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It’s the baladi, stupid

High world food prices have hurt Egypt's poor and the complex subsidy system that is meant to protect them. Can Mubarak's regime ride out the political volatility?

Drive over the bridge from the green Cairene island of Zamalek, from its tree-lined streets, grand embassy mansions and air-conditioned cappuccino cafés with wi-fi access, across the Nile into the grimy neighbourhood of Boulaq: 15 minutes of battered honking traffic to travel from rich to poor. During the pre-war British rule years of cosmopolitan Cairo, Boulaq was a grand quarter. Now its French-oriental wrought-iron balconies are strung with washing, its elegant green shutters are broken and sag over crumbling art nouveau balustrades, and its sandy alleys ring with the clang of metal workers hammering battered hubcaps into resellable shape.


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