Published In Muftah Magazine on Jun 4th 2014. Click for the link.
Cairo, May 28, 2022
After exactly eight years as the president of Egypt, Abdel El Fattah El Sissi is, again, on the cusp of sweeping to a presidential victory. Sissi’s first year in office witnessed a crackdown on Islamist elements and democracy advocates alike. By Christmas of that year, nearly 47,000 called prison home, including nearly 7000 college students. Three years into his rule, an attempt on Sissi’s life was blamed on the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, resulting in a massive crackdown against the group. Some 5700 alleged terrorist were killed throughout Cairo, Alexandria, and the Suez, Giza, and Minya governates. The international response was largely muted. Months later, Sissi swept to a second election victory, winning 97.8% of the vote in a race with an unprecedented 88% turnout. Having consolidated power through multiple constitutional referenda, as well as stacking parliament with his loyalists, Sissi has become the undisputed leader of Egypt. Brimming with confidence, the president agreed to have afternoon tea with me to discuss his accomplishments and what lies ahead for Egypt. The interview took place at a new Presidential Palace built by Sissi, adding to the many existing palaces for Egypt’s leader. The rules of the formal tea were militarily precise. The resulting conversation was no holds-barred:
Amr K – Your Excellency thank you for taking time to meet with us. With Ramadan upon us, do you have anything to say to the nation?
Sissi – No need for thanks my son. Interviews such as these are part of my duty toward Egypt and its people. As for Ramadan, may it be a blessed occasion for the Muslim Nation. I must ask my people, however: must you all really eat so much? Personally, during Ramadan, I only eat a crumb of bread, a few olives soaked in extra virgin olive oil, and one, yes just one, glass of water at Iftar and another at Suhoor. So I really don’t understand why Egyptians must stuff themselves during the holiday.
Amr K – You speak of bread your Excellency. In fact, the price of bread has skyrocketed to nearly five pounds a loaf. Is this economic scenario tenable in your view?
Sissi – Funny you should ask my opinion Mr. Amr. It is not my opinion that counts. Only one opinion counts in this growing, grand democracy that is Egypt: it is the opinion of the Egyptian people. I am a man chosen by 98.7% of Egyptians to do their bidding. Egyptians want this bread. Egyptians need this bread. As you know, the people are the light of my eye – give them bread at any price we shall.
Amr K – But Sir some migh… (The president slams his right fist so forcefully against the cherry wood table that the tea seemed on the verge of coming to a premature end)
Sissi – My son, there are rules. Rules for everything. Correct? Rule number one: do not interrupt your president as he speaks! Is that Clear?
Amr K (stunned but recovering quickly) – Crystal clear Sir.
Sissi – Ok, next question. We are here to help the people understand the truth, not give them empty promises.
Amr K- Some have wondered about the new law, passed 2 months ago, which makes it possible for all candidates whose family names start with “S” to extend their presidential term to 32 years. Can you speak to that Sir?
Sissi (adjusting in his seat, crossing right leg over left luxuriantly) – That is a fine question. I smile as you ask this question. Do you know why? Because the people need to know, the people need to understand. And believe you me they understand. My advice? Ask the people. They asked for this law. Personally, I prefer to go back to the army. (A wry smile encrusts his lips).
Amr K- Your Excellency mentioned ‘the people’. Eight months ago Egypt’s population crossed the hundred millionth person. These people require education, healthcare, energy, gasoline supplies, and employment. How do you plan to accomplish this?
Sissi – Another crucial question, you are on a roll Mr. Amr. (He emits a loud laugh, as years of presidency have made his soft tone disappear). The answer is simpler than you think, but that’s why I am president. We will inject liquidity into the economic engine. I have given the order to Mohammed Ahmed Mahmood Mohammed Mohamedein, Secretary of the Treasury, to start printing 2 trillion Egyptian pounds. We want the people to be able tobuy their kids new clothes for the Ramadan feasts. After all, (the president clears his throat for the old refrain), these people are the light of my eye.
Amr K (shaking his head slightly incredulously, but fearing for his head as well) – What about the problem of terrorism Mr. President? Last year was the worst year since the War on Terror begin with claims from Ansar Beit Il Maqdas and Ajnad Masr that they are controlling …
Sissi (angrily interrupting) – First of all those organizations you speak of don’t exist. There is no such thing as Ansar Beit Il Maqdas and Ajnad Masr. Second of all, we know the real terrorists and will hunt them down mercilessly. This is a war on terrorism (a double-fisted slam on the table is used for emphasis). There is no place for them here. Egypt wants tourists not terrorists.
Amr K- This brings me to our next point Sir. Last year, for the tenth consecutive year, Egypt suffered declining tourism figures. In fact, Egypt had only 975,000 tourists all year and the wahshtoona (“We Miss You”) campaign, to attract Arab tourists, has failed by all accounts. How will you change this imploding dynamic?
Sissi – Mr. Amr, we didn’t fail! With the support of loyal Egyptians, we will embark on a new revolutionary campaign. We haven’t forgotten about the great revolutions of June 30, September 19, October 1, as you know. Our new campaign will offer every arriving tourist a bullet-proof vest. If the tourist extends his stay beyond one week, he will qualify for an unloaded Glock pistol. This will ease fears and increase hard currency inflow. It will also bring in an additional $25 billion a year; $1 billion through tourism and $24 billion through printing more money, of course. Brilliant, don’t you think?
Amr K- Yes Sir. We have taken much of your time but one final question. The army, years ago, invented a machine capable of treating Hepatitis and AIDS. There have been persistent rumors that this machine has instead caused sterility and serious health …
Sissi (his eyes suddenly blood red, raises his hands above the table, as if to slam it, and after 90 seconds of silence, which felt like hours as sweat poured from the interviewer’s forehead, slowly says) – The A-R-M-Y is a noble institution. You cannot begin to understand the sacrifices we make each day for this glorious nation. Your question borders on insulting our great army. But I am a kind man so I will explain. The man behind that project currently stands before our country’s great, independent judiciary, as he has proven to be a quadruple agent for the Muslim Brotherhood, Qatar, Israel, and another entity I cannot mention due to national security concerns. I will not interfere. More importantly, the great army scientists are working on a pill that will cure the common cold, improve the performance of our national soccer team, and function as a study aid for our youth.
Amr K- Thank you sir for this highly educational conversation.
Sissi – No, thank you my son. I will turn the tables on you with a question of my own, though: we have made improvements to Al Aqrab prison recently, would you care for a personal visit? As the cameras pan away a noticeably disheveled Amr K is seen being escorted away, down a darkened corridor, by 2 well-dressed officers twice his size. Thus ends his tea with Sissi. ******