People power has spoken in the biggest Arab nation just four weeks after Tunisians toppled their own ageing ruler.
Last Modified: 12 Feb 2011 05:56 GMT
Egyptians have woken to a new dawn after 30 years of rule under Hosni Mubarak.
As the Muslim call to prayer reverberated across Cairo on Saturday, the sound of horns honking in jubilation could still be heard after a night when millions celebrated the fall of the president, who has handed over power to the military.
After 18 days of rallies at Cairo's Tahrir Square, resisting police assaults and a last-ditch raid by Mubarak supporters, people packed not just the epicentre but, it seemed, every street and neighbourhood of the capital. Similar was the scene in other cities and towns across the country.
Fireworks lit the night sky, cars honked under swathes of red, white and black Egyptian flags and people hoisted children above their heads. Some took souvenir pictures with smiling soldiers atop their tanks on city streets.
Everyone cried, laughed and embraced in the hope of a new era.
Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland, reporting from Cairo, said that in the coming days people will have some concerns.
“The obvious thing that is going to be concerning many people is to have some kind of a clear roadmap for the progress towards democratic elections,” she said. “After all this was a revolution not only to overthrow President Mubarak, but also to remove the whole system and install it with one where people would have freedom of choice with [regards to who] who runs the country.”
It all began when Omar Suleiman, the vice-president, said on Friday in a televised address that the president was "waiving" his office, and had handed over authority to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
Suleiman's 50-word statement was received with a roar of approval and by celebratory chanting and flag-waving from a crowd of hundreds of thousands in Cairo's Tahrir Square, as well as by other pro-democracy campaigners who were attending protests across the country.
In its third statement to the nation since Thursday, the council said in a televised address that it was examining the situation "in order to materialise the aspirations of our great nation".
The council spokesman said that "resolutions and statements regarding the ... actions to be followed" in order to achieve the demands of the people will be handed down later.
He also extended "greetings and appreciation" to Mubarak for his service to the country, and saluted the "martyrs and those who have fallen" during the protests.
Nezar al Sayyad, a Middle East specialist, told Al Jazeera that Egypt “is in a very critical stage in terms of what is going to happen next.”
“I think it’s extremely important to remember here that although Omar Suleiman made the announcement that Mubarak made the decision to step down, we don’t really know if Mubarak decided to step down or [if] he was forcibly removed by the armed forces and by the supreme council,” Al Sayyad said.
He said the next steps taken by Tantawi and other members of the supreme council, will “be extremely important in pushing the country forward”.
'Dream come true'
The crowd in Tahrir responded to Suleiman's statement by chanting "we have brought down the regime".
Mohamed ElBaradei, a prominent opposition leader, hailed the moment as being "a dream come true".
"I can't tell you how every Egyptian feels today," he said. "We have been able to restore our humanity ... to be free and independent".
ElBaradei reiterated that Egypt now needs to return to stability and proposed that a transition government be put in place for the next year.
"We need to go on ... our priority is to make sure the country is restored as a socially cohesive, economically vibrant and ... democratic country," he said.
Ayman Nour, another opposition figure and a former presidential candidate, told Al Jazeera that he would consider running for the presidency again if there was consensus on his candidacy.
He said Februray 11, 2011 is "the greatest day in Egyptian history".
"This nation has been born again. These people have been born again, and this is a new Egypt."
Amr Moussa, the secretary-general of the Arab League, said that he would resign from his post, one that he has headed for about 10 years, "within weeks". Some analysts say he may well run for the Egyptian presidency when elections are held.
Following Mubarak's announcement, our correspondent in Tahrir Square, said: "Tonight, after all of these weeks of frustration, of violence, of intimidation ... today the people of Egypt undoubtedly [feel they] have been heard, not only by the president, but by people all around the world."
'Explosion of emotion'
Our correspondents across the country reported scenes of jubilation and celebration on the streets of major cities.
"I have waited, I have worked all my adult life to see the power of the people come to the fore and show itself. I am speechless," Dina Magdi, a pro-democracy campaigner in Tahrir Square said.
"The moment is not only about Mubarak stepping down, it is also about people's power to bring about the change that no-one ... thought possible."
In Alexandria, Egypt's second largest city, our correspondent described an "explosion of emotion". He said that hundreds of thousands were celebrating in the streets.
Suleiman's announcement came after hundreds of thousands of Egyptians took the streets for the 18th consecutive day, marching on presidential palaces, state television buildings and other government installations.
Hundreds of thousands gathered at Tahrir Square, chanting slogans against the government.
Similar numbers were also reported from Alexandria, where some protesters marched to a presidential palace there.
Protests were also reported from the cities of Mansoura, Mahalla, Suez, Tanta and Ismailia with thousands in attendance.
Violence was reported in the north Sinai town of el-Arish, where protesters attempted to storm a police station.
At least one person was killed, and 20 wounded in that attack, our correspondent said.