Three hours north in the coastal city of Alexandria, where the police killing of a blogger helped galvanize resentment against the Mubarak regime in the lead-up to January's uprising, Mutaz Attalla had problems figuring out how to mark his ballot.
"I expected to go in and see party affiliations or 'individual' next to names, but it was just a bunch of names and symbols," said the 31-year-old worker. "When I saw the candidates list, I had the same feeling as an exam at school — where you didn't study a chapter because you didn't think it you would be tested on it."
The first round of elections, which include races for a share of parliament seats, continues Tuesday. Second and third rounds will be held in December and January — about 50 million voters are eligible for all three phases. But a full democratic government won't be in place until a president is elected by the end of June.
Howaida Assal waited at a polling station not far from Tahrir Square.
"We have a new country and a new life," she said. "We have to express our opinion now."
When asked how long she would stand in line, she said: "Three, four hours. I've been waiting 30 years. I'll take a whole day, it's fine."
Special correspondents Glen Johnson in Alexandria and Matt Pearce in Cairo and Amro Hassan of The Times' Cairo bureau contributed to this report.