World leaders and South Africans alike bowed before Nelson Mandela's flag-draped coffin on Wednesday in the same amphitheater where the revered peacemaker was sworn in as the country's first black president 19 years ago.
Thousands of people lined up at Pretoria's Union Buildings for a last chance to see the anti-apartheid icon memorialized as a "giant of history" at Tuesday's stadium sendoff in Soweto. Some carried babies on their backs.
Among those paying their respects were singer Bono, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and model Naomi Campbell. F.W. de Klerk, South Africa's last white president and Mandela's fellow Nobel laureate, appeared to wipe away a tear as he passed the coffin, according to Reuters.
"I want to see him. Even if I have to stand here for three hours, I want to see him. It's my last chance," Habib Urehem, 66, a teacher of Islam, told Reuters.
Crowds shouted out their goodbyes to "Tata Madiba," as he was affectionately known, and sang songs from the struggle against apartheid as the black hearse drove by on its way to the Union Buildings, a symbol of the white-dominated government before Mandela came to power.
Traffic in Pretoria was gridlocked from early morning and shops along the procession route were closed. To ensure that each person visits the Union Buildings only once, their fingers will be marked with the same indelible ink used to identify voters in elections, officials said.
As a week of public grieving continues, the government is trying to make sure as many people as possible have a chance to say farewell to the man who led his nation to democracy after decades of white minority-rule.
People will also be invited to come out Thursday and Friday morning to see the casket transported from hospital to the amphitheater. Public viewing of the casket will follow for nine hours each day.
The amphitheater will be renamed for Mandela, it was announced Monday.
"This is a fitting tribute to a man who transformed the Union Buildings from a symbol of racism and repression to one of peace, unity, democracy and progress," South African President Jacob Zuma said.
On Saturday, the African National Congress will hold a ceremony at an air force base before Mandela's body is flown to Qunu, his ancestral home.
Though the funeral venue holds 5,000 people and Zuma and other dignitaries are expected, it will be a more intimate gathering than the national memorial service at FNB Stadium on Tuesday.
Before a crowd of 95,000, Mandela was eulogized by President Barack Obama, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and some of his grandkids.
“His struggle was your struggle. His triumph was your triumph. Your dignity and hope found expression in his life, and your freedom, your democracy is his cherished legacy,” Obama told the crowd. “The world thanks you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us.”
Mandela's death on Thursday at the age of 95 did not come as a surprise, and the atmosphere at the memorial was celebratory.
"It is a moment of sadness celebrated by song and dance, which is what we South Africans do," Xolisa Madywabe, CEO of a South African investment firm, told The Associated Press.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
First published December 11 2013, 7:37 AM