"Egypt smells of paint!"

Really, really good article in the Daily Beast looking at Suzanne Mubarak, who it paints as the force behind the old dictator's throne.

Londonstani is particularly gratified to see discussion of something he and his friends used to talk about when he worked in Cairo. "The Mubarak's", the joke went, "think the world smells of fresh paint."

"Especially in her later years, Suzanne observed Cairo’s garbage-strewn streets through a gilded peephole. For her, walls were scrubbed, flowers planted, grass grown, Egyptians bribed to smile. If you were part of the royal convoy, Cairo was clean and Egyptians were happy."

Londonstani can attest that when Gamal Mubarak visited his office, the entire building got a makeover. When the president and his wife made the drive to parliament, flowers were planted on the sides of the road. Only to be dug up again after they passed.

So it seems it always is after a dictator falls, everyone suddenly has that 'Emperors New Clothes' moment. "How did they get away with it for so long?", "Why did the international community support them?" etc etc.

One thing that Londonstani suspects is being covered in the Egyptian Arabic press and blogs (the guys at www.arabist.net might be able to comment on that), but not so far in Western media, is how the Mubarak regime convinced ordinary Egyptians to support them.

There was nothing mediocre about the way the regime exploited Egyptians' own sense of pride and linked it to the figure of Mubarak through the clever use of media, the state education system and the manipulation of Egypt's recent history.

Egyptians older and far savvier than Londonstani have pointed out that the Mubarak branding machine was far more successful than that of his republican predecessors. Pre-2003, Mubarak faced a lot less direct criticism than Sadat or even Nasser, the Pan-Arab hero.

Mediocre they might have been, but they were doing something right (relatively speaking).

Anyway, read the whole article and ponder where you would lay the blame for the world's toleration of Egypt's three-decade long catastrophe.

* Major big up to Mandy Fahmy credited at the bottom of the article, who Londonstani has no doubt is responsible for securing the awesome sources.