CAIRO, Egypt -- Under Hosni Mubarak's rule, Egypt's authorities took a tough line on Egyptians coming home after waging "jihad" in places like Afghanistan, Chechnya or the Balkans, fearing they would bring back extremist ideology, combat experience and a thirst for regime change. In most cases, they were imprisoned and tortured.
But after Mubarak's overthrow and his replacement by an elected Islamist president, jihad has gained a degree of legitimacy in Egypt, and the country has become a source of fighters heading to the war in Syria.
Egyptian militants are known to have been travelling to Syria to fight alongside Sunni rebels for more than year -- but their movements were done quietly. But in recent days, a string of clerics have called for jihad in Syria, with some calling for volunteers to go fight against President Bashar Assad's regime.
On Saturday, Morsi attended a rally by hard-line clerics who have called for jihad and spoke before a cheering crowd at a Cairo stadium, mainly Islamists. Waving a flag of Egypt and the Syrian opposition, he ripped into the Syrian regime, announced Egypt was cutting ties with Damascus and denounced Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah guerrillas for fighting alongside Assad's forces.
Clerics at the rally urged Morsi to back their calls for jihad to support rebels. Morsi did not address their calls and did not mention jihad. But his appearance was seen as in implicit backing of the clerics' message. It came after a senior presidential aide last week said that while Egypt was not encouraging citizens to travel to Syria to help rebels, they were free to do so and the state would take no action against them.
Khalil el-Anani, an Egyptian expert on Islamist groups, called the move "Morsi's endorsement of jihad in Syria" and warned it was "a strategic mistake that will create a new Afghanistan in the Middle East."
"He is pushing Egypt into a sectarian war in which we have no interest," he said.
The new tone in Egypt risks fueling the flow of Egyptian jihadi fighters to Syria, where the conflict is already increasingly defined by the sectarian divide, with the mostly Sunni rebels fighting a regime rooted in the minority Alawite sect, an off-shoot of Shiite Islam, and backed by Shiite Iran and Hezbollah.
The conflict is also becoming more regional after Hezbollah intervened to help Assad defeat rebels in a strategic western town this month. Since then, hard-liners around the region have hiked calls for Sunnis to join the rebels in the fight. There are already believed to be several thousand foreign fighters among the rebel ranks, largely Islamist extremists some with al-Qaida ties.
The United States last week hardened its own position on Assad's regime, agreeing to provide the rebels with lethal weapons.
Damascus on Sunday lashed out at Morsi for his speech a day earlier, saying he "joins a choir of conspiracy and incitement led by the United States and Israel against Syria."
It accused him of endorsing calls by hardline clerics for people to fight in Syria.
Egypt's powerful military also seemed to distance itself from Morsi speech, in which he pledged that Egypt's government and military are behind the struggle of the Syrian people against Assad.
On Sunday, the state news agency quoted an unidentified military official underlining that "the Egyptian army will not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. It will not be dragged or be used in any of the regional struggles."
There are no official figures on how many Egyptians have gone to Syria to fight. Security officials monitoring the movement of militants estimate as many as 2,500 have gone, and their numbers are likely to significantly pick up after Hezbollah's intervention.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Reports of Egyptians killed in Syria
Organizations associated with Egypt's ultraconservative Salafi movement are believed to help organize movements for Egyptians to Syria. Islamist websites have reported that up to several dozen Egyptians have been killed while fighting in Syria the past two years, though the number has not been independently confirmed. The conflict, now in its third year, has killed nearly 93,000 people, according to new figures released by the United Nations.
Under Mubarak's 29-year rule, Egypt was a major Mideast bulwark against religious militancy. Mubarak closely co-operated with the United States and other Western nations in the hunt for extremists wanted in connection with terror attacks and dismantling the financial networks for militant groups. His regime was also notorious for rights abuses and torture against militants and other opponents
In the 1990s, militants who gained combat experience fighting the Russians in Afghanistan staged an anti-government insurgency that took the lives of more than 1,000 people, mostly civilians. Mubarak's security forces crushed the insurgency, and in the years that followed the groups involved renounced violence, though they maintained a hard-line ideology.
