Egypt's Genie Can't Be Put Back in the Bottle

"Like a genie, the people of Egypt have escaped from the bottle, and it is impossible to stuff her back in."

So writes Arab commentator Arib Al-Rantawi in Jordan's government newspaper, Addustour, one day before the country's autocratic ruler, King Abdullah, sacked his government in an attempt to stave off the unrest that has brought the Arab world's most populous nation to the brink of revolution. The observation is just a token reminder of the sense of shock and awe filling Arab capitals in the light of not one but two popular revolts against long-standing incumbent dictators.

"We are at the vanguard of a new Arab world where there is no place for the rule of repressive dictatorships and their hollow slogans -- that belongs to the Cold War," said London-based editor Adbel Bar Atwan, writing in Al-Quds Al-Arabi.

"Egypt is living a real revolution," he continues, "started by brave young people to wanting to quell their fear, and topple a regime full of corruption, nepotism and mafiosos. They want to restore Egypt to her international role and former standing."

Saudi Al-Jazirah commentary is still skeptical of the outcome, distrusting the widespread looting, noting that "In European and Asian countries, there are clashes between demonstrators and police and police vehicles set aflame, but the transformation of demonstrations into theft -- this is only seen in Arab countries."

"Mubarak is neither Saddam Hussein nor Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and is indeed a nationalist in both war and peace," says Tariq Hameed of the regional daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat. "But the issue at hand is not about Mubarak. This is not a crisis of the Egyptian regime, but a crisis of [all] Arab republics."

Egyptians' greatest test of unity, Hameed argues, lies ahead: "Only by putting their similarities and differences at the core of this process can this 'revolution of the young' provide a real framework of government. They must adjust the achievement of their goals away from the competition that once deprived them of opportunities."

Others still see this as the natural toppling of a regime out of touch with its people: Saleh Awad, of the Tunisian daily Echourouk calls Mubarak "the Zionists' sweetheart" who betrayed a pan-Arab idealism of the Egyptian people. "Mubarak is a Pharaoh," he writes, "One who fell from his part in American aggression against Iraq and how he helped them to occupy an Arab Muslim country... he fell from [his part in] the conspiracy to humiliate Palestine and its people, and the people of Syria, Lebanon and Sudan."

Clovis Maqsoud of the Lebanese daily Annahar writes:

What qualifies events in Egypt today as a new chapter in the history of the Arabs is that the revolution of the masses and the new generation that has imposed programs and demands on other opposition forces in Egypt -- from the left, to nationalists, Islamists, and other belief group -- a spreading interaction of political attitudes that is characteristic of party pluralism.

In a country that has long been criticized for its political ennui, Egyptians themselves seem incredulous at how quickly they have united: in the independent daily Al-Shorouk, Emad El Din Hussein says:

I swear by Almighty God that I cried with joy to see Egypt reborn in Tahrir Square in the middle of the Tuesday night Members of [Muslim] Brotherhood, Nasserists, and Marxists [...] were all present but they were a few--the majority were ordinary citizens...thousands of people mingled together in a variety of slogans, and singing in groups.

As of this article's publication, pro-government Egyptian newspapers, such as the state-run Al-Ahram -- long considered the trumpet of Mubarak's National Democratic Party -- as well as the state-backing independent daily Al-Akhbar, have been taken offline.

"We must keep alive the remnants of hope in our veins," says Mena Malak La'zar in the Egyptian opposition daily Al-Masri Al-Youm. "We must try and maintain this heartbeat in the body of the motherland."

The past few days have proved the genie is indeed out of the bottle, and the heart of the "Mother of the World" beats strong. Arab rulers and kings: take note.