Red carpet for Egypt's Sisi stirs controversy

Red carpet for Egypt's Sisi stirs controversy
A red carpet for the Egyptian President's motorcade in a Cairo suburb has stirred controversy as the rest of Egypt faces austerity.
2 min read
08 February, 2016
Sisi's red carpet was rolled out in an unlikely place [twitter]
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is facing criticism after a massive red carpet was laid over public roads for his motorcade during a trip to open a social housing project in 6 October City, a Cairo suburb.

Images of the giant red carpet prompted a wave of ridicule on social media, with a hashtag mocking the carpet trending in Arabic.

A local newspaper devoted much of its front page Monday to the incident.

"How is the president asking us to tighten our belts while the 4 kilometer (2.5 mile) red carpet says otherwise?" read a headline in Al-Maqal newspaper, whose editor-in-chief, Ibrahim Eissa, is one of Egypt's most prominent TV commentators.

Sisi, who led a military coup, has staked his legitimacy on reviving the economy after years of unrest, including by trimming costly state subsidies, a theme he touched upon at Saturday's event.

He said the state spends around 40 million pounds ($5.1 million) a day to provide clean water, with only part of the cost passed on to consumers.

"One (cubic) metre of water that reaches you costs me this much, and you are taking it by that much, and the state is unable to continue this way," Sisi said in a televised conference.

The military provided a rare public response to the furor over the carpet.

General Ehab al-Ahwagy explained on several talk shows Sunday night that the carpet was not purchased by Sisi's administration and had been used for more than three years on similar occasions.

"It gives a kind of joy and assurance to the Egyptian citizen that our people and our land and our armed forces are always capable of organizing anything in a proper manner," al-Ahwagy told prominent TV talk show host Amr Adeeb.

"It is laid out in a way to beautify the general area, so it gives a good impression of the celebration that is being broadcast to the whole world."