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01.30.11

8 Essential Longform Reads About Egypt

From David Remnick's 2004 profile of the Muslim Brotherhood to a glimpse at a Cairo after Mubarak, The Daily Beast picks the most essential longform journalism about Egypt.

Following six days of upheaval in Egypt, The Daily Beast digs up eight outstanding pieces of longform journalism that illustrate the players at the heart of the protests—the president and his supporters, their opponents, and the Egyptian people. The oldest we've chosen is a 2003 piece in The Atlantic profiling those who might succeed an aging Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The most recent was published in the New York Review of Books just last week. There are sure to be many more profiles, astonishing reports from the scene and longform analysis in the coming weeks, and we aim to dig through it all to keep you updated with a second batch of recommended Egypt Longreads. Help recommend your favorites by sending longform reads to @ thedailybeast on twitter using the hashtag #longreads.

1. " Pharaohs-in-Waiting"
The Atlantic, Mary Anne Weaver; Oct. 2003

As Hosni Mubarak's health grew frail and his relationship with the U.S. grew fraught in the run-up to the Iraq War, the military cabal around him considered a sensitive question: Who will be his successor? It would either be then-chief of intelligence Omar Suleiman, who Mubarak appointed as vice president Saturday, or the president's son, Gamal Mubarak. Neither excited Egyptian intellectuals and business leaders, suggesting that there might be an opening for another figure—or another group, like the Muslim Brotherhod—to step into the fray and capture the country's imagination.

2. " Going Nowhere"
The New Yorker, David Remnick; July 2004

In 2004, New Yorker editor David Remnick took the political pulse of Cairo, interviewing professors, students, businessmen, and leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. Mubarak's regime had worn radical Islamists down, and tolerated the moderate but deeply religious Muslim Brotherhood's operations within certain bounds. After the American invasion of Iraq, Remnick discovered, Egyptians were uniting around increasingly anti-Western politics, and the allure of an Islamic state was gaining a foothold. Even if Mubarak was to fall, a culture deeply disillusioned by liberal politics was not ready to execute democracy, and the forces pushing for an Islamic state would be waiting to take the reins.

3. " America's Islam Anxiety in Egypt and Beyond"
Esquire, Juan Cole; June 4, 2009

In an excerpt from his 2009 book, Engaging the Muslim World, Juan Cole shows how American politicians misunderstand the Muslim Brotherhood, now a peaceful, democratic movement that opposes radical Islam yet still wants to achieve moderate Islamic states. The Brotherhood has mostly abandoned its violent beginnings, and despite being banned in Egypt continues to work within the political system to move the country toward an Islamic republic. But U.S. politicians continue to lump it in with terrorist groups, while supporting Muslim groups who actually oppose democracy in Egypt.

4. " Is ElBaradei Egypt's Hero?"
Foreign Affairs, Steven A. Cook; March 26, 2010

Lawyer and diplomat Mohamed ElBaradei returned to Egypt last year to a hero's welcome: Thousands showed up when his plane touched down and thousands more joined his Facebook page. Though Hosni Mubarak sniffed that Egypt does not need a "national hero," the possibility the Egyptian people see in ElBaradei shows how ready they are for serious reform.

5. " Is Egypt's presidential race becoming a real contest?"
The New Yorker, Joshua Hammer; April 5, 2010

In a lengthly April '10 piece released just Friday from behind its paywall, The New Yorker profiles the two leading contenders for a 2011 presidential campaign without Hosni Mubarak. The first half is dedicated to his investment-banker son, Gamal Mubarak, who's credited with liberalizing the country's economy yet is stifled by accusations of nepotism. The second looks at leading opposition leader ElBaradai, the former IAEA official whose distrustful accusations against the Bush administration and outsider status has made him a popular figure to Egypt's youth.

6. " After Mubarak"
The Jerusalem Post, Rose Aran; June 8, 2010

There is lots of talk—and in Israel, worry—about how the Egyptian political landscape might change when Murabak dies. But rumors of a sea change are greatly exaggerated, Aran argues at the time, because so many Egyptians are steeped in political apathy and the militarized regime's power runs deep—even as it fails to earn substantial popular support.

7. " Hosni Mubarak, the Plane Is Waiting"
The New York Review of Books, Yasmine El Rashidi; Jan 25, 2011

Yasmine El Rashidi follows a group of protesters through Cairo's back alleys on their march toward Tahrir Square on the first day of Egypt's January 25th protests. Along the way, the members in their ranks are jumped, arrested, clobbered by thugs, dispersed with tear gas, and shaken by rumors the police plan on using live ammunition at nightfall. When the crackdown in the square eventually occurs, it is relentless, and El Rashidi is there to bear witness.

8. " What's Happening in Egypt Explained (UPDATED)"
Mother Jones, Nick Baumann; Jan. 30, 2011

Finally, Mother Jones' Nick Baumann has created essential reading with his frequently updated, living curation of what, exactly, is happening on the ground in Egypt. He began tracking the protests last Tuesday at 1 p.m. EST, and he hasn't slowed down since, making the play-by-play a must-read for anyone wondering what they've missed.

This weekly column is The Daily Beast's contribution to the growing longreads community on Twitter, where fans of longform journalism collect and share their favorite stories. Follow along through the hashtag #longreads, and visit Longreads.com and Longform.org for suggestions throughout the week. To take these stories on the go, we recommend using smartphone applications such as Instapaper or Read It Later. You can download either at your mobile phone's application store. To send us suggestions, tweet the story to @ thedailybeast on Twitter with the hashtag #longreads.