Tahrir Square is to Cairo what the Champs Élysées is to Paris or Times Square to New York. It's the geographical embodiment of the city's spirit and, since Jan. 25, it has become the focal point of the protests.
The area on which the square sits has been historically significant to Cairo since the 13th century, but it didn't take its current shape until the late 19th century. Now at the centre of efforts to oust President Hosni Mubarak, the square owes its design to another Mubarak: Ali Pasha Mubarak. He was Egypt's public-works minister in the 1860s and '70s when Egypt's ruler, Ismail Pasha, charged him with modelling Cairo after Paris, and the square was born. The new city was fashioned as a nexus of squares with roads branching off at right angles, and Tahrir was the eye of this nexus. Originally called Midan Ismailia, it was renamed Midan Tahrir, or Liberation Square, after the 1952 Egyptian revolution.
Cairo's first bridge across the Nile leads to the square. The area is also home to the Egyptian Museum; the headquarters of Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic Party; the Mogamma building where government paperwork such as passports and drivers' licences are taken care of; the Headquarters of the Arab League building; the Nile Hotel; and the original downtown campus of the American University in Cairo.
History of protests:
It has been the traditional site for numerous major protests and demonstrations over the years, including the 1977 bread riots - the biggest unrest before now. It was also where people gathered in March, 2003, to protest the war in Iraq.