Birthday boy

Yesterday was Hosni Mubarak's birthday -- he turned 79. It must have been a busy day, with all those people over for work and Jimmy tying the knot. I'd say best wishes, but would just rather reproduce this birthday card printed in Egypt's number two state daily, al-Akhbar:

My dear child,

On the celebration of your birthday, I find myself at a loss as to what kind of gift I should offer you, my most beloved child.

On this happy occasion I asked myself: Should I offer you a flower, watered with the water of the Nile, and that flourished in the embrace of the palm trees... and as I presented it to you, it took the shape of 70 million of my sons and daughters?

Or should I take the traditional course and light a candle for your birthday, and all my sons and daughters would gather round as they sang with a beautiful voice and with all their heart 'happy birthday Mr. President'?

Shall I just plant a kiss on your forehead my beloved son?

What can I do to express my happiness on the day of your birthday... well I will recount, on this happy occasion, something precious in my mind, your long and difficult path which takes you to my heart, my memory and my feeling.

You are a powerful eagle soaring the skies... teaching my enemies lessons they cannot forget, and you protect me from the shame of defeat.

You, my beloved child, tackle the difficult issues like a noble fighter, carrying my sons and daughters to security, comfort, allowing the flower of freedom to bloom and sing the melodious tunes of democracy.

You tower above all patiently, while some of my children try to tarnish the forum of freedom, abusing the democracy which you have welcomed through doors and windows.

You have been patient with some of my children who have lost their way, and wished they could see the light. You didn't try to silence any voice or break any pen, for the sake of freedom and democracy. You treated them like a noble knight.

I know you don't like praise... but you are a part of me and with the rest of my sons and daughters, you are my wealth.

Happy Birthday,

Egypt
[Thanks, P.]
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.