The Day After: A Photo Essay

February 12, 2011 Tahrir Square (8)_600x383.jpg

One day after the Mubarak regime fell on Feburary 12 2011, Tahrir Square was scintillating with excitement and hope, and that ever-present Egyptian humor.

The Square was the heart of the revolution, where many had suffered, been maimed or killed, and where many found courage they never knew they had. The invisible layers of past anguish and cruelty, blood and acrid teargas were washed away with smiles and laughter, and also tears of grief for those who were lost in the struggle, photos and posters held aloft by proud yet sorrowful mothers.

A year into my stay in Cairo, the revolution began with ferocity on January 25. Three days later, I photographed protesters as they marched in a long line up Abu al-Feda along the Nile in Zamalek. A volley of teargas caused the group to pause and regroup, realizing that a new 6pm curfew was in effect. This was the same evening the police disappeared from the streets across Egypt.
After the army tanks had rolled onto the streets of Cairo, I was turned away from a checkpoint at the Qasr al-Nil bridge by soldiers because I was a foreign photographer. During the next days the streets seemed empty except for military vehicles, as the police remained missing, stores remained closed, and citizens provided their own neighborhood security with self-styled checkpoints, the nights filled with sounds of gunfire, shouts and running feet.
On February 11, the news swept the country, Mubarak had stepped down. The next day I was determined to capture a nation in celebration as they streamed into Tahrir, a day in history, a day that Egyptians will never forget. Tahrir Square was transformed: families, face painters, children cleaning the wheels of army tanks. 
Even on this day of joy, after shooting for several hours at Tahrir, as I was leaving I was detained by Egyptian soldiers and interrogated, until a consultation with higher officers finally yielded my release. In retrospect,  it seems a portent of what was yet to come for Cairo. 
Roy Gunnels, who attended Texas Christian University, is a visual journalist and documentary photographer who was based in Cairo during the Egyptian revolution of 2011. You can view work his and follow new projects at

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