The fall of Mubarak in early 2011 and Morsi's election nearly a year ago allowed many of the former militants to come in from the cold.
Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, from which he hails, gets key backing from one of the main former Islamic militant groups, Gamaa Islamiya, as well as from several political parties of the Salafi movement.
A senior official at the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of police and internal security, said the names of at least 3,000 militants have in recent months been removed from the wanted list posted at the country's points of entry over the past two years.
Many of the 3,000 have since Morsi taken office returned to Egypt from exile and are now freely participating in the country's Islamist-dominated politics, said the official.
Those who returned home included individuals tried and convicted in connection to the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat, the attempted assassination against Mubarak in Ethiopia in 1995 or militants who have been involved in wars abroad, said the official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Morsi's turning up the heat on Assad's regime appeared to be a concession to his ultraconservative allies, who have been unhappy with his government's moves to improve ties with Shiite Iran, Assad's main regional backer.
It also strengthens their backing for him ahead of giant anti-Morsi demonstrations planned by his opponents on June 30.
"This is a terrible idea," said Michael W. Hanna, an Egypt expert from the New York-based Century Foundation. "He is refocusing the anger of Egyptians over his policies away toward foreign issues instead of the domestic mess he is presiding over at home."
The security official said there are worries in the security establishment that sanctioning travel to Syria for Egyptians could later embolden jihadi groups to set up their training camps and political parties to create their own militias. Armed militant groups have become increasingly active in lawless parts of the Sinai Peninsula, where there has been a flood of weapons smuggled from Libya.
The change in Egypt's approach has not gone unnoticed in the West.
Last week, Germany's Interior Ministry issued its 2012 report on domestic security in which it noted an increase in the travel to Egypt by suspected Islamic extremists, ostensibly because they wanted to live in Muslim countries or study Arabic but in some specific cases may have been really interested in joining jihadi training camps.
The report doesn't specify where these training camps are located, whether in Egypt or elsewhere in the Middle East, North Africa or South Asia.
Following Morsi's appointment of seven Muslim Brotherhood affiliates to governor positions, criticism raised across Egypt political spectrum
Hours after President Mohamed Morsi announced 17 new governor appointments, discontent was expressed nationwide due to the fact many of the new appointees are affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, the group from which the president hails.
Following the swearing-in early Monday, 11 of Egypt's 27 governorates are now headed by Brotherhood members. Nine others have governors from a military or police background.
Egypt's Nile Delta governorates witnessed protests and minor clashes immediately following the new appointments.
In Daqahliya, several political forces, including the Constitution Party and the 'Rebel' campaign, expressed their objection to the new governor Sobhi Atteya, who is a member of the Brotherhood's guidance bureau and their former spokesperson in the governorate.
On Sunday night, activists protested at the Daqahliya governorate building, raising slogans such as "The Brotherhood's governor is not welcome" and "Why are you rushing to your end?"
In the hours following Atteya's announced appointment, unidentified attackers torched the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) office in the Daqahliya town of Meit Salsil. The FJP is the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The FJP office's official Facebook page announced that it had been attacked by "thugs." The anti-Morsi 'Rebel' campaign, which aims to collect 15 million signatures against Morsi, denied any involvement in the attack.
Mohamed El-Mohandes, public works coordinator for the campaign, said that the incident was an "independent action" by citizens who are dissatisfied with the new governor.
Protests also took place in other Nile Delta governorates.
In Tanta, the capital of Gharbiya, members of several political groups barricaded entrances to the governorate buildings on Monday, protesting the appointment of a Brotherhood-affiliated governor.
Gharbiya's new governor, Ahmed El-Beili, was formerly head of the Brotherhood's administrative office in the governorate. On Sunday night, El-Beili told Al-Ahram that the "different political factions should coexist in the current situation to help build the country's future."
El-Beili said he aims to develop the governorate's health, education and service sectors.
The April 6 Youth Movement announced it will stage a protest in front of Monofiya's governorate building on Monday to prevent the newly-appointed governor, Ahmed Shaarawi, from entering his office.
