The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Mrs. Gamal Mubarak?

GamalgirlSo he's not gay after all: earlier this week, Al Midan, an Egyptian tabloid that rarely ventures out of the gutter, published pictures of what they said was Gamal Mubarak's fiancée. Gamal, 41, has been Egypt's most eligible bachelor for years but was never spotted with any companion. That had led to rumors spreading that if was not that interested in girls, much like Morocco's King Muhammed VI. I never quite believed that Gamal had chosen an alternative lifestyle, there were reports of him living with a girlfriend when working for Bank of America in London in the 1990s. I preferred to think those long nights spent on generating New Thinking® and battling the old guard of the NDP meant he had to make cutbacks on his social life. It's so lonely on Daddy's lap.

But never fear, Gamal seems to have found quite a lovely catch in Khadija Gamal, a 23-year-old graduate of the American University in Cairo. (Note Gamal's political acumen: her first name, that of the Prophet's first wife, is sure to give him a more pious allure in these conservative times while her last name puts him at the center of all things. Perfect!) The happy couple has reportedly bought property in Zamalek for around LE5 million, suggesting that Gamal will leave the family compound in Heliopolis. (Zamalek residents, you pampered lot, if this is true your traffic problems have just quadrupled.) But does Khadija know that special basboussa recipe that Mama Suzanne is famous for?

The funniest thing about all the rumors swirling about Gamal is that even this latest one--that he got engaged to the daughter of a prominent businessman--remains unconfirmed. Egyptians get to know nothing about the son, just as the father shrouds himself in secrecy. I suppose it adds to the leadership mystique. The independent press has been increasingly critical of the amount of secrecy that protects the presidency and affairs of state; last week Magdi Mehanna fired off an angry column about how much mystery there was on the composition of the next cabinet.HT E least Mubarak could have done, he said, was to consult public opinion or at least the largest opposition bloc--i.e. the Muslim Brothers.

Update: Atle is the comments says it's not true. No wonder that in French, the parlor game known in English as "Chinese whispers" is called "telephone arabe."