Robert Fisk on Egypt: As impoverished crowds gather in support of Mohamed Morsi, the well-heeled march behind their images of the General

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Hundreds of thousands support the coup – just as many do not. And the future for Egypt is looking increasingly bloody. Robert Fisk reports from Cairo

Hundreds of thousands of people turned out outside Cairo’s Rabaa mosque yesterday to protest against the coup d’état in Egypt, while hundreds of thousands poured into Tahrir Square to support their favourite general, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who staged the coup-that-we-mustn’t-call-a-coup.

Grotesque, unprecedented, bizarre. Call it what you like. But the helicopters swooping happily over Tahrir, and the line of visor-wearing riot police and troops standing opposite the Muslim Brotherhood’s barricades, told their own story. Journalists should not be merchants of gloom, but things did not look too good in Cairo last night.

The saddest thing – the most tragic, if you like – was that the crowds in Nasr City, close to the airport road where the mosque stands, were as cheerful and welcoming as the masses in Tahrir who regard their opposite numbers as “terrorists” rather than supporters of Mohamed Morsi, the legally and democratically elected President of Egypt who was overthrown by the army three weeks ago. The tens of thousands of Egyptians crossing the Nile River bridges or sweating in the 40C heat on the highway to the airport were so happy they could have been heading for a football match.

But there the jollity ends. The Muslim Brotherhood men and women  carried Morsi’s picture and had painted Stars of David on the military barracks near the mosque. The Brotherhood had piled thousands of sandbags around their tent encampment and piles of stones to hurl at anyone trying to move them. But the soldiers down the road – also, it has to be said, cheerful and quite friendly – were holding automatic weapons beside French and American-made armoured vehicles, and they also held wooden batons and were flanked by policemen in shoddy black uniforms.

It looked as if they were only a few hours away from moving in on the Brotherhood, and no matter how many bearded men were reading the Koran on the roadway – and they were quite literally doing that – it was difficult to imagine the coming hours being anything but deadly.

One point that stood out – and it may be unfashionable to say so – is that the Brotherhood supporters were generally poor and looked poor in their grubby abayas and plastic sandals. Some of the Tahrir demonstrators, who were truly revolutionaries against Mubarak in 2011, trooped over the Nile bridges waving posters of General al-Sisi.  And one has to say, painful as it is to do so, that the sight of well-heeled people holding aloft the photograph of a general in sunglasses – albeit a wonderful and very democratic general – was profoundly depressing. What really happened to the 25 January 2011 revolution? 

“We love the soldiers but we don’t need the general,” a scarved woman shouted near the Rabaa mosque, but Sisi is now a well-known face, the man who will return Egypt to its true revolutionary path, if you can forget for the time being that the first genuinely elected president in modern Egyptian history is probably incarcerated in one of those barracks we drive by so blithely on the way to the airport.

But Egypt does need a government. Driving back from Nasr City to central Cairo tonight, my car was blocked in a traffic jam because rival families were fighting a gun battle across the highway. About 1,000 Cairenes had joined in by throwing stones from an overpass. Two miles further on, a middle-aged woman was driven down by a motorcycle and lay on the road in great pain.  Many of the drivers who saw her carried on their journeys, the noses of their families pressed to the window as this lady lay spread-eagled on the highway in her black dress. The near future does not look good.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea