A decade on, silence fills Egypt's field of broken dreams

In 2011, the howl of revolt shook Tahrir Square in Cairo amid the convulsions of the Arab Spring. Now, just the thrum of traffic...

Above: Massive protests at Cairo's Tahrir Square in 2011 led to the eventual ouster of Egypt's autocratic ruler Hosni Mubarak.
Above: Massive protests at Cairo's Tahrir Square in 2011 led to the eventual ouster of Egypt's autocratic ruler Hosni Mubarak. PHOTO: REUTERS
Above: Today, Tahrir Square has been spruced up, with an ancient obelisk the key feature of the revamp ordered by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The transformation has erased traces of the 2011 revolution.
Above: Today, Tahrir Square has been spruced up, with an ancient obelisk the key feature of the revamp ordered by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The transformation has erased traces of the 2011 revolution. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

The last guest had checked out, leaving Mr Ahmed Taha sitting on an unmade bed in a deserted room amid rumpled sheets and half-drunk coffee cups, contemplating his future. The coronavirus pandemic was the final blow to his hostel in central Cairo, a jaunty little place on Tahrir Square offering US$35 (S$47) rooms and panoramic views of the elegant Egyptian Museum across the street.

First the foreigners vanished, then the Egyptian overnighters, he said. Now just the thrum of traffic, seeping through an open window, filled the silence. But the transformation of Tahrir Square, he added, started long before Egypt's first case of Covid-19.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2021, with the headline 'A decade on, silence fills Egypt's field of broken dreams'. Subscribe