President Morsi and the Tahrir Square Hangover

Politics, Tahrir Square, Pollution, Waste Management, President Morsi, Cairo, Egypt“Can I talk to you?” a man named Hashim asked as I stooped to take photographs of government workers cleaning up last night’s party mess. Revelers marching through Tahrir Square, surrounding streets and the 6th of October Bridge cheered and set off giant firecrackers well into the early hours of the morning following the announcement that Mohamed Morsi is Egypt’s first democratically-elected president.

“He said to give him 100 days,” Hashim continued, referring to President Morsi’s promise that he will fix problems such as the poor quality of bread and burgeoning trash in just over three months. But without a constitution and with both budgetary and legislative power in the hands of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), it is unclear whether he will have sufficient control of the country’s limited resources to make good on his promises.

Politics, Tahrir Square, Pollution, Waste Management, President Morsi, Cairo, Egypt

A small handful of ordinary citizens grabbed brooms and cardboard boxes to help uniformed workers load plastic bottles and junk food packaging into large black plastic bags while scores of Morsi supporters remain camped out in Tahrir Square.

Cars push through the crowd with bursts of celebratory hooting. Many people here, like Hashim, have gone several days without washing and show no signs of leaving anytime soon. A large podium and dozens of tents are still erected and vendors continue to sell flags, pro-revolutionary t-shirts and greasy food.

An industrious man in his early twenties painted a heart-shaped Egyptian flag on my hand as a small mob of rambunctious friends looked-on. When he finished and I slipped away from the growing hordes, he chased after me.

“It’s 25 [Egyptian] pounds,” he said. “I’m working.”

Politics, Tahrir Square, Pollution, Waste Management, President Morsi, Cairo, Egypt

But there is a serious undercurrent to the jubilant mood as thousands of Egyptians wonder what kind of future awaits them.

A waiter at an ethnic restaurant in Maadi, an upscale neighborhood south of Cairo, promised himself he would start looking for a job outside of Egypt if the conservative candidate won.

“I don’t want people looking at my wife, criticizing what she is wearing,” he said.

In response to concerns like this, President Morsi has resigned from both the Muslim Brotherhood and the Freedom and Justice Party in a show of solidarity with all Egyptians and promised to protect the rights of women and religious minorities.

He also agreed to honor all international agreements.

Egypt needs a knight in shining armor, someone who will eschew power struggles in order to focus on the innumerable problems of daily life in Africa’s most populous country: traffic, pollution, waste management, food prices and job creation. For now, Morsi is in the saddle. How long he will remain there depends on his ability to pry open SCAF’s white-knuckled grip on power.

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