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Africa

'No champagne': Twitter's Egyptian journey to the end

Text by Leela JACINTO

Latest update : 2011-02-11

In impassioned, often wry posts of no more than 140 characters, Twitter users mirrored the emotional rollercoaster throughout the night as Egyptians hoping to see President Hosni Mubarak quit office learned he was not stepping down.

It was an emotional rollercoaster night in Egypt, one with arches of anticipation followed by crashing disappointment that gave way to rage - and it was all reflected minute-by-minute, second-by-second on Twitter.

When the news broke that embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak might announce his resignation during a televised Thursday night speech, the social networking site that has been at the centre of the Egyptian uprising erupted with joy.

“Mission accomplished. Thanks to all the brave young Egyptians," tweeted Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who has become the cyber and real-life hero of the protest movement since he was released from a 12-day detention earlier this week.

"Er .. coup?" imminent Egyptian political analyst and writer Issandr el Amrani asked on his Twitter feed, @arabist. Giddy with hope, he later tweeted that he had a champagne bottle in his fridge. “I think I may finally get to drink it tonight.”

But then the much-anticipated speech kept getting delayed, leading to wry tweets about “Cairo Standard Time” – a play on US CST (Central Standard Time).

As the nail-biting suspense built up, one Twitter-user asked how much time it would take for an 82-year-old man to zip up his trousers and go, referring to the unpopular octogenarian Egyptian president.

'Imshi, imshi' – leave, leave

At 10:45 pm Cairo Standard Time, Egyptian State TV began broadcasting Mubarak’s speech, at which point Twitter was flooded with quotes from the address.

How Egyptians tweet, type, phone their story

Mubarak kicked off his speech by declaring that he would “not refrain from punishing all those who committed crimes against Egypt”. This was duly noted on several Twitter pages.

But as the 17-minute speech wore on, and it became apparent that the Egyptian dictator, who has been in power for 30 years, had no intention of stepping down, the tone of the tweets began to change.

“This does not sound good,” tweeted @abuaardvark.

“He's NOT stepping down it seems,” said @SultanAlQassemi.

By the time Mubarak began addressing Egypt’s youth and recounting his youthful days, Egyptian tweeters had had enough.

“Is he STILL talking about what he did 30 years ago?” asked @ReemaO8, before adding, “Darba Gaweya Takhdak!” the Arabic version of “pinch me, I must be dreaming”.

The Egyptian president’s third speech since the uprising began January 25 was greeted with hoots, hoisted shoes – a particularly insulting gesture in the Arab world – and chants of “Imshi, Imshi!” – leave, leave!

@SeifSalama was too enraged to say much. “THE SON OF A BITCH!” he tweeted in capital letters, the cyber equivalent of screaming.

On to the vice president: ‘He’s delusional too’

It was past midnight local time, but a number of protesters gathered at central Cairo’s Tahrir Square tweeted that they were going nowhere.

Other demonstrators began making their way to Cairo’s presidential palace, also known as Abdeen Palace. The call, of course, went out on Twitter. "Let us march to Abdeen Palace in our millions," said one tweet, which was picked up and re-tweeted on several Twitter pages.

By then it was newly-appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman’s turn to address the nation.

Twitter paused for a nanosecond.

But as Suleiman declared that President Mubarak had a keen awareness of the situation in Egypt, Twitter erupted again.

“Suleiman is making this worse. If that's even possible,” tweeted @abuaardvark.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, whose popularity has skyrocketed with his on-the-ground Twitter postings mused, “Suleiman tells youth of Egypt to go home, stop listening to satellite stations. Hmm. He's delusional, too.”

He later tweeted: “In his next deluded attempt to win public support, Mubarak will send shirtless photos of himself to all Egyptians.”

“This is mass psychological torture,” groaned @Sarahngb.

‘Frozen to the bones’ with ‘no champagne'

As the journey to the end of Egypt’s long night wore on, the discontent had given way to black humour.

"No champagne," wrote el-Amrani on his @arabist platform.

A well-known Egyptian blogger who uses the Twitter moniker @ monasosh,made her way to the Egyptian State TV building not far from Tahrir Square.

She tweeted that residents from nearby buildings were handing out blankets to the protesters in a spirit of camaraderie. “Yaay blankets r here, we’re not going to freeze”.

As dawn broke on a day of renewed rage in Egypt, @monashosh, tweeting from her post outside the state TV building, allowed herself some lyricism. “A new morning, a new liberated area, national tv building,” she said.

But minutes later, the events of the long night were starting to take their toll on her. “Frozen to the bones, mobile battery dying. Will take a couple of hrs off then hit the streets again”.

And so ended one of the most eventful nights in recent Egyptian history, caught, transmitted and updated by a social networking site that has played a key role in a popular uprising, which caught a three-decade-old regime – and the world - by surprise.

 

 

 

Date created : 2011-02-11

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