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The Egyptian protest movement eventually won a historic victory with the achievement of its main demand, the resignation of Hosni Mubarak from Egypt’s presidency. But the seventeen tumultuous days from the start of the demonstrations on 25 January until the president’s departure on 11 February were far from straightforward in their course. In this eyewitness report, a researcher who was present during the crucial days when Cairo’s Tahrir Square became the centre of the revolt reveals how the social composition and the moods of the movement fluctuated throughout the protest. Nothing was predetermined; even the events that led to the occupation of the square itself had elements of contingency about them. The interplay between a minority of politicised participants and a much larger group of non-political young people from Cairo’s neighbourhoods was at the heart of the shifts that took place, which were in turn influenced by the tactics of security forces and the character of official media coverage. These factors, critical to the evolution of the movement and the outcome of the protest, may continue to be important in shaping the aftermath of Egypt’s revolt.