Life, Death and Revolution in Egypt

William Dalrymple at The Guardian:

Of all the ill-fated revolutions of the Arab spring, none started more optimistically, or ended more disappointingly, than that of Egypt. President Hosni Mubarak, who was overthrown with such rejoicing at the beginning of the revolution in 2011, was perhaps not the worst of the Arab dictators. His rise, on the classless elevator of the Egyptian armed forces, was entirely the result of his competence in the military. Cairo intellectuals disliked his backslapping air-force bonhomie and quickly dubbed him “La vache qui rit”, after the laughing cow on the French processed cheese to whom the president was said to bear a resemblance.

For two decades Mubarak provided Egypt with a plodding yet stable government, which many compared favourably with the attention-seeking antics of his predecessors Nasser and Sadat. It should not be forgotten that his ministers were corrupt, his police casually and strikingly brutal, and torture in Egyptian prisons was rife. Yet his regime was still better than its counterparts in Syria and Iraq.

more here.