I recently attended a comedy show in Cairo. In the opening act, a stand-up comic asked a mostly young and affluent crowd how excited they were that the second anniversary of Egypt’s January revolution was just in a manner of days. A deafening silence ensued for a few seconds, then limited, low-key and somewhat embarrassed laughs followed. The comedian then suggested (with gestures) that people will celebrate with self-flagellation this year, and the room erupted with laughter, defusing the tension. But there was a sombre tint in a few faces that the laughs could not fully mask.
While around this time last year many people were also quite angry and exasperated about how things stood in the country, the situation generally feels much bleaker this time around, and everyone is even more exhausted. To begin, the economy is genuinely suffering, the central bank has recently warned of Egypt’s reserves reaching critical levels (the governor and the deputy governor have also resigned) amid an influx of Qatari money in debate-stirring support, the pound has been losing value to the dollar, foreign investment and tourism continue to struggle and many locally are now abstaining from what they see as risky long-term investments. Egypt has been negotiating economic assistance with the IMF and international partners over roughly the same amount of time it takes to actually repay some loans.