D.C. Egyptians jubilant about homeland's revolution

A small group celebrated the fall of the Mubarak government in front of the Egyptian Embassy in Washington.
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, February 12, 2011; 11:23 PM

For the past 19 days, a narrow stretch of asphalt in front of the Egyptian Embassy in Washington was Oussama El Masry's Tahrir Square. He came here periodically from Falls Church to lead chants and hold signs, inspired by telephone conversations with his brother, who camped in Tahrir for nearly three weeks.

"I felt terrible that I couldn't be there," Masry said. "They risked their lives, and they brought us democracy after so many years."

Just over 24 hours after Hosni Mubarak stepped down as Egypt's president, Masry and more than 200 others came here once more to sing and dance and hold children, who waved small Egyptian flags, over their shoulders. And, in quiet moments, they discussed the next chapter in the country's revolution: the transition from a waging a popular uprising to governing a nascent democracy.

"It won't be easy and it will take time," said Masry, who plans to vote in the presidential election - his first time ever voting - at the Egyptian Embassy. "We're starting to hear names emerging of potential leaders. But it's not about the names; it's about who has the right agenda. These are things that will come together in the coming months."

Some of the men and women celebrating have begun considering the possibility of returning to Egypt permanently, now that the Mubarak regime's reign appears to have ended.

"For many years, I felt more American than Egyptian. That changed yesterday," said Rafik Tarfa, 42, who moved to the United States from Egypt 20 years ago.

After Mubarak stepped down Friday, celebrations began to erupt across Washington like fireworks. For Egyptians in the region, the previous 24 hours had been a roller coaster, with the frustration of "Mubarak is digging in!" dissolving magically that morning into the euphoria of "He's resigning!"

Egyptians were delirious.

"There are parties all over town," said a smiling Amira El-Gawly, 26, who was celebrating with friends Friday night at Napoleon Bistro & Lounge in Adams Morgan. "Everyone's totally partying together. It's amazing!"

As it began to sink in Friday that protesters had managed to topple a 30-year regime in 18 days, Egyptian expats called around town to plan celebrations. Some converged in front of the Egyptian Embassy, singing patriotic songs and ecstatically waving flags as Arabic music played from portable amplifiers; others gathered at hookah bars in Virginia.

At Napoleon - where Karim Chrobog, a District-based Egyptian documentary filmmaker, and his friend Omar Popal, the restaurant's Afghan owner, had sent out word through Facebook - the party gained momentum as the evening progressed.

In the early hours of the morning, new groups were still arriving from other celebrations and squeezing into the downstairs lounge. They had awoken to the news or seen it flash in on text messages urging them to turn on the television.

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