Yuka Tachibana / NBC News
Hala Mohamed, left, and Reem, her 13-year-old Egyptian-American daughter, in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday.
By Yuka Tachibana, NBC News Producer
CAIRO – It’s Day 18 at Tahrir Square and hundreds of thousands of protesters have gathered here again. Among them is Reem Mohamed, a 13-year-old Egyptian-American from northern Virginia who arrived here this week to join the protests against the government of Hosni Mubarak.
Reem said she and her mother had been watching events unfold in northern Virginia and they felt compelled to come participate in the demonstrations. “We really wanted to leave on Tuesday, but we could only get here yesterday,” said Reem. “Once we arrived in Cairo, we dropped our bags off and immediately rushed to Tahrir Square. We haven’t even visited our family yet.”
Her mom, Hala, said she came because she believes Egyptians deserve the same freedoms of speech as people in the U.S. “I was inspired by the U.S. presidential elections,” said Hala. “I say to my fellow protesters here: ‘Yes we can!’”
Hala said she felt compelled to fly to Egypt and wasn’t worried about bringing her young daughter into a potentially violent and volatile situation in the square. But since she is a working mother and her daughter has school, she admitted they can’t stay forever.
Ben Curtis / AP
Anti-government protesters, and Egyptian soldiers on top of their vehicles, take time for traditional Muslim Friday prayers during continuing demonstration in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, Egypt Friday. Click photo for a slideshow of photos.
The square on Friday was quite a jovial atmosphere – similar to how it has been all week. There were families with children, people taking group photos, even taking pictures with smiling soldiers.
Last night, after President Hosni Mubarak’s speech in which he announced that he was not stepping down, there was a lot of anger among the people gathered in the square. They were dumbstruck and irate. But nerves seem to have calmed overnight. There are soldiers and army tanks in the square, but no one is trying to provoke them. The soldiers are just standing by and the public seems to be happily tolerating them.
“We will keep protesting, until the dictator is out,” Reem said. Her voice echoed by hundreds of protesters shouting, “Leave, leave, leave!”