On the way to Tahrir Square

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On Friday, the Egyptian army reinforced checkpoints in and out of Tahrir Square, the center of the anti-government protests in Cairo.

Hundreds of people stood in line at one of the entrances, including Ahmad and Mohammed, two university students. Ahmad said they have been waiting for an hour and a half to get into the square.

"I'm Egyptian, I've lived in the United States, I've been to Europe, all around the world," Ahmad said. "I want to feel my country is changing. In 10 years, when I see my children studying Egyptian history, I want to say, I was there, I changed this country."

Mohammed said the violent attacks by pro-government groups have scared away some protestors, and he blamed Egyptian state-controlled television for doing that as well.

"They're trying to manipulate the people's mind," Mohammed said. "It's all about confusion. It's all about sticking to this regime, which has been here for a long time and hasn't made a lot of change. And now they're saying that in the next 6 months, they're going to make everything better. It's nonsense."
A stop to the whole country

At the entrance to the square, some Egyptians who support President Mubarak argued with anti-Mubarak protesters. Many government supporters blame the demonstrations for bringing daily life to a halt.

The government has shut banks, gas stations, universities, and government offices. While shops are open, prices are climbing.

"You've stopped the whole country. We want the country to run again," said one government supporter.

A protester responded: "Was it running before?" The protestor added, "I won't leave. All I've done is say, 'enough!' You want to hit me, you want to kill me, go ahead."

State-controlled television has been full of references to foreign infiltrators being behind the protests, and rumors have been circulating.

People variously mentioned Iran, Hamas, the U.S. and Israel as the culprits. When the subject of foreign elements came up on Friday, a protester told a pro-Mubarak man, "The Jews actually support Mubarak. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is going around telling the whole world he supports Mubarak."

Another group argued over who could replace the president. The head of the high constitutional court, one protester said.

In fact, the head of the court would be next in line if Mubarak, his vice-president, and his speaker of parliament all stepped down. "But the president is concerned for us," one Mubarak supporter said. A protester yelled back, "If Mubarak stays, our children will be slaves!"

The protests have been remarkable for the presence of Egyptian from all walks of life, and for the presence of women. Somiya, who is 17, came to Tahrir Square with her brother, mother and sister.

"We are waiting for it to clear a bit and we are going to enter," Somiya said. When asked if she is afraid, Somiya said, "No, it's the safest place in Egypt right now. This is what people are saying inside, and I believe it."

Many people brought in food and water on Friday. Karim Hosni, a doctor at a nearby hospital, came with some colleagues in white coats.

Hosni said he was in the square earlier this week as a protester. "Today, I'm here as a doctor," Hosni said. He brought sutures, gloves, local anaesthetic and other supplies for the emergency clinic set up in the square.

Hundreds have been injured in the clashes in the past few days, and several have been killed, but the demonstrators seemed determined to hold onto Liberation Square.