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Little Egypt Erupts With Big Celebrations

SCOTT SIMON, host:

Egyptian-Americans in New York City celebrated Hosni Mubaraks departure with an impromptu parade in the Queen's neighborhood known as Little Egypt.

NPRs Joel Rose reports.

(Soundbite of a chanting crowd)

JOEL ROSE: After weeks glued to the cable TV coverage of Cairo, dozens of Egyptian-Americans poured into the streets of Queens.

(Soundbite of a chanting crowd)

ROSE: Jubilant demonstrators blocked traffic on a stretch of Steinway Street in Queens known as Little Egypt. Its a city block lined with Egyptian restaurants, grocery stores, a hookah bar and a mosque. But on Friday, it seemed like no one stayed inside. Some people waved Egyptian flags, others carried homemade posters with angry slogans about Hosni Mubarak.

Hesham Amin of Queens was hoarse from leading the cheers.

Mr. HESHAM AMIN: We are, Im very happy, Im very proud because what happened today, we are waiting for that for a long time. But thanks is God, this happened. Thanks is God.

ROSE: After Mubaraks defiant speech on Thursday, Amin says he was surprised the Egyptian president stepped down so quickly. So was Mariam Allam.

Ms. MARIAM ALLAM: I knew the people would continue on protesting. But I didnt think that he would leave his position, ever. Because its been 30 years, why is he all of a sudden leaving now? So it was a big surprise to me early in the morning, but I was really happy when I found out.

ROSE: Allam and her friend Nihal Hashem were born in New York, but still have family in Egypt. Hashem says shes nervous about what will happen now that the army is in control.

Ms. NIHAL HASHEM: Were worried. But you know what? I think its a big step. Even though its kind of bumpy right now and, you know, as Egyptians we feel we feel a little more relieved 'cause hes out of the picture. At least now, we...

Ms. ALLAM: We can definitely say that it's a lot better than it was last year...

Ms. HASHEM: Yeah. Yeah.

Ms. ALLAM: ...or the year before that, or 30 or 29 years before that.

Ms. HASHEM: Exactly.

ROSE: But many of the demonstrators in Steinway Street didnt seem worried about what will come next for Egypt. Ahmed Elshahad moved to Queens a dozen years ago from a small town near Cairo.

Mr. AHMED ELSHAHAD: It will never be worse than what it was worse in the last 30 years. So even if we suffer for the next six months until have a new president, its okay. Lets suffer for some time to have a nice, beautiful, new generations having a good time in the country.

ROSE: Egyptian-American activists had been planning a protest today at the White House. Instead, theyll host a rally outside the United Nations in Manhattan, to celebrate what the organizers are already calling the Egyptian Revolution.

Joel Rose, NPR News, New York.

(Soundbite of music)

SIMON: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joel Rose is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers immigration and breaking news.