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February 12, 2011

Alan Chin in Cairo: “Yesterday I was a Demonstrator. Today I Build Egypt”

People here in Cairo continued their celebration of Mubarek’s downfall into a second day and night, and also began to clean-up. Some wore signs that read “Yesterday I was a demonstrator. Today I build Egypt.” That was an accurate sense of the mood, with swarms of volunteers wielding brooms and dismantling barricades. At times it felt that some of the work was even a bit premature, with painters touching up the black-and-white traffic markings on the sidewalk curbs while tens of thousands of people were still crowded in Tahrir Square.

Others simply exulted in the holiday atmosphere and enjoyed themselves at what has become an enormous block party. This young man was blaring pop music from his scooter’s speakers, and took it easy:

And this man was proudly holding a doll, which looked like it may have come from a wedding display. I admit I laughed out loud, and I wasn’t the only one, nor the only photographer!

The goodwill between the people and the army has been extraordinary, with many scenes of handshakes and posing for photographs next to tanks and armored personnel carriers. From the highest levels of the Supreme Command Council, it became clear that the generals were absolutely committed to avoiding bloodshed; that restraint bodes well for civil society. But underlying the fraternity is a fundamental uncertainty and fragile tension concerning how the military will rule, and what will come next.

–Alan Chin


For the complete archive of BagNews coverage from Cairo, see: Middle-East Uprising 2011

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About the Photographer

Alan Chin

Alan Chin was born and raised in New York City’s Chinatown. Alan Chin was born and raised in New York City’s Chinatown. Since 1996, he has worked in China, the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, and throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. In the US, Alan has explored the South, following the historic trail of the civil rights movement and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, covered multiple presidential campaigns, and the Occupy Wall Street movement. He is a contributing photographer to Newsweek/Daily Beast and The New York Times, a member of Facing Change: Documenting America (FCDA), and an editor at You can see all Alan's posts for BagNews here.

  • bks

    Meanwhile, in Iraq, the nouveau dictatorship had to protect U.S. diplomats in the Green Zone from the forces of democracy:


  • omen

    these are wonderful, alan. the wedding motif made me think “honeymoon.” an apt metaphor in that it shares that same feeling of joyous expectation.

    another blogger said this spirit presages an arabic renaissance. i don’t doubt it, what with all the expat artists and intellectuals returning home to egypt.

  • omen

    maybe the doll was an valentine’s day gift bought early.

    does egypt celebrate valentine’s day? according to wiki, they do:

    In Egypt, Egyptians celebrate Valentine’s Day on February 14, and the indigenous Eid el-Hob el-Masri (Egyptian Love Day) on November 4, to buy gifts,and flowers for their lovers. It has been recorded on the February 14th, 2006 flower movement in the country, worth six million pounds, formed a gain of 10 per-cent of the total annual sale of flowers.

    a local celebration rally for egypt in chicago.

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