A “Yes to the Constitution” poster caught in an empty fruit basket. The 2013 constitution as the first major step in the roadmap following the ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi was very widely promoted. Many equated passing it with nominating the current commander of the army, now Field Marshal Abdelfattah al Sisi, for the presidency.
Since the passing of the constitution posters of Sisi, often accompanied by the national flag, have cropped up everywhere in Cairo. The extremely religious general is seen as a national hero and the future saviour president. The problem that presents itself for the next step on the roadmap, the presidential elections, is that he can have no competition. Yet Sisi has yet to resign from his military post to be an eligible candidate.
One of many, possibly autistic beggars in downtown Cairo. Beggars, along with peddlers/hustlers and valets, makes up a huge part of the informal economy. The phenomena have risen rapidly since 2011, when Hosny Mubarak was ousted following huge protests centred in Tahrir Square. It reflects a weaker security apparatus and economic recess.
Semit, a baked snack, stacked on the traffic island on the October Bridge, one of the main traffic arteries connecting many points in the city. Other goods include Chinese-made toys, air fresheners and soft drinks. More recently peddlers have also been selling ID-card trinkets with pictures of Sisi and “A patriotic Egyptian” where the name of the bearer should be. They are often heard calling out, “Sisi for a pound!”
A street cleaner employed by one the state-affiliated companies sits on the traffic island. Street cleaners are very badly paid and many of them do far less cleaning than begginig. They are less aggressive than professional beggars but it is now widely accepted that this is how they earn their livelihood. Dressed in green or orange uniforms, they mope around the cars during traffic jams and sit by the side of the road.
This man lives in and around the October Bridge, surviving on the more or less silent charity of drivers. He spends most of his time engaged in serious conversations with no one in particular, often shouting the names of politicians like Mubarak, Morsi or Sisis. Very probably schizophrenic, the chances are he used to be confined to the Abbassiya state asylum and was illegally released or left to wander. There are many such mentally disturbed characters, some stark naked, who live on the streets of Cairo.
A newcomer to the begging arena on Ramses Road is making use of a traffic jam to solicit charity. Beggars and hustlers are often seen fighting among themselves over turf.
Traffic congestion and urban chaos have increased exponentially since 2011, with people spending up to five hours driving a distance of a few kilometres.
A huge poster of Sisi promoting him as the leader of the Egyptian people is painfully reminiscent of similar gestures in the time of Mubarak. Such displays of sycophancy and “leader”-worship are both official and unofficial, and they form a significant obstacle in the way of developing a politically realistic, let alone democratic mentality.
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