Liberation Square

Today, Ashraf Khalil's riveting account of the Egyptian uprising, Liberation Square: Inside the Egyptian Revolution and the Rebirth of a Nation, it out! Go ahead and click on that link to buy from Amazon, or rush to your nearest bookstore and demand your copy NOW.

Ashraf — who contributes to our podcast and is an old friend of ours — has really done a great job here. Here's a passage of his experience in the "Battle of the Bridge", at the moment when riot police abandon the fight on January 28, allowing more people to stream into Tahrir Square:

At about four in the afternoon, the phalanx of Central Security troops broke ranks and ran, leaving their paddy wagons behind. For a while it was hard to even grasp what had happened. Protesters gleefully spray-painted slogans on the trucks—some of which still contained terrified Central Security guys.

It was a powerful moment—the exact turning point when the police realized the people weren’t afraid of them and that they were badly outnumbered. There was a surreal interlude while the protesters casually flowed around the remaining pockets of disoriented police on the bridge. A few shell-shocked Central Security troops remained behind, taking shelter inside their trucks. At least one paddy wagon driver was hopelessly and tear- fully pleading with protesters not to trash his truck, saying he would be punished if anything happened to it. (They left him alone but totaled the truck.)

Interior Ministry officers gathered impotently on the small bridge, while the protesters merely ignored them and surged past. I walked past one group of officers hud- dling around a walkie-talkie and heard one of them say, “Nobody’s answering.” In an instant, the fearsome and hated bullies of the Interior Ministry had become pathetic and irrelevant. 

It's shock-full of intimate moments of the uprising like this one. We'll be talking about the book on the next podcast, and you can already read a very positive review on Salon.

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.