NOTE: The following blog post extends in real time over a period of 4 hours. When I started to jot down my impressions, I didn't intend that this should be the case, but events in Egypt just kept on evolving.
At the present moment, it's 3 o'clock in the afternoon in France, and I'm watching (on my computer screen) an amazing Al Jazeera English-language live stream. The following screen shot shows protesters throwing rocks at an armored vehicle and forcing it to retreat.
Video sequences shot in real time show blood dripping onto the macadam from wounded protesters, while others faint from the effects of tear gas and have to be carried away by comrades. The words of Al Jazeera journalists are solemn, almost calm, but dramatic and profound. We are watching historic images. Whatever happens by the end of the day, Egypt will never be the same again. In the vicinity of the 6th October Bridge in central Cairo, there is absolute chaos.
A journalist said: Some revolutions are leaderless. This one is being fueled by pure people power. The momentum is now with the protesters. The revolution certainly appears to be taking place…
In Suez, armored vehicles seem to be veering madly through the crowds. Meanwhile, Al Jazeera has brought in live comments from Tunisians, who are terribly proud to see that their revolution is being imported into the neighboring nation.
The Al Jazeera news coverage is being carried out in a marvelously professional and informative style. Since early this morning, we've been hearing that the Egyptian authorities have blocked the Internet. An amazing aspect of the present coverage is the fact that the live streaming from Al Jazeera nevertheless gets through perfectly, enabling us to see it by means of a web browser. It's as if dictators can no longer succeed in blocking the flow of information by means of their antiquated tricks. I find this observation terribly reassuring.
BREAKING NEWS: We've just been watching amazing images of rioters ceasing their actions for brief evening prayers. At the same time, the police stopped firing their tear gas. In 20 minutes, it will be 6 o'clock at Cairo, and an official curfew has been set. Will it be respected by the protesters? That is the big question...
Here's a Cairo image at 5 minutes away from curfew:
State police entered the building 10 minutes ago, but the cameras are still functioning. Meanwhile, Egyptian state media have just announced that Mubarak has ordered the army onto the streets, to help imposing the curfew.
The curfew started a minute ago, and the rioters are still on the streets. Rioters have set fire to a big truck on the 6th October Bridge that carries either police or troops, and they're trying to rock it over so that it falls into the Nile. A rioter is on top of the vehicle, dancing. It's totally surrealistic!
Al Jazeera is doing a fabulous job. Normally, Mubarak plans to speak to the nation in a short time. What will he announce?
We've just seen videos from Alexandria. Meanwhile, the troop carrier on the bridge in Cairo is on flames, and the rioters are still trying to topple it over into the Nile.
It's 5 minutes away from 7 o'clock in Egypt, and Mubarak has not yet appeared to speak to his people. Meanwhile, the headquarters of his political party in Cairo are in flames, and we can hear the explosions of heavy ammunition.
Observers are alarmed by the proximity of Egypt's great museum. The final evening prayers have just ended. The city is engulfed in black smoke, and there are no longer any signs of police.
Hillary Clinton, head of the US Department of State, has just intervened in real time, urging the Egyptian government and the protesters to calm down. It's now 7.15 pm in Egypt, and the army has just arrived calmly in Alexandria, where they were greeted favorably by onlookers.