Thousands marched to Hosni Mubarak's official residence early this afternoon, their resolve stiffened by the longtime leader's refusal the day before to leave office.
By 5 p.m., field hospitals and tented compounds like those in Tahrir Square had been set up, and the demonstrators were settling in. They didn't wait long. In the early evening, Vice President Omar Suleiman's terse statement announcing Mr. Mubarak's departure filtered through the crowd. They erupted with unbridled joy.
Screams of "he’s gone, he’s gone” came from all directions. Crying, hugging, shouts of "mabrouk" (congratulations) filled the crowd. A small boy yelled, “come to me freedom." Organized chants of “it’s done, the people brought down the regime” followed. Cars honked and Egyptians flooded the street.
Within moments, it seemed, the tents started to come down and the protesters began to spread in every direction, merging into larger and larger crowds. Similar scenes were repeated across Cairo and in dozens of cities around the Arab world's largest country.
“We’re free now," shouted Ali Omar, his wife and two small daughters in tow. "I know that my daughters will grow up in a free Egypt, a better Egypt."
Today will be remembered as the one in which hundreds of thousands of Egyptians across the country rose up against a dictatorial regime and, largely peacefully, prevailed.
The spread of the protests today seemed to have tipped the scales – whether by convincing a reluctant Mubarak that his people had really turned against him or by persuading the generals around him that his rule could no longer be tolerated.
Many details about what's to come for Egypt and the revolution that brought down the Mubarak regime still need to be worked out.
"I hate politics. This isn’t about politics … we’ve proven that we can be strong without violence," says Mohamed Aidarus, a mechanical engineer.
That comment about politics – a common refrain here – suggests that the expectations of many Egyptians will be sorely tested in the coming weeks and months, as the exact nature of the current interim military rule is worked out and it becomes clear whether promises for constitutional electoral reforms will be kept. Political actors both inside and outside of the regime will be testing the waters, and Egypt's revolution is far from being secured.
But for now, Egypt is in the midst of a party of vast proportions.
Staff writer Dan Murphy contributed to this report