While economic reforms are proceeding fairly smoothly, the political convoy seems to have hit a roadblock -- a point underlined by recent police beatings in central Cairo of demonstrators demanding independence for the judiciary. Mubarak, who will mark a quarter century in power in October, will eventually die or become too old to rule. But just who will succeed him is far from clear. "It's the million dollar question, " says Orascom Telecom's Sawiris.
The regime's jealous guarding of power has prevented strong non-religious parties from emerging, playing to the advantage of the Islamists. Gamal Mubarak, the president's pro-business son, hasn't caught fire as a candidate. On a plane returning from Sharm el Sheikh to Cairo, a prominent Indian businessman worried that Amr Moussa -- the charismatic and populist Arab League secretary general and former Egyptian foreign minister who's a caustic critic of the U.S. -- could seize the opportunity. But in the short term, a successor closer to the security establishment seems more likely.