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Humor helps Egyptians let off steam during potato crisis

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's comments about youth obesity and a potato shortage at a recent youth conference have unleashed a wave of sarcasm on social media, giving disaffected Egyptians an opportunity to vent their frustration with the rising cost of living.
People buy potatoes and tomatoes from a temporary tent with government subsidised goods, after consumer prices increase across the country in Cairo, Egypt  October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany - RC17F47E2860

The World Youth Forum, held in the Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Sheikh on Nov. 3-6, was meant to engage young people and polish Egypt's tainted image as a heavy-handed police state. But President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's attempts to downplay a recent potato shortage and his comments on widespread obesity among Egypt's youth did not go down too well with his audience. The satirical online response from internet users to his statements signals Egyptians' growing frustration with the steadily increasing prices, part of austerity measures introduced by the government two years ago "to rebuild the ailing economy." The mocking comments on Facebook and Twitter are reminiscent of the humor unleashed by young activists to defy the Hosni Mubarak regime during the uprising in January 2011.   

Addressing a session on "Building Future Leaders," Sisi urged young Egyptians to be more physically active, suggesting that university students should shed half their weight in order to be more productive. "Being fit creates a good first impression," he advised. "It is clear that college students are not exercising much as many of the youths depicted in the documentaries shown here are overweight."

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