Midan Tahrir

sights / Squares & plazas

Midan Tahrir information

Cairo , Egypt
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Midan Tahrir (Liberation Sq) gained world renown in early 2011, when millions of Egyptians converged there to oust then-president Hosni Mubarak. On a regular day, it’s just your average giant traffic circle, albeit one where half-a-dozen major arteries converge, and one that’s still occasionally taken over by demonstrations. However the main reason for visiting this square is the lurid pink bulk of the Egyptian Museum.

One of the most distinctive orientation aids is the erstwhile Nile Hilton, currently being renovated as the Ritz-Carlton. The modernist slab, with its mod hieroglyphic facade, was built in 1959. Due north is the blackened shell of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party (NDP) headquarters , torched during the revolution. Rumours have it that it will be bulldozed and turned into a garden for the neighbouring Egyptian Museum.

South of the hotel, the Arab League Building is the occasional gathering place of leaders from around the Middle East, and now often the site of smaller demonstrations. South across Sharia Tahrir you’ll see the ornate white palace of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs , and the adjacent Omar Makram Mosque , where anybody who’s anybody has their funeral. The rest of the south side is occupied by the monstrous Mogamma , home to 18,000 civil servants and notorious nationwide as the epicentre of the country's infernal bureaucracy. Comedian Adel Imam lampooned the place in his classic 1992 film Irhab wal-Kabab (Terrorism and Kabab), in which his frustrated character takes everyone in the building hostage.

The next building around, across the four-lane Qasr al-Ainy, is the old campus of the elite American University in Cairo (AUC), the college of choice for the sons and daughters of Egypt’s stratospherically wealthy. Most have decamped to a new campus opened in an eastern suburb, but that hasn’t stopped average Egyptians from imagining the Western-inspired privileges enjoyed behind the tall fences.