Exhausted Egyptians count cost of political turmoil

Wed Jan 9, 2013 6:18am EST
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By Shaimaa Fayed and Maria Golovnina

ZAGAZIG, Egypt (Reuters) - These days, craftsmen, shopkeepers and other inhabitants of the Egyptian Delta town of Zagazig are often too busy making ends meet to ponder why life seems to be getting harder every day.

But when, exhausted, they finally come home and sit down to their evening meal, conversations inevitably turn to growing hardship and the frightening prospect of cuts in food subsidies as the economy slides further into crisis.

With their patience already stretched after years of upheaval, Egyptians - from the capital Cairo to smaller towns like Zagazig - appear to be nearing the point where discontent could explode into a new wave of unrest.

"There is no security. There is nothing," said Soheir Abdel Moneim, a retired school teacher, as she hurried through an open-air market in Zagazig in search of vegetables she could afford.

"The pound is falling. Everything is more expensive. Is there anything that has not become more expensive?" she asked with a shrug, as traders on bicycles loaded with their wares dodged through the chaos of the market.

Nearby, a torn poster of President Mohamed Mursi beams from the wall of a crumbling brick house, with the words "Liars! Liars!" scrawled over his face.

The mood of growing nervousness is bad news for Mursi, who faces a parliamentary election in coming months, and a new round of political feuding that could pitch Egypt back into civil strife.

Egypt's economy, once strong and popular among investors, has been in tatters since the revolt of 2011 that ousted Hosni Mubarak and shook the country to its foundations.   Continued...

A woman waits for customers in front of a funfair in the Egyptian Delta town of Zagazig January 7, 2013. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih