CAIRO -- Egypt, lovingly called the “Mother of the World” by its people, turned a new page in its fabled history Saturday.
It saw the first ever democratically elected civilian president take the oath of office, not once but twice.
After President Mohammed Morsi swore in officially before the General Assembly of the Constitutional Court, he addressed the nation from Cairo University and swore his oath of office a second time before the currently dissolved parliament. He then attended an official military ceremony celebrating his inauguration.
The nation watched and this is what its citizens had to say.
“The speech was beautiful but the most important thing to us is carrying it out,” said Sayed Mohamed, taxi driver. “The most important thing we need is work. Security brings work, work brings money, money brings tourism. Morsi is trying to gather all the Muslims, all the Christians, all the institutions. He came through the ballot box, we have to stand by him and have patience.”
Ever pragmatic, most Egyptians prefer action to words.
“It’s a new era for all Egyptians," said Mohamed Sayed, 42, a bank employee. “The government’s character will appear in time, whether they are good or bad. We want them to be just. We want them to change the image of the old days that everybody had. When I hear the words (Morsi) says, will he carry them out? For how many thousands of years have people have been talking, but what do they do?”
Hiba al Bandari, a fashionably dressed middle-age Egyptian woman, found in Morsi’s populist message a sign of hope and change.
“Today is a great day in Egypt,” said Hiba al Bandari. “Most Egyptians are happy about practicing democracy and I hope it will be much better in the future. We are expecting much from this president. He gave Egyptians and himself a chance of one hundred days to see what will happen. He promised to work with all people and movements. This is the first time in Egypt. In the past, nobody has done this. All the past rulers governed alone. But today he is talking to the people from those on the bottom to those on top. His speech was democratic.”
Others expressed deep concern about Morsi’s ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Miyvin Sedqi, a 29-year-old software engineer, worried, “I don’t feel they are ones who can represent all the different trends in Egypt, they don’t believe in democracy and are not open to different opinions. I’m kind of skeptical of what they are going to do. I don’t want them to succeed, because they are mixing religion with politics, but I don’t want them to fail as well because it would be bad for the revolution.”
Mona al Tahawy, columnist, found no reason for jubilation in today’s transfer of power.
“I think today was a big charade. I don’t think it was a historical day at all. I think it was the culmination of weeks of negotiation between (the ruling military council) and the Muslim Brotherhood. I’ve seen no reason to celebrate whatsoever today.”
Al Tahawy says Morsi’s presidency is a speed bump on the road to fulfilling the goals of the revolution.
“He took an oath today to respect institutions that have curbed his power, so I don’t know what he can do without a constitution, without a parliament and without clear delineation of what his powers are. Many of us are continuing as if the revolution is continuing and this is just an obstacle in the way.
Charlene Gubash is NBC News' producer in Cairo.
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