Egypt’s last president did not rule the country long enough to have had any streets named after him. He was ousted so quickly that there were no Mohamed Morsi streets to be renamed.
One of Downtown Cairo’s main thoroughfares is named for today’s date, July 26. Before it was renamed, the street was a tribute to Egypt’s first King, Fuad. His son Farouq, was forced to abdicate on this day 61 years ago, after the military decided that royalty had no place in the new order they sought to forge.
In 2013, General AbdelFattahal-Sisi called Egyptians to demonstrate on July 26 to authorize his army to confront terrorism. Muslim Brotherhood supporters suspect that full squares and streets will legitimize alienating them from what is supposed to be a reinvigorated democratic transition and from society at large.
Thousands have already responded to Sisi’s call and have poured into Tahrir square. The numbers increased as Egyptians broke their daytime fast and the heat broke across Egypt.
Just across from the High Court at one end of July 26 Street, Islam Abu Habiba has a collection of books for sale at his street stall. One of the newest books for sale is “The Fall of the Brotherhood State.”
“Today is the fall of the Brotherhood state, and then was the fall of the King and Britain’s state,” he says. “The protests today are the completion of July 26, 1952.”
The book just came out yesterday, Abu Habiba says. The author, a columnist for a less-than reputable state newspaper, has dedicated the quickly-written work to the military and the youth of the January 25 revolution and the June 30 revolution. The summary on the back is titled, “A revolution, not a coup.” Another book, “From Palaces to Prisons,” chronicles the fall of other presidents, but was written days before the ouster of Morsi, who state media said is being charged with murder, and is rumored to have been transferred to Torah prison.
Another ouster named for another date did not have the massive show of support in the streets that provided a grey area in which pundits and citizens held their debates. The July 23 revolution did not come about with mass popular mobilization, and voting by feet, but with a series of seizures by a group of military men calling themselves the Free Officers. Nonetheless, today those on July 26 street refer to it as a revolution in hindsight.
In the winter prior to the Free Officer’s takeover, July 26 was the site of arson and vandalism, mostly targeting the British, the country’s colonial taskmasters, and foreigners, who were seen as their collaborators. Some of those targets still stand in a shadow of their heyday, like the Rivoli Cinema. Others, like the Shepheard Hotel at the beginning of July 26 Street, are gone.
At the other end of the street, fruit sellers advised this foreign journalist to keep his nationality to himself. Xenophobia and suspicions of foreign interference in Egypt’s affairs have been on the rise since Sisi announced that Morsi was no longer president on July 3. Police-affiliated groups have gone far enough to say that any foreigner in protests will be treated as a spy.
Despite its name, July 26 Street didn’t see large protests on its namesake date. The odd march of a family with a poster of Sisi, or a car full of flag-waving children made their way to Tahrir Square from eastern Cairo. But there were no mass marches on the street to seize on the obvious symbolism. While it’s a different street than the one that gave birth to the 1952 revolt, it is still its christening place, and its name will likely outlast this uprising.