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When I spoke with one of the Egyptian journalists from the state press who had covered the visit, he told me that the British and the Americans had conspired in order to shame Egypt and destroy the tourist economy. Egyptian pride sometimes drives policy, and officials have a reputation for being hot-tempered.

Casson told me that during the closed-door meetings Sisi showed no sign of anger or resentment. When Westerners analyze the actions of an authoritarian figure, they tend to focus on his mind-set—the frequently petulant behavior of a man with unlimited power. But often the institution matters more than the individual, and a leader channels the psychology and the dysfunction of the state. For Sisi, who rose as a creature of the system, the response to the Metrojet crisis was essentially to step back and allow the government to follow its instinctive course of defensiveness, denial, and inflexibility.

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It made no strategic sense: since taking office, Sisi had sought to justify his crackdown on civil liberties by declaring that Egypt was in an existential battle against radical Islamists. The Metrojet bombing supported this narrative, but it also hurt Egyptian pride, which trumped terrorism. After that, he never referred to the event in public.

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Not long after the London visit, Eldakhakhny left the Presidential press corps. Just take the press release and deliver it to the newspaper.

Of the four military men who have ruled Egypt during the past sixty years, Sisi stands out for his lack of interest in formal politics. Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat were activists as young men, and both flirted with the Muslim Brotherhood before rejecting political Islam. As President, each worked to build a political organization, which under Sadat became known as the National Democratic Party, or N. In some respects, Sisi is a natural politician, and his speeches, delivered in colloquial Arabic, often impress average Egyptians as sincere and sympathetic.

But his political instincts are personal, not institutional, and the subject of politics does not seem to have interested him while he was growing up. The Sisi clan came to dominate the arabesque trade in Khan al-Khalili, the premier tourist market in Cairo, and the family still owns nearly ten shops there. In the black-and-white picture, he sits imperiously in a galabiya, a cane in one hand and a tarboosh on his head.

Hamama said that during summer vacation all teen-age male family members are apprenticed into some aspect of the business.

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Sisi trained as a sadafgi —he used a long-handled knife to carve out tiny pieces of mother-of-pearl. Our family is not from Upper Egypt, but you can say we have this tradition of the Upper Egyptians. Upper Egypt is known for conservatism, and I asked Hamama if he is sometimes bothered by this tradition.

When Sisi was in his mid-teens, he entered a military high school. The combination of Army discipline, a rigid family structure, and sincere religious conviction has created a person who by all accounts is deeply traditional. He married his first cousin, which is common for conservative Egyptians, and his wife and daughter are homemakers. I could find no evidence in the Egyptian press of any Sisi women having careers.

For Sisi, the Mubarak regime has served as a cautionary tale. Mubarak openly groomed his son Gamal for political power, and the extended family profited from corruption on a staggering scale. After the revolution, Mubarak and his sons were imprisoned, and their fate is undoubtedly one reason that Sisi has kept his family out of the public eye.

Sisi seems to have taken similar lessons from the N. For Sisi and other military men, Shafiq may have been even more threatening than Morsi. They seemed to believe that the Brotherhood could be easily controlled, whereas Shafiq might resurrect a party with real power. It divides the nation. State Department said that Sisi perceives only the risks and none of the benefits of a party.

The headquarters were in the remote outskirts of Cairo, and, when the European diplomat visited, she passed through heavy security and then found the place empty except for two retired government officials. But that could have been an opportunity to build a connection with young people. Without real parties, real political institutions, and real professional politicians, there are few ways for young Egyptians to get involved in politics, other than protesting in the streets.

The existing parties are too weak and disorganized to enlist aides or volunteers on a regular basis, and laws aimed at limiting foreign influence have dismantled nongovernmental organizations. Roughly sixty per cent of the population is under the age of thirty, and young people dominated the original protests in Tahrir Square. They are also a major presence in the field of journalism.

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In the press, there was talk of following the example of the Chinese. The implication was that Egypt could use authoritarianism to make decisive economic policy, but few outsiders take this seriously. One Chinese diplomat in Cairo told me bluntly that Egypt is going in the opposite direction from China.

But in Egypt you have authoritarianism in exchange for non-development. But the cultural differences between the countries, and the ways in which they affect economic and social outcomes, are immense. In China, manufacturing has averaged more than thirty per cent of gross domestic product for the past three decades. In Egypt—a populous, young country, with cheap labor and great access to shipping lanes—manufacturing is only sixteen per cent of a weak G. Tourism once contributed more than a tenth of the economy, but, with the turmoil of the Middle East, it has no immediate hope of recovery.

One result has been a spike in pregnancies: in , Egypt recorded its highest birth rate in two decades. The bloated civil service is one of the few sectors that employ many Egyptians. Not counting the police and the Army, the government has an estimated six million workers, more than twice as many as the United States and the United Kingdom combined. More than a quarter of the Egyptian budget is spent on government salaries. Another quarter is spent on interest payments for loans.

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Thirty per cent more is spent on subsidies, largely for energy. For decades, Egypt has been propped up by foreign aid; since the coup, Gulf countries, which rely on Sunni Egypt to help counterbalance Iran and the Shiites, have provided more than thirty billion dollars. The question of whether this money bought the respect and gratitude of the Egyptians was effectively answered by SisiLeaks.

In a series of secretly recorded conversations that were released to a Turkish television station starting in , Sisi and his associates discuss Gulf money in the bluntest terms imaginable. In one conversation, Sisi and Abbas Kamel, the chief of staff, talk about making another request of Gulf leaders:. S isi : Listen, you tell him that we need ten [billion] to be put in the account of the Army.

Those ten, when God makes us successful, will work for the state. And we need from the U. Sisi and Kamel make casual calculations, with every number representing a billion dollars. K amel : That makes it thirteen.

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  6. And three more—that makes it sixteen. K amel : That makes it twenty-five. Like I was saying to you, sir, and the oil. Nobody in Cairo seems to know who is directing economic policy. After taking office, Sisi reduced some subsidies for fuel and electricity, which economists cheered as a first step toward a more sustainable system. But few other proactive measures were taken. Instead, Sisi mostly focussed on grandiose mega-projects, like the expansion of the Suez Canal, which cost more than eight billion dollars and, in the opinion of most economists, is unlikely to provide much benefit in the near future.

    A relatively weak attempt to reform the civil service was finally passed by parliament in October.

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    In the past year, the black-market rate for U. Manufacturers like General Motors and L. Egypt considered such an action in and , but support from the Gulf, the United States, and elsewhere allowed the government to postpone hard economic decisions. The delay has proved costly. A new law has effectively frozen government salaries, and the I.