Liberation in Squares

The central squares of great cities are a double-edged sword. A central authority needs places to put itself on display so the people can feel its presence. Then, in times of upheaval, these areas become places where the government must look at its people.

Liberation in Circles

Cairo’s Tahrir Square is now a household name throughout the world. The name, like the names of many squares, reveals familiarity with pivotal moments. This is the third revolution witnessed by Tahrir Square (really—aha! fittingly circular), whose name means liberation.

The eventful main square of Libya’s Tripoli has been called Independence Square, Martyrs’ Square, and most recently Green Square, after Qaddafi’s own revolution. I have the feeling it is heading back in the direction of Martyrs’ Square. The heart of Beirut, Lebanon, likewise the scene of many recent protests, is another Martyrs’ Square.

I became interested in the old name of what is now Mohammad Bouazizi Square in Tunis. Its current name, as those following the Arab Spring will know, is for the vegetable seller whose self-immolation sparked the Tunisian revolution just a few months ago. But it used to be the Square of November 7th.

Going to Global Road Warrior, I used the landing-page search button to see what “November 7th” would bring up. I got hits on four pages.

Tunisia: Country Facts: Government (looks muddy here, but click on it):



Tunisia: Country Facts: Holidays:


And the Tunisia: Historical Facts page has a bit more in the same vein. And then there’s the money. GRW has a beautiful feature showing an image for banknotes of each country, and here are two of the ones used in Tunisia:

If you get a look at the notes and their descriptions, you’ll see, sure enough, the references to November 7th, 1987.

First the Revolution, Now the Homework

New governments have so much homework. Not only do they have to decide who will govern and how, they have to redefine their symbols. They’ve renamed the square. They’ll probably be wanting to print new currency and change their national holiday. It seems there is a great deal of creative energy in Tunisia to address these and other changes, large and small.  I hope it goes well for them, and for all people possessed by the spirit of renewal.