PRETORIA, South Africa – The body of Nelson Mandela is lying in state beneath a white canopied pavilion in front of the Union Buildings in Pretoria where nearly 20 years ago he stood and became the first black and truly democratically-elected President of South Africa.
His face and upper body were visible through the glass top half open casket. While the family is not allowing any images to be made public, those who know him say he looked better than they've seen during the last few years of frailty and illness.
Mandela's expression appeared serene and even content as he lay wearing a gold African shirt with a subtle pattern embossed on it similar to many of the trademark shirts. It is said to be one of his favorites.
Security at the viewing site was firm but low-key. Sitting beside the casket was the grandson of Mandela, Mandla, looking somber, quietly praying. He is the oldest male now in the Mandela family.
Throughout Pretoria, long lines of mourners threaded their way through the streets. For many in the public this was their first and last time to say good-bye and and a final thank you to the man they call "Tata," a local term for father.
In comparison to the horrendous rainy and windy weather of Tuesday's memorial in Johannesburg, the weather in Pretoria has been mostly sunny and pleasant, if a bit too hot. Some people waiting succumbed to heat exhaustion. There were complaints about the government's handling of the crowds and security.
But once people had viewed the remains of their fallen leader, there was pleasure and satisfaction. Some walked away from the site wiping away tears from their eyes. Most were exuberant.
"I'm very glad for what he has done for us and I have paid my respect," one told us.
Another said, "It shows he's resting, I thank everyone for what he did."
And yet another exclaimed, "We are crying...he looked great"
Nelson Mandela's body will be brought from the Union Buildings for the last time Friday evening for a formal send-off from Pretoria in Saturday and funeral and burial in his ancestral home of Qunu on Sunday.
It will be a time for more remembrance of the man who brought South Africa out of racist isolation. And it will leave much more time for the people here to ponder their future, without their beloved "Madiba."