On Sunday afternoon, Afaf Youssef, a 43-year-old woman from Gharbiya, sat in a makeshift tent of woolen blankets for rugs and a patchwork of flower-patterned cloths for a roof to block out the sun so radiant it would make many of her comrades swoon from dehydration.
She and her female friends, all dressed in brightly colored body coverings, sat in a circle and drew themselves in, like a carnivorous plant, listening intently to a single radio on a mobile phone as Farouk Sultan, chairman of the Supreme Constitutional Court, read out the presidential election results.
His speech was waited on with much anticipation; it had been a week since the voting ended, and appeals from both campaigns were being considered. The results were meant to have been announced three days ago, on Thursday, but they were delayed as high-level negotiations took place between the armed forces, keen to preserve the upper hand in ruling the country, and Muslim Brotherhood, the largest opposition movement in Egypt.
It has also been 16 months since Hosni Mubarak stepped down, and the first time in 30 years that a genuinely new figure could emerge as president. Little did Youssef — or the thousands of supporters that took to the square on Sunday — know that it would also be the first time in the republic’s history for a non-military figure and Islamist to assume the presidency.
Sultan’s speech lasted for one and a half hours as he went through voting violations by polling station and governorate. Twitter went wild with comments of “I’m bored” and “Get on with it already.” Youssef joked that Sultan’s admonishment in his speech of those who were critical of the Presidential Election Commission’s work (i.e. the Mohamed Morsy camp) reminded her of Mubarak’s annual Labor Day speeches, which he often used to criticize workers’ strikes. Sultan is a Mubarak-era figure.
The crowd was mostly silent during the speech and only made expressions of victory, roars of joy and raised hands in the air, when violations counted against the opposing candidate, Ahmed Shafiq. For those in the square, a Shafiq win would have sealed the military’s hold on power and meant a return of the old guard. He was Mubarak’s last prime minister.
“I am scared. The revolution will either win or lose today,” a woman standing and praying with tears in her eyes said before she knew the outcome.
Sultan read out the numbers, his speech also audible through loud speakers at the main podium. “12,347,380 for Shafiq ... ,” he started. Before he had the chance to finish, men, women and children erupted in celebration, chanting “God is great.” “...13,280,131 for Morsy.”
Yousef, who was standing at this point, kneeled to the floor and kissed it. She cried, overwhelmed with emotion.
“I feel that God hasn’t let our hard work go to waste. God is kind, thank God,” she said.
As they stood victorious, hugging and kissing each other in congratulation, Youssef and many others said Morsy’s win doesn’t mean they will leave the Brotherhood-initiated sit-in in the Square, because their four demands have yet to be met.
These are: an annulment of the military’s recently approved broad powers of arrest of civilians, canceling the army-issued constitutional amendments that limit the powers of the president, restoring the recently dissolved Islamist-led Parliament, and accepting the current makeup of the Constituent Assembly, the body that will write Egypt’s new constitution.
The sit-in was called for after Parliament was dissolved on 14 June and has brought hundreds to the square from across Egypt’s 27 governorates.
Most are Islamists, but some are there simply because they believe Morsy represents one step forward for the revolution, especially when he was pitted against Shafiq.
“Morsy’s from the revolution, and I want anyone from the revolution to win. If it was Hamdeen [Sabbahi] I would have stood behind him. I’m not from the Brotherhood, but I am with them, I am with the revolution. I’m not leaving the square until we get him all the demands, God willing,” said Sabah Abu Zaid, a social worker at Al-Azhar.
“This is a blessing for all the Arab countries. God will hopefully help all the revolutions succeed,” she added.
Flags representing Syria, Palestine and Egypt — evidence of the sense of pan-Arabism fostered by the revolution — were highly visible in the square. Black flags with the words “There’s no God but Allah” were visible but in the minority.
In the Syrian tent by the square, home to its revolutionaries in exile, a few Egyptians wandered around, looking at pictures of the dead and caricatures of the Syrian president, a dictator yet to fall.
Besides Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the revolution’s ups and downs, celebrations took place in and around and across many quarters of the country.
Many secularists, revolutionaries and people who supported the former regime won’t be happy about the result, as they blame the Brotherhood for being a selfish negotiator since Mubarak’s downfall and willing to tone down its anti-military rhetoric when it has been in its interest to do so.
But for those who support Morsy, Sunday was a very real and hard-won victory. Islamists had spent years in and out of prison under Mubarak; today, their day had come.
“I feel I’ve been born today,” said Mohamed al-Hofy of Beheira, who has been in the square for a week.
A few men could be heard taking a jab at the popular, anti-Islamist television presenter Tawfiq Okasha.
“Morsy, Morsy — be careful, Morsy’s coming for you,” they joked.
All day long, an army helicopter hovered in the sky above the square. It was a reminder of who remains in charge in Egypt and that a much larger battle has yet to be won. But from the ground, it looked like a small bird, alone in a vacuous blue milieu.
Also on the ground, as motorbikes with pictures of the new president honked their way into the square, echoes of “down with military rule” could be heard.