According to the movement, Shaarawi, who was head of the Brotherhood's office in Suez, is part of a Brotherhood attempt to "reproduce the repressive state... [and] that is the biggest threat to the 25 January revolution."
Similarly, in Beheira, the opposition coalition National Salvation Front (NSF) said it will protest outside the governorate's building against new governor Osama Soliman, who is a member of the Brotherhood's consultative office and the governorate's FJP head.
However, the Brotherhood appointees are not the only new governors sparking anger in the governorates.
In Damietta, citizens demonstrated against new governor Tareq Khedr, who was a police general under former Minister of Interior Habib El-Adly. El-Adly is now on trial for charges of corruption and killing protesters during the January 25 Revolution.
Protesters claim that Khedr has now become close to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Khedr, a member of the Ghad Al-Thawra party, said in an televised interview on Al-Youm Sunday that he will work with Damietta's people because "Egypt needs everyone who can help build the future we aspire to."
Morsi's new appointments have also drawn criticism from Egypt politicians, who consider the move poorly-timed given the anticipated protests at the end of June.
Salafist lawyer Mamhouh Ismail, a former member of the now-dissolved people’s assembly, criticised Morsi's decision on Monday.
“Unfortunately, the appointment of seven Muslim Brotherhood members and one from Al-Gamaa Al-Islamyia will inflame the fire, not extinguish it,” said Ismail, adding that “the path of stubbornness hasn’t change.”
Ahmed Saeed, head of the liberal Free Egyptians Party, said that the Muslim Brotherhood is "obstinate and detached from the people."
He described the new appointments as an indicator of "political bankruptcy and confusion."
"If [a lot of Egyptians] were already calling for early presidential elections, the demands are now going to increase as 30 June becomes closer," he added.
Opposition groups, including the anti-Morsi 'Rebel' campaign, are planning mass demonstrations on 30 June to call for the president's ouster due to the economic and political strife the country has faced this past year.
Bloomberg, by William Davison & Salma El Wardany; only an excerpt so please read on.
Egypt must drop its objection to an Ethiopian dam on the main tributary of the Nile River or it may struggle to ensure adequate supplies from the world’s longest waterway, former U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia David Shinn said.
A $4.3 billion, 6,000-megawatt hydropower plant, set to be Africa’s largest on completion in 2017, has raised concern in Egypt that it will cut supplies of water allocated by accords put in place more than five decades ago. President Mohamed Mursi told supporters in Cairo on June 10 his government will “defend each drop of Nile water with our blood” if the country’s water security is threatened.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project, funded solely by Ethiopia’s government, is a “game-changer” because Egypt has historically blocked international financing for large upstream Nile projects, Shinn said on June 12. The best way for Egypt to secure its water needs is by cooperating on the project that could be “transformational” in terms of industrializing East African economies, he said.
“Ethiopia is the only country in the region that has the water to make a huge contribution to increased availability of electricity,” Shinn said in an e-mailed response to questions. “It could solve all of Ethiopia’s power needs, sell power at a profit to neighbors, help control periodic flooding in Sudan and contribute significantly to regional economic integration.”
Ethiopia announced the project on the Blue Nile River, the largest of the Nile’s two tributaries, a month after former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was deposed in February 2011. Last month, Ethiopia diverted the flow of the Blue Nile as part of the construction process.
Ethiopia is the source of 86 percent of the water that flows into the Nile, a river that runs 4,160 miles through 11 countries from Burundi in the south to Egypt, where it empties into the Mediterranean Sea.
A study on the dam released last month found the project wouldn’t cause “appreciable” harm downstream nations, according to Ethiopia’s government, which says it won’t use the dam for irrigation. The joint report was inadequate because it failed to “clarify in detail the impacts of the dam,” the Egyptian presidency said in a statement on June 3.
The dispute over the dam resonates in Egypt, where the Nile has long been viewed as much of a symbol of the country as its primary water source. Mursi, in a speech before an Islamist audience on June 10, said that if Egypt is the “‘gift of the Nile,’ then the Nile is God’s gift to Egypt.”
Egypt relies on irrigation from the Nile to grow almost all of its cereals, fruits and vegetables. The country is Africa’s biggest wheat grower and the continent’s second-largest sugar producer after South Africa, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.
