Egypt changes face of revolution's iconic plaza


Cairo, Jan 26 (IANS): On the anniversary of the 2011 Egyptian uprising that ended the three-decade rule of former President Hosni Mubarak, the iconic Tahrir Square does not feature protesters marking the occasion, instead the government wants to change the spot into an "archaeological and touristic" oasis.

Palm and olive trees, four statues of pharaonic rams and even an obelisk are part of a controversial project to overhaul the plaza, the epicentre of the protests, reports Efe news.

Although protests are banned, limited but significant numbers of protesters on Saturday took to the streets against President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who ousted Islamist Mohamed Morsi after protests against his rule in 2013, leading to the detention of 4,000 people, according to NGOs.

The pedestrian crossing and frantic comings and goings of cars, taxis and vans continue under the watchful eye of a large number of troops deployed at each entrance to Tahrir Square.

Some of these troops are heavily armed and with their faces covered by balaclavas, giving a sense of normality to something that perhaps they have seen too many times to be surprised.

Tahrir Square, one of the "most famous squares in Egypt and the world", in the words of the Minister of Housing, Asem al-Jazar, accommodates street vendors these days, children chasing passers-by in a bid to flog some handkerchiefs and groups of young people killing time.

Little has been made public about the plans launched last August, except that posters will be removed from the facades of certain buildings and a large obelisk of Ramses II (1304-1237 BC) will preside over the square, as the Ministry of Housing, Utilities and Urban Communities said last October.

Two months later, it was revealed that four statues of pharaonic rams from the southern city of Luxor will decorate the plaza, which drew criticism on social media and among archaeologists.

The Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights sued the authorities over this project.

Many people have warned that the pharaonic pieces would be at risk of being exposed to contamination and traffic vibration.

The statues are expected to arrive from Luxor later this month, while painters have almost finished colouring the facades of the houses and shops that overlook the square beige, as well as other important buildings that look out over it, such as the headquarters of the Arab League or the Omar Makram mosque.

 

  

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