LAST October, on my final day in Cairo after a yearlong stay, I walked across the Kasr el-Nil Bridge toward Tahrir Square, stopping for a moment to take in the view. Though the Nile was, as always, a lovely sight, it was still hard to ignore the broken glass and cigarette butts beneath my feet, and the tired, worn faces of the young Egyptians standing near me.
On Feb. 21, I crossed that bridge again, 10 days after Hosni Mubarak resigned as president. The scene could not have been more different. The bridge was spotless. Small plastic wastebaskets, many with the word “Facebook” taped on them (an homage to the role the social media site played in Egypt’s revolution) were tied to each street lamp. I slid my hand along the shiny hunter-green and silver railings, marveling that even the curbs had received new coats of black-and-white paint to prevent illegal parking — courtesy of the protesters