In meetings between Mursi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, the Egyptian leader was “only interested in constructive engagement,” according to Hailemariam’s spokesman, Getachew Reda. That contrasts with antagonism in the past, he said in a phone interview.
“Egypt will lose the upper hand if they decide to opt out from cooperating as the upstream countries will go ahead with their industrial revolutions with or without Egypt,” said Ana Cascao at the Stockholm International Water Institute. “The best way for Egypt to secure the water it needs in the long term is by entering into a new era of cooperation.”
Prominent Salafist leader Yousri Hammad dismisses opposition calls for anti-Morsi protests 30 June, warning Islamists who are critical of the president to stop dreaming
The deputy head of Egypt's Salafist Al-Watan Party, Yousri Hammad, has denounced calls for demonstrations 30 June aimed at removing Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.
"Yes, we oppose the president on certain issues, and we demand reforms and political inclusion of all different factions. But we fully reject bringing him down using violence and destruction of the economy," Hammad said in a statement on Facebook Saturday.
He went on to warn that there would be no chance for another Islamist party to take over power if Morsi is forced to step down before the end of his term.
"Those who are surprised at the amount of dissent against Morsi seem to forget that 12 million Egyptians did not give him their votes," he added. "I say to those who think that removing Morsi would make way for the empowerment of another Islamist party: dream on," he continued, ostensibly addressing Islamist-oriented parties who have voiced growing opposition to the president, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood.
Hammad was a leading figure in Egypt's El-Nour Party, the largest Salafist political bloc, before he resigned with a number of the party's senior figures over disagreements regarding the party's position on the president. The resigning members, who later co-founded the Salafist Al-Watan Party, were accused in the dispute of serving the interests of the president who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood over that of El-Nour Party.
The anti-Morsi grassroots Rebel petition campaign was launched in May and has been endorsed by near all opposition parties and figures. It has the intention collecting 15 million signatures "withdrawing confidence" from Morsi, in order to force early presidential elections.
The campaign, which announced on 29 May that it had collected seven million signatures, has called for mass protests to coincide with Morsi's first anniversary in power. The campaign has accused the president's administration of "failing to implement policies to improve the life of ordinary people."
Leading Islamist figures from the Muslim Brotherhood, the group from which the president hails, as well as other Islamist groups have criticised the campaign and accused its members of infringing on popular will.
Morsi was elected last year in Egypt's first post-Mubarak presidential elections.
Egypt is doing the undoable and achieving the unachievable once more. History tells us that what Tamarod is accomplishing hasn’t happened before, anywhere.
Tamarod, or Rebel, (The is the website/petition if you haven’t filled it already http://www.tamarod.com) is an idea that started at the grassroots level. The organizers produced a petition that cites seven reasons why President Morsi must leave. The wording is clear and simple. It also asks those signing to include their name, social insurance number, governorate, and city.
The organizers had hoped to collect a couple of million signatures to prove their point: Egyptians don’t want Morsi to rule. Today Tamarod has received over 15 million signatures and more forms are being filled and signed daily. Where else in the world has anyone managed to collect signatures from that many citizens of a single society? Maybe YouTube videos can go viral but a petition to go viral is unheard of.
Tamarod is not under the auspices of the opposition. Its organizers refuse to be misled by joining one group against the other. They remain a grassroots’ campaign. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t received support and help from thousands of Egyptians from all around Egypt. If nothing those organizers need forms, computers, databases, venues, and feet to walk the walk and knock on doors reaching Egyptians everywhere.
And this they have succeeded in doing because they believe in the cause. And the momentum is growing; those signing the petition are increasing, and Egypt and the world are watching change unfold yet again.
Jan25 was exceptional, but it started with upper class Egyptians: young and educated, and able to facebook and tweet. Their major dilemma was reaching out to Egyptians everywhere; they reached one another but did not venture beyond El Tahrir or the social media access, and this is what is so amazing about Tamarod. These men and women have had the tenacity to reach Egyptians in offices, fields, and factories. They come knocking, and a signature is gained. This is the beauty of this rung in Egypt’s ladder of events—it has reached everyone.
