The protest movement demanding the downfall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak showed no signs of flagging on Tuesday, filling Tahrir Square in central Cairo in defiance of the government for the 12th straight day.
More first-time protesters came out, saying they had seen through what they called lies by the state media, and hundreds were streaming in after work to join the crowds.
Protesters said friends and relatives were coming to add their voice after hearing that the protests were peaceful and that the atmosphere in Tahrir Square was cheerful and festive.
An emotional interview with Google Inc executive Wael Ghonim, just after release from 12 days in detention for his Internet activism, also convinced some Egyptians that government claims of foreign conspiracies were baseless propaganda.
Reuters correspondent Dina Zayed said the crowd seemed to be larger on Tuesday afternoon than it was last Friday, one of the biggest days since the protesters came out on Jan. 25 to challenge Mubarak's authoritarian government.
Based on a rough estimate of surface area, the protest zone can hold about a quarter of a million people if tightly packed. This is about the third time it has come close to capacity.
"Now that most folks are leaving work, the numbers are swelling quickly in Tahrir. I can see hundreds of people walking from side streets, headed to the square," said Zayed.
Many protesters camp overnight in what has become a tented village in the heart of the Egyptian capital, with people selling food, drink, newspapers and Egyptian flags.
The crowd tends to peak in the late afternoon and then diminish gradually after the start of the curfew imposed by the army, which now runs from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
One of the first-timers on Tuesday was Afaf Naged, 71, a former board member of state-owned National Bank of Egypt, the country's largest financial institution.
Naged said she was fed up with what she called Mubarak's attempts to cling on to power. "I came here for the first time today because ... Mubarak is still meeting the same ugly faces ... He can't believe it is over. He is a very stubborn man."
"I am also here because of Wael Ghonim. He was right when he said that the NDP (the ruling National Democratic Party) is finished. There is no party left, but they don't want to admit it," she added.
Amr Fatouh, 25, a surgeon, said it was his first time protesting at the square because of his hospital duties.
"I hope people will continue and more people will come. At first, people didn't believe the regime would fall but that is changing," he said. The protesters say they will stay until Mubarak leaves office, a demand the government has rejected.
People have come across the country and from almost every walk of life and political opinion -- Islamists, liberals, leftists and people who say they favour no ideology.
A former minister of transport, Essam Sharaf, also joined the protests on Tuesday, leading a march near Tahrir Square that chanted one of the most common slogans: "The people want to bring down the regime." Sharaf was minister in 2004 and 2005.
Vice President Omar Suleiman has started a dialogue with members of the protest movement but the government has taken few substantial steps to meet the demands of the protesters since Mubarak said he would not stand for another term.
After 30 years under Mubarak and many promises of reform and democracy, protesters say they are sceptical.
"I don't have much hope in dialogue, because we have lost trust in these people. For 30 years, they have given promises that they never carried out. For 30 years, they have distorted the will of the people," said Said Gharib, a member of the opposition Ghad (Tomorrow) Party.
"Dialogue would be okay if it was realistic, but this dialogue is just on paper, it is just political manoeuvring to gain time, said Sayed Hegaz, 41, who normally works in marketing in the Nile delta town of Mansoura.
Even outside the Tahrir Square zone, many Egyptians in downtown Cairo said they were sympathetic to the protesters, though some said they trusted the government would make real changes and that Mubarak should stay to oversee the transition.
ReutersLast Mod: 08 Şubat 2011, 17:35