from the Nile, connects many districts of Cairo with bridges, a metro station and many major roads. It is surrounded by prominent buildings such as the Egyptian Museum, the Arab League headquarters, the Mugamma (a major government building providing passport and visa services among other things), the headquarters of the formerly ruling National Democratic Party, and the original campus of the American University in Cairo.
As a major crossroads of downtown Cairo, Tahrir Square is heavily crowded with public transportation, cars and pedestrians.
The square was originally called Ismailia Square, named after the former ruler Khedive Ismail, but was renamed ‘Liberation’ Square after the Egyptian Revolution of 1919, which ousted overt British occupation from Egypt. The square became a reminder of Egyptians’ liberation from the British – whose military barracks used to stand just beside the square.
The square has witnessed numerous historical protests, such as the 1977 Egyptian Bread Riots and the March 2003 protests against the war in Iraq.
Because it is a major throughway for traffic and the location of many important buildings, Tahrir has become an iconic gathering spot for Egyptian demonstrations and became even moreso duringthe January 25 Revolution. During the early days of the revolution demonstrators and police forces battled for control of the square. Once the police withdrew from the streets of Cairo on January 28, the square became the main focal point of the 18-day uprising which overthrew Egypt’s leader.
On the seventh day of the protest, Jan. 30, the number of protesters in the square increased to at least 100,000 and on Jan. 31 Al-Jazeera reported that there were 250,000 protesters in Tahrir Square. On Feb. 1, the number of protesters reportedly reached one million.
Tahrir Square was also the location of the so-called “Battle of the Camels” on February 2. An ambush of hired thugs on horses and camels rode through the packed square wielding clubs and machetes. The demonstrators worked together to re-secure the square after the violent and deadly attack.
The sit-in in Tahrir Square continued until the announcement of Hosni Mubarak’s resignation came on February 11. The next day, volunteers cleaned up the square, painting and repairing and planting flowers in the circle in the middle of the square.
Weekly Friday protests have continued to gather in Tahrir Square in the months after Mubarak’s resignation: it remains the spot for Egyptians to express their demands and remind the transitional government of the demands of the revolution.