Where is Egypt's Hosni Mubarak?
Monday, February 14, 2011; 9:28 AM
SHARM EL-SHEIKH, EGYPT - Hosni Mubarak, whose presence was felt and feared throughout Egypt for 30 years, has fallen quickly and astonishingly out of sight, his exact whereabouts unknown.
The prime minister declared Sunday that Mubarak was here, in a favored southern Sinai resort, and a senior U.S. administration official said the White House also believes that Mubarak is staying in Sharm el-Sheikh.
But the ousted authoritarian leader has remained out of sight. He is widely rumored to be ill. Sameh Shoukry, Egypt's ambassador to the United States, said Monday that he had heard through personal, unofficial channels that Mubarak was "possibly in somewhat of bad health." Shoukry, who was interviewed on the "Today" show, said he did not have enough information to provide any specifics.
Whether sick or well, it would not be unusual for Mubarak to be in Sharm el-Shekih but out of public view. For the last five years, he has come to this sunny retreat for one or two days a week, often longer, local residents say, vanishing behind the high walls of a private compound adjacent to a hotel and golf course owned by his best friend, Hussein Salem.
With the sea on one side, desert on another and heavily armed police blockades on the lone road leading to the hotel and nearby villa, he was invisible and secure even while he remained in power.
But life behind high walls sounds as much prisonlike as privileged - Mubarak's hardly preparing to go snorkeling or gambling, the main diversions here. That could make Germany an appealing destination, with more opportunities to roam, and other reports put him there, perhaps to receive medical treatment.
Mubarak had been rumored to be ill since gallbladder surgery in Heidelberg in March, and the weekly magazine Der Spiegel reported last week that he would soon be bound for a German clinic.
Some well-placed officials here agreed with that theory, saying Mubarak had flown here Friday after he resigned but soon after boarded a plane for Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, where he spent the night and then continued on to Germany, the same route described by the independent Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm. No, German officials said Sunday, not in our country.
"He's not in Germany, and he's not on his way," Steffen Seibert, the chief spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said Sunday night. "This is a new round of rumors. There is absolutely no information that we have about this, and it would require him a visa to come here. So presumably we would know."
A manager at the Maritim Jolie Ville hotel next to the Mubarak villa here, who did not wish to be identified, said the hotel had no information about the former president. Presumably the platoons of heavily armed police could have been protecting family members, if not the man without a country himself.
'Where is the money?'
If Mubarak does sit unseen and malevolent behind the high walls surrounding his villa, with a machine gun nest perched protectively above, then who are the people of Sharm el-Sheikh to care?
Not Mohamed Abu Elennen. He is rejoicing in his indifference. Reaching for more superlatives, he fails, because he cannot yet completely grasp what has happened.