Egypt. After 30 years of hard rule, and a few weeks of increasingly powerful revolt, President Hosni Mubarak was deposed on February 11. Inspired by the so-called Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia, the Egyptian opposition gathered its forces on January 25 at the Tahrir Square (Liberation Square) in Cairo and demanded Mubarak’s resignation, waived the state of emergency and higher minimum wages. Demonstrations were also held in Alexandria and other cities. Police and supporters of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party NDP attacked the protesters by force, but the military remained neutral. Later, it was reported that 850 activists and protesters were killed during those weeks.
According to Countryaah official site, the 83-year-old Mubarak responded by appointing a new vice president, intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, and a new government under Air Force General Ahmed Shafik. On January 28, protesters set fire to the NDP headquarters in Cairo, after which Mubarak promised on TV that neither he nor his son Gamal Mubarak would be running for the next presidential election. But the protests escalated, the police fired sharply and NDP supporters attacked on camels. On February 11, Suleiman stated that a military council led by Field Marshal Mohammad Hussein Tantawi had taken over the country. Tantawi became acting president while Shafik was replaced by former university professor Essam Sharaf in the post of acting prime minister.
The Mubarak family were locked in their palace in the tourist resort of Sharm ash-Shaykh and their assets were frozen. Mubarak and his sons Gamal and Alaa were indicted in May for corruption and the president even for causing the deaths of the 850 protesters. At the same time, his former employees began to face trial. Former Interior Minister Habib al-Adli was sentenced to twelve years in prison for corruption and a couple of other ministers received multi-year sentences for similar crimes. However, some of them were convicted in their absence and at the same time other former government members were freed.
The trial of Mubarak and his sons began August 3 at the Cairo Police College. The defendants were held in a cage in the courtroom, the president lying on a stretcher due to heart problems. The defense promised to call 1,600 witnesses, which meant a lengthy trial. Tantawi testified behind closed doors on September 24. The trial was not concluded by New Year.
A group of lawyers appointed by the military council presented proposals for constitutional changes in February, including legal control of presidential and parliamentary elections. In a referendum on March 19, 77.3% voted in favor of the proposal. The support came mainly from former NDP supporters and from large parts of the country’s largest opposition movement, the previously banned Muslim Brotherhood (MB). Among those who considered the changes insufficient were several progressive parties and more liberal parts of MB.
Protesters began protesting in April that democratization was slow. They accused the military council of failing to respect freedom of expression and press and to want to cling to power. In June and July, hundreds of people were injured in new crowds and before the elections at the end of the year, the Tahrir Square flared up in new manifestations that were fought down with the same brutality as under Mubarak. At least 50 protesters were then killed in Cairo, Alexandria and elsewhere.
In the parliamentary elections, which began on November 28 and were to run in several rounds in January, a large proportion of the country’s mostly poor and low-educated population voted for newly formed Islamist parties. MB’s party Freedom and justice became the biggest in the first rounds, followed by the Conservative Salafist party al-Nur (the “Light”). In third place came the Liberal coalition Egyptian bloc. The support for the Islamists was explained by the fact that for many years they had been engaged in social work in the poor villages and residential areas for which the Mubarak regime never engaged. Many observers were worried because the Salafists advocated Islamic law, Sharia. In connection with the election, Sharaf’s expedition minister resigned and the military council appointed a new acting prime minister, Kamal Ganzouri.
Violence against the country’s Coptic Christians escalated. At least 25 people were killed and several hundred injured in central Cairo on October 10 when military attacked cops demonstrating against the government’s handling of an attack on a church. On March 8-9, 13 people were killed and 140 injured when Islamists clashed with demonstrative Copts in Cairo’s suburbs and on May 7-8, twelve people were killed in similar clashes in another suburb.
The upheavals hit the country’s economy hard. The number of tourists was estimated to decrease by one third compared to the previous year and investments in industry and agriculture were almost at a standstill.
Egypt lies in the subtropical high pressure zone. Inland there is therefore a dry climate with hot summers (35 ° C on average) and mild winters (12 ° C on average). Daily temperature fluctuations of 16 ° C can occur in the deserts. In spring, hot sandstorms (Khamsin) sweep through the country from the southwest. The rainfall is generally very low. In the Mediterranean region, winter rains fall with over 100mm per year.
Bustling Cairo – a meeting place of Islam and Copticism
At first glance, Cairo, one of the most populous cities in the world, looks like an uncontrollable chaos with unbridled traffic and an endless mass of people and traders. Temporary dwellings are everywhere: in alleys, backyards, and even cemeteries between graves. Soon, however, the traveler learns both to find his destination and to move with others. Every visitor to Cairo has at least one sure address to go to: the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square. Only a fraction of its collections are on display, and it has been playfully said that there are so many unlisted objects that archaeologists have to make new excavations in the museum’s storage facilities. The golden treasures of Tutankhamun are on display, of course.
In the first centuries of our era, Egypt was one of the Christian centers of the world. Old Cairo is called the walled area, which is still a haven for Coptic Christianity. There are several churches in the area, such as the Church dedicated to St. George and the Hanging Church, as well as the Coptic Museum. The oldest synagogue in Egypt is also located in Old Cairo. The centerpiece of Islamic Cairo is the fortress built by Warlord Saladin a thousand years ago and the Alabaster Mosque erected inside it in the 19th century. The Al-Azhar Mosque is the highest spiritual authority in the Islamic world and also the oldest functioning university in the world, teaching began as early as 988.
Islamic or medieval Cairo is a maze of dozens of mosques and narrow alleys. The trade takes place in the giant bazaar area of Khan al-Khalil. Leatherwork, alabaster items, perfumes, golden cartoons, colorful fishbabies and skillful papyri leave for tourists. In the scent of bargaining, it is suitable to sit down with a hookah and a cup of mint tea or Turkish coffee.