Tahrir Square, 1953
Older members of the population will remember the important role played by Tahrir Square in Egyptian history on 23 July 1953, writes Nader Habib
One year after the Free Officers seized power in July 1952, an anniversary celebration was held in Cairo's Tahrir Square in which they posed for photographers and enjoyed the adulation of the masses. The celebrations were captured on film, and viewed today the young officers seem to be filled with confidence and promise.
The day started with the then president, Mohamed Naguib, meeting the foreign press at the Officers Club in Zamalek. Naguib then attended a military parade in Tahrir Square, where martial music played in order to cheer on the nation's popular first president.
However, as Naguib and other officials enjoyed their moment of glory in Tahrir Square, the man who was to become Egypt's next president was taking care of other important business. At the same time as the military parade was taking place in the square, Gamal Abdel-Nasser, accompanied by Free Officers Gamal Salem, Abdel-Latif El-Baghdadi, Hussein El-Shafei and Kamaleddin Hussein, was visiting the villages of Demeira and Zaafaran to distribute agricultural land to landless peasants. Images of Nasser's actions that day became engraved in the Egyptian memory, boosting his popularity.
In Tahrir Square, Naguib proclaimed the values of the new republic. "Fellow Egyptians, I hereby take an oath of loyalty to our religious and spiritual legacy and to the enshrined ideals of Moses, Jesus and Mohamed. From now on, we shall oppose all forms of tyranny and all injustice by the government. In our country, every citizen will be in charge of his own affairs, and all will be loyal to the flag. The republic in which we live has been created in your name, and to that republic I take my oath of service. We shall use our resources and bring the nation together under the banner of the republic in the cause of glory, honour and pride."
After Naguib ended his speech, the parade started with units from the Cavalry Corps and the Camel Corps leading the procession, followed by military bands. Cadets from the country's army, navy and air force schools marched in full military uniform. The public was riveted, the republic was young, and the military were the darlings of the nation. Nasser's radical redistribution of wealth also kept everyone happy, at least for a while.