Nightly News   |  August 20, 2013

Sick of turmoil, Egyptians await stability

Small business owners and other Egyptians are exhausted by the ongoing clashes, and hope for a return to normalcy. Meanwhile, former president Hosni Mubarak could be released from jail. NBC’s Richard Engel reports.

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>>> now to egypt and the stunning news tonight, it appears hosni mubarak , the egyptian president overthrown in the arab spring, could be freed from prison within days. our chief foreign correspondent, richard engel , is in cairo again tonight. richard, good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, lester. we spoke to mubarak 's lawyer today who told us we should know if the former president will be released this week, and some people in this country say it wouldn't be such a bad thing. a new plague seems to have descended over egypt , exhaustion. the pyramids are closed. the streets around them usually a carnival of tourists and hawkers. empty. horses and camels wait without riders. a woman holds carved statues but no buyers. not a single customer has come for 20 days to buy the perfumes yasir makes from jasmine and lotus flowers . he says he's had enough of the last three years of turmoil brought on by egypt 's experiment with democracy. he wants former president mubarak out of jail, says things were better back then.

>> mubarak is like a father to us.

>> reporter: mubarak in prison since 2011 faces a court decision tomorrow. he's already been acquitted of corruption. while no one in egypt seriously expects mubarak to be restored to power, his release would be a powerful symbol, a return to square one. and perhaps even the start of the end of the arab spring and a reemergence of the strong men who have ruled these lands for millennia. it is a stunning turn of events. in just weeks, mubarak considered for release, the elected president, mohamed morsi, detained. the head of the muslim brotherhood arrested overnight. a new general in charge. if egypt , the biggest arab country, turns on the arab spring, so may other countries in the middle east . for americans living in cairo like byron skaggs' family, the last few weeks have been a wild ride. the u.s. embassy told americans to leave egypt , but byron, a public relations consultant, decided with his family against it.

>> we're careful. we're definitely careful, but we're not afraid.

>> reporter: mostly now they stay at home , playing cards and computer games to ride out the clashes and curfews. and on the question of aid to egypt , lester, while the obama administration says some of it is under review, saudi arabia , which is a big backer of egypt 's military-led government, says it will compensate for any cuts from washington.

>> richard engel in cairo for