Refueling in Cairo has never been this comfortable: go to the gas pump, open the hood, hose mount, take pitch and wait. For a long time taxi driver Ahmed hasn’t found so much pleasure in his work. Today, he could even choose the natural gas dispenser at his favorite gas station not far from Tahrir Square, smiling. And because no one is in the queue and honks, there is even time for a paint cleaning. Ahmed is waving a leather cloth and philosophizes excitedly about the “Second Revolution” and the “people’s coup”, as he calls the events of those days. He turns up the radio: “Oh you my beloved Egypt!” is blaring from the speakers.
A week ago, Ahmed had to stay at the gas station over night to secure a tiny ration of natural gas. Refuel one day, work the other: Such was the life for many Egyptians. Especially taxi or micro-bus drivers were hit hard by the energy crisis. Natural gas was so scarce that many of them had to give up her job.
Also, gasoline was in short supply. The traffic on the streets of Cairo came to a halt on a regular basis. Not because too many vehicles were on the road, but because on the bridges cars and buses would more frequently get stuck from lack of fuel. On other roads though one had suddenly free ride. In the middle of the metropolis of Cairo there were only half as many vehicles.
To most Egyptians it was clear who is to blame for this mess: President Mohammed Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood. They were unable anyway to organize anything at all, says Ahmed. The short supply of energy initiated a power crisis. In some areas of Cairo and in many provinces, the electricity supply failed 12 hours straight – every day. And because there was no electricity and not enough transport, the supply of bread and food was also scarce. A hungry people who on top of it all did not agree with the political style of the Brotherhood revolted on June 30 and the days after in a very angry manner.
A possible explanation of the sudden oversupply can be enhanced investment flows, which have primarily been redirected to the stock market of Cairo by rich Egyptian businessmen in recent days. Since Mursi became president, they had boycotted the Egyptian economy. Now they pump billions of Egyptian pounds in securities, including in the energy sector. Since Wednesday, Egypt’s benchmark EGX posted the highest profits in its history. The stock market in Cairo had to temporarily halt trading as high increases were experienced. Suddenly no more power outages
Ahmed did not even notice that since removal of the president, the current no longer fails. He shrugs his shoulders and has no real explanation for it. He lovingly continues to polish his “White Princess”, as he calls his taxi.
In Egypt, the energy sector is state-owned. Private corporations can exist only with special permits in the electricity and fuel market. The prices are heavily subsidized and the International Monetary Fund for a year made pressure on the government of President Mursi to liberalize the market. Occasionally it even looked as if the government wanted to give in to this desire to get a billion euro loan, which should be half funded by the European Union.
In practice the Muslim-Brotherhood-dominated government and the oil ministry responsible for supply specifically were, however, helpless and did nothing about the issue. It felt like this at least for many Egyptians. The somewhat silly commercials that ran on national television and asked to save electricity and energy, were not seen as a measure to solving the problem. In those a computer-animated Rushdi uncle with a mustache stated how an energy saving light bulb works, how carpools can be arranged and he urged to set up air conditioners to 25 degrees. The taxi driver Ahmed felt ridiculed each and every evening. He possesses neither air conditioning nor does he have the money to afford an expensive energy-saving lamp. The Muslim Brothers are just too stupid for politics he says. Pro-Mursi protesters feel betrayed
At the entrance of the protest camp of the Muslim Brotherhood there is also a petrol station. The attendant here has lost all belief in humanity. Now, suddenly, when the Muslim Brothers are gone, the tank trucks carrying fuel supplies are queuing en masse. The many pro-Mursi protesters who fill here are indeed happy that they now easily get gasoline, however they refer to this development as clear proof of the conspiracy against their brotherhood. The economic elite positioned itself against their president from the very beginning and made common cause with the military, judiciary, police, opposition, the old cadres and the media. A protester with an “I want my president back” poster stuck to his windshield claims that tons of gasoline were dumped in the desert sand, only to get Mursi deposed.
In any case, such a sudden improvement in the supply situation remains remarkable and a little mystery here at the gas station not far from Tahrir Square: “It doesn’t matter,” Ahmed the taxi driver says, “The main thing is the brothers are gone and my tank is full”.