UPDATE 6-feb: Initially I calculated there could not be more than 50,000 protesters at a given time. However it could be feasible with the adjacent areas that there were up to 200,000. A friend told me about this better picture, than the one I used in the original post below See picture 44.
UPDATE 15-feb: Please read the comments. Special attention to Adham, GeoCom and NooNoo.

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An interruption from my normal posts in this blog, to show how a little geographical concepts can help.

Social network software and media are discussing the amount of people who met today for the 1 Million people protest in Cairo, Egypt. Al Jazeera reports that there is “More than a million gather in Cairo’s Tahrir Square”. New York Times says “Hundreds of thousands of people in Tahrir Square on Tuesday demanded the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak”. Haaretz mentions “At least one million in Egypt take to the streets to call for Mubarak’s ouster”. Fox News says “An estimated 250,000 Egyptians mass in the heart of Cairo”. Le Monde talks about 200,000. All the media I quickly checked agree that there are hundreds of thousands.

Indeed, we can see the massive amount of people in the square, surrounded by military checkpoints.

Well, I have to be a bubble buster or arrogant. But I can not believe there are in Tahrir Square more than 50,000. I’m an economic geographer, more economist than geographer, so I know some basic geographic tools. Ok, ok, Google Planimeter can be hardly classified as a geographic information science… So the calculation it’s a rough estimate (with all the caveats of google maps and planimeter).

That is an area of 31,890 square meters.

If we generously put 1 person for each square meter, then we would have 32,000 people. 2 people per square meter would be extremely dense and not likely according to the pictures. Still that would be 65,000.

Perhaps what Japan Today reported “More than 10,000 people beat drums, played music and chanted slogans in Tahrir Square”, maybe closer than the Western and Middle Eastern media. (I never though one could put all of them together).

Wow! right now a Top Tweet in Twitter (this means massively repeated) is “army has estimated number of protesters at entrance of tahrir at 2 million #jan25“.

If the media buys it, we would have this amount of people, and the history books will say it too. If you read this post, you could tell your grandchildren, that maybe there were not so many people.

Image from Twitter. Who said social media would bring us transparent numbers?

But before posting this. 2 postscripts:

p.s. My heart is with the people of Egypt. I mourn the 300 people killed these last days (according to the UN) and the thousands imprisoned in harsh conditions. I hope that there are free elections in the near future and transparency emerges. In Spain we had to wait 40 years for dictator Franco to die. Many believed another Civil War could erupt back then in 1975, but there was a peaceful transition.

p.s.2 I would believe, though, there could have been 1 million, and even 2 million people protesting all around Egypt today. But not in the Tahrir Square.

p.s. (30 Nov 2011). In Spain democracy came after Franco died, because of 3 things, not necessarily in order. a) international support, b) intelligent nationalistic and communists to agree to accept mainstream democracy (including accepting the King appointed by Franco), c) brave militaries to accept mainstream democracy.