The stage is set for a dramatic occasion in the West Bank town of Ramallah - the laying to rest of Yasser Arafat.
Workmen have toiled through the night to build a dignified tomb for the
Palestinian leader in an area that 48 hours earlier was a wasteland of
rubble and twisted metal.
Palestinians have come to Arafat's compound to pay their respects
The roar of bulldozers and the shrill "beep, beep, beep" of their warning
signals mingled with the mournful sound of funerary verses from the Koran
floating over Mr Arafat's Muqata compound throughout Thursday.
The day had dawned with the news that Palestinians had been expecting for
days, that their leader since 1968 had died of a mystery illness in a
military hospital in Paris.
Today, everything was made ready for Mr Arafat's funeral in Cairo - where his body was flown overnight - and for his burial in Ramallah.
Most Arab leaders in Cairo were from countries that do not recognise
Israel and refuse to set foot in the Arab territories it occupies in the
West Bank or Gaza.
Israel for its part has refused to honour Mr Arafat's long-held wish to be
buried in Jerusalem.
How many mourners?
If the Cairo ceremony has a sombre predictability, the burial in Ramallah
entails almost as much uncertainty as the days of waiting for Mr Arafat's
life to ebb away.
His body is expected to arrive at the Muqata by helicopter at about 1330
local time (1130 GMT).
The casket will be taken to lie in state at the compound's grandest
building, the conference hall, where ordinary people can file past, before
burial in the tomb 100m away before sunset.
Arafat's marble tomb has been built from scratch in less than 24 hours
But that may leave only about three hours for the general public to pay
their respects to a man who - for all his faults and failings - is
acknowledged to be the father of their struggle for independence.
Palestinian officials say they had asked Egypt to keep the body until
Saturday to avoid any crush - but Egypt, for its own reasons, refused.
Maybe the large numbers will not come.
The Israeli army has barred the access for the population of Gaza and Palestinians from other areas from attending the
burial, potentially a provocative move in itself, and it has sealed off
other West Bank towns.
But West Bankers have learnt during the four years of the intifada how to
get round such measures, so they can lead their lives.
However, if they do come in large numbers, the ill-equipped, ill-prepared
Palestinian security forces may well have their hands full, if emotions run
out of control.
Back in the spotlight
For all its poignancy, this is probably a day that Mr Arafat would have
Back on the world stage again for a major international event after years
being pinned down by Israeli forces in two rooms at the Muqata, just a
stone's throw from his burial site today.
An honour guard has been practising its final salute to Arafat
The rubble and debris that were left there to protect him from the threat of
abduction by the Israelis have been cleared away to create a truly impressive
platform for his burial to take place.
The dozens of makeshift helicopter traps (concrete-filled oil drums holding
upright metal tubes), meant to ward off Israeli snatch-squads, are now all
flying the potent symbol of the Palestinian flag.
And the black marble tomb is ready in time - a temporary structure, it is
said, so that his bones can one day be taken to Jerusalem, when - if - his
people's aspirations to have their capital in the eastern half of the city
Mr Arafat would have watched carefully to see the reaction of the people.
His successors will have to, because emotions are very unpredictable at this