Naiveté and the love of the cause may get some to sign more than one form; however, the database rejects entering the same Raqm Qaumi—social insurance number—a second time; hence, every single one of the forms is verified as true and authentic.
Tamarod has gained so much popularity that it is instigating a definite revolt on June 30, a year after Morsi became president. June 30 will be a day to remember. I vision an Egypt on the street. Some will get, by hook or by crook, to Tahrir, others will simply come down from their homes and congregate in front of their homes to tell Morsi off.
In trying to control the goings and comings, and making it difficult to reach Tahrir on June 30, the government decided to make some needed maintenance procedures to the Oct 6th Bridge, the main lifeline in Cairo. But Egyptians don’t need to flock to Tahrir; they will congregate everywhere and anywhere.
Whether President Morsi will heed the “rebelling” and react is doubtful. Egyptians say, “have some blood in your face,” meaning be shamed and react. Yesterday as Morse left the mosque, those praying were shouting “Leave, leave,” and President Morsi was waving back to them as though they were shouting encouraging “Stay, stay,” slogans. No, President Morsi doesn’t have the necessary traits to change course and abide to the people. What he will do though is up in the air, but, if nothing, the world will watch Egypt again on June 30.
How many of the by-then-20-million-if-not-more petitioners will protest on June 30 cannot be predicted, but they will be by far more than those who flooded Tahrir during the 18 days before ousting Mubarak. As Tahrir was happening, many watched silently and quietly just hoping things would get better somehow. Now they realize that Egypt has reached the pits, and they themselves are living proof, and so they want to effect change.
In all this, the opposition, the liberals, and the Tamarod-petition signors have not held one single gun or shot one single bullet. They have fought those in power, be Mubarak or Morsi now, with nothing but their voices and their will. However, if Morsi wants to retaliate aggressively, I foresee an army and a police force standing by its people against the Ikhwan power. This is what Egyptians are hoping for since talking peacefully, though it expresses unity and voice, doesn’t get presidents such as Morsi to budge.
Tamarod exhibits how much Egyptians have changed to the better and have learned from previous mistakes.
Trying to skirt the 1-year jail sentence and fine for saying Egyptian actress Elham Shahin is 'cursed and will never enter heaven,' TV Sheikh Abdullah's appeal was rejectedA Cairo misdemeanour court rejects the appeal on Saturday filed by Islamic television presenter Abdullah Badr against a one-year prison sentence and a LE20,000 ($2,900) he received in December 2012 for insulting Egyptian actress Elham Shahin.
Badr's comment that "Elham Shahin is cursed and will never enter heaven," on his TV show on El-Hafez channel prompted the famous actress to reply with a lawsuit in September.
Shahin claims Badr publicly attacked after for expressing her fear of the Islamic political current and stating she would not vote for Islamic political parties in the elections.
In recent months several public figures have filed lawsuits against preachers, accusing them of defamation.
In May, controversial Islamic preacher Khaled Abdullah received a suspended fine of LE10,000 ($1,450) for slandering and defaming Egyptian actress Hala Fakher.
Egypt's government is in the late stages of verifying its economic reform programme with the International Monetary Fund before obtaining a $4.8 billion IMF loan, Central Bank governor saysThe loan, needed to help stabilise Egypt's balance of payments and state finances, has been under discussion for two years but agreement has repeatedly been postponed by political unrest in the country and the government's reluctance to commit to austerity measures.
"The IMF is verifying numbers with the government regarding the programme and they are in late stages of verifying all the numbers," Egyptian Central Bank Governor Hisham Ramez told reporters after a meeting of regional central bank chiefs in Abu Dhabi Saturday.
There have been no changes to the plan or the amount of aid the country is seeking, he added. "The programme is as it was planned by the Egyptian government. It is $4.8 billion that they have been talking to them about."
Ramez said he could not offer any estimate for when the talks would finish, adding that as far as he knew, there were no talks underway with other countries for Egypt to obtain fresh financial aid in the form of deposits in its central bank.
Last month, the IMF's deputy managing director, Nemat Shafik, told Reuters that the Fund was ready to sign the loan agreement with Egypt before or after the next parliamentary elections, but it was up to the government to move forward.
