A train arrives and men hurry to prayer, boys slip by in boisterous knots, women fill the ladies cars. Then the tunnel, which has quieted briefly, like an old man in repose, blossoms again with clamor as another train pushes cool air toward the platform.
But how to move on?
"He never talked to us, his people. He was distant," says Mahassen Hussein, a science lab instructor standing outside the train station. "I struggled to find a job under him. People reached their 40s and still couldn't afford to get married. Still, we should show him a bit of sympathy.... He was our leader once. It's like when you have a problem with someone in your family. They might be hard on you, but they're your blood."
The Martyrs stop unfolds beneath Ramses Square, named for Ramses II, the great pharaoh of more than three millenniums ago. His statues and legacy have survived the ages. Two subway stops away is Nasser station, named for Gamal Abdel Nasser, the young officer who led the 1952 coup that liberated Egypt. After that, Sadat station, named for President Anwar Sadat, assassinated in 1981 after making peace with Israel.
But Mubarak seemed a man afraid to dream. The generals are in charge now; parliamentary elections will come in September and after that the presidential election before year's end. Who would have imagined that he would be gone, replaced by humiliating caricatures peeking out from newsstands and bookshop windows?
A judge has said Mubarak was at least indirectly responsible for the killing of more than 800 protesters during the revolution that toppled him in February. He could face the death penalty. News of this came just before his 83rd birthday last week; one newspaper reported that a cake and a barber were sent to the hospital.
"We don't need to remember him," says Mustafa Okasha, a heavyset man in a summer shirt. "I teach high school and the first thing I did when Mubarak fell from power was to burn his picture at the school. I told my students, 'This is an unjust and corrupt man. You will have a better future now.' They're young and I tried to tell them they must fight for their rights now. This is the moment."
He pauses amid men selling sunglasses and boys hawking belts and key chains shaped like army boots and hieroglyphics. Another train arrives. A blur of changing faces.
"I teach history," Okasha says, "and I hope history doesn't even mention him."
Photos: Hosni Mubarak over the years
Amro Hassan of The Times' Cairo bureau contributed to this report.