The man, the myth, the legend: 8 things you didn’t know about Egypt's Sisi

Published March 27th, 2014 - 10:05 GMT

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Sisi
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Image 1 of 8: Born in Cairo and growing up in the capital’s bustling Gamaleya district, Sisi is nearly 60. Nicknamed “The Quiet General”, the Egyptian strongman graduated from the Egyptian Military Academy at the ripe age of 23 in 1977. We bet he didn’t expect to be heading up Egypt’s army all these years later!

young sisi
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Image 1 of 8: His father Hasan - who has been described as “pious and patriotic” - had a thriving furniture business. Abu Sisi was a master of his craft, making decorative knick-knacks out of wood and mother of pearl. There’s still an “Al Sisi” shop in Cairo’s famous Khan al-Khalili souq.

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Image 1 of 8: On his journey to become the face of Egypt’s 2013 revolution, Sisi spend time abroad working up his military portfolio. He studied at Britain’s Staff College and got a master’s degree from the United States Army College in Pennsylvania in 2005.

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Image 1 of 8: He has more in common with the Brotherhood than you think. He wrote a paper at college in which he argued that the Middle East’s democracies needed more religious influence, adding that "governments tend towards secular rule, disenfranchising large segments of the population who believe religion should not be excluded from government.”

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Image 1 of 8: He’s also no fan of the U.S. In another paper he wrote, Sisi said that where Americans believe in “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” Islamic cultures look up to the principles of “fairness, justice, equality, unity, and charity.” These were, ultimately, more worthy in Sisi’s eyes. Ouch.

sisi's wife
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Image 1 of 8: Sisi is a family man - he has three sons and one daughter. His wife, who was recently papped in public for the first time, wears a traditional Islamic hijab and works at home looking after the children. The general’s five sisters follow this conservative lifestyle - they are all housewives too.

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Image 1 of 8: Despite his carefully cultivated image, Sisi was at the centre of controversy in 2012 when he seemed to back the “virginity tests” carried out on 17 women detained and beaten by soldiers after being arrested in Tahrir Square. He said the tests aimed to “protect the girls from rape, and the soldiers and officers from accusations of rape”.

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Image 1 of 8: He might be the face of Egypt’s army but the general has had very little combat experience. More of an intelligence man, Sisi rose through the ranks and was the youngest member of Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces when he was appointed army chief in 2012.

Field Marshal Abdel Fattah Saeed Hussein Khalil al-Sisi simultaneously became Egypt’s most loved and hated man in July 2013 when the army chief ousted President Mohamed Morsi from office.

Having been an assumed ally of the Muslim Brotherhood due to his appointment as Morsi’s right-hand man, Sisi made millions of enemies when he was seen to be behind the brutal crackdown on Egypt’s Islamists in August 2013. Despite this, Sisi is the favorite to win in Egypt’s upcoming presidential elections...even his adversaries know it.

Seen as a savior of those against Egypt’s increasingly Islamist rule, Sisi finally bit the bullet and told Egypt that he is hanging up his military slacks and moving onto the campaign trail. When he announced he was resigning from his post as Defense Minister in order to run for president, Egypt exploded. Twitter was full of those calling him an “angel” who saved the country from certain Sharia, and Brotherhood members who said there could be no stability or security in Egypt under Sisi.

Even though you can’t walk across Cairo without seeing his face on chocolates, banners and even ladies’ pajamas (he’s quite the sex symbol), very little is known about the general. He’s certainly got a carefully cultivated image - those who know him best have told journalists digging up dirt that they have been told not to spill the beans on any skeletons in Sisi’s closet. He’s extremely careful with what is released about him into the public domain - even his wife was only recently photographed for the first time.

Mike Giglio, Middle Eastern correspondent for NewsWeek and The Daily Beast, said of trying to write a profile of Sisi: "It was, incredibly… difficult to dig up even the smallest personal details".

Well, here at Al Bawaba we love a challenge - ahead of his likely presidential bid, here are eight things you didn’t know about the man, the myth, the legend...Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

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