The IMF expects Egypt's budget deficit to widen to 11.3 percent of gross domestic product in the fiscal year that ends in June, the largest gap since 2002, from 10.7 percent in the previous year, it said in a regional outlook published in May.
Egypt's Central Bank foreign currency reserves stand at $16 billion, Ramez said, referring to the latest published number. The reserves rose for a second consecutive month in May, boosted by deposits from Qatar.
"I'll be happy only if the reserves grow by the economy and not deposits," Ramez said when asked if he was comfortable with the level of reserves now.
Qatar deposited $3 billion in the Egyptian Central Bank 9 May, but the bank sold about $800 million two weeks later in a special foreign exchange auction to help importers pay for essential imports.
"Our direct intervention with exceptional auctions in April and May had a big effect on inflation," Ramez said.
Asked whether it eased pressure on the Central Bank to tighten monetary policy, he said: "You can see from the numbers that it (inflation) is better than expected." Ramez declined to give any inflation forecasts.
Egyptian inflation edged up to 8.2 percent in the year to May, boosted by food prices and a weaker currency.
Asked about Morgan Stanley Capital International's (MSCIwarning this week that Egypt could eventually be excluded from the MSCI Emerging Market Index used by many international fund managers, because of investors' difficulties in repatriating money, Ramez said: "They were talking about the availability of foreign currency."
"From our side, we opened the Repatriation Fund in March for any funds coming into stocks or the fixed income side. So anything that comes can go out at any point, there's no problem," he added.
In March, the Central Bank opened a scheme giving foreign investors in the stock and government debt markets access to dollars despite severe shortages of foreign currency.
Egypt's bourse tumbled to an 11-month low on Wednesday after MSCI's warning.
By Aleem Maqbool, BBC News, Cairo
Aleem Maqbool visited groups protesting about different issues in Cairo every day for a week
Since Egypt's revolution, protests have erupted covering a huge range of issues - from anti-government outbursts, to actresses wanting freedom of expression. There have been thousands across Egypt, and in Cairo they are becoming a part of everyday life.
Almost immediately, I regretted saying I would visit a demonstration a day in Cairo.
On Day One we had heard of a protest outside the world-famous Egyptian Museum.
But by the time we had navigated the Cairo traffic the demonstration was over.
And that, I thought, was that, for our short-lived project.
In this city though, I need not have been so despondent. As we drove back we passed a small gathering outside the Arab League building.
"We're just about to get started," they told us, unfurling their banners and chanting their opposition to the European Under-21 football tournament being held in Israel.
Reporters started arriving, and in the end, far outnumbered the demonstrators.
Fifteen people were sacked for blocking the runway.
But we headed to a more high profile protest in the centre of the city.
A small group of people had gathered outside the court to demand the release of an activist who had been convicted of insulting the President.
He had appeared on a TV show calling President Mohammed Morsi a murderer after protesters were killed at anti-government demonstrations.
Those types of protests are the ones the world gets to see. Violence, tear gas, rock throwing, sometimes death.
But this new-found Egyptian trait of taking to the streets is about more much than that.
On a previous stint here, in 2006, I remember going to a small demo against then President Hosni Mubarak. It lasted no more than five minutes before the notorious hired thugs piled in to beat up the protesters.
Since the revolution, and after so many people gave their lives in winning their right to express themselves when they feel oppressed, Egyptians are now far less tolerant of being told to keep quiet.
We saw an illustration of that on Day Three - residents of poor areas of Cairo awaiting housing documents from the governor's office decided they had had enough of the slow pace of bureaucracy. They protested outside the governor's office, then stormed the building.
On the same day teachers in southern Cairo were threatening to stop exam papers reaching their school if they were not given permanent contracts.
On Day Four we saw a few thousand people gather outside a mosque, expressing solidarity with the Palestinians. As the protesters marched the short distance to Cairo's Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier it caused a traffic jam but we saw no fuss from drivers, this is just how it is now.
Some of the demos have become semi-permanent. On Day Five we visited a group of people beginning their 104th consecutive day of protest outside the interior ministry.
