The bustling streets of the Nile Delta city of al-Sharqiya should be a stronghold for Muslim Brotherhood-backed Egyptian President, Mohamed Mursi.
But as the country’s economic stagnation and political deadlock deepen two years after the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak, nostalgia for the former president is on the rise.
The imprisoned former president’s face is now appearing on street signs, shop fronts and on the backs of the ubiquitous tuk tuks, often with the slogan of his diehard supporters written below it: “We are sorry Mr. President”.
At the ‘Finish’ curtain shop in downtown Sharqiya, not far from where Mohamed Mursi grew up, owner Al-Araby Hussein is hard at work keeping his family’s business running.
He says he is no Mubarak loyalist but looks back on the pre-revolution days as a happier time.
“First there was safety in the country, now there isn’t. People are afraid to go out at any time because of the thugs, and all of the other things we are seeing - girls getting kidnapped, children being kidnapped. We used to sleep safely during this man’s time [Mubarak]; now we have to lock up everything in our houses. We buy fifty locks and put them on our door, and there’s no safety in the country. We now know this man’s worth [Mubarak]. We were first against him, but after he left, we understood his worth,” he said.
Violent protests, spiraling crime and an economic crisis that the World Food Program now says even threatens basic nutrition has shaken faith in the uprising that toppled Mubarak.
As well as the security vacuum, the Nile Delta, with its fertile agricultural land, has also been hit particularly hard in recent months by a country-wide diesel shortage.
Tuk Tuk owner Shehab says President Mursi has taken the country backwards, and reflects a widely felt sentiment that the state of the country has worsened.
“The people who said ‘we want Mursi’, and let him take over…well the country is still the same. But Hosni’s days were better than Mursi’s. The streets weren’t crowded, and we never waited for oil or gas or any of that. We used to move around in safety, end of story,” he said.
While nostalgia for Mubarak may be rising, it is often grudging, with only a hardcore of his supporters actually calling for his return.
Most of the country acknowledges that Mubarak handed Mursi a broken down car even as they blame him failing to get them to their destination.
Even the owner of the print shop that makes the Mubarak posters says he is simply trying to make ends meet, and responding to public demand.
“I make these photos even though I am not convinced of their message, and don’t believe in it at all. It’s only about business for me, nothing more, and making a living. My opinion of the old regime is that it couldn’t be supported, nor can the current regime. I don’t like either. But I print these photos to put food on the table,” said Abdelrahman el-Mansy.
Mubarak appeared in a televised court session earlier this month looking refreshed as he smiled and waved at supporters in the gallery.
The former president faces a retrial on charges of complicity in the killing of demonstrators in the uprising that ousted him.
But as Egypt lurches from crisis to crisis, more and more ordinary Egyptians are looking back fondly to the stability that the country’s longtime ruler offered them.
The current president has been left trying to convince even some residents of his own hometown that the future will be better than the past.