TUNIS - For hours they waited for Sunday lunch, crushed against each other in the lobby of the airport of Tunis. After 20 years away, thousands of Tunisians, vent their "Islamic pride" to the appearance of their "hero" Rached Ghannouchi.
Ghannouchi, many see probably for the first time, is the face of Islam that seem to fear as many supporters of secularism in the new post of Tunisia Ben Ali, President January 14 driven by a popular uprising .
At the airport Tunis-Carthage, where the police were being very discreet, the nearly septuagenarian appeared in front of his "fans" a clarion "Allah Akbar" (God is greatest), his arms outstretched towards the sky.
This was his only statement prior to spawn a difficult path to the exit of the airport, not as we know its destination.
Around him, almost like a rock star, a cordon of his party in white caps and dam is trying to protect it from the jostling, shouting "do not touch it! Do not touch it!". "We did not trust the police," said a member of the security service.
In the crush militants Ennahda (Renaissance) sing a song very symbolic in Islam, one that evokes the departure of the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina in 622.
"I'm so happy to take home. I never thought to see my brother alive", told AFP his sister Jamila.
Long before his arrival in the lobby of the terminal open like an egg up on the first floor gallery, thousands of supporters of al-Nahda were huddled outside the door of exit of British Airways flight that took him back to London.
In lungs the crowd alternated the national anthem and vibrant "Allah Akbar" (God is greatest).
Some Korans and olive branches emerge at arms length from the compact mass, many cameras and mobile phones.
Slight, dozens of supporters of secularism are nevertheless liable to be present at the airport with placards against fundamentalism.
Makeup, loose hair, skirts above the knees, a young woman spent the message in its own way: she felt painted a mustache and a beard on his face.
When the crowd dispersed after the departure of Rached Ghannouchi his first steps in Tunisian soil for 20 years, the spirits are warmed between the two camps. Some friction and placards torn, but calmed down quickly.
At the time of departure from London, Ghannouchi had wanted to "play the modest": "I'm coming home today, but I will also return in the Arab world," he assured.
In Tunis, apart from its sound "Allah Akbar" at the airport, he avoided making any statement about his political plans in the new Tunisia that he too will have to discover.