In the wake of the ousting of Tunisia's President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, observers have drawn parallels with other countries in the region.
There is speculation about a possible domino effect similar to the collapse of Communist governments around Eastern Europe in 1989.
In several countries of the Middle East and North Africa, youthful and rapidly growing populations face rising food prices, high unemployment and lack of political representation. Some are also ruled by aging autocrats facing succession issues.
Which are the countries involved, and what is the likelihood of real change?
In addition, while there are, obviously, legitimate complaints by oppressed citizenry, the Resistance is largely controlled by a Fundamentalist Islamic opposition that has been in place and operating for many years now. It is not about to let populist, pro-democratic forces lead the way.
27 January 2011 Last updated at 23:20 GMT
Egypt unrest: ElBaradei returns as protests build
Nobel peace laureate and Egyptian opposition politician Mohamed ElBaradei has arrived in Cairo as anti-government protests continue to spread.
A Bedouin protester was shot dead in the Sinai region on Thursday, bringing this week's death toll to seven.
There were also protests in the cities of Cairo, Suez and Ismailiya.
The governing party says it is willing to listen to public grievances such as unemployment but has cracked down on protests, arresting up to 1,000 people.
Speaking on his arrival in Cairo, Mr ElBaradei said he would join the protests
"I wish we did not have to go out on the streets to press the regime to act," he said, according to Reuters news agency.
The protests are expected to increase on Friday, when the weekend begins in Egypt and millions gather at mosques for prayers.
As he left Vienna, where he now lives, Mr ElBaradei told reporters: "If [people] want me to lead the transition, I will not let them down."
'No other option'
Mr ElBaradei, formerly the head of the UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, said the government should not use violence against the demonstrators.
"I continue to call on the regime to understand that they better listen and listen quickly, not use violence and understand that change has to come. There's no other option," Mr ElBaradei added.
Meanwhile, the governing National Democratic Party (NDP) of President Hosni Mubarak says it is open to dialogue. But it has warned protesters to remain peaceful, ahead of major demonstrations expected on Friday.
"They are free to express their demands and we are here to meet their needs," said NDP secretary general Safwat al-Sherif.
"I hope that all preachers at Friday prayers tomorrow are calling people to be peaceful in a clear, ritual way that never plays upon people's feelings to achieve an undesirable target."
US President Barack Obama described the protests as the result of "pent-up frustrations", saying he had frequently pressed Mr Mubarak to enact reforms.
"The government has to be careful about not resorting to violence," he said in a YouTube question-and-answer session. "The people on the streets have to be careful about not resorting to violence."
The US counts Egypt as a key ally in the Middle East. ...<cont>
26 January 2011 Last updated at 16:32 GMT
Egypt's opposition pushes demands as protests continue
Crowd in Tahrir Square, Cairo carrying signs against President Mubarak. Egypt's "day of anger" brought thousands of workers, students, members of opposition parties and other activists onto the streets.
Anti-government demonstrations in Egypt on Tuesday were the biggest the country has seen since the bread riots of 1977. Inspired by the recent uprising in Tunisia, they involved thousands of Egyptians from a variety of opposition groups. But just who are these opposition movements and what are their demands? ...<cont>
Internet and mobile phone text message users in Egypt have reported a major disruption to services as the country prepares for a new wave of protests against the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak, the president.
Anti-government protesters have called for mass protests after noon prayers on Friday as they increase the pressure on the fourth day of the most serious unrest in decades.
The Associated Press news agency reported that an elite special counterterrorism force had been deployed at strategic points around Cairo in the hours before the planned protests as Egypt's interior ministry warned of "decisive measures".
Meanwhile, a lawyer for the opposition Muslim Brotherhood said that two senior members of the officially banned group had been detained overnight.
"The police detained Dr Essam El-Erian and Dr Mohamed Mursi, and there were others also detained. Many people, it's hard to figure out the exact number," Abdel-Moniem Abdel-Maksoud told the Reuters news agency.
"The reason is of course known: it's what is expected to happen tomorrow."
Yemenis take to the streets calling for President Saleh to step down
As unemployment rises and oil and water reserves dwindle, thousands demand an end to president's 32-year reign ... <cont>
As protests swell from Yemen to Egypt, Middle East faces uncertainty
A wave of political unrest threatening Middle Eastern governments grew ominously larger Thursday as new protests shook impoverished Yemen and Egyptian authorities braced for massive anti-government demonstrations set to begin Friday.
The fresh turbulence deepened fears of a prolonged period of chaos and uncertainty in the region while raising new questions about the viability of autocratic governments that have been stalwart allies of the United States for more than a generation.
In Egypt, there were signs that the government was moving to shut down access to the Internet and disable text-messaging services in a bid to stifle further protests. Meanwhile, pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei returned to the country to join the protests and rally the opposition.
The tumult in Yemen, where more than 10,000 people took to the streets of the capital, Sanaa, on Thursday, added a troubling new dimension to the regional unrest that began nearly two months ago in Tunisia. Yemen, one of the poorest and most heavily armed countries in the Middle East, is home to multiple separatist movements and has its own, particularly virulent branch of al-Qaeda.
"Yemen is a different game," said Khairi Abaza, a Middle East expert and a senior fellow at the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. "If things go out of hand in Yemen, you have many players who will be waiting to try to affect the outcome, from al-Qaeda to Iran."
While the Obama administration continued to show symbolic support for the protesters' pro-democracy aspirations, administration officials and security experts acknowledged a deepening uncertainty about how the protest movement will play out as it reshapes and possibly upends governments and entire societies from Lebanon to North Africa.
With few exceptions, the countries have been under autocratic rule for decades, and are virtually devoid of the traditions, experience and political infrastructure on which to build stable new governments.
The only certainty, experts said, is uncertainty - an extended and potentially dangerous period of instability that is likely just beginning.
"What happened in Tunisia is completely unprecedented in the Arab world," said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer who served as special assistant on the Middle East and South Asia to three presidents. "We've never had a dictator toppled by the street. As a consequence, there is no safety net, no organized opposition ready to move in. No one has a clue what is going to emerge in some of these places."
Riedel said the uncertainty, combined with speed of the change underway, presents the Obama administration with an array of difficult choices as it seeks to show support for democratic expression while working to preserve stability and prevent violence. Historically, U.S. governments "have never gotten these things right," he said.