As hundreds of thousands of Egyptians thronged into the streets of the country's major cities demanding an end to the 30-year rule of their aging, repressive, authoritarian President Hosni Murarak, the world's commentariat was earning a living wrestling with questions like: "How did this thing start?" and "Who's in charge?"
Was the world watching an Iranian plot to permanently derail the faltering peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority? Or a CIA coup? Or was it a spontaneous outpouring of voice from the voiceless? Was it a merely an important "second step" in the movement started in Tunisia? Was it engineered by such anemic political opposition as exists in Egypt? By the Muslim Brotherhood, perhaps covertly, thus explaining that group's conspicuous absence from the early days of the demonstrations.
Or did the wall to wall coverage of the Tunisian uprising by trusted media such as Al Jazeera embolden downtrodden Egyptians -" as well as Yemenites and Jordanians -- to risk life, limb and property in the streets? And how important was the role played by the so-called "social media" -" Twitter, Facebook, You Tube, etc. -" as an accelerant in the David and Goliath struggle?
Journalists trying to report the dynamic situation in Egypt were obliged by fast-breaking developments to add updates, virtually by the minute.
Here's where the situation stands as of Sunday afternoon (ET) January 30:
Over the weekend, the demonstrations appeared to gather strength as thousands again took to the streets of Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, Luxor and other large cities in peaceful protests.
President Mubarak moved Egyptian troops into the center of Cairo to protect government property and historic sites from a wave of looting. The looting was widely attributed, not to the demonstrators, but to what one demonstrator called "thugs" -" poor people and common criminals.
Some media outlets reported that the criminals were released from jails and police stations by the police themselves in an effort to discredit the demonstrators.