I was fortunate enough to be seated next to gentleman from Egypt last night. He was very recently in Cairo and spent a couple of full days and nights in Tahrir Square with the protesters. It was refreshing to be able to actually speak at length with someone with firsthand knowledge of the situation instead of watching short interview clips or hearing the opining of the various yakking heads on television.
I also pleased to hear how optimistic this particular Egyptian gent was on the future prospects for his country. He is confident that the military would indeed hold elections in the next three to six months as promised and that they would turn over power to civilian control once the elections were over. He also does not think that Mohammed El Baradei will be the next president of Egypt, although he is not completely certain who will be.
One of the highlights of our conversation was when he explained that he had never really felt proud to be an Egyptian before the recent events. He said he loved his country in a way, but never felt that it was his or that he had a stake in it. Now, that had all changed and he understood what true patriotism meant for the first time. He explained that this was the reason the protesters had been cleaning up Tahrir Square after the protests ended. In the past, they might not have bothered. Now, they regarded it as their square in their country and they cared about whether it was clean. Let's hope that's a feeling that lasts well past the afterglow of the events of last week.