Midan Tahrir

Square in Cairo

Midan Tahrir (Liberation Sq) gained world renown in early 2011, when millions of Egyptians converged here to oust then-president Hosni Mubarak. On a regular day, it’s just your average giant roundabout (traffic circle), albeit one where half-a-dozen major arteries converge. The main reason you'll pass through is to visit the powder-pink puffball bulk of the Egyptian Museum.

One of the most distinctive orientation aids is the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. The modernist slab, with its mod-hieroglyphic facade, was built in 1959. Due north is the Egyptian Museum. Behind it used to be the blackened shell of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party (NDP) headquarters, torched during the revolution and demolished in 2015.

South of the hotel, the Arab League Building is the occasional gathering place of leaders from around the Middle East, and now sometimes 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 Kebab), 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.


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