Inside his tent, Captain Walid Hosni told us he was a police officer, demanding to be allowed to keep his beard, something the police are not allowed in Egypt at the moment.Sometimes protests and counter-demonstrations end in violence
It seems no segment of society is left out of the desire to protest.
On my walk home from the office in the well-to-do Zamalek neighbourhood, on Day Six I wandered through a very Zamalek protest.
The well-dressed demonstrators were mainly actors, writers and intellectuals.
I even spotted a few toy dogs and at least one hired dog-walker.
Muataza Salah, an actress, told me the demo was about the ruling Muslim Brotherhood's attitude towards the arts: "We're here to say we own the culture, not any government.
"They can't tell us what to act, or sing, or dance or publish. Our stage is there, on the street," she added.
I thought we would fall at the final hurdle. On Day Seven we had not managed to get to a protest.
But then, a group of elderly people decided to occupy the island in the centre of Talaat Harb Square in downtown Cairo, demanding a rise in their pensions.
An 80-year-old man told me he was not going to stop protesting until it happened.
So is all of this a sign of a sick society with all its ills - and there are certainly many of them - finally being exposed?
Or is it a very healthy new aspect of Egyptian life?
I have to say, this week has given me a sense of admiration for those making their voices heard on issues they feel so passionately about.
I suspect many Egyptians will be proud at the suggestion theirs has become one of the protest capitals of the world. They may not want to give up their right to take to the streets ever again.
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Via Yahoo News, by Kristen Chick (The Christian Science Monitor): read on.
Egyptians are furious with President Morsi, who they blame for widespread electricity cuts that are further disrupting businesses, shops, and restaurants at a time of economic hardship.
On a busy street in Cairo, a strip of shops typically selling power tools have been doing brisk business in something a little bigger: generators. On a recent day, there were plenty of potential buyers checking out the shiny machines stacked on the sidewalk.
Inside one store, the owner of a pastry shop negotiates a price as other customers interrupt to ask for details on various models. The buyer says he needs a generator to keep his refrigerators and other machinery running during power cuts that have increased in frequency since the temperatures began climbing into the triple digits earlier this summer.
Shop owners and employees say demand for generators has soared as business owners and wealthy homeowners try to insulate themselves from electricity outages. Several years ago they might have sold one to three machines a day. But shop owners say they now often sell 10 to 15 a day.
And when the customers come to buy, they are angry.
“They insult the government and the president,” says store manager Bishoy Hanna, with an embarrassed smile.
With temperatures soaring above 100 degrees Fahrenheit and businesses already struggling amid an economic slump, the electricity cuts are provoking anger across Egypt. Although President Mohamed Morsi inherited Egypt's energy problems, some energy experts say his government is not doing what it could to solve them.
Regardless of who is to blame, when the lights go out, it is Morsi who bears the brunt of Egyptians' anger.
Noha Sayed, who runs a small restaurant in the Shubra neighborhood of Cairo, says the power cuts are affecting her business. “It's ruining the restaurant. The country is standing still, and when the power goes out it gets even worse,” she says. “I voted for Morsi. But now, I don't want him. ... I thought he would make things better, with Islam, but nothing. Nothing. He's not doing anything. He added to the problems.”
YEARS IN THE MAKING
Egypt's energy crisis has been years in the making, and electricity outages are not a post-uprising phenomenon – fuel shortages began in 2007, and there were many outages in 2010, the year before the uprising.
But recent events have exacerbated it. Energy subsidies have been consuming an increasingly large chunk of Egypt's budget, now taking up one-fifth of it. It was long an exporter of natural gas, which fuels the majority of Egypt's power plants, but now it imports gas. As foreign reserves dropped after the uprising, Egypt struggled to buy enough fuel for its power stations.
Egypt has been forced to import fuel partly because foreign oil companies doing exploration in Egypt have stopped supplying it with gas because the government is already too heavily indebted to them. Farah Halime, who writes the Rebel Economy blog, says Egypt is believed to owe at least $5 billion to foreign oil and gas companies.
And when the government can't afford to buy enough natural gas and other fuel to keep up with the demand generated by a population of 84 million, the lights go out.