CAIRO — Tamer Abdel Moneim is no longer scared of Tahrir Square.
On the eve of the massive demonstration on June 30, calling for the resignation of President Mohamed Morsi, Moneim rented a room at the upscale Hotel Semiramis on the edge of Cairo's iconic central Square. He spent that evening drinking whisky, emptying glass after glass while contemplating the people coming together on Tahrir.
"I was scared. I didn't want to go down there. But on the Friday, at noon, I did," he recalled. "People recognized me, and they were very welcoming. Some even applauded."
Moneim, 38, wears a gold necklace and is clean shaven: It's the fulul look. He introduces himself laughing, "I am the ambassador of fululs." During the past two years, the word had come to symbolize evil incarnate. It comes from an ancient Arabic word and means "relics" or even, "the abandoned and used weapons that the enemies left on the battle field after they lost."
In Egypt, fulul became a synonym for the supporters, those who were members of or benefitted from the former regime of Hosni Mubarak. The Muslim Brotherhood even extended its meaning to all their opponents during Morsi's tenure.
But Moneim is truly fulul, an authentic fulul. On January 28, 2011, the "Battle of the Bridge" took place, in which the regime unleashed its repressive forces on demonstrators, but without managing to quash the rebellion that was turning into a revolution. That day, the young film star went on television to say everything he thought of this uprising. "For me, it was a coup from the Muslim Brotherhood backed by the CIA," he explains. "I said that we wouldn't be able to find anybody better than Hosni Mubarak. That without him, the country would plunge into ruin and chaos."
Moneim instantly became an outcast. One woman even spat in his face in the street.
Mubarak resigned on February 11, 2011. Three months later, Moneim lost his job as director of the Cinema Palace (a network of art houses). He received fewer and fewer roles in movies. His patron inside the government, Culture Minister Farouk Hosny, fled to France. Moneim chose to stay. "Suddenly, everybody became a revolutionary. I saw high officials change sides and then oppress me — but I never changed."
Shunned, but with chauffeur
He got directly involved in politics, helping Omar Suleiman, former spy chief under Mubarak, who was considering running for the presidential election, before his candidacy was nullified. He then worked for Ahmed Chafik, a former general and last Prime Minister of the old regime, who lost by a small margin (with 48.27% of the vote) against the Muslim Brotherhood's Morsi in the second round of the June 2012 election.
Tamer Abdel Moneim - Photo: Official website
Moneim says his journey through the wilderness was not too difficult; he still had his Jaguar with chauffeur. His father-in-law is none other than Farid Al-Dieb, the Mubarak family's lawyer.
After Morsi came into office, Moneim found a new job hosting a political talk show on Tahrir, a private channel. It had been bought by Christian businessmen and became a stronghold of the opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood. As the Islamist power grew more and more unpopular, his show, Al-Assima ("the capital"), attracted more and more viewers.
And then came June 30, "the real revolution," according to Moneim: "The young revolutionaries were 300,000, the Muslim Brotherhood 3 million and we were 30 million. Everyone was out in the streets: the fululs, but more importantly the so-called "couch party" — those who used to watch the events happening from their living rooms. The Egyptians took Tahrir."
Once Morsi was overthrown, the fululs started reappearing in public life. The transitional government welcomes some of them, like Minister of Information Doreya Charaf Eddine, former member of the political office of the National Democratic Party, which was in power under Mubarak.
Moneim is nostalgic for Mubarak himself even more than he is of his system. "Our great democrats who led the 'revolution' two years ago now wave portraits of Nasser and of General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. What a joke! Everybody used to make fun of Mubarak because he was weak, but he developed Egypt more than his predecessors. Remember the state Egypt was in when he came into power in 1981? Telephones didn't work, cars were too expensive, there were no hotels for tourists, no bridges… And I also respect him because he could have fled abroad before he was imprisoned and he didn't."
Hosni Mubarak is now out of prison, and for Moneim, Egypt has returned to normal.