A close friend of mine from Egypt once told me a joke that became popular around the time of Hosni Mubarak’s 80th birthday.
It went something like this…
An Egyptian fellow who owned a pet shop went to visit President Mubarak on his 80th birthday. The man wanted to give the leader a gift and, upon arrival, presented him with a turtle. He told Mubarak, “Mr. President, this turtle will live some 400 years.” To which the President replied, “Well then, we shall see…”
Now I’m sure she did the joke a certain justice than I can’t offer, absent the mordant wit that can only be conditioned by life in a police state. However, I’m reminded that gossip swirling around the former president’s health remains just that. Whether he lives or dies, the Arab street will be abuzz with rumors that his death (in a military hospital of all places) may be greatly exaggerated. As the joke suggests, many expected him to live forever.
Regardless, his health crisis adds another wrinkle to the political intrigue and power struggles currently gripping Egypt. Par for the course, I suppose, at the twilight of our only modern pharaoh.