In one of the cafés on Arab League Street in central Cairo, 28-year-old engineer Samer Omar and his friends gathered this week to enjoy an evening out. He said it was a pleasure they were denied over the last four months due to the curfew imposed during the revolution that overthrew the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
"The curfew helped us get security under control at the onset of the revolution, but at the current time it would only prevent us from enjoying the summer," Samer said. "We must defy the thugs by returning to our normal lives and restoring the Cairo that doesn’t sleep."
Since January 28th, Egyptians have lived under the curfew imposed by the military governor on account of the deteriorating security situation in the early days of the revolution. Curfew hours have been gradually reduced in recent weeks, from a time period extending from 5pm to 7am, down to only three hours, from 2am to 5am.
Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces announced on June 6th that the curfew would be lifted as of June 15th, "in order to facilitate and encourage a return to normal life by citizens".
The decision followed a poll conducted on the council's official Facebook page asking the public when to lift the curfew.
More than 50,000 voted to "lift the curfew when the security situation is stabilised", 14,000 voted to lift the curfew on June 15th, and 6,000 others preferred to defer lifting the curfew till after the presidential election in December 2011.
Ahmed Shaaban, a 35-year-old bank employee, says that the security situation in his hometown of the city of October 6th necessitates continued enforcement of the curfew, at least until the parliamentary elections are held.
The parliamentary referendum is scheduled for September, followed by the presidential election at the end of the year. Last November's elections for the People's Assembly -- the upper house of parliament -- were marred by violence in a large number of Egyptian cities.
Mahmoud Abdul-Rahman, a 50-year-old storekeeper in Talaat Harb Street, says looting still occurs, though at a lower rate than in past months.
Abdul Rahman believes the curfew should stay in effect as a deterrent to thieves and thugs who have taken advantage of the lack of security since the January 25th revolution.
The tourism industry was perhaps the biggest casualty of the deteriorating security situation in the early days of the revolution, which is why tourism sector officials in Egypt say that lifting the curfew in the summer may encourage Arab and domestic tourism.
The Egyptian Minister of Tourism, Munir Fakhri Abdel-Nur, said in a press statement on June 10h that the decision to lift the curfew underscores the return of stability in Egypt and encourages internal tourism, pointing out that "since the start of the revolution on January 25th, to the present time, no Egyptian or foreign tourist has been harmed".
Ahmed Mamdouh, a tour guide at the pyramids of Giza, said that the few tourist groups that arrived in May were invariably concerned about the curfew, even though it does not disrupt any portion of the tour programme since it starts after midnight.
"The lifting of the curfew will reassure a lot of foreigners about visiting Egypt, which has long been known for its robust security," Mamdouh said, adding that the return of tourism to normal levels would help return many Egyptians to their jobs and reduce the crime rate spreading among the unemployed.
Even the security forces hold different opinions on the curfew. Captain Mustafa Awad, who serves in one of the tourist areas, said that security is still recovering "from the blow it received during the first days of the revolution".
"It is currently undergoing evaluation and is operating on the basis of a new security doctrine, and that [process] needs time, which is why the curfew was of critical importance," he said.
However, Major Rami Mahmoud disagrees with his colleague, saying that an end to the curfew would make citizens feel safe and re-introduce them to normal life, while simultaneously striking fear in the minds of thugs and criminals because they will recognise that Egypt's security has returned.
"We are engaged in a psychological war against the criminals and thugs," he said. "The lifting of the curfew is in the interest of citizens, in this psychological war against crime."