In recent days, Egypt has contributed an extraordinary folio to the world’s photo archive of historic moments.

The Guardian’s Sean Smith shot a fantastic series of the tent city in Cairo’s Tharir square — the sheer orderliness of it compells the viewer to recognise the disciplined determination of the uprising (a exact description of the event). They were maintaining their rage — they maintained it en masse over 18 days of disappointed hope — but held back from en masse violence, which seems miraculous. From the Daily Dish:

Thus, the pivotal moment was last night, when the protesters, despite their profound and understandable disappointment and anger, resisted the impulse to react with violence. At this point, most of the military leaders must have realized that, even if they themselves were willing to stand by Mubarak, the rank and file would not turn on the protesters if any attempt was made to disperse them or otherwise break up the demonstrations. Hence, a military coup ensued.

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Days, months or even years from now, I would predict that the demonstrators’ peaceful response to Mubarak’s refusal to step down on the night of Feb. 10, 2011 will be viewed as the turning point in this revolution.

The women. (The DoubleX Gabfest discuss what it is about seeing female Islamic protesters on the streets of Cairo so gripping; a nice interoggation of assumptions and prejudices.) The tanks. The doctors. The soldiers. And The Shoe.

But it was the youth who most made it happen: the over half of the population who have never known any ruler but Mubarak. They also constitute a staggering 90% of the unemployed in Egypt — those between 15 and 29 years old.

Amidst all the motion and emotion, the photo above, from Al Jazeezra’s live blog early on February 11 (sent in by a journalism student) is something quite remarkable, a convergence of disparate states: absolutely of its moment, yet embedded in a lyrical timelessness — the logofied hoodie jacket that recalls the ancient burnoose … the pose oscillating between penitent and war casualty; one arm in a sling, the head and other hand upraised in universal appeal to the heavens … hues made pale by the light polluted sky , the scrim of lamp haze … a background suggesting a bazaar with palm trees, and stars that are really lights in a building:– So a picture of a young man who came to protest collapses into an image of an old magi who has travelled far in search of the good news.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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