He took pride in the claim that he would not quit the land, would not give up his country to chaos. His apologists said that he should be given the time to write his own legacy. But the abdication of Hosni Mubarak had become inevitable. Deaf to the sounds of his own country, blind to the disaffection with him and his reign, Mr. Mubarak gave it all before reality set in.
He alternated inducements and threats. He sent the goons of the Ministry of Interior to stir up trouble, in the hope that his people would be scared back into obedience and that they would call upon him to rein in the chaos. He threw overboard loyalists who had once been in his inner circle and promised he would prosecute businessmen and functionaries who had sown corruption and state terror through the land. In a final twist, he came up with a transparent piece of sophistry: He would give up the powers of the presidency to his vice president while keeping the office itself.
Nothing worked for this isolated ruler. He had grown remote and imperious. And in Midan al-Tahrir, Liberation Square, the aged ruler saw a whole new country emerge before his startled eyes. Young and old had come together, a savvy Internet generation was joined by laborers who had shed their timidity in the face of pervasive power. There had always been a great Egyptian pride in their country. This love of home, the desire to retrieve the country from the grip of the autocrat and his retainers, now animated a hitherto submissive population.