Since this is my first time in Egypt, I have nothing with which to compare my experiences. Several impressions, however, have stuck with me. The people with whom I have spoken seem very upbeat. Several people brought up independently that today was election day. There are posters of the candidates everywhere, covering an enormous amount of wall space. People seem quite invested, in a positive way.
All four of the Egyptians I have asked so far favored Hamdeen Sabahi. They described him as one of the people. Our guide at the Pyramids, a man who had learned his very good English on the job and had never gone to school, pointed to the little boy working with him and said, “Hamdeen cares about people like us, like him.” They happily described Sabahi as Nassarite, which to me means stifling protectionism, inefficient nationalized industries, and unrealizable dreams of pan-Arabism. I’m not sure he would be my choice, though as this article notes, I’m not sure my candidate is on the scene. I also get the sense that the people with whom I spoke (all male, all young or middle aged, all working in tourism) don’t think their candidate will win. One predicted Ahmed Shafiq, with the rest saying they had no idea.
Tourism is way down here, and we can feel it. It works to our advantage – we were able to ride horses right up to the Pyramids, have never waited in line, and have had some museums and monuments all to ourselves. Of course, however, it is terrible for the country. We have felt totally safe and would come back in a flash – I hope both events and perceptions bring back the tourist trade.